Poppy seed is used as a condiment, baked in and/or sprinkled on pastries. Poppy seed rolls are very popular especially around the holiday season. Many people bake their own or purchase poppy seed rolls along with nut rolls from a local bakery.
The poppy plant is native to Asia. Poppy seed was used as a condiment as early as the first century. It has been revered for its medicinal properties. The plant has been associated with sleep and used to treat insomnia. It was considered sacred to the Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep. In ancient Greece, poppy seed was introduced as medicine by Hippocrates.
Poppy seeds are small dried seeds that have a nutty flavor. Poppy seeds are found in the head of the poppy plant. The poppy plant is the plant from which opium is derived. Although opium is produced in the pods all parts of the plant can contain opium alkaloids such as morphine and codeine. Some plants have been specifically bred to contain less alkaloids.
Poppy seeds are used primarily for baking. The seeds are used in rolls, breads and cakes. They are also sprinkled on pastries as toppings. Poppy seeds are also used in birdseed and pressed into cakes for livestock feed. The oil derived from poppy seed is used in cooking and soap making.
Poppy seeds have been cultivated for over 3000 years. Throughout history the plant has been revered for its medicinal properties. It has been used as an expectorant in cough syrups and as an infusion to treat ear and toothaches. The seeds have been effective in treating insomnia, inflammation, fever, dysentery and irritation among other disorders. The healing properties of poppy seeds have been vigorously studied and well documented. The seeds have nutritional value as well since they are rich in linoeic acid, oleic acid and unsaturated fatty acids. Poppies are one of the most cultivated medicinal herbs in the world.
Poppy seed is also believed to have metaphysical properties. It is a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Poppy seed has been used in divination. It is also used in amulets and charms to confer love, money and luck. The red poppy has been a symbol of fallen warriors throughout history.
People often express concern over the narcotic properties of the poppy plant from which poppy seed is derived. While it is true that the unripe seed of the plant does contain alkaloids such as morphine and codeine which can be addictive the ripe seeds used for culinary purposes contain minute amounts if any at all. The trace amounts found in poppy seed are not significant enough to cause any type of addiction. It is important however to keep in mind that even trace amounts of the alkaloids can cause a false-positive result in certain drug tests. The alkaloids can remain in the body system for up to two days after consuming poppy seeds and may effect test results during that time.