Food

Unwashed Poppy Seeds Linked With Morphine Overdose: How to Reap the Health Benefits of Consuming Poppy Seeds Safely

(WellnessNova.com) - Poppy seeds are filled with holistic nutrients – but they also have some morphine content. Recent news discusses the case of the unfortunate death of a college student resulting from a morphine overdose from consuming unwashed poppy seeds. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy poppy seeds’ health benefits safely.

In Rogers, Arkansas, the Hacala family seeks justice for their son who died two years ago of a morphine overdose caused by ingesting unwashed poppy seeds. Steven Hacala, a University of Arkansas student at the time, was found by his roommate at their apartment unresponsive. The only immediate clues surrounding his death were a bottle and a bag filled with poppy seeds.

But the autopsy toxicology revealed that he died primarily from an overdose of morphine from drinking poppy seed tea. Further investigation revealed that the poppy seeds used to brew the tea were unwashed and ordered directly from the web.

The fact that the poppy seeds were sold unwashed turns out to be a serious matter with potentially fatal implications. Forensic science professor, Madeleine Swortwood, ran a study where dozens of poppy seeds were purchased from readily available online retailers. Shockingly, after running tests on the products, she and her research team concluded that fatal doses of morphine, codeine, and thebaine could become bioavailable if the products were brewed into a tea at home following simple online recipes.

Despite the obvious potential for widespread opioid abuse, the second dangerous issue the Hacalas are trying to get addressed is that poppy seed online retailers, like Amazon and Walmart, don’t always indicate whether the poppy seeds they’re selling are unwashed or already processed. This means that the concentration of morphine in any quantity of unlabeled poppy seeds being sold is unknown to the consumer at the time of purchase.

Senator Tom Cotton himself raised the issue in the Senate floor, stating that Sam Houston State University, funded by the Hacalas themselves, released their findings that a five-pound bag of the same poppy seed product that Steven Hacala had purchased contains about 3000 percent the humanly fatal dose of morphine.

The Hacalas are trying to spread awareness of the dangers of buying poppy seeds because they believe the majority of Americans don’t realize their inherent danger for bringing about a morphine overdose should they be used to brew poppy seed tea. They even caution those wanting to intentionally ingest the morphine by brewing opium tea to take care because of the unreliable doses present in the variety of available products.

The good news is that Senator Cotton was able to get Amazon and Walmart to agree to cease selling poppy seed products that are labeled as unwashed. But because so many Amazon and Walmart poppy seed products simply don’t indicate whether they’re processed or washed, there’s no telling how many unwashed poppy seeds are still available for sale online.

The Hacalas and Senator Cotton are trying to lobby for the enactment of regulations that force sellers and marketplaces to indicate whether their poppy seeds are unwashed or not. If a poppy seed product is unwashed, they also want a required warning label stating their health risks. But what they’re really shooting for is an outright ban on commercially available unwashed poppy seed products in order to prevent their inherent morphine overdose danger.

But Poppy Seeds Are Great for Your Whole Body

Despite their inherent morphine overdose danger, poppy seeds are holistically healthy. A typical serving contains 2 to 3 percent of your daily required zinc, which all of your organ systems, especially your immune system, need in varying degrees. That same serving also contains 4 percent of your daily required calcium and iron, which your body needs to make healthy blood cells and bones. These minerals are also vital for your nervous system’s ability to send messages back and forth. Poppy seeds are also rich in B vitamins, which are also important to your whole body.

Researchers found that poppy seeds have more antioxidants than flax seeds. They also have 30 percent more omega-3 fatty acids. Both omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants have been shown to help prevent cancer and neurodegenerative disorders while also enriching the body holistically.

Researchers also found that eating poppy seeds everyday has been linked with lowering blood pressure.

Even if you’re not into improving your health, at the very least – using poppy seeds also adds a yummy crunch and delectable color to your baked meals!

How to Safely Consume Unwashed Poppy Seeds

But you’re thinking, do I really want to risk a potentially fatal morphine overdose just to reap these holistic health benefits? Good news – you don’t have to! Researchers found that a hot water wash removes 70 percent of the morphine content in poppy seeds. That means that all you have to do is thoroughly rinse your poppy seeds with at least 140-degree (Fahrenheit) water and you’ll remove most of its morphine content.

But on the off chance that you still end up with too much morphine in your poppy seeds, you should be aware of the common morphine overdose symptoms, like not feeling any pain, vomiting, having difficulty breathing, having dim feelings in your head, and feeling a sort of hangover. In more serious stages of morphine overdose, you may lose consciousness. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms after consuming poppy seeds.

Sources:

healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-poppy-seeds-5632.html

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4682526/

www.marshall.edu/forensics/files/Thorson-Poppy-Seed-Defense.pdf

www.acsh.org/news/2017/10/10/home-brewed-death-tea-11943

www.researchgate.net/publication/225157201_Guidelines_for_reduction_of_morphine_in_poppy_seed_intended_for_food_purposes

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