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Can Poppy Seeds Cure Your Insomnia?

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If you’re struggling with insomnia or have chronic pain that’s keeping you from sleeping well, it's time to try poppy seeds. With a mild tranquilizing effect, this nutrient-rich food can soothe anxiety, ease pain, relax the muscles, and help you sleep better. Ayurveda and traditional medicine have used poppy seeds in pastes and teas for centuries, but it's a remedy you may want to consider for a solution to your 21st-century insomnia.

Poppy seeds aren’t just a popular exotic ingredient made famous by its cousin, the addictive drug opium that comes from the same plant. They may also hold the key to your sleep trouble. With a mild tranquilizing effect, this nutrient-rich food can soothe anxiety, ease pain, and relax the muscles to get you a good night’s rest.

Poppy Seeds And Sleep Disorders

As one study found, after consuming a poppy seed drink, cortisol levels in the body dropped, effectively calming the body down as the levels of the stress hormone went down. More significantly, however, circadian rhythms in test subjects with a circadian rhythm disorder (associated with insomnia) showed a marked improvement and these individuals were less fatigued. Symptoms of insomnia improved. Additionally, there was also an improvement in restless leg syndrome and parasomnia, which are also commonly linked to sleep disorders.1

Natural Food Tranquilizer

Poppy seeds have a mild sedative effect. Because poppy seeds contain very high levels of alkaloids that have a calming effect. They can help you relax and sleep well if you have any form of nervous disorder or anxiety issue (and the associated insomnia).2 When combined with a cup of warm milk before bedtime, poppy seeds can be even more effective. That’s because the tryptophan in milk also has a mild sedative effect and improves sleep.3

Sleep Better And Longer

Besides having plenty of calcium and potassium, poppy seeds are also rich in magnesium.4 Along with potassium which can help raise sleep efficiency,5 magnesium too has been proven to improve not just the duration of your sleep but also the quality of sleep you get. Magnesium is also associated with a feeling of tranquility, with studies confirming its role in treating sleep problems, including insomnia.6

Ease Pain, Sleep Better

These tiny seeds are also known for their painkilling properties and can help if your insomnia is triggered by some form of pain and discomfort. Due to its analgesic properties, it can ease chronic pain, allowing you to get a breather from the incessant aches and sharp twinges. Once the most harsh pain is dulled, you will find it easier to fall asleep. Problems like toothaches and headaches seem less of a hurdle to falling asleep with the sharp edge of pain taken away. Topical application of a paste made from poppy seeds can also help with joint pain.

Relax Those Muscles

Poppy seeds also help muscles relax due to the presence of the non-narcotic muscle relaxant papaverine, proven in studies to cause a relaxant response when administered to animal test subjects.7 This is especially useful for someone who has trouble sleeping due to twitches or other aches and pains. Because your muscles are relaxed, you are less likely to tense up and intensify any joint pains or other issues that keep you from sleeping.

Ayurveda And Poppy Seeds

Ayurvedic principles suggest that you steep some poppy seeds in milk to enhance the benefits of the remedy. When consumed as a tonic or rasayana, it is said to have a relaxing effect on the body. Acting on the central nervous system, the tonic puts your body in its “rest” mode. Your system therefore begins to divert energy for restoring strength, reviving and refreshing you once you wake from deep sleep. Ayurveda has tapped into the analgesic effects of the papaverine alkaloids for generations, making use of it to treat pain as well as other problems such as spasms.8

Too Much of a Good Thing?

If you overdo your poppy seed consumption, you could land yourself in a spot of trouble. Due to the addictive nature of opiates, it is possible to get hooked on your daily fix of poppy seed tea. While poppy seeds themselves do not contain opium alkaloids, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) there is the risk of contamination with these addictive alkaloids if harvesting is not done carefully, or due to insect-related damage of the crop.9 As a result, withdrawal symptoms – not unlike what you may experience with an opium addiction – have also been seen in some regular consumers of poppy seeds.10

It is the codeine and morphine in poppy seeds that present a potential addiction problem. By soaking and then rinsing poppy seeds before using them, you can prevent ingestion of these substances that may be present due to contamination. Cooking the poppy seeds (as you would when you use them in your baking) is also said to eliminate much of the offending components. One suggestion is to limit intake to no more than a couple of spoons to avoid any of the extreme side effects.

References   [ + ]

1.Zadeh, Sara Sarrafi, and Khyrunnisa Begum. “Nutritional supplements and its effect on quality of life and sleep.” American Medical Journal (New York, NY, United States) 2, no. 2 (2011): 104-110.
2.Panda, Himadri. Compendium of herbal plants. ASIA PACIFIC BUSINESS PRESS Inc., 2006.
3.Silber, B. Y., and J. A. J. Schmitt. “Effects of tryptophan loading on human cognition, mood, and sleep.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 34, no. 3 (2010): 387-407.
4.USDA National Nutrient Database, USDA. 2016.
5.Drennan, Michael D., Daniel F. Kripke, Harry A. Klemfuss, and J. D. Moore. “Potassium affects actigraph-identified sleep.” Sleep 14, no. 4 (1991): 357-360.
6.Rondanelli, Mariangela, Annalisa Opizzi, Francesca Monteferrario, Neldo Antoniello, Raffaele Manni, and Catherine Klersy. “The Effect of Melatonin, Magnesium, and Zinc on Primary Insomnia in Long‐Term Care Facility Residents in Italy: A Double‐Blind, Placebo‐Controlled Clinical Trial.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 59, no. 1 (2011): 82-90.
7.Shimizu, Kazumasa, Eiru Yoshihara, Mami TAKAHASHI, Keiichiro Gotoh, Seigo Orita, Norimoto Urakawa, and Shinjiro Nakajyo. “Mechanism of relaxant response to papaverine on the smooth muscle of non-pregnant rat uterus.” Journal of Smooth Muscle Research 36, no. 3 (2000): 83-91.
8.Mani, Dayanandan, and Sunita S. Dhawan. “Scientific basis of therapeutic uses of opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) in Ayurveda.” In International Symposium on Papaver 1036, pp. 175-180. 2011.
9.Scientific Opinion on the risks for public health related to the presence of opium alkaloids in poppy seeds, EFSA.
10.Lloyd-Jones, D. M., D. M. Lloyd-Jones, and Y. Bonomo. “Unusual presentations for pharmacotherapy—poppy seed dependence.” Drug and alcohol review 25, no. 4 (2006): 375-376.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

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