Herb: Corn Poppy


Latin name: Papaver rhoeas


Family: Papaveraceae (Poppy Family)



Medicinal use of Corn Poppy:

The flowers of corn poppy have a long history of medicinal usage, especially for ailments in the elderly and children. Chiefly employed as a mild pain reliever and as a treatment for irritable coughs, it also helps to reduce nervous over-activity. Unlike the related opium poppy (P. somniferum) it is non-addictive. However, the plant does contain alkaloids, which are still under investigation, and so should only be used under the supervision of a qualified herbalist. The flowers and petals are anodyne, emollient, emmenagogue, expectorant, hypnotic, slightly narcotic and sedative. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of bronchial complaints and coughs, insomnia, poor digestion, nervous digestive disorders and minor painful conditions. The flowers are also used in the treatment of jaundice. The petals are harvested as the flowers open and are dried for later use. They should be collected on a dry day and can be dried or made into a syrup. The latex in the seedpods is narcotic and slightly sedative. It can be used in very small quantities, and under expert supervision, as a sleep-inducing drug. The leaves and seeds are tonic. They are useful in the treatment of low fevers. The plant has anticancer properties.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Annual


Height:
60 cm
(2 feet)

Flovering:
June to
August

Habitat of the herb:

A common weed of cultivated land and waste places, avoiding acid soils. Becoming far less frequent on cultivated land due to modern agricultural practices.

Edible parts of Corn Poppy:

Seed - raw or cooked. Much used as a flavouring in cakes, bread, fruit salads etc, it imparts a very nice nutty flavour. The seeds are rather small, but they are contained in fairly large seed pods and so are easy to harvest. The seeds are perfectly safe to eat, containing none of the alkaloids associated with other parts of the plant. Leaves - raw or cooked. Used like spinach or as a flavouring in soups and salads. The leaves should not be used after the flower buds have formed. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. Said to be an excellent substitute for olive oil, it can be used in salad dressings or for cooking. A syrup can be prepared from the scarlet flower petals, it is used in soups, gruels etc. A red dye from the petals is used as a food flavouring, especially in wine.

Other uses of the herb:

A red dye is obtained from the flowers, though it is very fugitive. A syrup made from the petals has been used as a colouring matter for old inks. The red petals are used to add colour to pot-pourri.

Propagation of Corn Poppy:

Seed - sow spring or autumn in situ.

Cultivation of the herb:

A common weed of cultivated land and waste places, avoiding acid soils. Becoming far less frequent on cultivated land due to modern agricultural practices.

Known hazards of Papaver rhoeas:

This plant is toxic to mammals, though the toxicity is low. The seed is not toxic.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.