Poppy Seeds

Other Names of Poppy Seeds

The botanical name of poppy seeds is Papaver somniferum L. from the family Papaveraceae. Other names include:

  • Kashash
  • Khuskhush
  • Khasksi
  • Khus khus
  • Gasalu
  • Adermidera
  • Pavot
  • Mohn
  • Opiumvallmo
  • Slaapbol
  • Papavero
  • Dormideira
  • Keshi
  • Ying Shu

Useful Parts of the Plant: :Poppy seeds are hard, tiny grains. The western variety is slate blue and the Indian one is cream or off-white. Seeds are generally used in their dried form. Other useful parts include seedpods, latex, and poppy straws. The flowers are largely used for ornamental purposes.

Poppy seeds are the dried seeds of the poppy seed plant - an annual herb with a thick waxy stem, numerous leaves and colorful flowers. Poppy seeds are found within the capsule-like fruit and are used as a herb or spice in cooking.

Poppy plants are widely cultivated in the Mediterranean, India, Russia, Eastern Europe, Japan, China, and Argentina for commercial and medicinal purposes. In countries such as Burma, Laos, Thailand, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the poppy plant is grown illegally for its narcotic properties.

The name itself - somniferum - means to induce sleep and the plant is often grown for the opium it yields. However, poppy seeds used commercially have no narcotic properties or side effects and can be consumed safely.

Nutritional information and Properties

Poppy Seed Nutrition Facts:

One tablespoon of poppy seeds (approximately 9 grams) has only 45kcal. Poppy seeds are rich in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. They are also a source of protein, carbohydrates, and sodium. Poppy seeds also contain high levels of vitamin B, folic acid, thiamin, and riboflavin.

Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses

The health benefits of poppy seeds include:

  • To treat vomiting and nausea
  • Adding poppy seeds to your daily diet can cure respiratory problems such as chronic cough and asthma
  • Poppy seed paste can stop diarrhea
  • Poppy seed paste when applied to swollen joints can provide pain relief
  • Apply a mix of poppy seed paste under the eyes to reduce dark circles and swollen eyelids
  • The oleic acid in poppy seeds lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and increase good or HDL levels
  • Eating poppy seeds can prevent heart disease and strokes due to the high content of monounsaturated fats
  • The zinc in poppy seeds aids sperm production

Other Uses

  • Apart from the medicinal use and health benefits of poppy seeds, they are also widely used for various culinary purposes. They can be sprinkled on baked goods such as bread and cakes, used as a sandwich spread along with butter and honey, used to add extra crunch to pasta and salads, as a flavoring for sauces and vegetable dishes, and in candies as well. Eastern countries use poppy seeds as a base for curries and chutneys.
  • Poppy seed extract is used as an ingredient in poppy syrup and cordials.
  • Poppy seeds make great bird food.
  • Due to its anodyne and expectorant properties, poppy seeds are used in cough syrups and poultices.
  • Oil made from poppy seed extract is used to make a number of drugs and medications.
  • Poppy seed infusions are used to treat earaches and toothaches

Precautions/Side Effects/ Warnings

Among all seeds and nuts, poppy seeds are the least allergic. They are totally safe for consumption even by children and pregnant women. The narcotic compounds in poppy seeds are not enough to cause any side effects but if you consume food products made with poppy seeds, be warned that there is a possibility that you may receive a false positive result on tests for banned opiates (as those done on sports people).

Whole or ground organic poppy seeds are available at most supermarkets and health food stores. Since they are high in polyunsaturated fats, they tend to go rancid quickly. Buy only good quality seeds and stored in a cool dry place before using. If stored carefully, fresh poppy seeds can be consumed within six months.