Medicinal Plants

Opium poppy : Pepaver somniferum

Importance and Utility

  • Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) is an important crop of India, because it produces capsule.
  • That contains milk, from which opium is prepared.
  • Opium possesses various types of alkaloids which are used for preparing medicines for the use of human and cattle.
  • There are 25 types of alkaloids identified in raw opium; of them, morphine, codeine, narcotine, narcein, thebaine, papaverin and hydrochloride are important. Morphine is by far the most important.
  • Since they are having very stimulating matter, they are used as narcotic , sedative, anodyne, cough and respiratory diseases.
  • It is also used for cancer and head trauma treatments.
  • Seeds are used for preparing the bread, shorba, sweets and biscuits.
  • Its oil is odourless and taste is just like almond.
  • It is used for preparing dishes, ointments and colour and paints.
  • Sometimes its oil is given to the patinets of diarrhoea and dysentry which gives relief to the patinets
  • Its oil is also used on the burnt part of the body.
  • ITs cake is sweet and nutritive and is consumed by the people.
  • Its decoction is also given to the patients of continuous problem of cough.
  • The main importers of Indan opium are Britain, Usa and France.
  • A part from these Italy, Russia, Western Germany, Belgium and Argentian purchase Indian opium in limited quantity for the preparation of medicines.

Origin and Development

  • Opium poppy is a native of western Mediterranean region, introduced into India in the early sixteenth century.
  • India produces about 70% of the world's production and 90% of it is exported annually.
  • Its cultivation is restricted to about 24,000 ha in the districts of NeemuchMandsaur and Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh; in faizabad, Bara Banki, Bareilly and Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, and in Chittoor, Jhalawar and Kota in Rajasthan.


  • Since ancient times, its cultivation is going on in Italy, Greece and Minor Asia.
  • At present, it is being cultivated mainly in India, Russia and Turkey.
  • It is also grown Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, and japan in a limited scale.
  • Central Europe grows this crop for seed production only, but since 1930, it is being cultivated for production of seedless capsules from which opium is obtained.

Botanical Description

  • Poppy is an annual erect plant, 60-120 cm high, rarely branching, with ovate oblong leaves; it bears large showy flowers and nearly globose to spherical capusles, containing small white or black kidney shaped seeds.
  • It is a rabi crop and remains for about 150-160 days in the fields.
  • It is mainly self-pollinated, since the dehiscence of anther takes place before the opening of the flower.


  • Opium poppy belongs to papaveraceae family and its genus is papaver.
  • This genus possess about 50 species, which are grown to produce opium and seed as well as for the decoration in gardens.
  • In India, 6 species are found from which the following are important one.

    1.   Papaver nudicaule linn.
    2.   Papaver dubium linn.
    3.   Papaver rhoeas linn.
    4.   Papaver somniferum linn.


  • Poppy prefers moderately cool weather and open sunny location; severely cold spell, frost, dull cloudy weather, high winds and very heavy rainfall during the lancing period adversely affect the yield.


  • The crop is grown on well-drained, fertile, clayey loam to rich sandy - loam soils.
  • Well - drained loam and sandy-loam soils are best for its cultivation.
  • Soil having pH of 7 are best for its cultivation.
  • Soil should also have adequate quantities of organic matter and plant nutrients.

Field preparation

  • Land is prepared to a fine tilth to a depth of 20-25 during september and the fields are laid out into beds of convenient size.
  • Twenty five to thirty seven cartloads of farmyard manure are mixed with the soil during the preparation of land, penning of sheep or goats is preferred.
  • There should be enough moisture in the soil for seed germination.
  • If sufficient moisture is not available, give a presowing irrigation for obtaining good germination.

Improved Varieties:

  • Poppy (Papaver somniferum)are new varieties, but there are only 2 varieties, 2 which are grown for opium and seed.

Subvar Album:

  • This variety is mainly in Cyprus, Minor Asia, India and Iran for opium production

Subvar nigum:

  • This varieyt is grown in Europe for seed production.
  • In India subvariety album is grown for opium production.
  • On the basis of colour of flowers it is dividded into the following 2 types.

    1.   White flower and white seed varieties: This is grown in Uttar PRadesh
    2.   Red and violet flower varieties: This is grown in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (in Malwa region).

  • In India, several races are grown.
  • There is lot of difference in the shape of plant, constitution of leaves, petals, colour, size of capsule and opium production.
  • Not only this, there is a difference in the colour quality of opium.
  • Major alkaloids are also different in the opium.

Varieites grown in Utttar Pradesh

  • Telia, Haryali, Safed Dhanti or Kantha Bhbhutia, Katila, Hariyali, Dhandhan Baha, Chiroh, Kali Dadi or Kali Dandi, chaura Karia, Damia, Mororia, Katila, dhadhua and Sahabnia etc.

Varieties grown in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan

  • Bhadphoria or Dhaturia, Ramjatak, Telia, Galania, Chotia, Chaglia, Kasturi or Tejoni, Kantia and Gebra.

Seed and sowing

  • The seed rate is 2.5-3.5 kg/ha.
  • The seeds are minute weighing 0.25-0.5 g/100.
  • They are mixed with sand and sown thinly in rows 30 cm apart during mid-October till early November.
  • The rows are covered with a thin layer of soil and are given a light irrigation, followed by an other irrigation after 8-10 days when the seeds atart germination.
  • Seed treatment with 1.0% Agrosan GN protect it from seed borne diseases.

Plant protection methods

  • The crop is attacked by the leaf monor (Phyllocnistis sp.), which can be kept under control by spraying with 0.2% Metasystox or Rogor.
  • Sometimes, cutworms (Agrotis suffura Hubn), cause damage to the young plants, the flooding of the fields makes these worms float on the water and they are ultimately picked by birds.


  • The crop is given about 15 irrigations in all, depending upon the structure of soil and the variety sown, moisture deficiency at the time of capsule formation affects the yield adversely.

Hoeing and weeding:

  • The crop seedlings are thinned out to 22-25 cm apart when they grow 5-7 cm tall.

Manure and fertilisers

  • The poppy crop needs a heavy nutrients supply and 50 kg N/ha is applied during the preparation of land and another application of an equal quantity is given as top dressing in two split doses, when the crop is 1 month old and at the time of flag 2 leaf stage.


  • Downy mildew (Peronospora arborescens berk de bary) sometimes causes seious damage to the crop at the time of capsule formation.
  • It is controlled by the application of 0.2% ditahne Z 78.
  • Root rot due to Rhizoctonia is also reported on the crop.


  • Lancing is done longitudinally in bright sunlight and the latex (crude opium) which oozes from the wounds dries during the following night and is scraped with th4 sharp kitchen-knife in the early hours of the succeeding morning.
  • Lancing is performed in the afternoon with a special knife, capable of making 4 incisions at a time, each at about 1/12th cm apart.
  • Each capsule is lanced for 4-6 times.
  • A deep incision causes the collection of the latex inside the capsule and spoils the seeds.
  • The crude opium is stored in earther-pots and dried under the sun to obtain the raw opium of a uniform consistency.
  • The entire produce goes to the Excise and Narcotics Department which pays attention to its consistency and purity.


  • The average yield of raw opium varies from 13 to 33 kg/ha tough much higher yields are recorded under good agronomic practices.
  • The crop also yields 3-4 quintals of seed/ha.
  • The seed scontain 50% of a golden yellow fatty oil which is devoid of narcotic properties.