Medicinal plants

Poppy - Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Poppy - Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

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Corn poppy was flower of the year in Germany in 2017 - for good reason. Because the red-flowered cultural follower, often also called poppy, used to grow everywhere in the fields: the yellow of ripe grain, the blue of cornflowers and the red of corn poppy were the colors of summer, immortalized in pictures and sung in songs.

The agricultural industry is displacing this arable wild herb, and it represents the endangered field flora. Probably because of its omnipresence, the poppy was used very often as a medicinal plant. "Yes, as long as there is the corn poppy, as long as we have to live." (Sohrab Sepehri, Iranian poet)

Profile of corn poppy

  • Scientific name: Papaver rhoeas
  • Common names: Field poppy, blood flower, fire poppy, wild poppy, field rose, gossip rose, folding rose, corn rose, buckle, grind stomach, pater flower, rattle poppy, fire flower, flutter poppy
  • family: Poppy family
  • Occurrence: Eurasian steppe plant, with the clearing of the forests and the small-scale grain industry, spread widely in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, also native to West Asia and North Africa and can now be found globally
  • Parts of plants used: Root, flowers and seeds
  • application areas (historical):
    • Sleep disorders (especially in young children)
    • nervous conditions
    • flu infections
    • to cough
    • Hoarseness and respiratory problems
    • Skin problems like eczema, acne and boils

Papaver rhoeas - ingredients

Poppy contains up to 0.3 percent of the alkaloid rhoeadin, further anthocyanins, tannins and bitter substances, saponins, papaverine, sinactin, roemerin, berberine, mecocyanic acid, meconic acid and coptisin, as well as red dye.

Poppy - effects

Alkaloid extracts from various Papaver species showed antimicrobial activity both against pathogenic fungi and against bacteria in the laboratory test. The tannins stimulate digestion, the saponins have an expectorant effect. Active ingredients in corn poppy have a slightly pain-relieving and calming effect. New laboratory studies show that the leaves have an anti-cancer activity and an anti-mutagenic effect.

Toxic effects

The alkaloids in Papaver species are toxic, in the case of gossip a weakly toxic effect occurs in all parts - the toxic substances in milk juice are most concentrated. According to Turkish research, irresponsible poppy consumption leads to cramps and depression, as well as neurological symptoms and advanced levels of consciousness.

The plant cannot therefore be recommended as an uncontrolled home remedy. Other symptoms of intoxication include reduced heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting.

When poppy consumption was still widespread in the countryside, children were reported to have the following symptoms:

  • Stomach pain,
  • Gastrointestinal complaints,
  • Paleness,
  • fatigue
  • and general malaise.

Poppies - folk medicine

Folk medicine in Europe made extensive use of the poppy, which was probably due to the fact that it was to be found everywhere in the pre-industrial agricultural society. People squeezed the juice onto skin problems such as acne, boils or eczema. Wine and mead elixirs with corn poppy should work against fever, constipation, internal pain and menstrual problems.

Our ancestors also applied tea extract to external inflammation, but also used it against itching. When drunk, the tea should help against insomnia, against inner restlessness and nervousness. Poppy tea was widely used to get toddlers to sleep. The Latin term Papaver comes from "papa", which means porridge, because porridge with poppy seeds was a popular sleeping aid for children. A syrup made from the petals should help cough with viscous mucus, which seems plausible due to the mucus contained in the leaves.

Poppy in today's naturopathy

Today, corn poppy hardly plays a role in naturopathy, since other plants achieve the desired effects better and have fewer side effects. Valerian, for example, does a better job of falling asleep;

Occasionally, a syrup made from corn poppy flowers is used in naturopathy for sleep disorders and restlessness. However, Commission E rejects such treatment because there is no proof of effectiveness - in contrast to other phytotherapy. The same applies in naturopathy: corn poppy should only be taken if there is no alternative and a doctor checks the intake. Poppy seed capsules have not been adequately researched. Under no circumstances should they be taken.

Opium, heroin, opium poppy and corn poppy

The poppy belongs to the poppy family and is therefore closely related to medicinal plants such as earth smoke, Canadian bloodroot and celandine. The Turkish poppy belongs to the same species-rich genus Papaver (Papaver orientale), Medicinal poppy seeds (Papaver bracteatum) and the best known of all, the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), from which opium and heroin are obtained.

It is a deciduous plant that can be up to two years old and up to 90 centimeters tall. A network of milk juice tubes provides the milk juice, the stems are lightly hairy and thin, the leaves are rough and bristly. From May to July the corn poppy shows red petals, more precisely the color varies from scarlet to purple and violet.

Ecology and propagation

The petals, which are colored red by anthocyanins such as mecocyanin, probably perceive bees as blue-violet because of the sun's reflection. Poppy is one of the most pollen-rich plants; a flower produces around 2.5 million pollen grains. The plant provides the most pollen before 10 a.m., when most bees are on the move. A slice of the ovary provides an ideal landing site for insects. Pollination also runs through the wind.

The individual capsule fruits contain 2000 to 5000 very small kidney-shaped seeds that are veined and have a pit. A thousand seeds weigh approximately 0.11 to 0.125 grams. The disc over the ovary ensures that the seeds can be easily blown out. The spread is optimal in dry weather and strong wind.

The capsule roof and the bristles on the stem cling to animals and people - this is how the plant spreads. The poppy capsule is a model for effective spreading and R. H. Francé developed a salt shaker that works according to this biological pattern.

Field and meadow

Exactly where the corn poppy originally came from is unknown. On the other hand, it is clear that with agriculture, it spread wherever people cultivated grain and cleared land - from the permafrost zone to the subtropics. However, it is most densely located in the temperate latitudes of the northern hemisphere.

So the plant spread with humans and also directly through humans. Poppy sown especially because its seeds were stuck in grain seeds as a stowaway. It belongs to the characteristic grain weed floor.

Herbicides have largely driven the corn poppy out of the industrial agricultural landscape, but it still grows wherever there is no spraying: on the edge of the field, on scree slopes, fallow land, road embankments, railway embankments, rubble yards or factory premises. He likes nitrogen-rich and calcareous soil, so he is not one of the many wildflowers that grow on nutrient-poor soil. Corn poppy is a typical pioneer plant on loose stone soils, where over the years it is mainly grasses that replace it.

Poppy seed cake and poppy seed rolls - corn poppy seeds in the kitchen

Poppy seeds, but usually no corn poppy, can be found in many dishes. These include the poppy seed cake, the poppy seed cake, poppy seed plaits and the poppy seed snails as well as the poppy seed rolls at the confectioner's and baker's.

The petals and petals of the plant are much less common today, but popular in traditional country cuisine. The young leaves give salads a kick, because they taste like a mixture of cucumber and hazelnut. They can also be cooked like spinach or stirred raw into a quark dip. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Loki Schmidt Foundation: Flower of the Year Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) (accessed: March 10, 2020), Loki Schmidt Foundation
  • Charles University, Faculty of Pharmacy in Hradec Králové: Studies of medicinal plants and their therapeutically significant substances (accessed: March 10, 2020), Charles University
  • Ismaili, Ahmad; Sohrabi, Seyyed Mohsen; Azadpour, Mojgan; Heydari, Rouhollah; Rashidipour, Marzieh: Evaluation of the antimicrobial activity of alkaloid extracts of four papaver species, in: Herbal Medicines Journal, 2/4, 2017, Herbal Medicines Journal
  • Todorova, Teodora; Pesheva, Margarita; Gregan, Fridrich; Chankova, Stephka: Antioxidant, antimutagenic, and anticarcinogenic effects of Papaver rhoeas L. extract on Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in: Journal of Medicinal Food, 18/4: 460-467, April 2018, PubMed
  • Hijazi, Mohamad Ali Mustafa; Aboul-Ela, Maha A. et al .: Cytotoxic Activity of Alkaloids from Papaver rhoeas growing in Lebanon, in: Records of Natural Products, 11 (2): 211-216, March 2017, ResearchGate
  • Shams, Jamal; Sahraei, Hedayat et al .: Effects of Papaver rhoeas Extract on the Tolerance Development to Analgesic Effects of Morphine in Mice, in: Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research (IJPR), 7 (2): 141-147, 2008, IJPR
  • Soulimani, Rachid; Younos, Chafique; Jarmouni-Idrissi, Salah et al .: Behavioral and pharmaco-toxicological study of Papaver rhoeas L. in mice, in: Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 74/3: 265-274, March 2001, ScienceDirect
  • Günaydın, Yahya Kemal; Dündar, Zerrin Defne; Çekmen, Bora et al .: Intoxication due to Papaver rhoeas (Corn Poppy): Five Case Reports, in: Case Reports in Medicine, 2015: 1-3, May 2015, Hindawi

Video: How To Grow Poppies From Seed Indoors (January 2023).