What Are Poppy Seeds Good For?

Purposeful Poppy Seeds
Botanical name: Papaver somniferum

Poppy Seeds Nutrition Facts

The poppy plant (Papaver somniferum) is infamous for numerous reasons, one of them being that it is the source of opium, a highly addictive narcotic. This led to the withdrawal of its legalization as an agricultural crop in many countries across the globe. Up until now, some countries still ban the cultivation and the distribution of this crop.1

But despite its notoriety, the poppy plant is also the source of one of the most loved pastry ingredients in the world: poppy seeds. They are well-known for adding a crunch to various confections and desserts. Poppy seed oil, which can be used as both a culinary and a medicinal oil, can be extracted from them as well. Keep reading to learn more about this oilseed, and its history, health benefits and various uses.

What Are Poppy Seeds?

The poppy plant has been part of the agricultural world since the early ages, having been mentioned in the early accounts of the Greeks and Romans. The earliest documentation reaches as far back as 3,000 years ago. For the Egyptians, poppies symbolized rebirth because of its ability to be “reborn” after the harvest season.2

The poppy plant is also a well-known symbol of remembrance for war veterans, which originates from its mention in the poem “In Flanders Fields,” which symbolizes the beauty and the renewal of war-ravaged land.3

Aside from its literary and historical symbolism, the poppy plant is widely known for the various products that can be sourced from it. The vibrant poppy flowers are also used for ornamental purposes by the gardening community.4

After the poppy flowers start to dry up, its kidney-shaped seeds start developing in the pods. This is one of the products from the poppy plant that is legal to produce and acquire. The opiate component of the plant is said to disappear once the seeds develop, making it safe for consumption. One of the easiest indications whether the seeds are ready for harvest is the rattling sound the pods give off when they are slightly shaken.

Poppy seeds come in three different colors: white, blue and black. Blue seeds are commonly called the European poppy seeds because they are abundant in that part of the world, while white poppy seeds are called Indian, Middle Eastern or Asian. There are no distinct differences between these types aside from their color, with the choice mainly depending on the color preference of the baker or the cook and its availability.5

Poppy seeds are mainly used in the culinary world for their crunchy texture and unique flavor. One of the most famous pastries that incorporate poppy seeds originates from Hungary, and is called makosh, or Hungarian poppy seed roll; it uses poppy seeds as a filling.6 Today, poppy seeds are commonly added to bagels, puddings, cakes and tarts. But although it’s usually added to baked goods, its culinary use is not limited to this.7

Gain These Health Benefits From Poppy Seeds

Being a product of a relatively infamous plant, the health benefits of poppy seeds have been questioned time and time again. People fear that the seeds may cause the same narcotic effects that other poppy products give.

However, poppy seeds actually offer impressive nutritional components that can help your body improve or maintain optimal function. The health benefits of poppy seeds include the following:

  • Aids in the prevention of heart disorders. Each serving of poppy seed contains a considerable amount of linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that offer protection against heart disease.8 However, it should be noted that excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids can still cause detrimental effects on the body. A healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is highly recommended to maintain heart health.
  • Supports bone maintenance and development. Poppy seeds contain both iron and phosphorus, minerals essential for the maintenance of both muscles and bones.9
  • Prevents constipation and other digestive problems. Poppy seeds have high amounts of dietary fiber, which aids the digestive system in metabolizing and smoothly processing ingested food, preventing constipation and other digestive problems.10
  • Enhances brain function. Calcium, iron and magnesium are minerals needed by the body to regulate brain activity and the development of neurons. They also aid in the production of neurotransmitters.11
  • Assists in red blood cell production. The abundance of copper and iron in poppy seeds improves red blood cell formation, which helps in the prevention of anemia and other blood-related conditions.12
  • Helps deal with sleeplessness. Taking a teaspoon of poppy seed oil before going to bed has been observed to help ease the symptoms of insomnia by promoting relaxation.13

Try These Delicious and Nourishing Poppy Seed Recipes

Poppy seeds are usually incorporated into recipes for scones, pastries, rolls and even main dishes. Chefs and cooks often add poppy seeds to heighten the flavor of the dishes and lend an unexpected nutty twist to their recipes. Its flavor is often characterized as walnut-like, fruity and slightly smoky. If you want to try out some healthy choices for poppy seed recipes, here are some suggestions:14, 15

Poppy Seeds Healthy Recipes:
Lemon Ginger Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

Poppy Seeds Healthy Recipe

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons raw honey

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds

 

Procedure:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Shake well.

(Adapted from The Café Sucre Farine)

Cranberry Almond Poppy Seed Chicken Salad

Ingredients for the poppy seed dressing:

3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise

1/4 cup homemade yogurt

1/4 cup raw milk

1 tablespoon raw honey

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

 

Ingredients for the chicken salad:

1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked, chopped organic chicken breast

1/3 cup finely diced red onion

1 stalk celery, diced

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup slivered raw almonds

 

 

 

Procedure:

  1. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Add chicken salad ingredients and toss until the dressing is thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Serve on slider rolls, croissants or wraps. Add lettuce leaves. Serve.

(Adapted from Valerie’s Kitchen)

Here Are Other Ways You Can Utilize Poppy Seeds

While poppy seeds are mostly known as a garnish or filling for buns (sometimes as an alternative to sesame seeds), bagels and other breakfast pastries, they can also be used medicinally to treat other conditions. You can use poppy seeds as:16

  • A topical solution for eczema and inflammation. Poppy seeds have anti-inflammatory compounds that may help reduce itchiness. Make a thick paste by pounding the seeds and then adding a few drops of lime juice. Apply this solution to the affected area to ease skin conditions.
  • A skin moisturizer. Grind some seeds and add some milk to make a paste. For dry skin, add honey. Apply it to your face and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse.
  • Dandruff treatment. Poppy seeds can be used for the treatment of dandruff. Mix soaked poppy seeds with hung curd and a teaspoon of white pepper and apply to your scalp. Leave for about an hour and rinse off.

Nutrition Facts of Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds contain a plethora of nutrients and essential minerals that the body requires for the regulation of various processes. For more information about poppy seeds’ nutritional content, check out these nutrition facts:17

Poppy Seeds Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 tbsp
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 47  
Calories from Fat 35  
Total Fat 3.93 g 6%
Saturated Fat 0.429 g 2%
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 2 mg 0%
Total Carbohydrates 2.08 g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0.9 g 4%
Sugar 1.2 g  
Protein 1.59 g  
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 13% Iron 5%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Take Note of These Contraindications for Poppy Seed Consumption

Poppy seeds can boost the nutritional content of any recipe they are added to because of their beneficial components. However, they should be consumed in moderation.

Excessive consumption of these seeds can lead to numerous side effects, some of them even fatal. There have been a handful of documented cases where individuals overdosed on codeine and morphine after brewing and drinking poppy seed tea, leading to pulmonary edema and death.18

Unwashed poppy seeds may contain trace amounts of opiates, especially if they accidentally come into contact with the poppy plant’s sap. It’s better that you take extra care when buying or consuming newly harvested poppy seeds.19, 20

Contaminated poppy seeds were also documented to have caused numerous health repercussions for pregnant women. The trace amounts of codeine in poppy seeds can cause breathing problems in the unborn child, especially if consumed in the final trimester of the pregnancy.21

To avoid these side effects, it is strongly suggested that you take only one teaspoon for every seven pounds of your body weight. For pregnant women, it would be best that you avoid its use for the whole duration of your pregnancy. To know the right dosage and whether it is appropriate for you or not, consult a health practitioner to make sure you won’t subject yourself to the possible side effects.