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Poisonous Plants in GB

24 25 opiuM poppy Papaver somniferum Family Papaveraceae. Synonym Mawseed. From Asia, but found on waste ground as a garden escape and grown as a crop in Britain. Grey and hairless, the flowers vary from white to purple in single and double forms. A deadly poison and class A drug. Manufacture or possession of opium is a serious offence. Poppy seed bread can produce a positive drug test. The earliest images of this herb date from Sumeria, circa 4000 BC and it was used at Thebes in Ancient Egypt. The Greeks named it Mkn, the beloved youth of Demeter who transformed him into a poppy upon his death indeed poppy seed cake was a sacrament in the rites of Demeter, and opos was the white juice that dripped from the wand of Hypnos, god of sleep. In 1793 Woodville extolled its virtues in diarrhoea, cholera, syphilis, smallpox, asthma, epilepsy, gangrene and insomnia. He documented the development of tolerance in patients but seemed unaware of addiction, yet Britain and China went to war over opium addiction in the 1830s as the Chinese attempted to prevent the evils of British opium trading. By 1869 Britain was importing 127 tons annually to manufacture many different medicines. Laudanum was an alcoholic preparation and heroin, first synthesized in 1874, became the remedy of choice for asthma. Morphine is still vital in managing chronic pain and terminal care, and opiates remain the most effective treatment for dysentery. Poppy seeds are valued as a food for pregnant women and mothers in Iran, India and Turkey, and in Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary poppy seed dishes are eaten at Christmas. Lest we forget, The Wizard of Oz, de Quinceys Confessions of an English Opium Eater, Coleridges Kubla Khan and the occult musings of Aleister Crowley were all inspired by the opium poppy.
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