Poppy capsules. Papaveris fructus. Papaver somniferum.

Botanical name: 

Poppy Capsules. N. F. IV. Papaveris Fructus. Papaveris Capsulae. Br., 1898. Papaver, U. S., 1870; Capsules de Pavot blanc ou Pavot officinal, Fr. Cod.; Fructus Papaveris immaturi, P. G.; Unreife Mohnköpfe, Kapseln des Weissen Mohns, Mohnkapseln, Mohnköpfe, Gr.; Papavero, It.; Cabesas de amapola, Sp.—"The dried, fully grown, unripe fruit of Pavaver somniferum Linné (Fam. Papaveraceae). Separate and reject the seeds before using the fruit in pharmaceutical preparations." N. F.

Poppy capsules were official in the Br. Pharmacopoeia, 1898; they have been admitted to the N. F. IV. In England the poppy has been largely cultivated for its capsules, which are gathered as they ripen, and taken to market enclosed in bags. The N. F. directs them to be collected before they are quite ripe, as they then contain, more of the active milky juice. When ready for collecting they are a yellowish-green color. They are occasionally imported, but, as no effect is produced by them which cannot be as well obtained from opium, they are little employed.

Dried poppy capsules vary in size from the dimensions of a small egg to those of the fist. They differ also in shape according to the variety of the poppy from which they are procured. On the Continent two sub-varieties of the white poppy are recognized, the long, and the round or depressed. Of these, according to Aubegier, the long are richest in morphine, and his conclusions are confirmed by Meurein, who also found the largest capsules most efficient. Those commonly found in commerce are spheroidal, flattened below, and surmounted by a crown-like expansion—the persistent stigma—which is marked by numerous diverging rays that rise somewhat above the upper surface and appear to be prolongations of partial septa, or partitions, proceeding along the interior circumference of the capsule from the top to the bottom. In the recent state, the seeds, which are very numerous, adhere to these septa, but in the dried capsule they are loose in its cavity, and the N. F. directs that they should be separated before the capsule is used. They are described in the N. F. as "globular or ovoid, usually from 3 to 3.5 cm. in diameter, but varying in size, more or less sunken or depressed on the sides, contracted at the base into a sort of neck immediately above a tumid ring at the point of attachment with the stalk; crowned at the summit with the seven- to fifteen-rayed stigma disk; outer wall of pericarp smooth, hard, grayish-yellow to brownish-yellow, often marked with black spots; interior surface rugose, finely striated transversely, and bearing thin, brittle, membranous placentae which extend from the sutures toward the center, and bear on their faces and edges numerous, minute, conspicuously reticulated, reniform white seeds. Odorless; taste slightly bitter.

"Macerate 1 Gm. of the powdered Capsules for two hours with 10 mils of water containing 1 per cent. of hydrochloric acid, and filter; the filtrate yields distinct precipitates with iodine T.S. and with potassio-mercuric iodide T.S.

"The powdered drug is grayish-yellow, and, when examined under the microscope, exhibits fragments of the epicarp composed of thick-walled polygonal cells, the cells of the outer layer non-porous, up to 0.05 mm. in diameter and with occasional stomata, the latter up to 0.035 mm. in length; the cells of the inner layer of the epicarp often with numerous simple pores; portions of the soft, spongy sarcocarp consisting of isodiametric or irregular parenchyma and branching milk ducts, the latter up to 0.06 mm. in width, of variable length and with thin, non-porous walls; fragments of the inner wall of the pericarp and the outer wall of the placental tissue composed of polygonal or somewhat elongated cells with porous walls, up to 0.06 mm. in width and up to 0.3 mm. in length, the walls of the latter cells often slightly lignified; spiral and annular tracheae up to 0.035 mm. in width and reticulate tracheae up to 0.06 mm. in width; sclerenchyma cells few with simple or oblique pores; starch grains few, small, somewhat rounded; fragments of the reticulately pitted seed-coat very few or absent. Poppy Capsules yield not more than 10 per cent. of ash." N. F. IV.

On the continent of Europe, the poppy is cultivated largely for its seeds, which yield about fifty per cent. of an excellent fixed oil on expression. Poppy seed oil is of a pale golden color, liquid at 5.5° G. (42°F.), easily dried, inodorous, and of a pleasant flavor. It is bleached by exposure in thin layers to the sun. (P. J., March, 1874, p. 731.) It belongs to the class of drying oils, ranking after linseed and hemp seed oils in power.

Dried poppy heads, though analogous to opium in medicinal properties, are exceedingly feeble. They are nevertheless asserted to have proved fatal, in the form of decoction, to a child. The case, reported by F. L. Winckler, was that of a babe, in the stomach of which he found a little morphine, but no meconic acid. (N. R. Pharm., 1867, xvi, 38.) They are sometimes employed in decoction, as an external emollient and anodyne application, and, in emulsion, syrup, or extract, are used internally, in Europe, to calm irritation, promote rest, and produce generally the narcotic effects of opium.

The dose is from ten to twenty grains (0.65-1.3 Gm).

The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.