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Information @ a Glance

  • Poppy seed is the dried seed of Papaver somniferum, an erect annual herb, 30-150 cm long with 0.5-1.5 cm thick stem. Stem is glabrous with thick waxy coating. Leaves are numerous, alternate, spreading horizontally, 15-25 cm long. Flowers are few, solitary, on a 10-15 cm long peduncle. Fruit is a capsule with waxy coating. Seeds are numerous, very small, white grey with an oily endosperm. Poppy is a self pollinated plant. The seed is the spice.
  • Opium is a narcotic formed from the latex released by lacerating (or "scoring") the immature seed pods of opium poppies (Papaver somniferum). It contains up to 16% morphine, an opiate alkaloid, which is most frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The resin also includes non-narcotic alkaloids, such as papaverine and noscapine.

Production & Process

  • Opium cultivation and processing has been most extensive in the south of the country, in particular Helmand province. Helmand was once Afghanistan's breadbasket, by virtue of a massive irrigation system built by the United States. Opium poppy in South East Asia is mostly cultivated on steep hills with poor soil and no irrigation facilities. Opium yields are much lower than in Afghanistan where the crop is often cultivated on good soil and irrigated land.
  • A simple protocol for obtaining pure, restrictable and amplifiable megabase genomic DNA from oil free seed residue of Papaver sominiferum, an important oil seed and morphanian alkaloid yielding plant, has been developed. Opium poppy (Papaveraceae) is a commercially important food and medicine plant grown for its morphanian alkaloids and/or edible whole seeds/seed oil. Poppy seeds are globally used in food preparation due to their edibility and flavor.


  • A native of Asia Minor, the poppy plant has been used for cooking and as a valuable medicinal source (opium is a very useful drug and has been prized for its properties for centuries, across continents). It was known to the Greeks and through spice trade as well as expedition routes, reached ancient Asian regions of China and India by the seventh century.
  • Poppy seeds have a large number of medicinal usages. However, none of its medicinal forms should be taken for more than three days in a row. Being a powerful narcotic, it might induce symptoms of addiction. Poppy seeds are more common in India, where they are ground and used as a thickening agent in curries and sauces. They are also sprinkled over cooked noodles, or sweetened with honey and made into a dessert dip or sauce. Dry-fried seeds are added to salads and salad dressings.


  • It is suggested that a detailed Business Plan for the phased transition to the poppy straw method should be produced for the licit opium industry in India, building on the work that has already been undertaken in India on the efficacy of converting to poppy straw production. It recommends that local mechanisms for the supervision and control of opium poppy cultivation in India need to be reviewed.
  • Only 4–14% of respondents indicated they buy red root, yerba mansa, poppy, globemallow, fleabane, and mesquite leaves; yet 16–20% of respondents indicated they are seeking additional suppliers for these herbs. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) assess that Laos opium production is now only used for domestic consumption and the total area under opium poppy cultivation has decreased

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