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Opium poppy seed pod exuding latex from a cut

Opium (poppy tears, with the scientific name: Lachryma papaveris) is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy (scientific name: Papaver somniferum).

Opium latex contains approximately 12 percent of the analgesic alkaloid morphine.


From the earliest finds, opium appears to have had ritual significance, and anthropologists have speculated ancient priests may have used the drug as a proof of healing power.[1] In Egypt, the use of opium was generally restricted to priests, magicians, and warriors, its invention is credited to Thoth, and it was said to have been given by Isis to Ra as treatment for a headache.[2] A figure of the Minoan "goddess of the narcotics", wearing a crown of three opium poppies, BCE, was recovered from the Sanctuary of Gazi, Crete, together with a simple smoking apparatus.[3][4] The Greek gods Hypnos (Sleep), Nyx (Night), and Thanatos (Death) were depicted wreathed in poppies or holding them. Poppies also frequently adorned statues of Apollo, Asklepios, Pluto, Demeter, Aphrodite, Kybele and Isis, symbolizing nocturnal oblivion.[2]. The opium poppy was a magical ritual plant among the Germanic tribes.[5]

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External links


  1. M J Brownstein (June 15, 1993). "A brief history of opiates, opioid peptides, and opioid receptors". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 90 (12): 5391–5393. doi:10.1073/pnas.90.12.5391. PMC 46725Freely accessible. PMID 8390660. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Paul L. Schiff, Jr. (2002). "Opium and its alkaloids". American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. Archived from the original on October 21, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2007. 
  3. P. G. Kritikos & S. P. Papadaki (January 1, 1967). "The early history of the poppy and opium". Journal of the Archaeological Society of Athens. Retrieved May 26, 2007. 
  4. E. Guerra Doce (January 1, 2006). "Evidencias del consumo de drogas en Europa durante la Prehistoria". Trastornos Adictivos (in Spanish). 8 (1): 53–61. doi:10.1016/S1575-0973(06)75106-6. Retrieved May 10, 2007.  (includes image)
  5. citation needed