(Papaver somniferum L.)
The opium poppy is an annual plant of the Papaveraceae family. It is also known as the garden poppy or breadseed poppy. The second part of the name, somniferum, comes from the Latin word somnus – sleep and fero –bring, which refers to the sleeping properties of the poppy. Opium poppy grows on fertile soils, rich in humus and calcium, because it is a species with high nutritional requirements. It is likely native to South-West Asia.Modern forms of opium poppy originated from poppy of Troy, which was grown in Europe and Asia Minor for its oily seeds already in the Stone Age.
Opium poppy – what characteristics can be found in its structure?
Poppies grow up to 100-140 cm tall. They have straight stems, branching in the upper part. The lower poppy leaves are large, oval and elongated, covered with a wax layer. Opium poppy is propagated from seeds which are planted directly into the ground in spring and the plant blooms from May to June. Then we can see its beautiful, large flowers with white or coloured petals and green calyces consisting of two sepals which fall off at bloom. The colour of the poppy petals, the shape of its fruit and the colour of the seeds are all specific varietal characteristics. The fruit of this plant is a capsule commonly called the poppy-head, filled with numerous very fine grey-bluish seeds. Milk tubes filled with white milk juice go through the whole plant.
From magical rituals and religions, the opium poppy has made its way directly into laboratories.
The role of the poppy as a medicinal raw material noticeably grew only in the nineteenth century, after a thorough examination of its composition. Poppy oil has a high tocopherol content, as well as tocopherols and phytosterols. Tocopherols and tocotrienols are organic chemicals that can be called vitamin E and which clearly fight against free radicals. Phytosterols (plant sterols) in turn, stimulate collagen synthesis, produce an anti-inflammatory effect and accelerate epidermal regeneration and healing.
Poppy oil contains mainly linoleic acid (as much as 62%) and smaller amounts of oleic and palmitic acids. Poppy seeds contain high amounts of calcium as well as zinc, phosphorus and potassium.
To produce one litre of poppy oil, it is necessary to press about four kilograms of poppy seeds!
Poppy seeds are used to produce extremely valuable poppy oil. It is clear and transparent, and when cold-pressed, its colour is light-brown. The oil has a delicate nutty taste and the distinctive aroma of poppy seeds. Both poppy seeds and oil from this plant have a high vitamin E content and abundance of vitamin Bs (e.g. riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid and thiamine).
It is worth using poppy oil externally for the daily care of all skin types, especially sensitive skin.
Poppy oil strengthens the structure of the blood vessels and also stabilises the vascular endothelium.It has moisturising, nutritious and regenerative properties. It is also used as a hair conditioner, especially for dull and lifeless hair, and oil treatment does not weigh down the hair structure thanks to its ultra-light formula.
What are the other wonderful effects of opium poppy on our skin?
As a component of beauty products, it is recommended for sensitive skin and skin with dilated blood vessels. It significantly strengthens brittle blood vessels and reduces irritation, and, thanks to its unsaturated fatty acid content, it demonstrates effective firming and anti-cellulite effects. When applied externally, thanks to its ultra-gentle formula, it prevents blackheads and accelerates wound healing.
What are the other uses of opium poppy?
In Germanic and Eastern countries, ripe poppy seeds are used in cooking. Baking enhances their pleasant and nut-like taste. Poppy seeds are also used to flavour bread and sweet or savoury bakery products. Ground seeds are often added to some spice mixtures. Opium poppy is also used as a vehicle for pharmacological substances, and even in industry to manufacture oil paints and varnishes.
Opium poppy appeared in the first millennium B.C., and its cultivation spread astoundingly rapidly in Egypt, Italy and Arabia.
In the ninth century, poppy cultivation continued to spread towards the East, Iran, India and China. In Sumer, more than 3,000 years B.C., opium poppy was called hul gil (plant of joy) and was worshipped as a gift from God and a holy plant. In ancient Greece, the analgesic properties of milk juice called Mekonium were used. Then the crops were moved to Europe, where the poppy oil we know today began to be pressed. In Poland, traces of the presence of poppy come from the Iron Age.