of the valley
The poppy is the
oldest intoxicating plant in the human history. The plant is an annual,
about 1.5 m high. It has white, pink or violet blossoms, and a specific
unpleasant smell. Its every part, except for the seeds, contains a white
milky resinous liquid, which is, in fact, the raw opium. It is gathered
from the plant early in the mourning, kneaded into small flat loaves and
land of the plant is supposed to be Asia but pictures of poppy have been
found on the islands of Crete, dating back to the ancient Greek culture.
It is also on the list of medicinal plants in an Egyptian papyrus from
always went to battle intoxicated and nothing could stop them. The plant
was also popular in India, Taiwan and later in China, where more than 120
million people needed opium in 1878. The desire for tranquility and sweet
dreams over and over again led to numerous poisonings. At first, sleepiness
appeared, followed by weakness, contracted eye pupils, lower body temperature,
and faint breathing. If the dose is high, all this will result in coma.
This lasted until 1805 when
a German pharmacist extracted an alkaloid and named it after the Greek
god of sleep Morphaeus. It was the first alkaloid which possesses narcotic
properties. Morphine is one of the strongest painkillers ever known–a soporific
tranquilizer. One who has taken morphine forgets all about hunger, fatigue,
grief, and fear. The poison has turned to a medicine but a medicine can
also turn to poison. Morphine saves patients from pain but not from the
disease, so they need more and more morphine. The symptoms of poisoning
are nausea, vomiting and depression. Then come dizziness, dry mouth, breathing
disruptions and decreased blood pressure, usually with an unfortunate end.
Anyway, millions of people in the whole world still find relief from the
pain in this poisonous cure, morphine.
Later, scientists found more
than 20 other alkaloids in the opium. The most important ones are codeine
and papaverinum. Codeine is a common ingredient of medicines against cough,
whereas papaverinum is a popular painkiller of stomachache; it also controls
blood vessel spasms.
Morphine played another big,
yet evil, part in human history–it is the “father” of heroine (the name
is a derivative of hero), the implacable addictive poison of our century
created by the German pharmacist H. Dreser working for Bayer. A notoriously
bad invention that has lead to many addictions and many deaths!