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The poppy, more than just a pretty flower

The poppy is associated with remembrance of our war dead but poppy seeds contain vitamins and nutrients.   2015-11-05
 

Each year on the second Sunday in November we commemorate all the brave Service men and women who give their lives in the two World Wars and later conflicts. Poppies are worn around this time and make up the wreaths which are laid on the Memorial sites.

Why Poppies?

During the First World War, Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae, after losing a friend, noted that bright red Flanders poppies grew among the bleak, mud and bombed countryside and this inspired him to write the now famous poem called “in Flanders Fields”.  His poem in turn inspired an American academic, Moina Michael to make and sell red silk poppies which were then brought to England by a French lady, Anna Guérin. These poppies were sold by The British Legion (formed in 1921) and the money raised was used to help WW1 veterans with employment, housing etc.

Poppy Seeds

Both the poppy seeds we buy in the local supermarket and the poppy grown for the illegal drug trade is the Papaver somniferum but whereas opium is made from the milky latex of the unripe seed capsules, poppy seeds have been dried and they contain negligible amounts of the toxic alkaloids of the opium poppy.

What’s in the seeds?

Dried poppy seeds contain very low levels of morphine, thebaine, codeine and papaverine which have a soothing effect on the body.

The nutritional benefits of poppy seeds are that they contain so many nutrients which aid the smooth functioning of all of the organs in the body. They are an excellent source of energy, and their calorie content is lower than other herbs and spices. They make tasty salad dressings, this is done using the little dark seeds which contain the oil.

  • Opium – this is the source of many narcotics like morphine and heroin. It has been used since ancient times for its sedative properties. Opium acts on the nerves and relieves pain and in excess quantities it produces sedative effects on the brain and nerves.
  • Oleic acid and dietary fibre found in poppy seeds helps lower LDL  (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL
  • Oleic acid can inhibit the activity levels of the gene that triggers breast cancer.
  • Fatty acid and omega-6 fatty acids in poppy seeds help prevent coronary artery disease which may reduce the risk of having a stroke.
  • Fibre in the seeds can help with your digestion and ease or prevent constipation.
  • Copper helps your body produce red blood cells.
  • Potassium is an essential mineral that can help control your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Calcium and phosphorus in the poppy seeds can help keep your bones strong and help prevent the development of osteoporosis.
  • Iron and zinc can help boost your immune system. Zinc helps stimulates your body’s production of bacteria fighting cells whilst iron oxygenates your blood.
  • Poppy seeds are a natural supply of alkaloids which are extremely helpful for treating nervous disorders.
  • Insomnia – If you are having trouble sleeping, poppy seeds have a natural relaxing effect and can help ease you back into a regular sleeping pattern.
  • Heart Attack – As well as containing potassium poppy seeds also contain linoleum acid which could significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and heart disease.
  • Energy Levels – Poppy seeds are a rich source of iron, omega-3 fatty acids and carbohydrates poppy seeds which help keep up energy levels. Iron helps carry oxygen through your body and also stores it in your muscles when needed though increased activity.
  • Kidney Stones – Poppy seeds contain oxalates that can help reduce the absorption of calcium and therefore help prevent the formation of kidney stones.
  • Cell Renewal – Being a great source of zinc poppy seeds have been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a paste or milk as a skin renewing moisturiser. Zinc helps the development of proteins that are needed for the growth of new cells.
  • Eczema & Skin Inflammation – Due to the high content of linoleum acid poppy seeds can be used as a natural remedy for eczema and can also ease skin inflammations.

There is no doubt that poppy seeds are a great addition to your diet. Like all things eat in moderation.

This Remembrance Sunday not only wear your poppy with pride but eat the seeds as well.