The letter about opium poppies (P. Somniferum) had too many oversimplifications for safety. While poppies are easy enough to grow to enjoy the big flowers, it’s not so easy to get good pods or sap, and the quality of the drug depends a good deal on growing conditions, i.e., where you live. There’s a reason why so much opium comes from the middle east, and you may note that the poppies in pictures from the regions are 3′ high at least and lavender, not Chinese red. This doesn’t mean there’s no drug in other poppies – there is – but the difference may be huge. And, warning: dried pods from the florist trade are probably sprayed with insecticides.
If you slash the green pods and save the latex that exudes (which is illegal, by the way), you’d need a lot of poppies, because the next step is to dry the sap until it reaches a certain percentage of opium, by weight. If you’ve seen pictures of the illegal Afghanistan opium trade, you’ve seen the brown bars of dried sap being bargained over. The Victorians did use a tincture of opium in alcohol – it was called ‘laudanum’ and was among the most addictive substances known to man. This is why it is no longer used. Babies were made addicts from syrups of poppy you could buy over the counter to keep them from crying.
Steeping the pods to make a tea or tincture means you’re getting all the alkaloids, some are poisons. In order to really make morphine and codeine, a laboratory and chemical expertise is required. Some far-out web sites claim to know how to make home-made painkillers, but even a cursory reading shows these guys are just trying to get high on whatever is available. You can make a tea of poppy seeds, too – it may also kill you. A man who worked in a bake shop not too long ago did just that from increasingly strong doses of poppy seed tea, and some of those crazy British poets steeped poppy seeds in wine to get high, too. Children have also died from eating the green pods – that’s one of the reasons it’s illegal to grow them in some places.
The book recommended isn’t the kind of resource you want if you’re really using herbs to treat serious medical problems.
Best Regards to you, Mr. Rawles, – The Old Farmer