Poppy seeds: between benefits and risks of toxicity

Poppy seeds: between benefits and risks of toxicity

This tiny bluish-black seed, with a discreet taste of toasted hazelnut and a crunchy texture, is widely used in cooking, but also in herbal medicine for its relaxing and soothing properties. Problem: it would also present risks of contamination with alkaloids. What does the poppy contain? How to use it ? Are there any precautions for use? The answers from Raphaël Gruman, dietitian nutritionist in Paris.

The poppy is a small seed, bluish-black in color, from the flowers of a plant belonging to the Papaveraceae family. Although it belongs to the oilseed family, the tiny poppy seed has such a powerful flavor that it is more like a spice than a seed.

With numerous nutritional qualities, the poppy is essentially known for its therapeutic properties… but also for the alkaloid substances that it can contain when contaminated. focus on the benefits and risks of poppy, as well as its precautions for use!

Definition: what are poppy seeds?

Poppy seeds are part of the oilseed category, like sunflower, chia and even squash seeds. However, its very small size and crunchy texture make it more like spices than seeds.

This seed comes from the so-called soporific blue poppy or Papaver somniferum, also known as garden poppy or opium poppy. This sleeping poppy belongs to the category of papaveraceae, which includes other varieties of poppy, including the poppy or the California poppy. Like all oilseeds, the poppy is used in particular to make vegetable oil.

Poppy seed oil is used both for culinary purposes for its slightly nutty taste and its nutritional qualities, and for cosmetic purposes for its moisturizing and emollient properties.

What are the benefits of poppy seed?

Like all oilseeds, poppy seeds have a particularly interesting nutritional value. Very rich in good fats, they are full of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9, with cardio-protective properties. They are also very rich in fiber and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron. However, it is not easy to benefit from these nutritional benefits because they are difficult to access, well protected by the envelopes of the small seed. “The poppy’s husk is solid and relatively resistant to digestion, which means that the seed is poorly assimilated by the body when consumed whole. says Raphaël Gruman. To remedy this, the seeds can be ground, in order to release their contents, but also their flavors!

Whatever happens, however, the little blue seed is generally used in very small quantities in recipes (half a teaspoon), its nutritional contributions therefore contribute quite modestly to covering daily dietary needs.

But much more than its nutritional qualities, it is the medicinal properties of the poppy that have made it successful for millennia. It has always been used for its relaxing properties and its ability to help you fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep.

His cousin yellow poppy or Eschscholtziafrom another variety of poppy, is used ancestrally for its soothing, sedative and anxiolitic properties.

How to use poppy seeds?

Poppy seeds can be found in organic stores or supermarkets, in bags or in bulk. They can be used in cooking in many ways, but are particularly appreciated – both for their taste and their pretty color – in bread dough, baked goods, pastries or even biscuits, to which they add their crunch and their slightly spicy flavor.

The little blue seeds can also be combined with sunflower, sesame, flax and squash seeds, for a mixture of seeds to sprinkle on salads or in yogurts. Added to the evening meal, they can help people suffering from sleep disorders to fall better into the arms of Morpheus.

Do poppy seeds contain drugs?

The poppy is known to be used to make opium but also several medications such as morphine and codeine, but can we get high on the little blue seeds? No and fortunately!

There are several varieties of poppy, including one particularly rich in alkaloids called “white poppy”, which is used for pharmaceutical purposes, and which is different from the black poppy used in cooking. reassures Raphaël Gruman. However, although the blue poppy does not a priori contain any alkaloids and its consumption is normally safe at the doses usually consumed, it seems that certain plants can be contaminated by dust or insects.

For this reason, a maximum level of 10 mg of morphine per kg of poppy seeds was accepted by the Member States of the European Union in November 2016. However, following a report from the Paris Poison Control Center, relayed by the Anses in March 2019, the DGCCRF carried out an investigation1 on the levels of opium alkaloids in bakery products containing poppy. Its results revealed that out of 31 samples taken, 7 products (1 brioche, 2 bagels and 4 loaves) contained poppy seeds declared “unfit for consumption”. Professor Jean-Claude Alvarez, head of the pharmacology-toxicology department of the Raymond-Poincaré university hospital center (AP-HP), at the origin of the report, specified in an interview given to Parisianwhat “Consuming just one of the sandwiches (half a baguette, editor’s note) analyzed is equivalent to 4 mg of morphine. Which corresponds to half a tablet of Skenan, the medicine given to cancer patients..

Since then, actions have been carried out throughout the sector to ensure that the morphine equivalent content in bread and fine bakery products does not lead to a risk of exceeding the acute reference dose.

Can pregnant women and children eat poppy seeds?

Following these reports, and as long as doubt persists, health authorities advise against the consumption of products containing significant quantities of poppy for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children.

For others, we recommend limiting daily consumption to 10 to 15 g, i.e. the equivalent of a level tablespoon.

Are poppy seeds recommended for diarrhea or constipation?

Poppy seeds are very rich in insoluble fiber, and are difficult to digest by the body, which gives them a laxative effect. They are therefore recommended in cases of constipation, and to be avoided in cases of diarrhea. “I also do not recommend them for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).” specifies the nutritionist.

10 seeds that are good for your health

Slide: 10 seeds that are good for your health