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Ancient Egyptian plants: Poppies
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The poppy

Possibly a poppy seed pod Faience pendant, possibly a poppy seed pod [1]

    Egyptians were very fond of flowers and frequently used them as offerings. They even introduced them from abroad, as appears to have been the case with the poppy plants. The red corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas L., attested since the fourth dynasty [2] was used for ornamental purposes. It may also have been used in medicine, having slightly narcotic properties.[3]
    The pink opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, is also thought to have been grown in Egypt since the second millennium BCE, others prefer the late Ptolemaic Period when it is reported to have been grown in the Thebaid.[5] It seems that the ancient Egyptians knew how to extract morphine. In a little stone vessel, found in the tomb of Kha at Deir el Medina, there was some unguent which contained morphine. It had not lost its potency, inducing sleep in a frog and a mouse, and when a larger amount was injected under the skin of another frog, it killed it.[4]
    The Egyptian term Spn,[7] which appears in a recipe for beer and in medical writings is thought by some to have been used for P. somniferum seeds,[4] others think it may have referred to P. rhoeas, as the opium poppy was apparently introduced into Egypt during the New Kingdom only,[6] or even as late as the Ptolemaic Period.[5] The Spn in the Ebers Papyrus appears to have had a strongly soothing effect–unless one attributes this to the fly dung with which the Spn was mixed:
A remedy for too much crying in a child: Spn-seeds; fly dung from the wall; is made to a paste, [mixed with water (?)]; strained and drunk for four days. The crying will cease immediately.
E.782 [4]

[1] 18th dynasty, Amarna, Petrie Museum web site: UC24532
[2] Bard & Shubert 1999, p.622
[3] Estes 1993, p.153
[4] Manniche pp.131f
[5] P. G. Kritikos, S. P. Papadaki, The history of the poppy and of opium and their expansion in antiquity in the eastern Mediterranean area, 2001
[6] O'Dowd 2001, p.56
[7] Wb 4, 444.17
Bard & Shubert 1999
David Counsell, "Intoxicants in ancient Egypt? opium, nymphaea, coca, tobacco" in Ann Rosalie David (ed.), Egyptian mummies and modern science, Cambridge University Press, 2008 pp.195ff.
J. Worth Estes, The medical skills of ancient Egypt, Science History Publications, 1993
Saber Gabra, "Papaver Species and Opium through the Ages", in BIE 37 (1956) pp.39-56
Saber Gabra, "Drugs of Ancient Egypt", in Cahiers d'Histoire égyptienne (July 1956), pp.241-248
Manniche 1989
Michael J. O'Dowd, The history of medications for women: materia medica woman, Informa Health Care, 2001

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