Poppies are a type of poppy plant that is used extensively for medicinal purposes. In the past, poppies have been grown to produce opium which is then converted into morphine or heroin. However, in most parts of the world these days, poppies are grown specifically to make pain-relieving drugs like codeine and oxycodone.
Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale)
You probably wouldn't recognize this plant by its classically beautiful flowers because in most cases it is grown for seed. However, if you ever do get to see one of these plants in all its glory make sure you pick some seeds and plant them in your garden because it is quite often that these plants will throw up a blossom.
The flowers of these plants are more than just beautiful - they have an intense, almost numbing effect on the tongue.
Pencil Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
These are among the most common poppies found in gardens and parkland across Europe. The name comes from their pencil-like shape and thin stems which branch out from a tall main stem. The flowers of the pencil poppy are not so showy but their seeds have a unique, almost rubbery texture.
Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) (Red Poppy)
These plants are members of the same family as the Pencil Poppy and they produce similar red flowers that resemble the "traditional" poppy. However, these plants have a far more ornamental appeal to them and often they are used in flower bedding. They are also eaten as vegetables throughout Asia.
These plants grow wild in some parts of the world such as Japan, Australia and Mexico. The flowers are a very spotty red-purple color which gives them their name. These plants tend to be shunned by most because of their potential for being used in illegal drug manufacturing but they do have a use in the medical industry when it comes to synthesizing painkilling drugs like morphine and codeine.
These particular poppies can be used to make tea and they have a bitter, almost acrid taste that is not to everybody's liking. They also help reduce stress and anxiety by using the active ingredient called papaverine which can be extracted from these plants.
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
This particular type of poppy is native to California and it has a long history as an herbal medicine used for helping with insomnia. It was also used by the Chumash Indians who would boil the plant in water to make an infusion which they then drank or sprayed on their bodies to help them relax.
The flowers of this particular poppy are very bright orange and they grow in clusters. It is from the latex produced by these plants that the medicine Papaverine is synthesized.
Arizona Poppy (Eschscholzia arizonica)
This type of poppy has almost identical flowers to the California variety although they have a darker orange in color. This strain of poppy is commonly used to help treat severe pain cases like cancer, especially when they are combined with morphine for a double whammy effect.
These poppies have been legally put through clinical testing and the results were positive so these drugs could well be introduced into mainstream medicine soon.
Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis baileyi)
Until a few years ago, this particular type of poppy was virtually unheard of and it is still relatively uncommon. In fact, they are considered endangered in the wild because the altitude at which they grow has been encroached upon by farmers to whom its medicinal properties were not known or understood.
Its flowers have a beautiful blue hue which gives them their name but more importantly, this plant has been found to help stimulate the appetite for those who suffer from cancer. The active ingredient responsible, which is called meconine, works by helping patients produce a greater amount of saliva in their mouths and it also relaxes their muscles allowing them to swallow more easily.
When it comes to poppies, there are a few types of poppy that you will find growing wild in many parts of the world which have the ability to cause great pain and discomfort. These plants belong to the same family as the opium poppy but their flowers contain toxic latex rather than any narcotic alkaloids.
Until recently, this plant was considered to be a native of the Mediterranean region but reports are now coming in from hikers who claim that they have seen it in Arizona. Just like its relative, the opium poppy, this plant contains morphine as well as other opioids which cause muscle relaxation and euphoria.
This particular type of poppy has been used by the Incas in South America in the past and they used it as a form of anesthesia. They would also drink its latex which caused them to fall into a deep sleep. The natives of India are also known to use this plant for medicinal purposes, although unlike the opium poppy, they do not harvest the latex from it because it is too poisonous.
'Black and White' (Papaver orientale 'Black and White')
This particular type of poppy is a variegated form of the Orient Poppy and it originates from the Middle East. The flowers do not contain any latex or opium alkaloids so they are safe to touch but you should always exercise caution when doing so, especially if you have sensitive hands!
The reason why this plant has been given the name 'Black and White' is because it has a white latex sap, which is poisonous, running through its stems and on the other side of the coin, its leaves are black. The seeds of this poppy plant have also been used to make a red juice which was popular as a drink in ancient Greece.
This particular type of poppy is said to have been highly prized by the ancient Romans who would wear these flowers in their hair during important ceremonies and celebrations.
Many people are allergic to latex and it can cause great discomfort which may even lead to death if they come into contact with it so you should always carry a latex allergy alert when out walking in the countryside.
In fact, it has been reported that latex in the plants will remain active for up to a year after they have died.
Tulip Poppy (Papaver somniferum)
This type of poppy is found in many countries around the world but it was originally native to Turkey and Western Europe. These poppies have been cultivated for centuries because they contain opium alkaloids which can be used as a painkiller as well as other narcotic drugs.
In fact, this plant was used to prepare the original opium which was also known as 'laudanum' and it is a powerful painkiller that can cause hallucinations if too much of it is taken.
The flowers of the Turkish Poppy are relatively small but this plant has been cross-bred with other types of poppy as well as corn poppies in order to produce commercial varieties. These flowers are usually red in color although some of the newer breeds have been developed to flower in a variety of colors such as orange, maroon and even white.
When it comes to this type of poppy, there is also an ornamental variation which has been cultivated for use as a garden plant and it is normally coated in a white latex which can be very irritating to the skin so it is advisable for anyone who has sensitive skin to wear gloves when handling it.
King of Poppy (Papaver somniferum 'Plenum')
This type of poppy is said to have been inspired by paintings that were produced in ancient Rome and Greece. The King of Poppies is a very large flower with a cup-shaped center that radiates outwards. This type of poppy is harvested commercially in Germany and it is used for medicinal as well as ornamental purposes.
The red sap inside the stems of this particular flower can cause irritation to sensitive skin so it is advisable to wear gloves when handling it and it is also recommended that you wear face masks if the sap gets into your eyes.
White King (Papaver somniferum 'Alba Pleno')
The white king poppy is a very rare type of flower that originates from Turkey. This particular variety of poppy does not contain any latex or opium alkaloids so it is completely safe for children to handle.
The poppy plant has been a symbol of death since the first century AD and it was often used in funerals or placed on coffins at this time so that they could be taken up into heaven with their dead relatives.
'Helen Elizabeth' (Papaver orientale 'Helen Elizabeth')
The white poppy is a type of flower that is native to the Mediterranean and it was first introduced into Britain in the late seventeenth century. This plant was highly prized by the Romans who would grow it inside their homes because they believed that its scent had magical powers which could prevent evil spirits from entering their property.
This particular variety of poppy has also been used to create medicinal and culinary products such as poppy seed oil, which is often used in baking cakes.
It is also said that this type of flower can help people who have sleeping disorders because its narcotic properties can be very effective at inducing sleep without causing any side-effects like drowsiness when the person wakes up.
When it comes to the white poppy, it is also important that you avoid handling its sap because this can irritate the skin of any person who comes into contact with it.
This particular type of poppy is native to a number of countries in Asia and it has been grown commercially in China and India for many centuries. The Indian variety of this plant originally contained as much opium alkaloids as the original Turkish poppy but it was bred with other types of poppies in order to reduce their narcotic content.
This particular breed of flower is also known by a number of different names such as 'Meconopsis' or 'Chinese Poppy' and it is said to be one of the oldest flowers that man has ever cultivated.
Fire Poppy (Papaver rhoeas 'Fire Flame')
The Fire Poppy is a type of poppy that originates from the Mediterranean and it has been cultivated for medicinal purposes since around 200 BC. This particular variety of flower also contains alkaloids such as opium which are said to be quite addictive if they are consumed in large quantities.
Lancashire Poppy (Papaver rhoeas 'Lancastrium')
The Lancashire Poppy is a variety of flower that originates from the north of England and it has been cultivated for agricultural purposes since the eighteenth century. This specific type of poppy was also originally used in 1796 on a piece of cotton fabric called 'Blue Rochdale' and this became known as the first ever piece of hand-printed cloth.
This flower is also very easy to grow in your home because you can simply plant its seeds directly into the ground or pot with ordinary mud.
Purple Poppy (Papaver rhoeas 'Majestum')
The purple poppy is a variety of flower that originates from France and it contains levels of opium alkaloids that are much lower than those found in most other types of poppies.
It is also said that the purple poppy was used by farmers during World War II to help them sleep because they would chew on the seeds or consume extracts made from this type of flower.
This particular type of plant was once cultivated all over the northern hemisphere and it has been a part of European culture for thousands of years. It is also worth remembering that this poppy often features as a symbol in many famous works of art such as Leonardo da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'.
1. What is a poppy?
Poppy was originally used to describe any type of flower that could be found in the Papaveraceae family but it is most commonly associated with the blue or black varieties of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum).
2. When were poppies first cultivated?
Research suggests that poppies may have been cultivated by the Sumerians as early as 4000 BC.
3. Where is the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) native to?
Studies suggest that this particular type of poppy originated from Asia Minor, which is now known as Turkey. It is said to be one of the five oldest plants that man has ever cultivated.
4. Why are poppies associated with death?
Poppies have been used for funerals since the first century AD and this is because they were believed to be a sign of resurrection or eternal life. When a person dies, it represents the end of their physical body but their spirit can continue to live on in heaven.
5. What does the term 'to sleep like a poppy' mean?
People who have eaten or drunk something that contains opium alkaloids can experience a feeling of extreme tiredness, which is often known as being drowsy or even falling asleep almost immediately after they have ingested it. This type of tiredness is usually quite short-lived and it will wear off once the person has had a chance to sleep for a few hours.
- How do you grow a poppy plant from seed?
You can grow your own poppy seeds by harvesting the heads of a poppy after they have fully matured. They are then placed in an area that is free from pests and disease so that they can be planted at the next available opportunity.
7. What colour should a poppy flower be?
Poppies are very diverse when it comes to their colour but they can usually be defined as either red, orange, yellow or black. One of the most popular types is the white poppy which you can usually see at funerals because it signifies a promise that those who have passed on will make a peaceful transition from death into heaven.
With all of these different types of poppies, they are certainly a welcome sight. They add beauty to our landscape and colour to the flowers that we grow in our own gardens. Whether you leave them up or cut them down after their blooming cycle has ended is entirely up to you but it is likely that most people will choose to keep them around for as long as possible.