Herb: Prickly Poppy

Latin name: Argemone mexicana

Synonyms: Argemone ochroleuca

Family: Papaveraceae (Poppy Family)

Medicinal use of Prickly Poppy:

The whole plant is analgesic, antispasmodic, possibly hallucinogenic and sedative. It contains alkaloids similar to those in the opium poppy (P. somniferum) and so can be used as a mild pain-killer. The fresh yellow, milky, acrid sap contains protein-dissolving substances and has been used in the treatment of warts, cold sores, cutaneous affections, skin diseases, itches etc. It has also been used to treat cataracts and has been taken internally in the treatment of dropsy and jaundice. The root is alterative and has been used in the treatment of chronic skin diseases. The flowers are expectorant and have been used in the treatment of coughs and other chest complaints. The seed is demulcent, emetic, expectorant and laxative. An infusion, in small quantities, is used as a sedative for children, but caution is advised since the oil in the seed is strongly purgative. The seed has also been used as an antidote to snake poisoning. The pounded seeds, mixed with mustard oil, are applied externally to treat itchy skin. The oil from the seed is demulcent and purgative. It has been used externally in the treatment of skin problems. Caution is advised in the use of this oil, prolonged ingestion produces toxic effects resembling those occurring in epidemic dropsy.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

June to


Habitat of the herb:

Dry soils along roadsides and in waste places and fields.

Edible parts of Prickly Poppy:

Leaves No further details are given but caution is advised, see the notes on toxicity at the top of the page.

Other uses of the herb:

A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed, used for lighting, soap etc. A medicinal fixed oil (essential oil?) is obtained from the seed.

Propagation of Prickly Poppy:

Seed - sow April in situ. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 4 weeks at 15C.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry soils along roadsides and in waste places and fields.

Known hazards of Argemone mexicana:

All parts of the plant, including the seed, contain toxic alkaloids.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.