How Many Poppy Seeds Are Too Many?

How Many Poppy Seeds Are Too Many?
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Soaking and cooking poppy seeds can lower their morphine and codeine levels—but those undergoing drug testing may want to avoid them altogether.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The same opium poppy that people make heroin out of is the same opium poppy people make muffins and bagels out of. But, “[T]he idea that poppy seeds could serve as the source of appreciable amounts of codeine/morphine was not given much credence despite the existence of the old European custom recommending to quiet a noisy baby by means of a poppy seed filled pacifier.” Not given much credence 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, leading to governmental warnings that it’s not a good idea.

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

So, what’s the upper limit of poppy seed consumption that’s probably safe? About a teaspoon for every 7 pounds of body weight, so that means someone weighting about 150 pounds, or 70 kilos should probably not eat more than 7 tablespoons of raw poppy seeds at a time. Cooking may wipe out half of the morphine and codeine, though, so, that gives you some more leeway when baking. And, if you soak the seeds for five minutes first, and then discard the water before adding them to your recipe, you can eliminate another half—if you’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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Balanced.crafts and gorgeouxness via Flickr. Images have been modified.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The same opium poppy that people make heroin out of is the same opium poppy people make muffins and bagels out of. But, “[T]he idea that poppy seeds could serve as the source of appreciable amounts of codeine/morphine was not given much credence despite the existence of the old European custom recommending to quiet a noisy baby by means of a poppy seed filled pacifier.” Not given much credence 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, leading to governmental warnings that it’s not a good idea.

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

So, what’s the upper limit of poppy seed consumption that’s probably safe? About a teaspoon for every 7 pounds of body weight, so that means someone weighting about 150 pounds, or 70 kilos should probably not eat more than 7 tablespoons of raw poppy seeds at a time. Cooking may wipe out half of the morphine and codeine, though, so, that gives you some more leeway when baking. And, if you soak the seeds for five minutes first, and then discard the water before adding them to your recipe, you can eliminate another half—if you’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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Balanced.crafts and gorgeouxness via Flickr. Images have been modified.

Doctor's Note

Other videos on not overdoing healthy foods include:

In my research I run across reports of reactions to foods that are so rare I figure it’s not worth doing a whole video about them, but then I worry that I may be missing an opportunity to help a few people. Like my videos on kombucha (Is Kombucha Tea Good For You?), star fruit (Are Star Fruit Good for You?), nutmeg (Don’t Eat Too Much Nutmeg), tarragon (The Safety of Tarragon), or grapefruit (Tell Your Doctor if You Eat Grapefruit).

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Overdosing on Poppy Seeds.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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