Scientific Names of Poppy Flowers: Papaver rhoeas L. [Fam. Papaveraceae]

Dried petals of poppy flower.

Traditional Usage:
– Aches

– Acute Breathing Disorders

– Bronchitis

– Colds

– Coughs

– Insomnia

– Minor Pain Relief

– Natural Coloring

– Natural Flavoring

– Nervousness

– Respiratory Conditions

– Sedative

Poppy flowers, Papaver rhoeas L. [Fam. Papaveraceae], also known as corn poppy, corn rose, and flores rhoeados, are found wild in grain fields and along roadsides and highways in Eastern Europe, North Africa and Asia. Corn poppy is the source of the familiar poppy seeds used in baking. The German Commission E monograph for red-poppy petals indicates their use for treating respiratory complaints, disturbed sleep, and as a sedative and for the relief of pain. However, it also notes that the effectiveness in the conditions indicated has not been established. Poppy flowers are also used as a source of food colouring and for enhancing the flavour of herbal teas. Traditionally, poppy blossoms were used to make syrup of red poppy, which was believed to promote sleep, relieve minor aches and pains as well as respiratory irritations such as coughs, colds, and bronchitis. Instructions for preparing the medicinal syrup were listed in the British Pharmacopoeia as early as 1885 and 1898. An ethanolic aqueous extract of Papaver rhoeas petals evaluated for its behavioral and pharmaco-toxicological effects in mice was found to produce a sedative effect at a dosage of 400 mg/kg, which corresponds to a dosage that is much larger than that recommended for poppy flowers used traditionally by humans. Chemical analysis showed that the petals contained anthocyanins, whereas no alkaloids were detected. The lethal dosage in mice was approximately five times the amount found to be sedative, that being 2g/kg (LD10). Behavioral and pharmacological studies of the ethanolic and aqueous extract showed that the plant extract reduced locomotory, exploratory and postural behaviors of mice. These behavioral and pharmacological effects were found to be more pronounced when the solvent used for extraction was 10% ethanol and was not antagonized by benzodiazepines, opioids, dopaminergic and cholinergic compounds (flumazenil, naloxone, sulpuride and atropine).

Active Ingredients:
Poppy flowers contain: Anthocyanin glycosides, especially those with cyanidin as the aglycone, in particular mecocyanin ( = cyanidin 3-sophoroside), and others. Up to 12% isoquinoline alkaloids of which up to 50% is rhoeadine. The flowers also contain mucilage and many ubiquitous substances.

Suggested Amount:
Tea: Brew 2 teaspoons of the drug in boiling water, steep for 10 minutes, then strain. To dissolve phlegm, drink one cup three times per day. To sweeten add honey. 1 teaspoon = 0.8 grams

Drug Interactions:
None known.

None known.

Side Effects:
There are reported cases of allergic contact urticaria from poppy flowers; it is recommended to use gloves for harvesting the fresh flowers. When pure poppy flowers are used as a tea, even the maximum therapeutic dosage recommended for an adult human (1.6-5 grams per day), causes no risk of toxicity, other than possible rare allergic reactions. The fresh flowers are reported to cause poisoning (stomach pain and vomiting) in children. When taken in large doses, poppy flowers cause convulsions and coma in cattle, cramps in rats, and stimulates respiration in rabbits. The toxicological effect of the alcoholic and aqueous plant extract administered intraperitoneally was determined in mice and the large dosages required to illicit toxicity indicated that the plant is safe when consumed in recommended dosage for humans. The toxicological results obtained indicated that 2g/kg is LD10 (lethal dosage that causes death in 10% of animals tested) and 4g/kg is LD50.


Gamboa PM, Jauregui I, Urrutia I, Gonzalez G, Barturen P, Antepara I. 1997. Allergic contact urticaria from poppy flowers (Papaver rhoeas). Contact Dermatitis. 1997 Sep; 37(3): 140-1.

Pfeifer S, Hanus V. 1965. [On the alkaloids from Papaver rhoeas L.] Pharmazie. 1965 Jun; 20(6): 394. German.

Pfeifer S. 1965. [On the occurrence of glaudine in opium and Papaver rhoeas L.] Pharmazie. 1965 Apr; 20(4): 240. German.

Soulimani R, Younos C, Jarmouni-Idrissi S, Bousta D, Khalouki F, Laila A. 2001. Behavioral and pharmaco-toxicological study of Papaver rhoeas L. in mice. J Ethnopharmacol 2001 Mar 3; 74(3): 265-74.

Wichtl M and NG Bisset (eds). 1994. Poppy Flowers. In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 419-420.