Can poppy seeds get you high?


Thanks to Mythbusters, we know that eating a couple poppy seed-laced bagels really can make you look like a heroin fiend, at least as far as a standard drug test is concerned. That makes sense. Heroin is derived from morphine, which is itself derived from poppies. So there's a chemical family tree that's fairly easy to follow.

At the I Can Has Science blog, however, they've taken the standard question—"Will poppy seed bagels make me look like a stoner?"—and turned it around. "Can poppy seeds get me stoned?" (From a purely theoretical, chemistry thought-experiment perspective, of course.) The question turns out to be more valid than you might suspect. We're not talking about dried banana peels, here.

Morphine itself can be administered (by licensed professionals) as a prescription painkiller. Though it's more commonly given intravenously, it is also available orally as a tablet. A standard oral dose consists of about 10 to 30 mg of morphine. Is it possible to get a full dose of morphine from eating poppy seeds?

One report in the Journal of Forensic Sciences found that the morphine content of poppy seeds varies widely with poppy seed source. Spanish poppy seeds seem to have the most morphine - about 251 micrograms of morphine per gram of seeds. This translates to about 0.025% morphine by weight. Thus, to get a medically relevant dose of morphine (10 mg) from Spanish poppy seeds you would have to consume ... About 40 grams of poppy seeds!

It seems like a lot, but how hard would that actually be? A standard baking conversion for dry ingredients is about 8 grams per tablespoon, and one poppy seed bagel probably has, what - a teaspoon or two? By that math, you'd probably have to eat around a dozen poppy seed bagels all at once. However, this delicious looking cake recipe calls for an entire cup of poppy seeds, or approximately equal to 128 grams! Granted, the recipe yields 10 to 12 servings, but one would only have to eat 3 or 4 slices of this Bundt cake to get up to a full prescription dose of morphine! (If the most potent poppy seeds were used.)

Image: Some rights reserved by kazamatsuri


  1. You would also have to extract ALL the morphine out of the poppy seeds. Poppy seeds are probably like a lot of other seeds, designed to pass through a digestive tract unharmed so they can be deposited with fertilizer elsewhere in the environment.

    You might need to grind them very fine before you eat them.

  2. Ah, that explains why I felt an overwhelming compulsion to buy lemon-poppy cupcakes at the farmer’s market this weekend. Also yummy, incidentally.

  3. Ukrainian poppy seed buns available around Brighton Beach in Brooklyn would be the way to go here, guaranteed to make you feel immediate bliss, but no real catatonia, sad to say.

  4. Are poppy seeds digested? That is, do our bodies extract morphine from the uncracked seeds? For any recipe testers, might I suggest first using a mortar & pestle to break the seeds?

    There you go. Now set your oven to 350F and don’t forget to dust your pan with a known white powder.

  5. As a bored kid I ate a jar of poppy seeds. I did feel a little tipsy during the hour that I spent throwing up.

  6. That might explain why all the Germans from Russia around here love their poppy seed filled cookies. They don’t bother sprinkling, they just put a big old glop right in the middle. This recipe should make about six doses, which should be enough to get you life in prison in Texas.

  7. Actually, tea made from poppy seeds is a definite high that people are using. Sometimes using a pound of seeds. Can be dangerous, obviously.

    1. Actually, tea made from poppy seeds is a definite high that people are using. Sometimes using a pound of seeds. Can be dangerous, obviously.

      Some friends of mine gave it a go a few years back…

      I got quite stoned off a single cup, but it tasted so awful I couldn’t bear to drink another.

      Mind you, I’m not that fond of the morph/smack high anyway.

  8. Poppy seeds are popular in Hungary (where they’re grown) and every Hungarian knows that eating too much poppy seed pastry will at least make a child go to sleep. You have to really cram it in to get high, though.

    1. Having eaten more than my share of mohnkuchen over the years, as well as cake that is much more highly laden with poppy seeds, I can definitively say that they do nothing to get you high. The biggest effect they have on my brain is the great taste, the sugar, and the knowledge that my mom is an awesome baker.

  9. I don’t understand the point of converting grams of poppy seeds back into bagels, if the point is to get you high. You can buy poppy seeds by the ounce at my local bulk food store.

    I do question, though, using the “standard” dry-foods weight calculation. Each poppy seed is much, much bigger than a grain of finely-milled flour, and so there is going to be many times more space between them. Further, poppy seeds are mostly hollow, again lightening them.

    I would venture that a tablespoon of poppy seeds would probably be at least four times lighter than a tablespoon of flour, meaning that you’d need to consume about 20 tablespoons of seeds, not 5. This might be significantly harder…..

    I think I have some poppy seeds at home. I can check this out.

  10. So someone try this and tell us what happens. Or several people and have controls so people don’t know if they are eating poppy seed cake or poppy seedless cake.

  11. I like Mohnkuchen ^^

    You can get high on chocolate, too, but you would need to eat about 10kg. Not very practical.

  12. I’ve gotten high off them before, it’s alright, just take ~200g of them, but them in a coffee grinder, then add them to water and simmer for a while. Strain the result, add some sugar and milk, drink.

    It’s just the codeine though, so not much fun. Morphine does not work well when taken orally. Maybe one could try it rectally to bypass the liver?

    It’s easier and cheaper to just buy codeine pills OTC for me here in Canada.

  13. A former place of employment of mine housed a rehab program which featured regular drug testing of clients among other services. There had been a constant back and forth debate between staff and clients about the rumor that eating poppy seed muffins could explain a positive drug test. I thought, “why wonder?” So I ate an entire box of poppy seed crackers (for science!) and then gave myself a piss test an hour later (also for science). Guess who tested positive for opiates?

  14. As for the poppy seeds making one test positive for heroin, they don’t really. The common cheap drug tests actually look for morphine, as heroin is at least partially metabolized to it. In checking for morphine, they can catch morphine, heroin, codeine, and raw opium users. These standard “opiate” tests will not catch other opiates like oxycodone or methadone, though due to the popularity of oxycontin, some testers are adding a separate test for oxycodone to the regular test panel.

  15. Not to concern troll this thread, but in a world where apparently large number of teenagers somehow don’t know who Osama bin Laden was…

    .. someone here should probably belabor the obvious & point out that opiates are dangerously addictive. Though I doubt that poppy seeds pose much of a danger.

    I can’t wait for the inevitable TV report on Bagels: the Gateway Drug.

    1. Oh, don’t worry. Teenagers are usually well aware of what opiates are. The War on Terror not so much, since they don’t see the point of all this “privacy” stuff. :)

  16. I can’t remember what it’s called, but I’ve made poppy seed bread where you spread a mixture of honey and ground poppy seeds (no worrying about digesting the seeds) onto dough and roll it up into a loaf. Super yummy and quite relaxing.

  17. Found this some time back…

    The email responses might give give pause to potential experimenters…

    Never tried to make tea myself, but I’ve been obsessed with poppy seed cake since i was a child, still make it fairly often :)

    Getting a ‘buzz’ off poppy seeds is nothing new, but I sincerely hope it remains on the DL, I’d hate to see popular widespread abuse lead to it being removed from store shelves or something equally drastic. You know it could happen here!

  18. in high school we thought we’d try getting high from nutmeg – found that 3 tablespoons would be an effective dose- being young, we ate it straight with Sprite as a chaser. those 3 tablespoons of sand did indeed produce a lethargic buzz hours later! but i wouldn’t recommend the direct ingestion method…

  19. I remember a local junkie who, with typical junkie ingenuity, decided to put this theory to the test. He started buying dried poppies in bulk from a decor supplies firm that sold them to create bouquets and floral arrangements. He would then boil the poppies into a strong tea and proceed to get high off his gourd for pennies for quite a long time.

    Don’t remember what happened to him, they just come and go…

    1. I don’t know about high, but certainly unconscious and close to death. Saw a druggie once after the surgical registrar who was moonlighting in the ER gave him a shot of naloxone… and he promptly vomited about three kilos of poppy seeds across the floor. Nasty all round.

      1. I think Nedril meant poppy pods, as they are ornamental. Poppy pod tea will, in fact, get you where you’re going. And if that trip takes you to the ferryman, Naloxone is your best, and probably only, friend.

        Instead of gorging on poppy seeds, you could just mosey on down to your local glass smoking vessel aficionado and buy some legal-in-all-states ground up plant matter. Like Kratom -Mitragyna speciosa-. It’s most active chemical is 7-hydroxymitragynine, a mu-opioid agonist.

  20. Interesting that they didn’t mention that most of the opium is contained in the seed pods and not the seeds themselves. Some sources argue that the only reason the seeds have any opium is because they were once in contact with the pods and some of it rubbed off.

    Extracting opium from seeds is very low-yield. However some people have been known to obtain the dried seed pods (often available from flower shops as ornamentals), which then can be ground up and made into tea. Still no where as near as strong as heroin or smoking opium, but much higher yield than anything you will get from a bagel.

  21. Pod tea is a semi common thing. Although expensive and increasingly harder to obtain. The poppy pods have a much higher concentration than the seeds but if you look up poppy tea (or better “Pod Tea”) you’ll find a small following including people experiencing addiction and withdrawal.

  22. If the point is to get high off the poppy seeds, why would you go through such a convoluted process of baking a cake to get there? Surely you’d also get the best results by breaking the seeds in a mortar and pestle first.

    It’d be an interesting experiment, but I think a more practical method is in order – like a banana poppy seed milkshake for example, or a poppy seed and honey yoghurt. Those would go down well and be digested quickly, with no need for getting your cake tin out. If you’re hardcore, you could put the crushed seeds into a vodka mix and leave it for a couple of days before drinking.

    I’d be interested in someone trying one of these and blogging the results (not me!) :)

  23. You can get plenty high from concoctions made from opium poppy seedpods, “which happen to be one of the more popular types of dried flowers sold in florist and crafts shops,” according to the now classic April 1997 Harper’s Magazine article “Opium, made easy: One gardener’s encounter with the war on drugs,” by Michael Pollan. Here is the link to the Harper’s article: It is is paywalled, but the article is widely available elsewhere online.

    The author was a contemporary of Jim Hogshire, whose Opium for the Masses, published three years earlier, according to Pollan, lead to a DEA “quiet crackdown” on dried-flower vendors.

  24. In 77′ and 78′ my friends and I would buy dozens of poppyseed seed packets from the local True-Value Hardware and get totally wasted.

    Will the poppyseed share its fate with Sassafras?

  25. I did a little reading about this once. The poppy seeds themselves are not what contain the morphine, it’s the resin that may or may not be on the outside of the seeds. See, the seeds are inside the poppy pods, along with the resin. If there is morphine on the seeds depends on whether or not they’ve been washed before preparation.

  26. Playing with the stuff can be dangerous as well because you never know what the concentration of resin on the seeds is. People have died from making poppy seed tea. You can use the same amount of seeds every time but one time you get a load of seeds that has an extra blast of morphine.

  27. I’d imagine you would want to do some kind of extraction rather than eat straight seeds. It’s probably not very hard to do, just cost prohibitive. I’ve read of people doing it with seedpods, simple boil down method that takes about a day. I’ve read of at least one person who died from an opiate overdose this way. I’d imagine a solvent would be more efficient and produce a more easily measured product. I have no idea why anyone would bother, but it’s science!

    On the topic of banana peels: They might be psychoactive in some manner, they are full of the neurotransmitter dopamine. If I remember correctly, a bruised and/or over-ripe banana peel has one of the densest naturally occurring concentrations of dopamine. Tweak a dopamine molecule around a bit and you wind up with all sorts of mindbending chemicals. It’s no doubt prohibitively expensive, but in theory you could use banana peels as a precursor to producing something with real recreational potential.

    On the larger topic of drugs being everywhere: DMT! You’ve already got some in your brain. It’s in a huge variety of plants. There is no escaping DMT.

  28. My friend made tea out of poppy plants he got from a florist. I didn’t think it could possibly work but I tried some anyway.

    It knocked me on my ass for 8 hours. I had just woken up so I couldn’t go to sleep but I just was motionless in my bed for 8 hours. It was insane.

  29. Just a note that the director of some govt
    agency (dea, national inst of mental health, forget; around Shulgin’s time) actually went out and bought a crapload
    of bananas to try out the silly rumor.

    There was no reported effects but his family ate a lot of banana bread that week.

    “Oxygen gets you high” –Tyler
    “Only if you link it with two nitrogens” –me

  30. @Glippiglop

    “If the point is to get high off the poppy seeds, why would you go through such a convoluted process of baking a cake to get there?”

    I think it is a viable test to see if poppyseeds in the form factor most of us encounter them (cakes and cookies) will make us high.

  31. Czech cuisine uses poppy seed generously. My grandma was an immigrant to Uruguay, and in the family it was told how she once was required to give explanations to the police about the poppies she was letting go to seed… That memory has prevented us from doing some traditional family dishes when living in countries where the locals would likely find fault in us harvesting our own poppy seed, otherwise unavailable in stores.

    BTW, I always found it so weird how so-called drug prevention programs videos for school here in the US go into so much graphic detail on how to milk poppies, I’ve often wondered what kids really get as a take from watching them.

    Very weak tea of poppy seed husks was used many years ago to sedate rambunctious kids.

  32. Sure you can, boil one pound of poppy seeds in a few cups of lemon juice and then drink. You can buy bulk poppy seeds at better supermarkets and health food stores.

    One pound of seeds is about equivalent to one or two oxy 80’s. For $3-4 dollars. It’s quite a deal.

    I only know this because I had a roommate that made this concoction once or twice a day every day for the year I lived with him.

    Yech, the smell of boiling lemonade.

  33. Morphine has a powerful constipating effect— indeed, this is a major problem in hospitals. Poppy seeds, while delicious, have this effect on me as well. I’d prefer poopy seeds.

  34. What I find skeptical is the notion that you can get high on 10 milligrams of morphine. Taken orally, morphine is far less potent than the common painkillers, percocet and vicodine. The body doesn’t absorb morphine efficiently, which is why morphine comes in pill form of 100 – 200 mg. So take whatever figure they came up with here (40g of poppy seed) and multiply it by 10 for an actual opiate high (400g of poppy seed). Good luck digesting that!

  35. Yes, you can — but it’s problematic.

    As others point out, the latex is in the pods, so the morphine you’re getting is actually on the surface of the seeds, and is quite variable, depending upon how well the seeds have been washed/cleaned. So it’s hard to titrate one’s dose, and there has been at least one anecdotal report of death by overdose.

    The preferred way of doing this, BTW, is by making a tea of the seeds, not by eating the whole seeds. Of course, most people who want to get high just go to the pods directly and skip the seeds.

    Obligatory cautionary note: A lot of people have got into very bad relationships with poppy pods, under the mistaken belief that “it’s a plant, it’s relatively harmless.” Yes, in general plants are more forgiving than purified compounds, but that doesn’t make it safe. In one forum devoted to the pleasures of poppies, a survey of their users said that kicking poppy-pod tea is harder than kicking H.

  36. Jeez. I only pay $20 for 240 Vicodin. How fat and poor would I be if I tried to get the same effect by eating poppy seed cake?

  37. Overall bioavailability is the question that has to be answered. In seed form there is little bioavailable opium. Even in ground form all the opium is not bioavailable. I suspect you would have to use ground seeds at some where close to double the weight listed above. Next, of course, is the difference in how quickly the active by-product (morphine from raw opium)is available and the variance in that release. opium is more equivalent to a time release of morphine. That matters because “the high” associated with opiates is made more or less intense depending on how quickly it is available to the opiate receptors. That is the reason that addicts like their drugs injected, smoked and snorted, rapid, high serum levels. Of course, as has been pointed out, the seed isn’t the source of most of the opium, it’s the pod. The resin is harvested from the pod by slashing the pod after flowering and collecting the residue that is exuded. Ultimately eating enough poppy seeds to get high is likely more likely to get you constipated and nauseated, which of course would be aggravated by the opiates themselves. Not pleasant I suspect.

    An interesting aside, In the USA, it is illegal to sell seeds for the most potent poppies, The poppies grown in the USA have low opiate concentrations, however, in Canada, poppy seeds are available to grow opium poppies (the seed catalogs always have a notice on those seeds saying they are not available to USA customers).

    Dr. G

    1. An interesting aside, In the USA, it is illegal to sell seeds for the most potent poppies

      I’d like to see a reference to that, Dr. G., because I don’t think that’s true. There are plenty of places (ethnobotanical vendors, etc.) who see P. somniferum seeds, and there’s no way that the genetics could be regulated to that extent.

      Now, some spice vendors have worked at producing strains that are lower in opium, but that’s a different thing entirely.

  38. Maybe that’s why we don’t use poppy seeds in Spain. The first time I had a poppy bagel was when I went to Germany and didn’t even know what those little black thins on my bread were…

  39. If the Feds would just legalize weed, we wouldn’t have this epidemic of kids getting fat and diabetic trying to get high off lemon poppy cake.

  40. 3 weeks of 4 slices of poppy seed cake per day and you’re strung out…not to mention gaining weight at a good clip.

  41. Just to clarify. The Poppy tea I have seen done was made from dried poppies used as ornaments. They come with stalks but they are basically seedpods. And tea done this way had indeed a strong narcotic effect.Incidentally this was in Spain, but I do not know if the poppies were locally collected or even if the reference to “Spanish poppies” in the article refers to a botanic variety or just any poppy from Spain. What I do know is that some people do milk wild poppy fields around here when they are in season. I don’t know how much raw opium resin they can collect but it is apparently worth their time. Police will occasionally destroy the fields if they find the poppies are being milked.

  42. There’s no reason to pretend that this issue is just a “thought experiment.” It’s possible to either eat a huge quantity of poppy seeds or make tea out of them to get high. It’s also very dangerous, due to the wide variance in potency between seeds. At least a few people in the US have *died* in the last few years by trying this. If you’re in search of a high, please stay out of the baking cupboard!

  43. yamaplos – nazdar – you beat me to it.. Im originally from the Czech lands and was going to mention how common it is in cooking. My dad used to say that kids were given a poppyseed tea to get them to settle down..
    s pozdravem

  44. Two little pieces of interesting trivia.
    My mom told me that as a baby in war time Germany and later on, it was quite common for others to cook poppy seeds, wrap them in cheese cloth and let the baby suck on that. The baby would be knocked out for hours allowing the parents to work on the fields.

    A months ago a attention seeking senator in the Philippines revived a 40 year old law that requires a “life sentence” for any body caught with any amount of poppy seed.
    Until then poppy seed bagels etc were commonly available in the Philippines.

  45. When I was 16 I tried to get a first job at a grocery store (Basha’s in Phoenix.) I got hired, and took the drug test. I was quite surprised when I failed it, because I’ve never done an illegal drug in my life, and I wasn’t on any medication.

    I vividly remember having 3 poppy seed bagels for breakfast before I went in. I’m pretty sure that’s what did me in.

  46. In my country poppyseed is popular food. My mum and my wife make delicious cakes with relatively large amounts of poppyseed. Crushed and boiled with sugar to make rich paste that is used in liberal amounts as filling.
    We also pour large amounts of crushed poppyseed (mixed with sugar and melted butter) on noodles or on sweet dumplings.
    Those are substantially higher doses than a sprinkling on top of pretzel, or a bit in a cake pictured above. Half the volume of some cakes is poppyseed.
    You do not get high from eating such food. You *do* get constipated.

    Tea made from a poppyseed *PODS* is a different matter. I never made one, nor do I know anybody that would make one but it is common folklore here that long time ago when kids couldn’t sleep, irresponsible (or uneducated) parents would make them a poppyseed POD concoction. According to said folklore poppyseed pod tea is supposed to make kids stupid eventually.

    I like to joke that in some countries, poppyseed fields – like you see here in Central Europe – would be liquidated by armed squads ;-) and farmers would be locked away. Fortunately, nobody here had bright idea (so far) to scrape green pods and collect the milk/resin that they provide. When that happens we can say goodbye to a popular food ingredient here.

  47. While everyone seems to be discussing the possibility of a high, I’m stuck on the idea of getting a decent painkiller off the shelf with a bit of kitchen work. I have a family history of migraines, and myself get strong headaches, and I find I’m resistant to many common painkillers. I tend to hoard the few more powerful types I occasionally get prescribed for medical reasons, but even doled out in an incredibly miserly manner, they hardly last at all. Opiates in particular work well for me, so this gives me a glimpse of possible relief from my frequent aches and pains.

    Hearing of the chance of overdose many have discussed however, gives me pause. This is clearly an option I would have to approach cautiously, but I’m not sure quite how to start. Does anyone have any thoughts or advice on the matter of using this information for medicinal purposes?

  48. I’m literally addicted to poppy seed hamentaschen and various other Jewish bakery treats that deploy poppy seed filling by the heaping spoonful. If you’re just adding a tablespoon to a cake or dusting a bagel with them, you’re doing it wrong.

  49. This is a classic dessert in my country, quite common in cafes:

    And you can buy this in virtually any grocery store here:

    You can also buy 100-500g packs of poppy seeds with no problem for EUR 0.50 – 1.50

  50. After reading this post, I bought a poppy seed strudel containing 60 grams of poppy seeds and ate it. Maybe I’d fail drug tests right now but I don’t really believe that you can get high by eating poppy seeds.

  51. Hi Maggie, I’ve actually posted on this issue a couple times over the last few years because of periodic deaths of high school and college students who cook up poppy seeds and concentrate them.

    At my post, Poppy Seed Tea Can Kill You, I discuss how the seeds will actually have reasonable amounts of morphine and codeine left over from processing. When cooked up and boiled down, one can get a potentially deadly amount of these compounds – yes, morphine generally has poor or erratic oral bioavailability but enough gets in with these teas that can cause respiratory depression and death,

    After I first wrote about this at ScienceBlogs, I got a note from a reader named Tom who lost his son to a poppy seed tea overdose. This guy is amazingly selfless – he posted his son’s autopsy report and the analysis of the poppy seed tea authorities found at the scene of his death. His site is also called Poppy Seed Tea Can Kill You (you can get it in my link above – I didn’t want to put more links here and get stuck in your spam filter.)

    So I caution anyone thinking of taking this approach to get high – the problem is that you just don’t know how much of these opioids you might be consuming if you try to make poppy seed tea. Maybe enough to get high or maybe enough to die.

  52. SIGH another major blog publishing news about one of my favorite obscure drug loopholes. Poppy seed tea is amazing when you’re aching after a day of work. It basically translates to opium tea and can be dangerous if you over do it (see Poppy pods used to be more practical but they have been cracked down upon and now are very expensive.

    I wish, very badly, that this article be taken down. I know there’s no way it’ll happen, but it always saddens me to see more attention (which means more heat) drawn to the more unknown incredible drugs. What’s next a morning glory article? (please don’t)

  53. As a kid, I happily ate cans of poppy seed filling at a time. I wonder if that’s why I liked it so much… hmmm…

Comments are closed.