How Many Poppy Seeds Are Too Many?

Image Credit: Kirsten Loza / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Overdosing on Poppy Seeds

The opium poppy used to make heroin is the same opium poppy used to make muffins and bagels. Does this mean that poppy seed muffin we may have had for breakfast contained a powerful narcotic? The idea that poppy seeds could serve as the source of appreciable amounts of codeine/morphine was not given much credence despite the existence of an old European custom recommending a poppy-seed-filled pacifier to quiet a noisy baby. It wasn’t given much credence, that is, until a mother tried giving her six-month-old some strained milk she had boiled some poppy seeds in with the very best intentions of helping the child sleep better. It worked a little too well, culminating in respiratory arrest. Now we have governmental warnings that such a practice is not a good idea.

The cases aren’t limited to children. Evidently if we eat spaghetti with a half cup of poppy seeds on top, it can make adults a little loopy as well.

So what’s the upper limit of poppy seed consumption that’s probably safe? A study profiled in my video, How Many Poppy Seeds is Too Many?, suggests about one teaspoon for every seven pounds of body weight. That means that someone weighing about 150 pounds (70 kilograms) should probably eat no more than seven tablespoons of raw poppy seeds at a time.

Cooking may wipe out half of the morphine and codeine, though, so that gives us some more leeway when baking. Soaking the seeds for five minutes first and then discarding the water before adding them to our recipe can eliminate another half if we’re making some poppy seed filled pastry or something for kids. Otherwise, though, there shouldn’t be any risk at usual levels of intake—unless you’re going in for a drug test, in which case you may want to avoid poppy seeds altogether.

To learn more about not overdoing healthy foods check out these videos:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

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Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


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