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The poppy is commonly know as, an international symbol of those who died in war. A writer first made connection between the poppy and battlefield deaths during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, remarking that fields that were barren before battle exploded with the blood red flowers after the fighting ended.

The poppy reminds us of the people who gave their lives for peace and freedom. The poppy reminds us of war and the great costs it brings society and that peace is something we should strive for beyond all things.

The poppy is a symbol of peace and it reminds us of the people who died for us. The poppy means red blood from the men who died in battle. Artificial red poppies are worn on Remembrance Day held on the 11th November, the last day of World War 1 in 1918.


The poppy plant history begins with the ancient Sumerians. The ancient Sumerians referred to the flowers as the plant of joy. The Sumerians passed their knowledge of the plant to the Assyrians. The Assyrians gave their knowledge of poppies to the Babylonians who passed their understanding to the Egyptians.

During the reign of the Egyptians Pharaohs, the Egyptian civilisation promoted use of opium as a sleep aid.

The ancient Greeks had numerous Gods that were portrayed with wreaths or bouquets of poppies. The poppy was portrayed prominently in Greek literature. Hippocrates made frequent mention of the poppy for its hypnotic effects and nutritive value. Alexander the Great introduced poppies to the Near East, starting the flowers long history in Asia. Opium was largely used as a social drug in India and China.

The smoking of Opium was discovered in the 1500’s. Prior to this opium was taken orally. The practice of smoking opium was considered barbaric by many Asian cultures. Opium became the primary trade commodity between England, India and China. The Dutch introduced the use of tobacco pipes to smoke opium.

By 1729, the use of opium became such a problem in China that the Chinese emperor issued an edit banning the smoking of opium and its domestic sale for anything but medical purposes. In 1799 Chinese emperor Kia King bans opium completely to include trade and poppy cultivation.

In 1803 a German discovers the active ingredient of opium by dissolving it in acid then neutralising it with ammonia. The resulting product is morphine, which is considered a miracle drug. In 1843 Dr Alexander Wood of Scotland discovers a new method to administer morphine. He injects morphine with a syringe with instant effect on his patients. By 1874 and English researcher creates heroin by boiling morphine over a stove.

Care and conditioning:

Avoid purchasing fully opened blooms as they damage easily. Poppies are prone to fungal disease – the disease is often identified as a black spots or grey mould that attacks and weakens the stems. It is evident to the eye.

Recut the stems prior to placing into water, change the water in the vase each day to avoid bacteria and disease.

Health & wellbeing:

The ancient and world wise plant, the poppy, yields morphine, a naturally obtained painkiller, in fact the greatest painkiller that nature can produce. Apart from morphine, the raw opium, which is the white latex exuded by the green seed head, can also, if necessary, be extracted from the leaves and stems.

About 4500 BC it was said that opium balls would be rolled and eaten or taken with wine by those needing morphine. Nowadays it can be taken in conjunction with other drugs. Several hundred tons of opium alkaloids are used worldwide each year. Nature is the only source of supply, it can not be synthesized chemically, however it is a highly addictive, deadly and destructive drug – the source of heroin.

The poppy’s red petals were believed to be a good remedy for nose bleeds and those spitting blood. An infusion of powered capsules was often put externally on sprains and bruises, and proved to be a successful reliever of the pain. As has been seen, opium syrup cured coughs. Petals were often used in gargles for sore throats and tonsillitis. The leaves are said to have soothed and relax chest spasms and stomach pains.

In homoeopathic medicine, opium found from the poppy is used to relieve ‘insensitivity’ of the nervous system, sleeplessness and stupor. The essence from the bloom helps redress the balance in life between rest and activity, the physical world and the spiritual.

Additional information:

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