Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Heroin is surely an Afghan crop? Maybe, but central southern England grows it superbly well too!

Opium poppies - a wonderful sight in the English countryside!
I came across this field of poppies on Tuesday - not our usual red ones - but a mass of the lilac opium poppy. 

Identical to the plant used to produce heroin, opium poppies are becoming an increasingly visible crop in the British countryside. The flowers are harvested in the late summer and the heads are dried and the seeds – up to 10,000 in a single flower – removed from the capsules for use in the food industry. Yes, your cup cake, topped with poppy seeds – could well have been grown in England!!

But it is in the seed pods that the important chemicals are found, and the pods are chopped, dried and turned into pellets in order to be transported. The pellets are then sent to a processing plant, where the opium is extracted from the seed head pod or husk and turned into morphine – or heroin.

The seed pod of the opium poppy contains a gummy substance. Opium is produced from this, and both codeine and morphine are derived from opium, to be used mainly for pain relief within hospitals. The medicinal properties of opium have been known from ancient times, and it was used as a narcotic in European cultures as early as 4,000 BC.

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