By-Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Poppy Seeds are the nutty oilseeds obtained from the poppy plant, which is a staple condiment apart from garlic and mustard, found in Indian kitchens.
Known by the vernacular names khus khus in Hindi, kasakasa in Tamil and Gasagasalu in Telugu, this flowering plant is widely cultivated across South Eastern Europe and eastern and southern Asia. (1)
Depending on the methods of harvesting and geographical origin of the plant, unwashed poppy seeds may have higher amounts of Schedule II opium alkaloids such as morphine, codeine, and thebaine on their seed coats when compared to washed poppy seeds. The poppy seeds themselves possess no opium content. Instead, the opium alkaloids (e.g., morphine, codeine, and thebaine) are found in the poppy latex, which is a milky white fluid that exudes from the pod when it is cut. Harvesters, who wish to increase opium alkaloids contents on the poppy seed coats, make cuts in the opium pods before they ripen which allows the latex to seep onto the seed coats. Individuals wishing to extract the opium alkaloid content from unwashed poppy seeds, use the seeds to create a tea, which contains sufficient amounts of alkaloids to produce psychoactive effects.
Uses of Poppy seeds
Washed and processed poppy seeds are used in foods to make pastries, cakes, porridge, and glaze. People also take poppy seeds by mouth for asthma, cough and diarrhea caused by infection. Poppy seed oil is used in manufacturing to make soap, paint and varnish. (2)
The health benefits of Poppy seeds
Poppy seeds are often said to offer various other benefits, including promoting digestion, boosting skin and hair health, and treating headaches, coughs, and asthma.
- Nutrients and antioxidants : Like most seeds, poppy seeds are rich in fiber, plant fats, and various other nutrients. Poppy seeds are particularly rich in manganese, a trace element important for bone health and blood clotting. This mineral also helps your body utilize amino acids, fats, and carbs. Research typically links diets rich in these fats to improved overall health and a lower risk of heart disease. Poppy seeds and their oil are a good source of polyphenols — a type of antioxidant that may lower your risk of conditions like heart disease.
- May contain pain-relieving compounds: The poppy plant contains morphine, codeine, thebaine, and other opium alkaloids known for their pain-relieving, calming, and sleep-inducing properties. These compounds are often found in pharmaceutical drugs intended for these uses.
- May boost heart and skin health: Poppy seed oil is particularly rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which may be beneficial for your heart and skin. Additional research suggests that the fats in poppyseed oil may also support wound healing, as well as prevent scaly lesions when applied directly to the skin.
- May aid digestion: Poppy seeds are rich in fiber, which may improve gut health and reduce constipation.
- May safeguard against certain illnesses: The antioxidants in these seeds may protect your body from cellular damage and various illnesses.
- May enhance fertility: Some research indicates that women who’ve had products derived from poppy seed oil flushed through their fallopian tubes may experience improved fertility. (3)
Selection and storage
Fresh whole or ground poppy seeds can be readily available in the grocery stores. The seeds are high in polyunsaturated fats, which make them vulnerable to oxidation and turn rancid. Therefore, buy good quality whole fresh seeds from the authentic store. Store seeds poppy in cool, dry, dark place, in airtight containers where they will stay fresh for up to six months. (4)