Poppy seeds have been used since ancient times for their medicinal, culinary and narcotic properties. The seeds have a variety of health benefits that range from increasing female fertility to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Add to that their application for healthy skin and hair, and it seems we have a superfood to contend with. However, the seeds also have a dark side and are never far from the shadows. The opiates derived from the seeds are unfortunately abused to sometimes lethal consequences, and so when looking at poppy seed health benefits, you really need to keep one eye on the dangers. In this article, we show both.
Poppy seed and its oil are widely used to address various health conditions. Here are the top 23 health benefits of poppy seeds.
1) Increase fertility rates in women
This is one of the most exciting studies to recently come out about poppy seeds. A 100-year-old outdated procedure to examine women’s fallopian tubes for blockages has turned out to be a very effective fertility treatment.
Many couples have difficulty conceiving due to blocked fallopian tubes that prevent the eggs traveling from the ovaries to the uterus.
The procedure involves flushing the fallopian tubes with poppy seed oil mixed with a dye and then x-raying the patient to check for blockages. The path the oil has taken shows up in the x-ray and reveals obstacles.
The procedure, called a hysterosalpingography, was always just meant to be just an investigation, searching for blockages. But it turns out the poppy seed oil may itself help fertility as the evidence is quite astonishing.
Scientists from the University of Adelaide randomly flushed the fallopian tubes of 1119 women with either poppy seed oil or water. Those women that received poppy seed oil achieved a 40% pregnancy rate over the next six months versus 29% who received just water.
Researchers do not yet know whether the oil is the critical factor, as it may simply be better at flushing mucus and debris from the fallopian tubes than water. Or it may be a yet unknown reaction with a compound found in poppy seed oil itself.
Either way, poppy seed oil fallopian tube flushing is a fantastic fertility treatment and whether the active ingredient is the oil or the poppies is a mute point. Poppy seed oil treatment works, is safe, is quick, is cheap, and should be considered before an expensive and distressing IVF cycle.
2) Promotes Skin & Hair Health
Anti-inflammatory properties of poppy seed reduce skin inflammation. Linoleic acid in poppy seed soothes the skin and relieves eczema symptoms. Studies have shown that low levels of linoleic acid can cause skin conditions including acne . Linoleic acid is also important for the health of the scalp and helps prevent dandruff as well.
Grind poppy seeds into nice powder and soak it in milk overnight. Add a few drops of lemon juice to it, mix well and apply it on the affected area. Rinse well after it dries. Adding lemon juice reduces itchiness.
Poppy seed powder can be added to curd and applied on affected areas. It can also be applied on the face to achieve a healthy glow.
3) Improves Digestion
Poppy seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which support digestion and prevent constipation. Vitamin C in poppy seeds is essential for a healthy digestive system as it aids in producing collagen to keep digestive tract tissues healthy .
Add a teaspoon of poppy seed powder to a glass of water and bring to boil. Filter and add honey to taste.
Apart from having poppy seed powder you can also add a teaspoon or two to your salad.
4) Cures Sleeplessness
Magnesium aids in promoting sleep and poppy seeds being a rich source of magnesium helps to cure insomnia. Magnesium increases melatonin, the sleep hormone and decreases cortisol, which is stress hormone .
Very small amount of opium alkaloids present in poppy seeds also aids in sleep. Please read the ‘dangers of poppy seeds’ section below for more information on this.
Mix a teaspoon of ground poppy seed to a glass of warm milk and consume before bed.
5) Boosts Blood Circulation
Iron and vitamin B6 in poppy seeds are effective for anemic conditions. Iron improves blood circulation and oxygenates the body. Copper present in poppy seeds also boosts blood circulation .
6) Cures Mouth Ulcer
Poppy seeds possess powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which aid in treating mouth ulcer. The cooling effect of poppy seeds helps to treat mouth ulcers which are generally caused by excess heat.
Add sugar or desiccated coconut to powdered poppy seeds and make a thick paste by adding water. Consume this for relief from a mouth ulcer.
7) Boosts Energy
Manganese in poppy seeds supports function of enzymes that fight free radicals in mitochondria thereby boosting energy. Manganese is used by the body as a cofactor for superoxide dismutase.
Manganese superoxide dismutase prevents injury to mitochondria . Carbohydrates in poppy seeds also boost energy levels. Poppy seeds increase oxygen levels, which boost energy.
Poppy seed can be added to your regular diet for optimum benefits.
8) Improves Brain Health And Reduces Risk of Cognitive Disorders
Minerals like iron, copper and calcium in poppy seeds boost function of neurotransmitters thereby supporting brain function. Poppy seeds boost blood circulation and oxygen supply to brain, which aid in reducing the risk of cognitive disorders such including Alzheimer’s and dementia.
9) Supports Bone Health
Zinc in poppy seeds increase bone density. Studies have proved low bone mass to be associated with low levels of zinc . It plays an important role in bone remodeling cycle. Poppy seeds are a rich source of calcium, which reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Phosphorous, present in poppy seeds, is only second to calcium in supporting bone development.
10) Relieves Constipation
Dietary fiber in poppy seeds aids in relieving constipation . One of the many causes for constipation is indigestion and by helping with digestion poppy seeds relieve constipation associated with it.
11) Boosts Immunity
Iron and zinc in poppy seeds boost immunity . Zinc stimulates white blood cell production which aids in fighting illnesses.
12) Lowers Bad Cholesterol
Oleic acid and dietary fiber reduce LDL cholesterol aka bad cholesterol levels . By increasing good cholesterol levels, oleic acid plays a vital role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
13) Reduces Risk of Heart Conditions
The antioxidant properties of poppy seeds promote heart health. Linoleic acid in the seed reduces risk of heart conditions . Vitamin B2 and vitamin B6 also lower risk of heart problems. Poppy seed is rich in fatty acids, which reduce risk of blocks in arteries.
14) Reduces Free Radical Formation
Selenium in poppy seeds reduces free radical formation thereby preventing risk of various health conditions including cancer .
15) Promotes Vision Health
Zinc in poppy seeds reduces risk of macular degeneration, a medical condition which may lead to poor vision or loss of vision . The antioxidant properties of poppy seeds also aid in maintaining healthy vision.
16) Relieves Nervous Disorders
Poppy seed is a rich source of B vitamins and calcium. B vitamins play a vital role in maintaining healthy nervous system . Calcium in poppy seed supports nervous function.
17) Improves Respiratory Function
Poppy seeds contain zinc, which functions as cytoprotectant against inflammation and toxins in the respiratory tract. Being an expectorant, poppy seeds relieve phlegm. Zinc has a crucial role to play in respiratory epithelium , which is important to lung health. It is also effective in treating asthma and whooping cough.
18) Possesses Anti-Cancer Properties
Poppy seeds are effective in treating and reducing risk of cancer. Oleic acid in poppy seeds blocks a gene that can increase cancer risk . Noscapine produced by poppy seeds fights tumors. They are effective in treating breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate and colon cancers.
19) Reduces Risk of Kidney Stones
High levels of calcium can cause stones in kidneys. Oxalates in poppy seeds prevent over absorption of calcium thereby minimizing the risk of kidney stones .
20) Improves Sexual Strength
The aphrodisiac properties of poppy seeds improve sexual life by boosting libido and treating impotence. It also stimulates the part of the brain that is associated with psychological barriers to having sex.
21) Lowers High Blood Pressure
Potassium in poppy seed functions as a vasodilator and hence widens blood vessels and helps proper blood flow .
Take equal amounts of poppy seeds and watermelon seed powder and mix well. If you are taking large amounts, you may store in an airtight container. Have one tablespoon of this mixture every day in the morning and evening.
22) Supports Thyroid Function
Poppy seeds contain selenium, which plays a vital role in regulating thyroid function thereby eliminating symptoms associated with hypo and hyper thyroid .
Dangers of Poppy Seeds
Unfortunately, there are negative side effects from eating poppy seeds that cannot be ignored. Poppy seeds are used to produce opium which when refined, can be made into a range of very powerful opiate drugs.
While drugs such as morphine are vital to give pain relief for chronic and acute conditions, its ‘street’ version, heroine, destroys lives on an epic scale.
The negative effects of poppy seeds relate to the presence of these opiates and when considering the dangers of poppy seeds, we are really reviewing the negative side effects of opiates.
23) Poppy seed tea
Poppy seed tea is a popular way to ingest the opiates that are present in the seeds. Methods involve boiling the crushed the seeds and pods or washing the seeds in fizzy drinks and consuming the wash liquid.
People consume these drinks primarily for the opiates and rarely to gain some of the health benefits listed above. The tea is used to help with insomnia, reduce anxiety or simply to get ‘high’.
Without doubt, poppy seed tea consumption can benefit sleep, as all opiates are will induce sleep, but at what cost? Likewise, do you really understand the risks of eating poppy seeds to get high?
We cannot stress how dangerous poppy seed tea can be. The reason is that the quantity of opiates in the tea can vary by a considerable amount, and a fresh tea brewed to the same recipe, but with a different batch of seeds can have a morphine and codeine concentration many multiples of what was previously consumed.
Indeed, a study conducted in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in 1996 showed that the morphine content can vary by as much as 125 times. (19)
Overdoses of morphine can be lethal. As is often the case, a morphine overdose can cause a pulmonary edema, which is a condition where the lungs fill with fluid passed from the blood stream through the lung walls.
People can and do die from morphine overdoses due to poppy seed tea consumption.(20)
24) Poppy seed side effects
If the risk of death were not reason enough to avoid eating poppy seeds to get high, then there are also other poppy seed tea side effects.
Many people experience acute stomach pains after eating poppy seeds which can last long after the opiate effect has worn off. This is a common side effect from opiates in general.
Similarly, ‘hang-over’ style headaches are often reported the next day alongside stomach cramps.
But the most problematic negative effect from eating poppy seeds in bulk or drinking tea is you actually might enjoy it too much. Opiates are one of the most addictive substances known to man and you can easily become addicted to poppy seeds within a matter of days if consumption is high.
What’s more, the opiate effect becomes less pronounced as the body builds a tolerance, and the dosage is often increased to compensate. And as such, the risk of overdose will only ever increase when you follow this course.
26) Drug tests
For those of us who do not wish to get high from poppy seeds, there is one nasty side effect which has caught many people unaware. Even if you eat a small amount of seeds, perhaps say on some bread with baked in poppy seeds, you may inadvertently fail a drugs test.
Modern tests are incredibly sensitive and it is not uncommon to fail a test due to perfectly innocent poppy seed consumption. If you have a scheduled test, avoid poppy seeds.
27) How to avoid the dangers of poppy seeds
Well, the obvious answer to this question is not to consume vast quantities in tea for the purpose of getting some sleep or getting high. However, there is another hack one should use if you are preparing poppy seeds for cooking.
The poppy seed itself actually has almost no opium at all. The opium that comes with the seed is on the outside of the seed and implanted there from the seed pod. This is why in opium production, it is actually the pod that is scored and scraped to collect the sap and the seeds are not used.
So whenever you are cooking with poppy seeds, wash them thoroughly to get rid of any trace opium that may remain. And then enjoy your cooking with ease of mind.
Do’s and Don’t of Poppy Seeds
- Clean poppy seeds before using to remove any impurities or stones. That includes the opium
- Since poppy seeds are hard to grind, dry roast the seeds and soak them for a couple of hours in water or milk before grinding.
- To use poppy seeds uncooked, dry roast them to enjoy the aroma and flavor.
- Make tea or any other concoction to get high. Poppy seed tea can kill
- Eat poppy seeded food if you have a drugs test to pass
- Eat seeds in large quantities for any reason