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Opium

Botanical name:

The discovery of the medical qualities of opium is lost in times gone by Theophrastus (633), the third century B. C., mentions it. The poppy producing opium is (from a remote period) native to Asia Minor and Central Asia. The early use of the decoction of the poppy head, as well as the early use of opium, the product of the poppy, Papaver somniferum, antedates, as has been said, professional medication and crept into home use as well as professional use at a very early period. The Welsh physicians of the seventeenth century used a wine of poppy heads to produce sleep, and prepared pills from the juice of the poppy. Syrup of poppy was given a position in the first pharmacopeia, of the London College, 1618. Dioscorides (194) distinguishes between the juice of the poppy capsule, and an extract from the entire plant. Inasmuch as he describes how the capsule should be incised and the juice collected, it is evident that he plainly refers to opium. Pliny (514) also devotes considerable space to this drug. Celsus (136), in the first century, mentions it, and during the period of the Roman Empire it was known as a product of Asia Minor. It is supposed that the prohibition of wine by Mohammed led to the spreading of the use of opium in some parts of Asia, the drug being then an import from Aden or Cambay. The Mohammedans introduced opium into India, it being first mentioned as a product of that country by Barbosa (39), who visited Calicut in 1511, its port of export then being Aden or Cambay. The German traveler Kampfer (349), who visited Persia in 1685, describes the various kinds of opium then produced, stating that it was customary to mix the drug with various aromatics, such as nutmeg, cardamon, cinnamon, and mace, and even with ambergris. It was also sometimes colored red with cannabis indica, and was sometimes mixed with the strongly narcotic seeds of stramonium. This writer could find no instance of the Turkish people of the present using opium in any form (388c). A description in brief detail only of the many kinds of opium and the different qualities of opium, as well as its sophisticants and adulterants, is herein unnecessary. It may be briefly stated that this insidiously active drug came to the attention of the profession of medicine through its well-known qualities, as established by the people of its native land. Much the writer recorded concerning opium and its culture as noted in his travels in Turkey, is to be found in Lloyd Brothers' Drug Treatise No. XXII, "Opium and Its Compounds."


The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P., 1911, was written by John Uri Lloyd.



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