THE SAGA OF OPIUM POPPY: JOURNEY FROM TRADITIONAL MEDICINE TO MODERN DRUGS AND NUTRACEUTICALS
Papaver somniferum L. (Papaveraceae) also known as opium poppy or sleep-bringing poppy was cultivated in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia. Fossilized evidences suggest that man may have used the opium poppy over 30,000 years ago and the first known written reference appeared in 4,000 BC in Sumerian text. In traditional system of medicine, opium was prepared from the air-dried milky latex or juice of unripe seed capsules as a remedy for a number of diseases and disorders. It is widely used for medicinal purposes due to the presence opiates (morphine, codeine, narcotine, laudenine, papaverine, oripavine) that can reduce spasm, pain, excitement, alter behavior, induce sleep and helps get rid of anxiety. Morphine was the first active principle purified from a plant source. Long term use and addiction of opium causes severe side effects that can lead to heart failure and ultimately death. Poppy plant produces seeds and edible oil, important food items commonly used in cuisines of different cultures. Seeds can be dry roasted and ground with coconut, blended with tamarind to be used in curry. Seeds are also used in baked products and confectionary, sprinkled on sweets and are added to rolls, breads and cakes. Poppy seed oil is used for manufacturing paints, varnishes and soaps and its oil cakes serve as a fodder for cattle. In spite of scientific prospection, the journey of transition from traditional to modern utilization of poppy plant is still far from complete. Mans total dependence on poppy plants for pain relieving opiates with no viable synthetic substitutes in sight on one hand, and increasing social taboos attaching with this crop on the other, will keep the scientific world engaged with the search and tailoring of its germplasm with better chemical signatures for its wider availability on drug as well as kitchen shelves.
Luqman, S. (2014). THE SAGA OF OPIUM POPPY: JOURNEY FROM TRADITIONAL MEDICINE TO MODERN DRUGS AND NUTRACEUTICALS. Acta Hortic. 1036, 91-100
Papaver somniferum, opium, poppy, opiates