Milk of the poppy
Milk of the poppy is used as a pain killer or anesthetic in the Known World. It is normally given to those mortally wounded or in great pain. It has a quick effect of causing sleep, even for people in great pain. During this sleep, people often have strange "poppy dreams". Milk of the poppy also has an incapacitating effect, "filling your head with clouds", even after the user has woken from sleep. Because of this, and possibly because it is also addictive or because overuse causes tolerance, some prefer to go through strong pain instead of consuming it. Overuse of milk of the poppy may make the user's face become puffy.
In Meereen, some pit fighters dull their nerves with milk of the poppy before going out to die in the fighting pits. Victors will drink milk of the poppy afterwards for the pain of their wounds.
During the Dance of the Dragons, at the Battle of Rook's Rest, King Aegon II Targaryen suffered broken ribs, a broken hip, and dragonfire burns that covered half his body. He was treated with milk of the poppy, and was "lost in poppy dreams", bedridden for the rest of the year. When the greens took Dragonstone, Aegon was further injured with two shattered legs, but refused milk of the poppy, living the rest of his life in great pain.
A Game of Thrones
During the confrontation with Ser Jaime Lannister and his men, Lord Eddard Stark is caught beneath his fallen horse and his leg is shattered. He is returned to the Tower of the Hand, where Pycelle attends to his injury, giving him milk of the poppy for the pain. Under the influence of the milk of the poppy, Ned sleeps for six days and seven nights, and dreams of the combat at the tower of joy.
When Khal Drogo is injured in battle, Daenerys Targaryen has the maegi Mirri Maz Duur treat him, and she warns the khal not to use milk of the poppy so that his body can better resist infection. Drogo drinks poppy wine nevertheless, and becomes very ill.
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
Lord Hoster Tully grows even more deathly ill, until Maester Vyman is afraid to make the milk of the poppy any stronger.
A Feast for Crows
Joss Stilwood, Ser Gregor Clegane's squire, tells Qyburn that Gregor drinks milk of the poppy often, like normal men drink ale, to self-treat his blinding headaches. Gregor's tolerance of and dependency on milk of the poppy has the effect that both Grand Maester Pycelle and Qyburn are unable to moderate his pain from his spear wounds and manticore venom poisoning.
Maester Colemon treats young Lord Robert Arryn's shaking sickness with milk of the poppy, to help him sleep. Later, he suggests that the boy be drugged with milk of the poppy so that he will sleep on the dangerous journey from the Eyrie to the Gates of the Moon, but Alayne Stone rejects the idea, as the Lord of the Eyrie should not arrive looking like a sack of grain tied to a mule.
A Dance with Dragons
At a feast in Dorne, Doran Martell drinks wine with poppy juice, made by Maester Myles, to ease the pain in his joints. Later, however, when he meets with the Sand Snakes, he rejects Maester Caleotte's offer of milk of the poppy because he wants to keep his head clear, despite the fact that he thinks he would need a bucketful for his pain.
The maester poured a slow trickle down his throat. Tyrion swallowed, scarcely tasting. Too late, he realized the liquid was milk of the poppy. By the time the maester removed the funnel from his mouth, he was already spiralling back to sleep.—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
Maester, could I trouble you for some milk of the poppy? A thimble cup will suffice.
I shall not walk that road again.—Aegon II Targaryen, rejecting milk of the poppy after his second injury
Behind the Scenes
The books' descriptions strongly suggest that the poppy may well be the same flower found in the real world. Milk of the poppy is probably similar to opium, and its effects are likely the result of a strong content of morphine and codeine.
- Westeros.Org: A Lexicon of Ice and Fire
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 47, Eddard XIII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 14, Catelyn III.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 35, Eddard IX.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 67, Tyrion XV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 39, Eddard X.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 60, Jon VIII.
- The Princess and the Queen.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 57, Sansa V.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 7, Cersei II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 31, Jaime IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 38, The Watcher.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 40, Princess In The Tower.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 57, Tyrion XI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 67, The Kingbreaker.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 64, Daenerys VIII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 24, The Lost Lord.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Old Way and the New.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 25, Eddard V.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 61, Daenerys VII.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion IV.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 2, The Captain Of Guards.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 23, Alayne I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 41, Alayne II.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 70, The Queen's Hand.