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We have already1 stated that there are three varieties of the cultivated poppy, and, on the same occasion, we promised to describe the wild kinds. With reference to the cultivated varieties, the calyx2 of the white3 poppy is pounded, and is taken in wine as a soporific; the seed of it is a cure, also, for elephantiasis. The black4 poppy acts as a soporific, by the juice which exudes from incisions5 made in the stalk—at the time when the plant is beginning to flower, Diagoras says; but when the blossom has gone off, according to Iollas. This is done at the third6 hour, in a clear, still, day, or, in other words, when the dew has thoroughly dried upon the poppy. It is recommended to make the incision just beneath the head and calyx of the plant; this being the only kind, in fact, into the head of which the incision is made. This juice, like that of any other plant, is received in wool;7 or else, if it is in very minute quantities, it is scraped off with the thumb nail just as it is from the lettuce, and so again on the following day, with the portion that has since dried there. If obtained from the poppy in sufficiently large quantities, this juice thickens, after which it is kneaded out into lozenges, and dried in the shade. This juice is possessed not only of certain soporific qualities, but, if taken in too large quantities, is productive of sleep unto death even: the name given to it is "opium."8 It was in this way, we learn, that the father of P. Licinius Cæcina, a man of Prætorian rank, put an end to his life at Bavilum9 in Spain, an incurable malady having rendered existence quite intolerable to him. Many other persons, too, have ended their lives in a similar way. It is for this reason that opium has been so strongly exclaimed against by Diagoras and Erasistratus; for they have altogether condemned it as a deadly poison, forbidding it to be used for infusions even, as being injurious to the sight. Andreas says, in addition to this, that the only reason why it does not cause instantaneous blindness, is the fact that they adulterate it at Alexandria. In later times, however, the use of it has not been disapproved of—witness the celebrated preparation known as "diacodion."10 Lozenges are also made of ground poppy-seed, which are taken in milk as a soporific.11 The seed is employed, too, with rose-oil for head-ache; and, in combination with that oil, is injected into the ears for ear-ache. Mixed with woman's milk, this seed is used as a liniment for gout: the leaves, too, are employed in a similar manner. Taken in vinegar, the seed is prescribed as a cure for erysipelas and wounds.

For my own part, however, I do not approve of opium entering into the composition of eye-salves,12 and still less of the preparations from it known as febrifuges,13 digestives, and cœliacs: the black poppy, however, is very generally prescribed, in wine, for cœliac affections. All the cultivated14 poppies are larger than the others, and the form of the head is round. In the wild poppy the head is elongated and small, but it is possessed of more active15 properties than the others in every respect. This head is often boiled, and the decoction of it taken to promote sleep, the face being fomented also with the water. The best poppies are grown in dry localities, and where it seldom rains.

When the heads and leaves of the poppy are boiled together, the name given to the decoction is "meconium;"16 it is much less powerful, however, in its effects than opium.

The principal test17 of the purity of opium is the smell, which, when genuine, is so penetrating as to be quite insupportable. The next best test is that obtained by lighting it at a lamp; upon which it ought to burn with a clear, brilliant flame, and to give out a strong odour when extinguished; a thing that never happens when opium has been drugged, for, in such case, it lights with the greatest difficulty, and the flame repeatedly goes out. There is another way of testing its genuineness, by water; for, if it is pure, it will float like a thin cloud upon the surface, but, if adulterated, it will unite in the form of blisters on the water. But the most surprising thing of all is the fact, that the sun's heat in summer furnishes a test; for, if the drug is pure, it will sweat and gradually melt, till it has all the appearance of the juice when fresh gathered.

Mnesides is of opinion that the best way of preserving opium is to mix henbane seed with it; others, again, recommend that it should be kept with beans.

1 In B. xix. c. 53.

2 It is probable, Fée says, that Pliny does not intend here to speak of the calyx as understood by modern botanists, but the corolla of the plant. The calyx disappears immediately after the plant has blossomed; and is never employed by medical men at the present day, who confine themselves to the heads or capsules.

3 The variety Album of the Papaver somniferum. See B. xix. c. 53.

4 The variety A. nigrum of the Papaver somniferum of Decandolle.

5 The incisions are made in the capsules, and towards the upper part of the peduncle. The account given by Pliny, Fée remarks, differs but little from that by Kæmpfer, in the early part of last century.

6 Nine in the morning.

7 This plan, Fée thinks, would not be attended with advantage.

8 A name, probably, of Eastern origin, and now universally employed.

9 "Bilbilis" has been suggested.

10 Syrop of white poppies was, till recently, known as sirop of diacodium. Opium is now universally regarded as one of the most important ingredients of the Materia Medica.

11 Poppy-seed, in reality, is not possessed of any soporific qualities whatever. This discovery, however, was only made in the latter part of the last century, by the French chemist, Rosier.

12 "Collyriis."

13 "Lexipyretos," "pepticas," and "cœliacas"—Greek appellations.

14 The type of the cultivated poppy is the Papaver somniferum of Linnæus.

15 This, Fée says, is a matter of doubt.

16 From μήκων, a "poppy." Tournefort has described this kind of opium obtained by decoction; it is held in little esteem.

17 Fée remarks, that this account of the tests of opium is correct in the extreme.

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