Substances & Homeopatic Remedies


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The opium poppy is indigenous to Asia Minor, and awareness of the euphoriant effect of some part of the poppy plant is implicit in the Sumerian records of 4000 BC. Clear accounts exist of its use in the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. Paracelsus was aware of its usefulness and prepared the first tincture of opium, called laudanum, subsequently simplified by Sydenham.
Friedrich Sertürner (1783-1841) isolated morphine from opium and demonstrated for the first time that a single purified chemical substance could account for the pharmacological effects of a natural product. Sertürner, a reluctant apprentice to a pharmacist in Prussia, was disturbed by the variable potency of available opium preparations and set out to purify and standardize it. Working at a time when neither experimental pharmacology nor the chemistr of natural products were recognized fields of endeavor, Sertürner succeeded in isolating morphine from opium. Using a bioassay in dogs, he established that morphine, as he named the alkaline substance, was the somnifacient principle in opium. His early reports 1803 were either rejected by editors or ignored after publication. He eventually tested his purified preparation on himself  and 3 friends, administering 3 doses of 30mg in 45 minutes and observing vomiting, flush, and near coma. This work was finally published in 1817 and attracted the interest of the influential French chemist Gay-Lussac. The work of Sertürner influenced Pelletier and Caventou, and in the same year other pure principles from plant sources were successfully isolated.
The addicting properties of opium have also been important in its history. In China, opium was used only in the treatment of dysentery until the mid-1700s. The English, Portuguese, and Dutch built up a large trade supplying opium to China, and addiction had become so much of a problem by the early 1800s, that the Chinese government acted to bar the importation of opium and reduce the amount of opium-smoking. These acts precipitated a 3-year war terminated by the treaty of Nanking 1842, which gave England Hong-Kong, opened 5 ports to English traders, and specifically authorized continued trade in opium.
The risk of addiction was probably underestimated in the West for some time thereafter. Opium and morphine were widely prescribed and easily available in many patent medicines. Misuse was common until about 1920, but the predominant pattern was one of oral use. Since the laws were changed at that time, the number of people involved has become comparatively small but the narcotic is injected.

Morphine and other naturally occurring narcotics are isolated from opium.
Opium is collected from only one variety of poppy, Papaver somniferum. A few days after the petals fall, the unripe, still succulent seed pod is lighthly incised. A day later the sticky brown gum that has collected is scraped from the surface of the pod. As much as 25% of this crude opium may be made up ofalkaloids. The content of morphine varies from 9 to 14% and is adjusted to 10% in the standardized preparations.
The legal production of opium is regulated by the United Nations. India, Turkey, and Russia are the largest producers of opium from which morphine and other alkaloids are isolated. Morphine is used as such, however, a larger amount  is converted chemically into codeine, which occurs in opium in amounts insufficient to meet the needs of medicine.
The illegal production of opium is huge. The large amounts of opium still used in the Orient are produced mostly in Southeast Asia. For many years, the illegal heroin that reached the USA originated as opium in Turkey. Mexican opium is now the primary source of heroin, with smaller contributions from the Orient and Iran.