Poppy flower; Papaver rhoeasIt is a plant native to Turkey and Asia Minor with medicinal and recreational properties that have been known for more than six thousand years. By three thousand B.C., the Sumerians had named it the joy plant because consuming the dried milky sap of unripe pods caused euphoria.
By three hundred B.C., opium (sun dried milky sap taken from unripe pods) was being used by Arabs, Greeks and Romans as a sedative, a pain reliever and a soporific (a substance to induce sleep). Opium can be lethal; Agrippina, the fifth wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius (10 B.C.-A.D. 54) mixed opium with wine to poison Claudius and his son after Claudius adopted her son, Nero, making it possible for Nero to ascend the throne.
The common poppy is thought to be native to southern Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia. It has become naturalised outside of this range and is now widespread throughout much of Europe, Asia and North America.