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Is Poppy Seed Tea Safe to Drink?

Story at-a-glance

  • Poppy seeds are popular in the culinary world, whether used as a pastry ingredient or brewed as tea
  • Poppy seed tea may offer you certain health benefits, but its use has also been riddled with numerous drawbacks
  • To learn more about poppy seed tea, its benefits and the proper preparation, continue reading this article

Poppy seeds are popular in the culinary world, whether used as a pastry ingredient or brewed as tea. Their nutty and fruity taste can be irresistible to many people, which is one of the reasons why it's such a well-loved ingredient. When prepared as tea, poppy seeds may offer numerous health benefits, including mood improvement, pain alleviation and stress reduction.1

However, poppy tea's safety has often been questioned because of its possible toxicity and opiate content, especially when the they are improperly harvested or prepared incorrectly. Some batches of poppy seeds may contain high amounts of opiate alkaloids, including morphine and codeine.2 To learn more about poppy seed tea, its benefits and the proper preparation, continue reading this article.

What Is Poppy Seed Tea?

Many people may be familiar with poppy plants due to their vibrant and eye-catching flowers, which are usually in full bloom in the late spring or early summer.3 But aside from the pop of color, the poppy plant is the source of numerous properties, although not all of them may be categorized as inherently good.

One of its most infamous products is opium, a narcotic substance taken from the sap inside unripe opium pods. This drug is extremely addictive and may lead to dangerous and, at times, fatal complications.4 This is one of the reasons why poppy seeds have been cited to have specific side effects when taken in excessive amounts.

However, this doesn’t mean that poppy seeds are necessarily bad. It all boils down to moderation and the proper handling and preparation of the seeds. Poppy seeds are loaded with calcium, iron and zinc, which means that they may offer you incredible health benefits once you add them to your diet.5

In fact, poppy seed tea is known for its sedative and anti-diarrheal effect. Not only that, but it may also help dull painful conditions due to its analgesic properties, and may positively influence a handful of other body systems.6

Unfortunately, the abuse or insufficient knowledge about this tea has led to a few fatal incidences. The most recent case happened in 2016, when a college student passed away after drinking a potent batch of poppy tea.7 If you're planning on trying this tea, it's important that you're aware of your own threshold and sensitivities. It's also imperative that you test each batch of poppy seed tea to make sure that you're not unknowingly ingesting high amounts of the opiate alkaloids.

What Health Benefits Can You Get From Poppy Seed Tea?

Even though there have been numerous controversies on the safety of poppy seeds, they do contain numerous nutrients and active components that may help the body function more efficiently. Here are some of the health benefits poppy seed tea may offer:8

What Nutrients Can You Get From Poppy Seed Tea?

Poppy seeds are filled with vitamins and minerals that are crucial in optimizing and maintaining the skeletal, immune and muscular systems. Some of which include calcium, phosphorus, niacin, folate and iron.9 When brewed as tea, these minerals may transfer to the liquid, giving your health a boost.

However, it is also worthwhile to know that most of the benefits of poppy seed tea is rooted in certain active alkaloids that, when taken in large amounts, may lead to addiction and other dangerous complications. Namely, these are codeine, morphine, thebaine and papaverine.10 These alkaloids are found in unpredictable doses in poppy seeds, which might make it difficult to safely ingest this tea.

Does Poppy Seed Tea Contain Caffeine?

There is no clear indication whether poppy seed tea contains caffeine. However, poppy seed tea is widely used for its mild sedative function, which may help people fall asleep faster and more soundly.11 But take note that this doesn’t mean that poppy seed tea does not cause any of the possible side effects that caffeine has. In fact, if taken in excess, poppy seed tea may actually cause stomach pain and nausea.12

Here's How You Can Brew Poppy Seed Tea at Home

If you want to gain the numerous health benefits of poppy seeds, you can follow this recipe from Chew the World:13

Healthy Poppy Seed Tea Recipe

Ingredients:

300 grams poppy seeds

400 milliliters water

Lemon juice, optional

Procedure:

1. In a small saucepan, heat water for a couple of minutes until warm.

2. Carefully pour the poppy seeds in a sealable glass bottle. Pour the water into the bottle, submerging the poppy seeds completely.

3. Secure the bottle's lid. Shake vigorously for a few minutes.

4. Let it steep for about 15 minutes, and shake again. Let the tea sit for about an hour.

5. Drain the liquid using a clean tea towel to remove all the debris from the seeds.

6. If you want to mask the bitter flavor of poppy seed tea, you can add lemon juice. Serve.

Take note that poppy seed tea should not be ingested in excessive quantities. If you're just starting out, limit your poppy seeds to only 300 grams. Make sure that you test each batch of poppy seeds, as the exact levels of alkaloids present in each batch cannot be ensured.

The fastest way to determine strength is by checking the tea that the seeds yield, depending on its color and taste. A darker and bitterer batch of poppy seed tea is typically stronger. If your current batch is darker than normal, it's best that you avoid drinking it to eliminate the risk of an accidental overdose.14

To make sure that you're not accidentally exposing yourself to opiates, rinse the seeds before using them in cooking or brewing. In a 2006 study, it was said that rinsing poppy seeds in hot water (60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit) might reduce their morphine content up to about 70 percent.15

What's the Correct Way to Store Poppy Seeds?

Poppy seeds are available at numerous grocery shops and online stores. Just make sure that you're getting your supply from trustworthy sources. This will ensure that the seeds you're using to brew your tea are of the highest quality. To correctly buy and store your poppy seeds, here is a guide from Hunker:16

Watch Out for These Poppy Seed Tea Side Effects

Poppy seed tea is filled with a plethora of nutrients and compounds that may help improve overall health. However, it should be noted that improper preparation of this tea may lead to serious health repercussions. If poppy seeds aren’t cleaned properly before brewing, you might be unknowingly adding opiates to your cup of tea. Some of the most common side effects drinkers may suffer from include:17

A 2010 study documented the possible interaction of this tea with certain medications, especially Phenazepam, a drug prescribed for anxiety. In one instance, a patient drank poppy seed tea before taking Phenazepam, which eventually led to his death.18

Because of the indeterminate levels of possibly harmful components, pregnant women should veer away from either poppy seed tea or actual poppy seeds. Additionally, you should never take poppy seed tea with alcoholic products, depressants or any type of drugs.19

Poppy Seed Tea May Have Benefits, but Only If Prepared Properly and Consumed in Moderation

Poppy seed tea is loaded with various nutrients and minerals, making it an effective ingredient for combatting various ailments. However, it may come with possible side effects and complications. Moderation and caution is extremely important when drinking poppy seed tea so you can reap the benefits without any side effects. Make sure that you get only the highest quality product when it comes to poppy seeds, and that you regulate your intake.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Poppy Seed Tea

Q: How long does poppy seed tea stay in your system?

A: You may start feeling the effects of poppy seed tea 15 minutes to 30 minutes upon ingestion, the effects of which may last for a few hours to a day, depending on the amount and the strength of the tea.20

Q: What color is poppy seed tea?

A: Poppy seed tea typically has an amber to a brownish hue, depending on the strength of the tea. The darker the tea, the stronger and more concentrated it is.21

Q: How much poppy seed tea can I drink?

A: It's safe to ingest one to two cups of poppy tea per week.22 However, poppy seeds usually come with varying amounts of the active alkaloids, which may make it hard for you to gauge its strength. One of the easiest ways to determine your tea's strength is through its color and bitterness level. If your tea is darker or bitterer than your usual brew, consider throwing out the batch to eliminate the risk of an accidental overdose.23

Sources and References

  • 1, 6, 8, 22 Organic Facts, Poppy Seed Tea – Health Benefits, How to Make, & Side Effects
  • 2 Medicinal Plants, 2015
  • 3 LoveTheGarden.com, Poppy Papaver
  • 4 Drug Enforcement Administration Museum, Cannabis, Coca, & Poppy: Nature’s Addictive Plants
  • 5, 9 LiveStrong.com, What Are the Benefits of Poppy Seeds?
  • 7 NY Daily News, Va. College Student Dies After Drinking “Poppy Seed Tea.”
  • 10 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, The Opium Alkaloids
  • 11 CureJoy, Can Poppy Seeds Cure Your Insomnia
  • 12 LiveStrong.com, Side Effects of Poppy Tea
  • 13 Chew the World, How to Make Poppy Seed Tea Recipe The Right Way: Check It Here
  • 14, 23 Buzzle, 2 Easy Way to Make Poppy Seed Tea and a Peek at its Side Effects
  • 15 European Food Research and Technology. 226. 307-310. 10.1007/s00217-006-0522-7.
  • 16, 19 Hunker, Storing Poppy Seeds
  • 17 LiveStrong.com, Side Effects of Poppy Tea
  • 18 J Anal Toxicol. 2010 Oct;34(8):527-32
  • 20 MedScape, Poppy Seed Tea: Beware This Beverage
  • 21 Solutions Recovery, Poppy Tea Guide
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