I made my first poppy tincture last summer and it was a success!
I harvested the petals last June, made a tincture a couple of weeks later and it’s been sitting on a dusty shelf in my kitchen for a while. I’ve literally only started using it recently since having a bout of insomnia. Apart from one particularly bad night, it’s worked every time. Now that poppy season is upon us, I thought I’d blog about it.
I’ve always been a big sleeper, as humans we all differ. I need a minimum of 8 hours and to feel normal I need around 9 – 10 hours a night. To feel on top of the world I need 11. I know, mad right? But it’s not a total waste of life, because I’m a lucid dreamer. But that’s another blog post.
However, being a Mum of a four year old, I only receive 9 hours sleep perhaps once a week or fortnight if I’m lucky. My average is around seven. As a result, I have had bouts of insomnia in anticipation of limited sleep, specifically difficulty getting off to sleep. Hence my exploration of poppy tincture!
Not only is it good for aiding sleep, it’s also…
Good for: Nervous digestion, irritable bowel, headaches, over-excitability, anxiety and nervousness.
Available: Flowers and seeds are used, harvested in summer.
Habitat: Arable land and other disturbed ground.
To make poppy tincture you need the common red poppy (papaver rheas) which is pictured above, and not to be confused with the opium poppy, pictured below, which has a much thicker stem, is taller and generally grander in appearance, and has grey-green leaves. The opium poppy flowers are usually lilac with darker centres, although we also have red opium poppies growing in our garden. So avoid this variety, it should be obvious but if in doubt look into it thoroughly. The opium poppy has a dangerous reputation because of its hallucinogenic and potentially harmful effects.
Apart from the red poppies pictured in the left-hand pic, all the other poppies in the above ’tiles’ are opium poppies: the lilac ones you see dotted around in the left pic, and also the red poppies top-right and bottom-left pics (above). Their stems are thicker, it feels as though you could snap them.
Just look out for the common red poppy, which is the one that grows in abundance in wastelands, fields and gardens. It’s stem is very thin and fuzzy, with paper thin silk petals. Though just be mindful that the opium poppies can grow next to the common red ones, as shown in the left had pic above.
It’s important with herbalism and making tinctures that you are certain that you’ve selected the correct plant. Always check with a herbalist if unsure. There are lots of identification books out there. And if you have any concerns or other health conditions it’s always best to seek advice from your GP first.
How to Prepare Poppy Tincture
It’s really easy to make! Simply fill a jar with fresh red poppy petals, then top it up with vodka. Shake well and add more vodka if needed to fill the jar. Store in a cool dark place like a cupboard for two weeks. Strain and bottle.
This tincture is very warming and is better for treating pain than poppy glycerite because its more rapidly absorbed by the body. It will keep for a couple of years.
Dosage: Start with half a teaspoon at bedtime and monitor effects before considering increasing to one teaspoon.
You can also make a glycerite with poppy petals, which is better for children, just buy a food grade glycerite and add 60% glycerite to 40% water. Stir well and place on a windowsill or somewhere sunny. Shake or stir the contents every day. Once the petals have faded white you can remove them and add fresh ones until you have a rich deep colour. It will keep for a year.
In addition to the other benefits already mentioned, the glycerite is also good for irritable coughs.
Disclaimer: It’s important with herbalism and making tinctures that you are certain that you’ve selected the correct plant. Always check with a herbalist if unsure. There are lots of identification books out there. And if you have any concerns or other health conditions it’s always best to seek advice from your GP first.