Playing It Safe With Poppy Seeds: How To Avoid Possible Problems And Enjoy Their Health Benefits

Poppy seeds are sprinkled on rolls, breads and pastries to give them a sweet, nutty flavor. They are packed with nutrients, making them a common ingredient in health foods. But, some worry about the narcotic effects of the seeds, as they are derived from the same poppy plant that produces opium and is used pharmaceutically to produce morphine. While they do not contain enough opiate compounds to cause addiction, they can produce a false positive on drug tests. If you are concerned about consuming poppy seeds, there are some things you should know.

Poppy Seeds Pose a Danger to Babies

Poppy seeds were prized by the Ancient Greeks for relieving insomnia and inducing restful sleep. The use of poppy seeds in a pacifier to calm fussy babies was a common European practice. According to Germany's Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR), boiling poppy seeds in milk and feeding it to a baby is a home remedy to get the baby to sleep through the night. However, it warns that this practice is dangerous to babies, as the amount of opiates in poppy seeds varies depending on where the poppy seeds were grown. There is at least one documented case where a young mother fed her baby poppy seed milk that resulted in respiratory arrest. The baby was given an antidote for opiate poisoning and survived. Urine tests confirmed that the baby had high levels of morphine and codeine in its system.

Moderate Use of Poppy Seeds is Safe

When eaten in moderation, poppy seeds pose no risk to adults, but moderation is the key. According to, one teaspoon of poppy seeds per 7 pounds of body weight is considered safe for the average person. That means a person weighing 168 pounds can safely consume 24 teaspoons of poppy seeds a day. Twenty teaspoons equals ½ cup of poppy seeds. Use caution when giving young children foods that contain poppy seeds, as their bodies may be more sensitive to the trace amounts of opiates in the poppy seeds. Remember, if your child weighs 28 pounds, more than 4 teaspoons of poppy seeds may put him or her at risk of an overdose.

Playing It Safe: Reducing the Amount of Opiates in Poppy Seeds

If you are making poppy-seed-filled cookies or other pastries that contain large amounts of poppy seeds, you may want to consider leaching some of the potential opiates from the seeds before consuming them.  While cooking the seeds removes approximately half of the opiates in the seeds, you can reduce them even more by soaking the seeds in water for five minutes. Strain and discard the water, and use the poppy seeds as directed in your recipes.

Avoiding Issues with Drug Tests

Even though the poppy seeds on your bagel or muffin don't contain enough opiates to cause you any concern, they can cause a false positive in a drug test. The trace amounts of opiates can show up in a drug test for a day or two after you consume the poppy seeds. If you anticipate a drug test, do not eat poppy seeds for two days prior to the test. If you are subject to a random drug test, tell the tester that you have eaten foods containing poppy seeds before the test.

Nutritional Value of Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are packed with minerals that your body needs to function at its best. They are a good source of mono-unsaturated fatty acid in the form of oleic acid. Oleic acid in known for lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol. They also contain high amounts of B-complex vitamins needed for efficient metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, and they contain the minerals iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, copper, zinc and magnesium. Poppy seeds also provide a good source of dietary fiber.

Sprinkling homemade breads and pastries with poppy seeds is an excellent way to add flavor and valuable nutrients to your diet. Eating them in moderation and using care when giving children foods with poppy seeds is the key to avoiding any possible issues with the trace amounts of opiates contained in the seeds. If you are unable to find poppy seeds in your local grocery stores, it is possible to buy poppy seeds online.