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Botanical name:Papaver somniferum Linn.
Indian names are as follows:
Oriya:Posta, Apu manji
Punjabi:Khus Khus, Khas Khas
Telugu:Kasakasa, Gasagasla, Gasalu
The seed of the fruit is the spice as well as a popular food. But the plant is better known as a narcotic plant. The gum from the fruit is known as `Opium` that is ill famed for addiction. In fact, the growers grow the plant for Opium that fetches them greater value than its seed. It is said that in Afghanistan the Talibans funded their insurgency activities out of opium trade. Opium is one of the items that are traded illegally by the insurgents of North Eastern India and by the gangsters of Mumbai.
Opium apart from its addiction values is also considered as medicine. Many of the traditional herbal preparations are manufactured with opium as one of the important ingredient. Since plant itself requires license and seed is the part of the total story, production of seed, which is a spice, is also monitored by the Excise Department. However, in the regions where it is grown with legal sanction, seed can be an important resource to plan rural industrialization programme under close watch of Excise Department, which is statutory requirement.
In India, poppy with white seeds has been cultivated for many years for the production of seed under license in Dehra Dun and Tehri Garhwal districts of Uttaranchal and in Jullundur, Kapurthala, Hosiarpur and Patiala districts of Punjab. In Europe, a different variety, which has slate to blue colored seeds, and known as `Maw seeds`, is exclusively cultivated for this purpose. In Punjab, cultivation of opium poppy for poppy heads has been banned.
The white seeds are very small. The analysis of seeds from five types of Indian poppy gave the following ranges of values:
Moisture:4.3 to 5.2%
Protein:22.3 to 24.4%
Ether extract:46.5 to 49.1%
Nitrogen free extract:11.7 to 14.3%
Fiber:4.8 to 5.8%
Total ash:5.6 to 6.0%
Calcium:1,03 to 1.45%
Phosphorus:0.79 to 0.89%
Iron:8.5 to 11.1 mg/100 gram.
It also yield thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid considerably, but carotene is absent. There are also small quantities of minerals such as iodine, manganese, copper, magnesium and zinc. The seeds also contain lecithin (2.80%), oxalic acid (1.62%), pentosans (3.0 to 3.6%), traces of narcotine and an amorphous alkaloid, and the enzymes diastase, emulsin, lipase and nuclease.
The seeds have a high protein content, the major component being a globulin, which accounts for 55% of the total nitrogen. The amino acid make up of the globulin is similar to that of the whole seed protein and is as follows (g/11g N):
The proteins are deficient in lysine and methionine. At 10% level of intake, they have a biological value of 57.9% and a digestibility coefficient of 81%.
Poppy Seed Oil
Poppy seeds contain up to 50% of edible oil, which is extracted by either cold or hot expression. It has Iodine value of 132 to 142 and Saponification value of 188 to 196. In India, the oil is generally extracted by cold pressing the seed in small presses in homes or small establishments (oil yield about 20%). Raw cold-pressed oil is pale to golden yellow in color.
The cake or the meal left after extraction of the oil from the seeds, is sweet and nutritious and eaten by the poor people. In a way it is poor man`s protein. It is readily consumed by cattle and sheep, and may be fed alone or preferably fed with other feeds. However, excessive feeding of the cake (over 1 kg/day) to dairy cattle may result in decrease of the content of milk and in soft fat.
Analysis of the cake gave following values:
Nitrogen free extract:20.7%
The cake may also be used as manure.
The seed cake may sometimes prove toxic to cattle owing to the presence of alkaloids arising from contamination of the seed with particles of the capsule. This results in marked gastroenteritis, nervous excitement, lack of appetite and colic pain. Lactation may cease and cattle loose weight progressively; a few fatal cases have been reported.
The capsules contain the same constituents as opium but in much smaller quantities. The total alkaloid content of the unlanced capsules from Indian sources was found to be 0.4 to 0.6% and that of the lanced capsules 0.15 to 0.22%. The concentration of morphine in the capsules shows large variations. The capsules account for about 70% of the total morphine of the plant. The morphine in the capsules decreases rapidly on storage.
Poppy straw has been tried for the manufacture of hand made boards. It was also tried for making Kraft paper and pulping gave good pulp with good strength properties.
Young poppy plant is sometimes eaten like lettuce. It is grown as a potherb in Iran and also fed to cattle.
The poppy seeds are utilized as food and as a source of fatty oil. They are considered nutritive and are used in breads, curries, sweets and confectionery. Seeds have a number of medicinal virtues.
Poppy seed oil is edible without refining; it does not develop rancidity easily. Hot pressed oil is largely used in soap making. It may be rendered edible by refining. The oil yield from black and white seed is about the same, but the former is more commonly used for expression of the oil because of its easier cultivation. However, white seeds reported to yield the finest oil. Seeds from the capsules, which have not been scarified for opium, give a higher yield of oil than from those scarified.
Poppy seed oil is widely used for culinary purposes. It is free from narcotic properties and is used mixed with olive oil or as salad oil. On hydrogenation, it yields a product similar to hydrogenated groundnut oil, which may also be useful for industrial purposes.
It is a non-yellowing drying oil forming a hard and lustrous film. The oil is rendered colorless by exposure to the sun. It dries much slower and more uniformly than linseed oil. Therefore it is utilized frequently in paint industry and for manufacture of artists` paint. For this purpose, sun-bleached oil from the first cold pressing is preferred. The oil is also utilized for lubrication purposes. It also has a lot of medicinal virtues.
The red poppy flowers are used in medicine for making syrup. The red and lilac flowers contain a coloring matter are suitable for use as an indicator.
Thus poppy plant is not merely a source of narcotic, as it is usually known. It is a source of spice for which its seeds are used. Its seed oil is an edible oil and useful for manufacture of paints and varnishes. The plant itself can be used for manufacture of paper and pulp. It can effectively be used for manufacture of several types of medicines.