The healing power of sleeping bulb or poppy

Sleeping bulb is a plant with green leaves from which a white or violet flower grows that then becomes a blue-green bulb. They bloom from June to August. The poppy seeds that the bulb produces are edible and are usually bluish. Sleeping bulb is an excellent example of a plant that is indispensable in regular medicine. No better synthetic painkillers have been found, despite all the pharmacological developments of the last centuries. The painkillers morphine and codeine are made from poppy, which have serious side effects. Poppy is also sometimes used in phytotherapy for its analgesic capabilities. However, it is considered one of the most dangerous medicinal plants on earth. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing of sleeping ball / Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons (PD)


  • Brief history of poppy
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • By prescription only
  • Poppy against pain
  • Opium no longer used for depression and anxiety
  • Opium for diarrhea
  • Dose and safety
  • The intoxication symptoms of opium, morphine and codeine

Brief history of poppy

In ancient Greece, the sleeping ball was a symbol of the god of sleep, Morpheus. The Greeks grew opium poppies to extract its oil, which has only mildly narcotic properties. Poppy was imported from Asia 900 years BC and it was not until 300 years BC that it was discovered that the white milky sap is a much stronger narcotic than the seeds. In the Middle Ages, sleeping bulb seed was still used as an anesthetic in medicine. Paracelsus was the one who pointed out around 1500 that milk juice was much more effective. The English physician Sydenham (1624-1689) was the one who first followed Paracelsus’ advice. In 1803 Deorosne succeeded in preparing a solid from the milk juice, which was called narcotine. In 1832, Robiquet discovered codeine. It was only around 1700 that people started using the poppy as a stimulant. It is still smoked in China. By the way, that is not nearly as dangerous as injecting under the name heroin, which was invented in the West. As an anesthetic in medicine, the opium poppy is an unparalleled important plant. For recreational use it can pose major dangers, especially serious addiction. When an addict is deprived of heroin, he or she feels old, sick, nervous and weak, a feeling that quickly disappears when he or she takes the next shot.

Opium is the dried milky sap of the poppy plant.


In Latin, sleeping bulb is called Papaver somniferum . Dutch has a number of alternative names for this medicinal plant: Blauwmaan, Heulbol, Kankerbloem, Poppy, Eul, Dobbele kolleblomme, Bolpapaver, Papaver and Maankop. Sleepball refers to the sleep-inducing properties of poppy. Somniferum consists of two Latin words ‘somni’ which means sleep and ‘fer’ which means to bring. Somni fer um literally means ‘brings the great sleep’. The name ‘cancer flower’ probably has to do with the fact that cancer patients in their terminal phase are always given morphine against severe pain. That also happened in times long past.

Active substances

The dried milk juice of poppy is used for phytotherapeutic purposes. This is called opium. This milk juice contains the following substances: morphinane alkaloids, the main alkaloids being morphine and its derivatives such as codeine, thebaine, codeinone, neopine and oripavine, isoquinoline alkaloids including noscapine or narcotine, narceine, nornarceine, narceinimide, laudanide, laudanosine, codamine, reticuline and papaverine. Other alkaloids found in this plant are: isoboldine, corytuberine, corexemine, canadine, berberine, coptisine, sanguinarine, protopine, cryptopine and allocryptopine. Furthermore, the milky juice of the sleeping bulb contains organic acids such as lactic acid, fumaric acid, oxaloacetic acid and meconic acid.

By prescription only

Opium, the dried milky sap, is a dangerous painkiller. It may only be used on the prescription of a doctor. Doctors keep the dose as low as possible so that there are no or few side effects and a therapeutic effect is noticeable.

Poppy against pain

There are more than 25 opium alkaloids active in the sleeping bulb. These have an analgesic and anesthetic effect. They have a very strong effect on the nervous system. The pain threshold is greatly increased, to such an extent that the patient becomes indifferent to pain. Codeine in particular has a reducing effect on the coughing stimulus. Opium and morphine are used for the following pains:

Sleeping globe / Source: KGM007, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

  • Neuralgias,
  • Biliary colic,
  • kidney stones,
  • Cancer pain of terminal patient.

Poppy seeds, the seeds of the sleeping bulb, contain only a minimal amount of narcotic alkaloids such as morphine. It may be freely sold as food and used in the food industry.

Opium no longer used for depression and anxiety

An opium preparation gives the user a so-called good feeling. It was therefore previously given to depression patients. People suffering from melancholy and anxiety disorders, possibly related to psychosis, were given opium as a soothing medicine. Women with menopausal complaints were also given opium. This application has been largely abandoned due to its highly addictive properties.

Opium for diarrhea

Opium acts on the digestive system. It is a very strong anti-diarrheal and anti-spasmodic agent. It is not used for normal diarrhea; There are plenty of less dangerous natural medicines for that. Opium is used in some strong forms of diarrhea. These are cases with severe diarrhea and painful cramps. Very occasionally, diarrhea caused by psychological stress such as fear of the exam is treated with it. The dose of an opium tincture for this treatment is minimal. Opium should never be used for infectious diarrhea or dysentery because the pathogenic substances must leave the body. If this does not happen, even dangerous consequences can occur.

Dose and safety

There are a number of ways to use this medicinal plant. This information is purely intended to provide people with knowledge but should not be used without a doctor. Unauthorized and improper use of opium as a medicine can pose dangers. This medicine is never given to children.

Sleeping globe / Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons (PD)

  • Powder: 50 to 100mg each time. Adults are allowed a maximum of 150mg per time and 500mg per day.
  • Extract: 25 to 50mg per time, orally or rectally, maximum 75mg per time and 225mg per day.
  • Tincture: 5 to 30 drops at a time.
  • In case of diarrhea: 5 to 8 drops of tincture 1 to 2 times a day, for a maximum of 3 days,
  • In case of neurogenic diarrhea: 2 to 3 drops twice a day.

The intoxication symptoms of opium, morphine and codeine

Opium, morphine and codeine are dangerous poisonous substances that can lead to all kinds of intoxication symptoms in excessive quantities. In addition, they are addictive substances, which also entails many dangers.

  • Morphine is the most dangerous substance. An overdose decreases the respiratory rate; breathing becomes irregular which can lead to oxygen deficiency and death.
  • When someone becomes addicted to morphine, various intoxication symptoms can arise. The best known are: psychological abnormalities, constipation, itching and a strong tendency to scratch and in women, absence of menstruation is a common side effect.
  • When stopping an addiction, the withdrawal symptoms are: sweating, vomiting, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, nasal discharge, watery eyes, nausea, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, dilated pupils and accelerated breathing rhythm.
  • Opium, morphine and codeine should never be prescribed for infections, acute illnesses, reduced kidney function, tuberculosis and pregnancy,
  • Interactions may occur with the following drug groups: analgesics, antidepressants, anxiolytics and sedatives.