Argemone spp.

Mexican Poppy. Popular ornamentals and medicinal poppy relatives.
Mexican poppy is used traditionally in Mexico as pain killer and potent sedative. It does not contain opiates.
Seeds are extremely toxic and must be eliminated from the herb before use.

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Argemone spp.

Botanical information

Argemone mexicana is a perenniel plant that grows to a height of 0.5m with a spread of 0.3m. The stem is erect, leafy and flowering; the leaves are greyish green, lobed, with deeply divided, spiny margins, alternate and stem clasping; the flowers are yellow, 6 petalled and open, occurring at the tips of the stems.

A native of North and South America, particularly Mexico, it is adaptable to most soils but prefers and open, sunny position and is drought and frost resistant.

Propagation is by seed. Sow seed directly where it is to grow, as this species does not like being transplanted. Germination is sporadic and requires light (probably sunlight). If the seeds are covered with soil they will usually not germinate for many months. Seedlings do not like wet soil or high humidity.

A close relative to the poppies.

Traditional uses

The herb and flowers of Argemone mexicana are smoked to produce a mild sedating effect. The whole plant can be extracted to produce an opium substitute with strong sedative and some analgesic properties. Other species of Argemone are used interchangably for similar effects.


The whole plant Argemone mexicana contains alkaloids at a level of about 0.1%. These include berberine and protopine in the whole plant, coptesine in the root, argemonine in the leaves and sanguinarine in the seeds. While the effects of the raw alkaloids are similar to opium, there is no morphine present in this plant material. Extracts of the plant can be dangerous and toxic if the herb includes seeds due to their sanguinarine content. The extract available from us never contains seeds.

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