Papaver bracteatum, also known as the Iranian poppy, is a sturdy perennial poppy with large deep red flowers up to 8 inches (20 cm) across on stiff stalks up to 4 feet (1.22 metres) high with a prominent black spot near the base of the petals. It is related to the commonly cultivated oriental poppy, Papaver orientale.
Non-horticultural use of this species is for the production of thebaine, which is commercially converted to codeine and semi-synthetic opiates. Papaver bracteatum does not contain morphine, codeine or any other narcotic alkaloids in significant amounts. Oripavine was reported in minute traces but would not exert a relevant activity.
United States domestic cultivation of P. bracteatum was proposed by president Richard Nixon's Office of Management and Budget in the early 1970s as an alternative to Turkish opium poppies, which the administration was attempting to eliminate. This was because P. bracteatum does not contain morphine, which is converted to heroin, but is high in thebaine for legal codeine production, which was in crisis at the time because of the dwindling Turkish supply. However, US government scientists feared Bentley compounds, opioids thousands of times more potent than heroin, would replace heroin in the US.
- Von Lyle E. Craker, James E. Simon (Eds.) (1991). Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants: Recent Advances in Botany, Horticulture, and Pharmacology Vol. II. (p. 69) Binghamton NY: The Haworth Press Inc. LCCN 86-646860
- BENTLEY, K. W. & HARDY, D. G. (1967) Novel analgesics and molecular rearrangements in the morphine-thebaine group. III. Alcohols of the 6,14-endo-ethenotetrahydrooripavine series and derived analogues of N-allylnormorphine and norcodeine. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 89, 3281-3292.
- Epstein, Edward Jay. "The Coughing Crisis". Agency of Fear: Opiates and Political Power in America. ISBN 0-86091-529-8.