Herbs & Plants

Argemone mexicana

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Botanical Name :Argemone mexicana
Family: Papaveraceae
Genus: Argemone
Species: A. mexicana
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales

Synonyms:   A. ochroleuca

Common Names : Mexican poppy, Mexican prickly poppy, cardo or cardosanto, Prickly Poppy.   In Bengali it is called sheyal kanta

Habitat :  Argemone mexicana  is native to   South-western N. America. Naturalized in C. and S. Europe. It grows on the dry soils along roadsides and in waste places and fields.  


Argemone mexicana is a perennial plant, growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)The plant is self-fertile.
Argemone species such as Mexican poppies have a continuous display of yellow, white or red poppy like flowers, which are very fragrant, from late summer to early autumn. They are best grown in the mid section of borders as they have a very spiky foliage.

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Easily grown in a light soil in a sunny position. Does best in a poor well-drained soil. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. Usually grown as a hardy annual in Britain. It resents being transplanted and should be sown in situ.

Seed – sow April in situ[200]. The seed usually germinates in 3 – 4 weeks at 15°c

Chemical constituents:
The seeds contain 22–36% of a pale yellow non-edible oil, called argemone oil or katkar oil, which contains the toxic alkaloids sanguinarine and dihydrosanguinarine. Four quaternary isoquinoline alkaloids, dehydrocorydalmine, jatrorrhizine, columbamine, and oxyberberine, have been isolated from the whole plant of Argemone mexicana

Medicinal Uses:
The fresh latex of Mexican poppy contains protein-dissolving constituents, and is used to treat warts, cold sores, and blemishes on the lips. The whole plant acts as a mild painkiller.  An infusion of the seeds—in small quantities—is used in Cuba as a sedative for children suffering from asthma.  In greater quantities, the oil in the seeds is purgative.  The flowers are expectorant, and are good for treating coughs and other chest conditions.
The juice of the plant has a rubifacient and slightly caustic effect; used straight for warts, diluted for skin ulcerations, externally.  The fresh juice, greatly diluted, has a long traditional history as a treatment for opacities of the cornea.  The preserved juice, with three or four parts water, can be used for heat rash, hives, and jock itch.  One-half teaspoon in water in the morning for a few days will lessen the irritability of urethra and prostate inflammations.  The whole plant can be boiled into a strong tea and used for bathing sunburned and abraded areas for relief of pain. The dried plant is a feeble opiate and helps to reduce pain and bring sleep, a rounded tablespoon in t4ea.  The seeds are a strong cathartic, a teaspoon or two crushed in water and drunk. They have somewhat of a sedative and narcotic effect when eaten and have traditionally been smoked alone or with tobacco.

The Seri of Sonora, Mexico use the entire plant both fresh and dried. An infusion is made to relieve kidney pain, to help expel a torn placenta, and in general to help cleanse the body after parturition.

When the Spanish arrived in Sonora they added this plant to their pharmacopia and called it cardosanto, which should not be mistranslated to blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus). Use in Hispanic cultures includes as a sedative and analgesiac tea, including for use to help alleviate migrane headaches. The seeds are taken as a laxative.

The seed-pods secrete a pale-yellow latex substance when cut open. This argemone resin contains berberine and protopine, and is used medicinally as a sedative.[citation needed]

Argemone mexicana is used by traditional healers in Mali to treat malaria.

Katkar oil poisoning causes epidemic dropsy, with symptoms including extreme swelling, particularly of the legs.

Other Uses :
Essential; Oil.

A semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed, used for lighting, soap etc. A medicinal fixed oil is obtained from the seed.

Known Hazards :  All parts of the plant, including the seed, contain toxic alkaloids

Toxin rendering:
The seeds resemble the seeds of Brassica nigra (mustard). As a result, mustard can be adulterated by argemone seeds, rendering it poisonous. Several significant instances of katkar poisoning have been reported in India, Fiji, South Africa and other countries. The last major outbreak in India occurred in 1998. 1% adulteration of mustard oil by argemone oil has been shown to cause clinical disease

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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2 replies on “Argemone mexicana”


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