Red poppy properties

Papaver rhoeas properties


A detail of the plant with the leaves and flowers

Common name:

English: Red poppy, field poppy, red poppy, red weed, corn rose, corn poppy.

German: Klatschmohn

Dutch: Kornvalmue

Spanish: Poppy, Ababol

Catalan: Rosella, ababolera, Ruelle.

Euskera: Mitxoleta, lobedarr

Galician / Portuguese: Popoula

Italian: comune papavero, Rosolaccio

French: coquelicot, ponceau, Pavot rouge, pavot coquelicot

Scientific name: Papaver rhoeas L.

Family: Papaveraceae

Habitat: fields, especially cereals and vacant lots. From sea level to 1700 meters. It is very abundant to the point that it is considered a weed.

Description of red poppy

Annual herb of the poppy family up to 70 cm in height.

Stems erect, hirsute.

Compound leaves with toothed leaflets pointed, upper sessile.

Flowers 5 to 10 cm of width of a scarlet red and sometimes with dark spots at the base and pendulous blossoms. Overlapping petals on the base.

Globular fruits hairless.

Main components of red poppy

  • Alkaloids: reagenine, readine (rhoeadine) – In the whole plant.
  • Acids: rhodeadic, papaveric
  • Anthocyanins
  • Sucrose
  • Fiber: mucilage
  • Pigments: mecocianine


Traditionally, red poppy has been used as a very suitable remedy to combat nerve problems and respiratory tract.

Dioscorides (1) says of this plant:

“Cook 5 or 6 heads of Papaver in 5 ounces of wine, until they are resolved in two and give this cooking to drink to those you want to be put to sleep”

Nicholas Culpeper (2) (1616-1654) says about it:

“The garden poppy heads, made into syrup, is frequently and to good effect, used to procure rest and sleep in the sick and weak and to stay catarrhs and defluxions of thin rheums from the head into the stomach and lungs, causing a continual cough, the fore-runner of a consumption. It helps also hoarseness of the throat and when one have lost their voice…. The black seed boiled in wine, and drunk, is said to dry the flux of the belly and women’s courses. The empty shells, or poppy heads, are usually boiled in water and given to procure rest and sleep…. “

Later, when speaking of other parts of plants, he adds:

“The green leaves or the heads bruised and applied with a little vinegar, or made into a poultice with barley-meal or hog’s grease, cools and tempers all inflammations, as also the disease called St. Anthony’s Fire”

Referring to other previous doctors, he adds

” The Wild Poppy or Corn Rose (as Matttiolus (3) said), is good to prevent the falling-sickness. The syrup made is good effect given to those that have the pleurisy, and the dried flowers also, either boiled in water, or made into powder and drank, either in the distilled water or them, or some other drink, works the like effect. The distilled water of the flowers is held to be of much good used against surfeits, being drunk evening or morning.”

Referring to what not should be prepared with this flower says:

“It is also more cooling than any of the other Poppies and therefore can not as effectual in hot agues, frenzies and other inflammation either inward or outward. Galeno (4) saith, The seed is dangerous to be used inwardly”

(1) Pedanias Anazarbeo Dioscorides (40 – 90), botanist, physician and pharmacologist author of De Materia Medica, the book most often used in herbal medicine until the Renaissance.

(2) Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654), English botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer. Author of Complete Herbal (1653) a book of pharmacy based mainly on medicinal plants. Widely recognized.

(3) Pietro Andrea Gregorio Mattioli (1501-1577) physician and naturalist, author of Discorsi of Materia Medica of Dioscorides. This book discusses the species mentioned by Dioscorides and added a few more. It is famous for its 1200 recorded plant contained therein.

(4) Galen of Pergamum (130 – 200) Roman physician.


Remedies with red poppy for internal use

  • Respiratory tract: Poppy, for its mucilage content exerts a softening and antitussive effect on the respiratory mucosa. At the same time, considering its content in alkaloid rhoeadine, helps fight spasms and provides expectorant and pectoral properties. This makes it very interesting in the treatment of respiratory diseases, especially in regard to the following anomalies:
  • Asthma: Using preparations of this plant helps you breathe easier and significantly decreases cough. (15-minute infusion of one teaspoon of dried petals in a litter of water. Take a glass half-hour before breakfast in the morning and the same in the evening half an hour before dinner)
  • Cough: It can be used for coughs caused by many diseases of the respiratory system. (Infusion of half a tablespoon of dry petals per liter of water. Drink three cups a day) (Take poppy syrup for cough)
  • Bronchitis: Its properties are also useful for chest pain and persistent cough that usually accompanies bronchitis (Infusion of some fragments of poppy petals per cup of water. 2 cups a day.) (Decoction for 6 minutes of 2 capsules per cup of water. 6 tablespoons at bedtime)
  • Cold: The above treatment is very useful in case of cold.
  • Sore throat: The emollient properties of the poppy can be used to relieve pain and discomfort in the throat caused by tonsillitis. (Infusion for 10 minutes of a tablespoon of dry petals in a litter of water. Drink a couple of glasses a day) (gargles with a strong infusion also proves very effective in the treatment of tonsils itching caused by sore throat (See more information in the external use of this plant)
  • Nervous system: However, poppy is recognized in herbal medicine for its sedative properties, well suited to treat many abnormalities of the nervous system, even those that apparently manifest as physical illnesses such as stomach ailment caused by problems with “nerves in the stomach “, responsible for many problems of indigestion. (Infusion of half a teaspoon of dried petals per cup of water before eating can help solve many cases of stomach cramps)

The previous preparation also can be very useful in cases of headache or migraine caused by emotional problems.

The advantage of this plant compared to other stronger narcotics such as opium is that it has no side effects or addictive because it does not contain morphine. Rhoeadine is slightly sedative. Among the many sedative applications of this plant plant, we can consider the following:

  • Insomnia: The hypnotic properties of the poppy can be used to treat insomnia. The preparations of this plant will allow sleep to people who have trouble sleeping. (In recurrent cases, infusion of two teaspoons of dried petals per liter of water. Drink three cups each day, especially once before bedtime) (In mild cases: Infusion of a pinch of dried petals per cup of water. Drinking a cup before bedtime)
  • Nervousness: Poppy can help calm down jangled nerves. Just make a tea with half a teaspoon of the petals of this plant for a cup of water. We’ll drink a couple of cups each day, trying to drink the second one just before bedtime. They can be sweetened with a little honey.
  • Anxiety: The previous treatment can be used to treat anxiety disorders.

External use preparations with red poppy

  • Throat problems: Used externally, its emollient properties are very appropriate for the treatment of diseases of the throat. We can apply gargles with an infusion of two teaspoons of dried petals per liter of water. This treatment will be effective to reduce inflammation and reduce pain in cases of Sore throat, pharyngitis or laryngitis.
  • Treatment of wrinkles: The infusion of poppy petals is useful to avoid the appearance of wrinkles on the face. Just carry out a fully loaded infusion in which you dip a cloth to be applied to your face for a few minutes before bedtime.
  • Conjunctivitis: In case of conjunctivitis, you can use an infusion of one teaspoon of petals in half a liter of water. Filter well and wash your eyes with this mixture.

Other uses of red poppy

  • Booster of tisanes: Poppy is rich in a pigment called mecocianin that stains easily when dissolved in a liquid. This is used to color many medicinal preparations.
  • Edible wild plant: Poppy leaf is edible when tender, that’s to say, before flowers are born. To remove the alkaloid content, they should be boiled. The seeds are also edible and are commonly used in the confectionery industry and to flavor pastries preparations.
  • Industrial applications: From poppies burning oil is extracted

Collecting and conservation of red poppy flowers

Flowers and capsules of poppy can be collected from March to late summer, though they are more abundant during spring, especially in the month of May. They should be dried in the shade and stored in a dry and shady place in bags or glass jars. The seeds should be removed from the capsules.

Toxicity of poppy

Used in appropriate doses, it does not provide toxicity or contraindications. However, since there are very few studies on it, you should not use if pregnancy or breastfeeding without medical consent.

One often tends to assume that, like its congener, the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), it must be toxic. The truth is that this plant lacks morphine and may be used provided it is used in the adequate dose.

With respect to its toxicity in animals, some studies claim that there have been cases of poisoning in horses who ate grass infected with this plant. These animals showed strong initial nervousness and neighing. Later, they showed coordination problems, general weakness, constipation, lack of activity, and some of them died from respiratory arrest. According to these studies, rhoeadine in these animals produce some symptoms similar to those that morphine from opium poppy produces in humans.

punto rojoMore information about medicinal plants.

This article was endorsed by Elisenda Carballido - Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

16 November, 2020

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