Opium(Ahiphena) Detailed Information

Poppy is multipurpose plant. They bear beautiful bright colour flowers. In India, the dried seeds of poppy plant are used in preparation of Thandai, Halwa, as thickening agent in gravies and other dishes. These seeds are known as Posta dana or Khuskhus in common language. Posta dana are nutritive, demulcent, emollient, spasmolytic and have no narcotic properties due to absence of any alkaloid.

The oil extracted from the seeds is also free from any narcotic effect and used to treat dysentery and scalds.

poppy plant

“Poppy2004” by John Beniston (Palmiped). Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Opium, a product obtained from the immature capsules of plant is used for therapeutic uses. It contains alkaloid morphine with narcotine, codeine, papaverine and thebaine. Ripe Poppy capsules contain about 0.18–0.28% of morphine. Morphine is powerful addictive narcotic with strong pain relieving action. It also has significant effects on the central nervous system.

Legal cultivation of poppy plant are done in many countries for Pharmaceutical use. The chemical derived from opium is used in Morphine, Codeine, Oxycodone, Ethylmorphine etc. These all are allopathic drugs that are used to treat variety of medical condition. In surgery and dentistry, morphine is used as anaesthetic and pain killer.

General Information

The botanical name of Ahifena is Papaver somniferum Linn. and it belongs to the family Papaveraceae. ‘Papaver’ is poppy in Latin and ‘Somniferum’ is derived from Latin word ‘somnus’ (sleep) and ‘ferre’ (bring). So literal meaning of plant is sleep-inducing.

Vernacular names

AYURVEDIC: Ahiphen, Aaphuka UNANI: Afyum, Tukhm-e-khashkhaash (seed) SIDDHA: Kasakasa (seeds) SANSKRIT: Ahifen BENGALI: Pasto HINDI: Afeem MARATHI: Aphu, Khuskhus MALAYALAM: Afium, Kashakhasa TELUGU: Abhini, Gasalu, Kasakasa;ENGLISH: Opium, Poppy

Plant Description

Poppy plant is an erect, green herb that reaches up to 60-120 cm in height. Its leaves are many, amplexicaule, lobed, dentate or serrate, linear-oblong or ovate-oblong.

The flowers are large and are differently coloured (White, pink, bright red).

There are about hundred different poppy plant species available. Flower ovary is globose. Capsules, the fruits are flat-topped, globose or sub-globose, large and glabrous. Seeds are grey-brown or white. Flowering is during the winter and fruiting in summer season.

Use in Ayurveda

In Ayurveda, opium is known as Ahiphena. Ahiphena or opium is used for preparation of medicine only after proper purification. This is done by rubbing or processing opium with fresh ginger juice 21 times (Bhavprakash Nighantu). Two important Ayurvedic medicines containing opium extract are Ahiphenasava and Karpura Rasa.

  1. Opium is used as medicine due to its narcotic, sedative, hypnotic, analgesic, sudorific, anodyne, antispasmodic properties.
  2. Few traditional and Ayurvedic medicinal uses of opium are given below.
  3. In head ache, the paste of opium (1g) and clove is applied on forehead. This cures headaches due to excess gas and cough.
  4. In scalp boils and dandruff, the paste of opium seeds is applied in hairs.
  5. In hoarseness of voice, opium doda (the flower head) is boiled with carom seeds and this water is used for gargling.
  6. In abdominal pain the paste of opium is applied on abdominal region.
  7. In piles, the paste of opium and Dhatura leaves is applied externally.
  8. In itching, opium is mixed with Sesame oil and applied topically.
  9. Crushed poppy heads are made into poultice and applied for crippling pain in terminal diseases.

The use of Ahiphena or opium for internal administration is done in very low doses. Ayurveda mentions Ahiphena or opium as substance which when used for long duration cause severe effect on body. It kills appetite and dries mouth and respiratory organs. It causes constipation, vomiting, digestive impairment, decreased flow of blood, painful urination, depression, headaches, decreased or nil mental alertness and coma like condition etc.

What is opium and its extraction

Opium is obtained from the immature fruits/ capsules or doda of poppy plants. The extraction of opium from the doda is very tiring, difficult and laborious task. The process has not changed for hundreds of years.

The process is to select appropriate flower capsule by visiting and attending several flowers. The ready doda/capsule is then lacerated vertically using knife. This causes release of white milky latex. This latex is allowed to dry and scrapped. The process is repeated on innumerable other flower pods. This dried milky latex is opium. One plant gives approximately 80 mg of opium.

Opium is often converted into heroin. Heroin is a narcotic substance that has highly harmful short and long term effects on mind and body.

It is illegal to possess opium in many countries including US. Recently a man was arrested for carrying posta dana or khas-khas. Khas-khas are the seeds of poppy plant. In India, these seeds are used as spice. The person was travelling UK via Dubai. He was unaware of the fact that in UAE and gulf countries carrying Khas Khas is a serious offense that can draw minimum 20 years of imprisonment or even worse.


  1. Opium overdoses can cause cold skin, fast weak pulse, and fluid in the lungs, pupil constriction, and possible death from circulatory and respiratory failure.
  2. Opium addicts can reportedly tolerate 2000 mg over 4 hours. But a dose of 300 mg can kill a person.
  3. Use of Opium can kill.
  4. Opium is narcotic that exerts severe effect on body and mind.
  5. It is illegal to possess opium.
  6. Morphine containing medicine have habit forming effect and contraindicated in many clinical condition. Its use is not recommended during pregnancy or labour;category: C.

Note: The above given detail is for information only.

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