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 you 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 6-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 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 one teaspoon for every 7 pounds of body weight. That means that someone weighing about 150 pounds (70 kilograms) should probably eat no 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. Soak the seeds for 5 minutes first and then discarding the water before adding them to your recipe 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.
To learn more about not overdoing healthy foods check out these videos:
- Overdosing on Greens
- Overdosing on Tea
- How Much Broccoli Is Too Much?
- How Much Soy Is Too Much?
- Oxalates in Cinnamon
Michael Greger, M.D.