The most important health benefits of poppy include its ability to boost the immune system, protect heart health, improve vision, increase blood flow, optimize digestion, strengthen the bones, regulate the nervous system, increase eye health, and prevent type 2 diabetes.
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What is Poppy?
Although in culinary circles, you rarely hear the word poppy without “seed” at the end of it, the poppy itself is actually a subfamily of Papaveraceae, which are herbaceous plants grown around the world. The most commonly referred to species within that subfamily is Papaver somniferum, which is used for medicinal, narcotic, and recreational purposes. This flower is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region but is now grown widely throughout eastern Asia and many parts of Europe. These small red flowers produce an edible seed, poppy seeds, that are packed with not only essential nutrients and unique minerals, but also certain alkaloids that can have strong effects on the body in large doses. Morphine (and thus heroin) is derived from the seeds of this plant, so poppy fields around the world are controversial hotspots for conflict.
Poppy seeds can be found on everything from hot dog buns to pretzels and poppy oil is commonly used in salad dressings, soups, and bread and cakes. This small, but versatile, seed from this unassuming flower is extremely powerful, and even small doses can have measurable effects on the body.
Health Benefits of Poppy
Let’s take a closer look at the powerful health benefits of poppy.
The most widely studied and utilized aspect of poppy is the analgesic qualities that it provides. Morphine is one of its primary active components, and as you probably know, this is a powerful pain reliever – one of the strongest used in hospitals. If you consume its seeds, you can soothe small aches and pains, relieving headaches, and even speed up healing. The rich combination of nutrients found in poppy seeds, including zinc, can help increase the metabolism to accelerate the recovery process.
Boost the Immune System
Studies have directly linked zinc to an improvement in the strength of immune system. This mineral, found in significant levels within each poppy seed, can stimulate the production of white blood cells and boost the body’s response to foreign substances and agents.
As we age, our eyes naturally begin to fail us, but there are certain things we can do to stop this process. Antioxidant compounds are one great way to protect our eyes, but so is zinc, found in significant quantities in poppy, which can reduce the occurrence of macular degeneration and keep our vision strong.
One of the other key minerals found in poppy is iron, an integral component in the production of red blood cells. By increasing your iron intake, you can boost blood flow, thereby increasing the oxygenation of vital parts of your body. This can reduce symptoms of anemia, boost energy levels, and speed up the healing process.
If you are suffering from constipation or diarrhea, you need fiber in your diet. Poppy seeds have a surprisingly high level of dietary fiber, which can help to bulk up stool or promote peristaltic motion to regulate your bowel movements. They have been directly linked to soothing inflammation and pain, thereby promoting normal functioning in your gut.
Type 2 Diabetes
Although this is more of a preventative measure, low levels of zinc can be a large indicator for Type 2 diabetes. To protect yourself against this nearly global epidemic, adding zinc to your diet (in the form of poppy seeds) can be a quick and tasty solution.
Many people fail to realize the many roles that calcium plays in our body, but when it comes to the functioning of our nervous system, few minerals are more essential. The high levels of calcium found in poppy make it a very impressive nerve tonic and can help prevent nervous disorders and promote healthy function.
Calcium is also an integral aspect of bone mineral density, so the calcium in poppy can ensure that our bones stay strong and resilient as we age, rather than slowly weakening as a result of osteoporosis or other bone-related disorders.
The analgesic and anesthetic qualities of poppy can protect heart health in another way. The potassium found in the seeds acts as a vasodilator, easing the tension in arteries and blood vessels while promoting normal blood flow throughout the body. This can help prevent the development of atherosclerosis and the subsequent heart issues, like strokes and heart attacks, that can so often result.
Word of Caution: It is very important to remember that poppy seeds do contain very strong components in higher than average levels. Although eating too many hot dog buns is not the same as taking a morphine pill, depending on the preparation of poppy oils and other extracted varieties, use with extreme caution, and only use the seeds and extracts from trusted herbalists and alternative medical practitioners. Use of poppy and its seeds is banned/restricted by some countries such as UAE, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia so consult your local health specialist before use.