Poppy seeds, or as scientifically known Papaver somniferum, is very popular in many countries as a very nutritious cooking ingredient. Many delicious traditional and modern dishes are prepared with poppy seeds which are equally popular across the different cultures in many nations including South Asian countries and European nations like Germany and France. Apart from its importance in cooking, many health benefits of poppy seeds are known to the mankind for almost 3000 years. Many evidences have proved that ancient Egyptians used to harvest the poppy plants to get poppy seeds from the fruit heads. Cultivators there knew its immense medicinal values as also addictive characteristics. Later with the help of Arab traders poppy farming process reached in other parts of Asia including Persia and India. Now, it has become a popular commercial crop in Australia, India, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, German, France, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, and East European countries.
Health Benefits of Poppy Seeds
High content of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and dietary fibers in poppy seeds help human body organs and circulatory system to function perfectly. On the other hand, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics of poppy seeds enhance body immunity and control early cell damage. Let us have a look at its immense health benefits:
- Hair Health Benefits of Poppy Seeds: Dandruff, split hair, alopecia and many other hair problems that are caused due to malnourishment, wrong lifestyle, prolonged illness and air pollution can be replenished quite successfully with poppy seeds. It is a known fact that proper external and internal nutrition are a must for healthy hair. Poppy seeds finely grinded and pasted are mixed with various other ingredients like lime, olive oil, tea etc. to apply on hair externally. They are a good source of unsaturated fatty acids and several minerals which contribute to healthy hair.
- Skin Health Benefits of Poppy Seeds: Poppy seeds are equally popular among beauty experts for several healing benefits for skin. Their functions in skin and hair care have been recognized in Ayurveda too. Poppy seeds can be used for skin in the following ways:
- Paste made of poppy seeds acts as a good moisturizer for skin.
- Linolenic acid present in poppy seeds is very useful in treating eczema.
- Paste of poppy seeds mixed with lime juice helps in treating burning sensation and itchiness in the skin.
- Poppy seeds mixed with curd make a good face scrubber.
- Poppy Seeds are Beneficial in Aiding Sleep: For different reasons many adults face sleeplessness. Dried poppy seeds contain very minute amount of opium alkaloids, which is very helpful for sound sleeping. These seeds also help in soothing nerve tissues and make vital organs work properly. As a whole, any problem related to sleep disappears soon.
- Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids present in Poppy Seeds – Poppy seeds contain Oleic and lenoleic acids. Oleic acid is a mono-unsaturated fatty acid that helps in decreasing LDL or bad cholesterol and increasing HDL or good cholesterol in the blood. Thus oleic acid maintains healthy cholesterol and lipid profile which is essential for preventing various heart diseases. On the other hand Lenoleic acid keeps vital organs like heart and liver in good conditions.
- Benefits of Poppy Seed Oil – Being a good source of Vitamin E, poly-saturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, poppy seed oil is one of the best oils available to mankind for decreasing bad cholesterol from the blood and preventing the growth of cancerous cells.
- Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber Present in Poppy Seeds – Presence of higher percentage of dietary fiber cures many digestive problems, maintains water level in the cells and also induces regular bowel movement. Dietary fiber also absorbs bile salts, thereby decreasing their re-absorption in the colon.
- Benefits of Vitamins Present in Poppy Seeds – Presence of various vitamins in poppy seeds have their respective benefits also:
- Vitamin C: Also known as ascorbic acid which is present almost 1mg in 100gm of poppy seeds is extremely beneficial in combating and preventing many complicated physical disorders. It cures cough and cold, scurvy, lowers high blood pressure, prevents cancer, boosts digestive functionality, and works as an effective antioxidant etc.
- Vitamin B-complex: Poppy seed contains B-complex vitamins like niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin etc.
- Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 lowers heart risk, helps in breaking down and use carbohydrates, proteins and fats very effectively for easy assimilation in the cells.
- Niacin or Vitamin B3 breaks down the food to form energy that the cells need to function properly. Scarcity of niacin causes the disorder called Pellagra, which have several symptoms like inflamed mucus membrane, diarrhea, dementia etc. Niacin also helps to control high blood cholesterol.
- Pantothenic Acid or Vitamin B5 breaks down carbohydrates and lipids to generate energy for body cells, this vitamin is also necessary for proper hormonal secretion and body growth.
- Pyridoxine or vitamin B6 decreases the risk of heart diseases, at the same time it reduces anemia and certain psychological disorders like depression and confusion.
- Thiamine or Vitamin B1 prevents beriberi, a disease that affects human nervous system, heart and digestive system.
- Vitamin E: Presence of this vitamin prevents heart diseases, cancer, and several neurological disorders including several types of dementia. This vitamin is also highly beneficial for skin.
- Benefits of Minerals Present in Poppy Seeds – Poppy seeds also contain good levels of different minerals like calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.
- Calcium: Calcium content in poppy seeds provides several health benefits that include body and muscular growth and strength.
- Copper: Copper content in poppy seeds immensely help in the production of RBCs in blood.
- Zinc: This mineral is utilized for the production of several essential enzymes that regulate growth and development of human body, digestion, sperm generation etc.
- Magnesium: This essential mineral present in poppy seeds can effectively treat high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, alcoholism, bone health, cramps, menopause, and asthma etc. This mineral also has several positive effects in reducing anxiety and stress.
- Manganese: Manganese plays a significant function in controlling osteoporosis, body metabolism, fatigue, brain functions, and epilepsy etc.
- Iron: This is the key factor in formation of hemoglobin in blood. Besides, iron also helps in proper functioning of brain, digestive system, heart and liver. It supports proper metabolism, controls insomnia and reduces muscle weakness etc.
- Selenium: This is a rare mineral that is not present in natural foods abundantly. Poppy seeds contain almost 13.5 µg of selenium per 100mg of the seeds. It immensely reduces the creation of free radicals in blood and body fluids, which are primary cause of several diseases. Selenium also helps in body growth by developing and strengthening bones and muscles.
- Phosphorous: Poppy seeds contain large quantity of phosphorous. This mineral has several health benefits that include prevention of osteoporosis and epilepsy, and development of brain functions as well as teeth development etc.
- Poppy Seeds Benefits of Electrolytes – Two most important electrolytes like potassium and sodium are present in good quantities in the poppy seeds. Potassium is an important component in blood and other body fluids, among various functions it also helps in controlling high blood pressure and heart rate. Sodium on the other hand prevents sun stroke, improves brain functions and also prevents premature aging.
Medicinal Use of Poppy Seeds
Poppy seeds also have immense medicinal values. In countries like India, Turkey, UK, Australia and Afghanistan poppy is mostly cultivated for various pharmaceutical uses:
- Morphin and Codinine (mytheleted morphin) extracted from poppy seeds are used in pain relievers, cough medicines and also for diarrhea.
- High content of mono-unsaturated fatty acids in poppy seed oil is used in treating carcinoma.
- Poppy seeds extracts are one of the most essential ingredient in various cooling medicines applied on heart attack patients and patients with high fever.
- Iodized poppy seed oil is used to reduce iodine deficiency in patients having different iodine deficiency disorder.
- Iodized poppy seed oil is also used as a carrier for embolizing agents to treat carcinoma and other types of tumors.
- In Ayurveda, seed extracts of poppy are also used in various skin diseases.
Nutritional Composition of Poppy Seeds
Here is the in depth information of presence of various nutritional ingredients in 100gms of poppy seeds:
- Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats: In 100gms of poppy seeds, almost 28.13gm of Carbohydrates, 17.99gm of proteins and 41.56gm of fats are present.
- Dietary Fiber: In 100gms of poppy seeds, 19.5gm of very useful dietary fiber is found.
- Vitamins: Poppy seeds are rich in vitamins, let's have a look at different vitamin contents in 100gms of poppy seeds-
- Niacin – 0.896mg
- Riboflavin – 0.100mg
- Pyridoxine – 0.247mg
- Thiamin – 0.854mg
- Pantothenic Acid – 0.324mg
- Vitamin C – 1.0mg
- Vitamin E – 1.77mg
- Folates – 82µg
- Minerals: The seeds are also a store of many minerals. In 100gms of poppy seeds following minerals are found-
- Calcium – 1438mg
- Copper – 1.627mg
- Iron – 9.76mg
- Magnesium – 347mg
- Manganese – 6.707mg
- Zinc – 7.9mg
- Phosphorous – 870mg
- Selenium – 13.5 µg
- Electrolytes: Two most important electrolytes for human body, potassium and sodium are present 719mg and 26mg respectively in 100gms of poppy seeds.
Poppy seed oil contains very essential mono-unsaturated and poly-saturated fatty acids in high quantities. 100gms of poppy seeds contain almost 550cal energy and no cholesterol at all.
Very few natural food items are available on the earth that have such a huge multifarious health benefits as poppy seeds have. This amazing nature's gift to mankind is not only highly nutritious, but also has many health benefits as discussed here. Medicinal value of poppy seeds is also unquestionable. These seeds have immense importance in many traditional and modern dishes around the world. Slightly roasted poppy seeds with oil in mild heat adds awesome flavor and taste to South Asian dishes specially Indian and Pakistani curries. Once tasted, it's unforgettable.