Despite being banned from sale in Vietnam, poppy fruit has been hunted to make herbal wine because many people believe that it contains medicinal properties similar to those of Viagra.
Consumers are not aware of the damaging effects of such home-made wine, according to doctors.
Leaves, stems, roots and fruits of poppy trees contain drug-related substances and thus can cause addiction. In addition, the sale and purchase of the plants are illegal.
Word of its benefits to male virility has caused the price of the fruit to rise to VND10 million (US$450) per kilogram in the market.
Days ago, a woman dropped by a herbal medicine shop on Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street in Ward 10, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City to buy poppy fruit.
“It costs a million dong for 100 grams,” the shop assistant said. (VND1 million equals $44)
The customer wanted to see the goods but was turned down then.
A moment later, the manager of the shop, named S., stepped in to talk to the customer.
“We have dried poppy fruit coming from some northern provinces,” she said.
“The price is fixed. No bargaining.
“Before, it fetched just VND300,000-400,000 [$13-18] a kilogram but it is banned now and can’t be as cheap.”
S. told her customer that a kilogram of dried poppy fruit is enough for making five liters of alcohol.
The fruit should be kept in alcoholic drinks at least two weeks before use but the longer the time is, the better it gets, she added.
“It can relieve pain and act as a tonic,” S. said while pulling out a bag of dozens of dried poppy fruit to put on the table. Each dried fruit was the size of the human thumb.
At another herbal shop on Luong Nhu Hoc Street in District 5, a shop assistant offered a kilogram of dried poppy fruit for VND2.5 million ($110).
“These are forbidden goods so they can even be more expensive,” she said.
The shop attendant recommended her customer to come to another shop on Trieu Quang Phuc Street in the same area to check the goods.
“This business is now sensitive and I can’t display the fruit publicly,” she said, adding that her product was imported from China.
A man who owns a jar of poppy fruit wine said the fruit helps turn white alcohol into a dark brown liquid after being soaked for a time.
Tung, another man who transports poppy fruit wine from the northern province of Yen Bai to Ho Chi Minh City for sale, said a jar of five liters is priced at VND2 million ($90).
“An ill man needs just some gulps of this wine to recover his health,” he claimed.
“This wine makes you become healthier, with no damaging effect involved,” Tung assured. “But you should not take an overdose since it can make you change your temperament.”
However, doctors have rejected all these claims and the belief that home-made poppy fruit wine has medicinal properties beneficial to human health.
Doctor Nguyen Huu Duc, from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy, said drinking poppy fruit wine is nearly equivalent to doing drugs.
Drinkers may become addicted if the dosage of home-made poppy fruit wine is not thoroughly checked and controlled, Dr. Duc added.
“It can absolutely be detrimental to the users’ well-being,” he warned.