Continued attention is given to the pioduction of this drug in the United States. Recent tests go far to show that the quality of the opium raised in several sections of the country is good. The editor of the American Journal of Pharmacy has made an assay of some laudanum made from Virginia opium, and finds that it equals in strength fair Turkey opium. On the contrary, Vermont opium is condemned as being merely an extract of poppy leaves and stalks, with a little true opium juice, very variable in composition, and wholly unfit to replace the foreign drug except in very large doses. This defective quality is attributed to the mode of manufacture, described at length in the semi-weekly Tribune of March 5th by the inventor. The main features of this process are grinding and pressure, with use of some alcohol to extract the morphine. The juice thus obtained is dried, and then packed for sale. We agree with the Journal of Pharmacy that it must be impossible to obtain a .good quality of opium by this process, but we are uninformed whether the proper method obtains opium of good quality and in good quantity from poppies grown so far North. Mr. Robertson, the successful producer in Virginia, states that his experience is very limited, he having only cultivated the poppy in a garden on very rich soil, where the yield of opium was very great; he neither measured the land nor weighed the opium. He is satisfied that a deep rich soil is essential to a large yield; the poppy has a long tap root, which enables it to stand severe drought, provided the tap root can penetrate the soil to a sufficient depth. He thinks alluvial soils are best. The young plant is very tender, of slow growth, and cannot be successfully transplanted. The seed should be put in drills about three feet wide, the plants standing from one foot to eighteen inches apart, or even more, as it is a very vigorous grower. The last of July or early in August is a good time to sow the seed, as the plants stand the winter without injury. The single poppy he found to yield more opium than the double, and there is less trouble in obtaining it from the capsules. The single white poppy, or rather the poppy, with white seeds, is generally considered the true opium plant. When the capsules are about half grown, or three or four days after the flower has dropped, is the proper time to make several longitudinal incisi ,ns on the capsule, taking care not to cut through the capsule. The incisio m should be made during the latter part of the day, and the thickened juice which exudes during the night scraped off the next morning with a dull knife. When it becomes sufficiently dried it can be put up in any shape or size that is desired.
This article was originally published with the title "Cultivation of Opium in the United States" in Scientific American 20, 23, 362 (June 1869)