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How Many Poppy Seeds Is Too Many?

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:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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1:21AM PDT on Jun 15, 2014

I wouldn't want to eat a half cup of poppy seeds, though I like poppy seed rolls and other goodies made with them. Who would want to eat that much at one sitting?

11:40AM PDT on Apr 24, 2014

Never knew this. So it would be legal to open a poppy seed restaurant and sell the seeds by the cup?

11:06PM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

OK, OK, will stop eating 7 Tbls of poppy seeds on my Cheerios every morning!

3:56AM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

interesting, thank you

11:35AM PDT on Apr 1, 2014

I actually had someone advise me NOT to plant poppies in a large garden in California, because locals had found a way to harvest them and use them for drugs. It's amazing just how desperate people can become. Some people are extremely sensitive to hallucinogenics and some are not. I can't eat Morel mushrooms for that reason, and others have not problem. Moderation in all things.

4:24AM PDT on Apr 1, 2014

Thank you for the article.

6:44PM PDT on Mar 30, 2014

Evidently if you eat spaghetti with a half cup of poppy seeds on top, it can make you a little loopy

I have never had a poppy seed anything that made me feel different in any way.
I have to say a half a cup of poppy seeds on a small or normal portion of pasta does sound like a lot. I have no idea if it would anything to you or not. I would not feed that to a child though.... It seems like a little over kill for a tiny body. For anyone depending on how much pasta you made with that half a cup of poppy seeds.

12:51AM PDT on Mar 28, 2014

luuuuuurrrvve poppy seeds!!!

10:29PM PDT on Mar 27, 2014


9:04AM PDT on Mar 26, 2014

drugging babies and eating a half of a cup of poppy seeds on spaghetti? maybe you get what you deserve.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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