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Herbs & Botanicals

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Poppy Capsule (ying su qiao)

What is poppy capsule? What is it used for?

The opium poppy is an annual plant that reaches a height of between four and five feet. Native to western Asia, it is cultivated in many countries. The sale and cultivation of poppy is also banned in many countries, due to the plant's addictive properties.

Poppy capsules are gathered in the summer. After the seeds are removed, the capsules are allowed to dry in the sun. They are then typically fried with honey.

The powers of the opium poppy have been used by health care providers for thousands of years. In ancient Sumeria, the poppy was referred to as the "joy plant" for its sedative and euphoric properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, poppy capsules have sour, astringent, neutral and toxic properties, and are associated with the Lung, Large Intestine and Kidney meridians. The main functions of poppy seeds are to astringe the lungs and intestines, and to relieve pain. Poppy capsules are used to treat several conditions, such as chronic coughing and diarrhea. They are also used for general pain relief.

How much poppy capsule should I take?

The typical dosage of poppy capsule is between three and 10 grams. To treat coughs, poppy capsules are often honey-fried. For diarrhea accompanied with pain, poppy capsules prepared with vinegar are recommended.

What forms of poppy capsule are available?

Crushed, dried poppy capsules can be found at some Asian markets and specialty stores, as can some formulas that contain powdered poppy capsule.

What can happen if I take too much poppy capsule? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Because of poppy capsule's addictive properties, it should be used with extreme caution to avoid addiction and/or overdosing. It should not be used by children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or patients in the early stages of chronic cough. When taken in the proper doses, poppy is considered safe; the American Herbal Products Association has given it a class 1 rating. However, some side-effects have been noted with use of poppy capsules and seeds, including twitching, dizziness, general weakness, and headaches. Patients who experience any of these side-effects should discontinue use. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking poppy capsules or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Bernath J, Tetenyi P. Production characteristics of papaver somniferum L. cultivars of different origin and vegetation cycles. Bull Narc July-December 1982;34(3-4):113-27.
  • Calixto JB, Beirith A, Ferreira J, et al. Naturally occurring antinociceptive substances from plants. Phytother Res September 2000;14(6):401-18.
  • Iida O, Sekine T, Inoue O, et al. Characteristics of papaver somniferum L. cv. ikkanshu cultivated in Izu. Kokuritsu Iyakuhin Shokuhin Eisei Kenkyusho Hokoku 2000;(118):77-80.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 82.
  • Schulz H, Baranska M, Quilitzsch R, et al. Determination of alkaloids in capsules, milk and ethanolic extracts of poppy (papaver somniferum L.) by ATR-FT-IR and FT-Raman spectroscopy. Analyst October 2004;129(10):917-20.

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