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How To Grow Opium Poppies

Do not use this information to break any laws that may exist in your community. Growing opium poppies as garden flowers might be legal or tolerated where you live, but growing them to produce your own opium could possibly be illegal.

Opium is the dried latex produced by the plant known by the botanical name Papaver somniferum, more commonly called the opium poppy.

Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy) In Various Stages Of Growth

Opiates are naturally occuring alkaloid compounds that are produced by the opium poppy.

They bind to opioid receptors in the human body and have psychoactive and/or analgesic properties that are comparable to morphine.

Opium from Papaver somniferum contains the following opiates:
--- Morphine.
--- Codeine.
--- Thebaine.
--- Oripavine.

Papaverine and noscapine, along with over 20 other alkaloids, are also produced by Papaver somniferum and occur in opium. However, these substances produce minimal to no psychoactive or analgesic effect at all, thus are not classified as opiates.

In various parts of the world there is no pension system. In some cases, a person must work until they die. People who preform physical jobs sometimes consume opium to ease the pain enough for them to be able to work.

Western countries like the USA allow pain sufferers (with enough money to buy good doctors) to take opioid medications like codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, etcetera. These medications can all be obtained or synthesized from opium.

When these substances are taken on a regular basis, tolerance (needing larger doses to produce the same effect) and addiction may become a problem. Besides being utilized as a drug to reduce pain, opium and medications that are synthesized from it are consumed for spiritual and recreational purposes.

Buy Seeds
Plant Seeds
Harvest Opium
Opiates In Opium
Growing Notes
Growing Laws
Related Books
Image Credits

Buy Opium Poppy Seeds

To grow opium poppies, you will first need to buy opium poppy seeds. Papaver somniferum seeds are the only ones you want to cultivate opium poppies. They are legal and readily available in most countries. Opium Poppy Seeds

Buy them online if you can't find a suitable source where you live. A list of suppliers of Papaver somniferum seeds can be found here, most ship from the USA to the US and other countries.

There are different strains of Papaver somniferum. The main differences being things like optimal growing conditions, harvest time, their capsule size, and the way the flowers look.

Popular strains for the purpose include:
Hens and Chicks.
Danish Flag.
Any strain of Papaver somniferum seed that is viable, will sprout and grow to produce morphine rich opium, can be employed.

1 gram of Papaver somniferum seeds is about 1000 seeds.
1 ounce of Papaver somniferum seeds is about 30,000 seeds.
1 pound of Papaver somniferum seeds is about 500,000 seeds.

There will be about a thousand seeds in a 1 gram seed pack, so one or two seed packs will be all you need to get started in a small garden when seeding by hand. With a broadcast spreader, you should estimate at least 1 pound (454 grams) of seed per 1 acre of land.

You can supply your own seeds by harvesting a few dry seed capsules, that were not used to make opium, to provide the next years crop of opium.

A single healthy seed capsule will generate thousands of seeds. The seeds can remain viable for 2-5 years when stored under cool, dark, dry conditions.

For your first attempt, just buy Papaver somniferum seeds and try to raise a crop. If you are successful, you can start experimenting with different strains of Papaver somniferum to see what works best in the growing conditions available.

When working with several different strains of Papaver somniferum at the same time, it is best to keep each strain in a separate area. In this way you can determine which type produces the largest harvest and most potent opium.

Once you know what strain of Papaver somniferum is best for the available growing conditions, you can cultivate it alone to produce the next years opium crop.

Hen and chickens seed is so named because the plant produces a main pod surrounded by smaller pods. To some, this reminds them of a mother hen surrounded by her chicks.

The majority of people that purchase Papaver somniferum seeds in order to grow them do so in order to plant them in a garden. They have no intention of harvesting the opium the plants produce.

Do not mention opium or drugs when ordering seeds. If for any reason you must talk to a salesperson, refer to opium poppies by their botanical name, Papaver somniferum.

Most seed sellers ship from areas where opium is illegal. There is the possibility they will refuse a sale or report the order to police if they think the seeds will be used to produce opium. Even if it is legal for you, it is not legal everywhere, so be discreet.

Plant The Opium Poppy Seeds

Opium poppies prefer a cool climate over hot weather. In hot areas, they will grow better in the mountains or places where it stays cool during the growing season.

A night time drop in temperature of 20°F or more is much better than a steady temperature through the day and night. This night time temperature drop is most important the first eight weeks of the plants life, during and after germination.

The pH of the soil should be somewhere in the neutral range of about 7. Papaver somniferum has been grown in most parts of the USA by gardeners. Prior to 1942, P. somniferum was grown commercially (primarily for morphine) in several states.

Opium poppies grow best in loose, well drained soil and do not do well in dense soil like clay. To ensure adequate drainage, grow on a slope so that water flows away from the plants.

Germination is the start of the life cycle for the plant. The seed is placed in soil and supplied with moisture. If conditions are right and the seeds are good, they will germinate.

For a small garden, the seeds can be germinated by dropping them in the intended location, spaced about 5-6 inches (13-15 cm) apart. Larger sized gardens will require a mechanical device to spread the seed.

You can make a simple seed spreader by drilling holes in the bottom of an empty container that has been cleaned and dried. Plastic milk jugs, tin cans, and similar items will work.

Start with a small drill bit somewhere near 3/32 to 1/8 of an inch (2.4 to 3.2 mm) in diameter and drill several holes in the bottom of the container. Test the flow rate over a place where the seeds can be collected, a piece of newspaper works well, after testing.

To increase the flow rate of the seeds, you can either drill bigger and/or make more holes in the bottom of the container. For best results with a large garden, get a broadcast spreader to more evenly spread the seed.

During germination, night-time temperatures of between 35-45°F (1.6-7.2°C) and day-time temperatures of between 50-65°F (10-18°C) are close to optimal.

For a maximum germination rate, the soil the seeds are surrounded by must be kept moist, but not soaking wet, until the plant produces a main root (below ground so you can't see it) and leaves.

When you see the first leaves, you know the plant has germinated properly and the root system has started to established itself. The opium poppy seeds are most vulnerable until the sprouts are a few inches tall.

You can start the plants in late fall or early spring. If planted in the fall, they should be planted so they have time to grow a few inches before the first snowfall.

They will lay dormant in the winter and start growing again the next spring. Some will probably die in the winter but enough should survive to produce a crop. Snow provides good insulation over the winter months.

If all the plants die over the winter, the area you live in might be too extreme to start Papaver somniferum in the fall, but you can try starting a new batch at the beginning of spring.

If you live in an area of the Northern Hemisphere that has mild winters, where the temperature does not go below 32°F (0°C), you can wait till mid-late december to start the plants. This equates to the start of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

Starting the plants in fall or winter allows them to continue growing as soon as the weather heats up in spring. This means they will be able to harvest earlier than those started in spring.

If you plant in spring, try planting as early as possible. Plant the seeds as soon as the last winter snow recedes. Starting opium poppies at the edge of melting snow is recommended. The water left by the melted snow will keep the ground moist and aid with germination.

Opium poppies do not transplant well. If you have to germinate the plant anywhere other than where it will be grown, use something like peat cups so you can place the holder directly in the ground without touching the roots.

As the root system has established itself, the ideal temperature is the same as it was during germination. Soil that is moist but not wet is preferred and 8-14 hours (12 is close to optimal) of sunlight per day.

Some of the young plants may flop over and look like they are going to die or are dead. However, most of them will stand up and continue growing in a few days.

The seedling stage lasts 2 weeks or more. As the plants grow, you will have the option of deciding which are the healthiest and making sure they have 12 inches (30 cm) around them to grow.

This is optional and means cutting down any other poppy plants within about 12 inches (30 cm) of a healthy one. If you decide to thin, it should take place when the plants are 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) tall.

If the plants are too crowded for the conditions provided, the harvest will be smaller than it would be if the plants had more space. Overcrowding will produce smaller sized flower heads that produce less opium.

Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy) GrowingTo encourage rigorous growth, seedlings like cow or chicken manure, when fertilizer is needed. A small quantity of general purpose 20-10-20 fertilizer, with secondary nutrients and trace elements, is a good alternative. As the plant grows, the nutrient level can be increased compared to when the plant was just starting to grow.

As the plant matures it likes drier soil, longer days, stronger sunlight than it did during earlier stages of growth. Just prior to and during flowering, warm daytime temperatures of 68-75°F (20-24°C), cool nights of 35-55°F (1.6-12.8°C) are preferred. Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy) Flowering

Dry conditions are preferred at this stage in the growth process. After flowering, any rain or moisture can dilute the opium and render it less potent than it would be under drier conditions.

Flowering starts about 8-12 weeks after germination. 16 or more hours of sunlight a day is optimal when flowering. The important thing is that the plant gets lots of sunlight at this time.

Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy) Capsule After Papaver somniferum has flowered, the petals will fall off the flower after two days or longer. When the petals fall off the flower, most of the plant energy is utilized to develop the seed capsule.

The capsule will be ready to harvest opium from about 1-2 weeks after the petals fall off. Outdoors, the total time from germination to harvest will often be around 120-150 days, which is equal to 4-5 months.

Harvesting Opium

After the last petal has dropped, in most cases the opium will be ready to harvest in somewhere near 1-2 weeks. When to harvest will vary depending on the growing conditions. Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy) With Dusty Appearance

As Papaver somniferum gets closer to the optimal harvest time, the seed capsule (pod) can start to look like it is taking on a dusty appearance.

One sure sign that a plant is ready to harvest is if the seed capsule starts to release traces of opium, or if opium starts to build up in spots under the outer skin of the capsule.

Papaver somniferum Capsule Being Scored

Other signs that indicate the opium is ready include the gray band at the top of the capsule where the petals were attached getting darker and the crown of the capsule appearing to be pointing upwards or straight out.

Harvesting opium is accomplished by making shallow horizontal or vertical cuts to release opium from the seed capsule with a sharp blade (a razor blade or x-acto knife will work).

Cuts In Papaver somniferum Capsule To Harvest Opium

The cuts should be less than 1/16 of an inch (1.6 mm) deep so they only slice into the first layer of the capsule. In a small garden cut all around the pod, with a larger garden you can make the cuts on one side (to make collecting the opium a quicker process). As you cut, you will see little blobs of opium coming out.

Leave the wounds to release opium for 3-6 hours. Then collect your opium. By now, the white blobs will have turned into yellow/orange blobs that can be scraped off and collected on a blunt putty knife or something similar.

Collecting Opium With A Dull Putty Knife

There are better methods of making cuts so the amount of opium you get is maximized. Pages 47-51 of the book opium poppy garden describes, using text and illustrations, how to harvest several yields of opium from the plant over the course of a month.

The book also shows how to make simple tools (for making cuts, harvesting, and collecting opium) out of inexpensive items found in a hardware store or kitchen. Photos from the back cover of the book, showing the opium harvest process, are located here.

Fresh Raw Opium After the opium is harvested, the easiest way to consume it is by eating or smoking it raw. There is no need to process it in any way. Try 1/10 gram or less on your first attempt to see how you respond.

When an opium pipe is not available, you can break up the opium into very small pieces (about the size of grains of sand) and mix it thoroughly with some ground up marijuana, or tobacco if necessary. The mixture can rolled and smoked like a joint.

Raw Opium

An opium-marijuana mixture will also work in a regular marijuana pipe with a screen. It may not be necessary but the author breaks up the opium into small sand grain sized pieces and puts the opium on top of the marijuana, so it doesn't liquify and flow past the screen. A real opium pipe vaporizes, rather than burns opium.

This really does work and opium poppies are fairly easy to grow. If someone you love, or you yourself, take any kind of prescribed narcotic pain killer, you might not always have the ability to access a pharmacy in times of emergency.

Even if you don't produce any opium, you will know that you will be able to, if the need should arise. Papaver somniferum is a beautiful plant, growing it as a garden plant or for poppy seeds can be a rewarding experience in itself.

As far as the conversion of opium to other types of pain medicine goes, you will need some practical chemistry experience and instructions. OXY by otto snow is probably the best choice of books for the chemist that wants to isolate morphine, or produce oxycodone and other opioid drugs, from raw opium.

Opiates Found In Opium

Morphine is the standard pain reliever that most analgesic comparisons use as a base. It is an effective analgesic for the treatment of moderate to severe acute and chronic pain.

Morphine was first isolated from opium by Friedrich Serturner around 1804. Friedrich Serturner was a German pharmacist. He isolated morphine while employed as a pharmacist's apprentice.

Morphine Chemical Structure United Nations samples of opium produced by legal commercial growers, from major areas of Papaver somniferum cultivation, indicate that unadulterated opium that has been air-dried will have a morphine content of about 8%-19%, by weight.

Codeine is a fairly common pain reliever for the treatment of mild to moderate acute and chronic pain. When consumed orally, codeine has about 1/5 the analgesic potency of oral morphine.

Codeine was first isolated from opium by Pierre Robiquet in 1832. Pierre Robiquet was a French chemist and pharmacist. He had previously discovered alizarin, a red dye, while working on morphine extraction processes.

Codeine Chemical Structure United Nations samples of opium produced by legal commercial growers indicate that unadulterated air-dried opium has a codeine content of about 1%-4%, by weigh.

The natural codeine in opium can be extracted, but most of the codeine utilized for medicinal purposes is synthesized from morphine through a process known as O-methylation.

Thebaine (also called paramorphine and codeine methyl enol ether) is usually found in concentrations of under 2% in opium that has been air-dried. Maximum concentrations of 5% or slightly higher have been reported.

The chemical structure of thebaine is similar to the chemical structure of morphine, codeine, oripavine. However, thebaine produces a stimulant effect where morphine and codeine are depressants, they slow the central nervous system.

Thebaine Chemical StructureFor medical purposes, thebaine is not utilized as is, but it can be converted to various opioid agonist analgesics including codeine, etorphine, hydrocodone, nalbuphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, many others.

Papaver bracteatum is the botanical name of the plant more commonly known as the Iranian poppy. Some legal commercial growers specifically breed and grow Papaver bracteatum for its relatively high thebaine content, and low morphine/codeine content.

In older literature, Papaver orientale (commonly known as the Oriental poppy) was identified as the poppy cultivated for thebaine, rather than Papaver bracteatum. This has been updated in more recent text. Papaver orientale is closely related to Papaver bracteatum.

Some poppies labelled as Papaver orientale, that produce a high thebaine content, might be Papaver bracteatum, or a hybrid produced by crossing Papaver bracteatum with Papaver orientale, or another poppy from the genus Papaver.

Oripavine is similar in analgesic potency, by weight, when compared to morphine. It is rarely employed as a pain reliever because the amount required for analgesic effect could be dangerous, perhaps fatal in some cases, to vulnerable individuals.

Oripavine derivatives known as Bentley compounds, because they were first synthesized by a team led by K. W. Bentley in the 1960s, are a series of potent µ-opioid agonists.

Oripavine Chemical StructureA µ-opioid agonist is a substance that binds to µ-opioid receptors in the human body and causes the receptors to produce an effect that is comparable to morphine.

Some Bentley compounds are several times more potent than morphine, as an analgesic, while some others are several hundred to several thousand times more potent than morphine.

Notes On Growing Opium Poppies

1 --- If you cut into the poppies to release opium for several yields, you might want to keep them separate. The first time will produce the largest harvest with the most potent opium. Each subsequent time, the harvest will be smaller and the opium will be less potent.

2 --- In realistic terms, measured samples of opium produced by a person with no (or limited) experience cultivating opium poppies might be expected to have a morphine content of about 10%-12% (by weight), if the crop was a good one.

After you raise your first successful crop you can start experimenting with when to plant, pH levels, fertilizer and different strains of Papaver somniferum to see what works best in the growing conditions available.

3 --- In some areas, knowing that the poppies you grow produce opium is illegal. If you are arrested for growing poppies, and you admit that you knew they could produce opium, the law might assume that you were growing them for the opium they produce.

In other areas, once you start to scratch the seed capsules to produce opium, the law will consider you are doing so to manufacture narcotics. Be careful and understand laws that apply to you before growing Papaver somniferum in your community.

Growing Laws

This information regarding laws about growing opium poppies was obtained mainly from wikipedia in November 2017. For more up to date info, check out the wikipedia page. Better still, find out the federal and local laws in your country for yourself, to be sure.

Australia: it is illegal to supply, cultivate, manufacture, produce or possess Papaver somniferum and its derivatives. Lawful cultivation, processing, storage and transportation is only allowed under a strictly controlled licensing regime.

Burma: it is illegal to cultivate Papaver somniferum in certain provinces, while it is legal to grow in other provinces.

Canada: possessing, seeking or obtaining the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), its preparations, derivatives, alkaloids and salts is illegal. An exception is made for poppy seeds.

Central Europe (Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland): growing poppies is legal as a garden plant.

Italy: it is illegal to grow Papaver somniferum for its opium content. However, a limited number of plants can be cultivated as a garden plant for purely ornamental purposes.

New Zealand: it is legal to cultivate Papaver somniferum as a garden plant as long as it is not used to produce banned drugs.

United Arab Emirates: cultivation of Papaver somniferum is illegal. Possession of poppy seeds, even as a source of food, is also illegal.

United Kingdom: a license is required for extracting opium or other medicinal ingredients, but cultivating Papaver somniferum as a garden plant is legal and does not require a license.

United States: growing Papaver somniferum as a garden plant or for poppy seeds as food is both legal and illegal because of conflicting laws. Growing it for opium or other similar purposes is illegal.

Related Books

Hydroponic Heroin: Grow Opium Poppies Without Soil
Out of print but worth getting if you can find it for a good price. Shows how to grow opium poppies with a hydroponic set up. From how to sprout the seeds and care for the plants to harvesting.

A short history of opium is presented with the risks of addiction, pain of quitting, obtaining materials, laws, dosages, overdose antidotes, more. Includes harvesting raw opium from poppies, and how to convert the opium to morphine or heroin.
Hydroponic Heroin

Opium Culture
The title makes it sound strictly like a history book, in addition this is a very good introduction to smoking opium that anyone who has access to opium, but isn't sure how to smoke it, should read.

Thorough instructions on how to prepare the opium for use and how to use an opium pipe for the purpose. Includes addiction, withdrawal and medical issues as well as cultural insights and a social history of opium.
Opium Culture

Opium For The Masses
This is the updated 2009 version of this book. A fairly comprehensive introduction to opium, it takes you through the history, chemistry, use, cultivation, harvesting, storage, and other aspects of opium.

There is enough information about how to grow and harvest opium poppies for this to be used as a grow guide. For someone not interested in growing poppies, the book has good info on how to extract opioids from legally obtainable sources.
Opium For The Masses

Opium Poppy: Botany, Chemistry, And Pharmacology
Explores the origin, cultivation, distribution, chemistry, uses, of Papaver somniferum. Covers plant and seed production, crop improvement, chemical and pharmaceutical by-products.

This is only recommended for those who are professionals and students of pharmacy, botany, chemistry, medicine, pharmacology, or those with a serious interest in the subject.
Opium Poppy

Opium Poppy Garden
A good small book (less than 100 pages). Part one is a novel about the life of an opium grower. The second part of the book shows, using black and white photos and illustrations, how to cultivate and harvest the opium poppy outdoors with traditional tools that are easy to make and use.

Although less than 20 pages are about growing opium, it contains enough info to be used as a single introductory opium grow guide. If you grow poppies this book might be worth the price just for the page about how to harvest the opium capsule so it provides a maximum yield.
Opium Poppy Garden

For those with practical chemistry experience only. Sections include: thebaine extraction and purification, thebaine from dried seed capsules, oxycodone from thebaine, purifying oripavines, morphine extraction from opium.

Alkaloids from poppy straw and/or capsules, morphine from codeine, relatives of the opium poppy, opium products that occur in other plants, cultivation methods, opium harvesting, converting morphine to heroin, more.

The Power Of The Poppy
Part 1 - the history of opium
Part 2 - morphine, codeine, heroin, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl
Part 3 - famous opium users.

Part 4 includes information about cultivation, poppy tea, pills, smoking, injection, addiction, getting clean. 320 pages, 6 x 9 inches, published in 2011.
The Power of the Poppy

Image Credits

Image: Papaver somniferum.
Author: Otto Wilhelm Thome.
Year: 1885.
Source: Flora von Deutschland...

Image: Poppy Seeds.
Author: Odedr.
Year: 2006.
Source: Location.

Image: Opium Poppy Growing.
Author: Rillke.
Year: 2011.
Source: Location.

Image: Opium Poppy Flowering.
Author: Dinkum.
Year: 2013.
Source: Location.

Image: Opium Poppy Capsule.
Author: Hans-Willi Thomas.
Year: 2009.
Source: Location.

Image: Dusty Appearance.
Author: Me.
Year: 2006.
Source: Location.

Image: Opium Poppy Scoring.
Author: CIA.
Year: Unknown.
Source: Location.

Image: Cuts Releasing Opium.
Author: Hemant Shesh.
Year: 2011.
Source: hi.wikipedia.

Image: Harvesting Opium.
Author: USDOJ.
Year: Unknown.
Source: Location.

Image: Fresh Raw Opium.
Author: Erik Fenderson.
Year: 2005.
Source: Location.

Image: Raw Opium.
Author: bentlogic.
Year: 2005.
Source: Location.

Image: Morphine Chemical Structure.
Author: NEUROtiker.
Year: 2007.
Source: Location.

Image: Codeine Chemical Structure.
Author: NEUROtiker.
Year: 2007.
Source: Location.

Image: Thebaine Chemical Structure.
Author: Fvasconcellos.
Year: 2008.
Source: Location.

Image: Oripavine Chemical Structure.
Author: Roland Mattern.
Year: 2009.
Source: Location.

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