Three ivory opium pipes, Chinese, 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Cylindrical ivory opium pipe with ornate metal mount (top); ivory opium pipe with metal mount and pottery bowl, engraved with elaborate pictures of men, women and trees (middle); ivory opium pipe with metal mount for bowl, with bowl mising (bottom). Opium is the dried extract of the unripe seed capsules of the opium poppy, which contains several narcotic alkaloids, including morphine. It was used for its properties of relieving pain, inducing sleep and promoting mental peace and well-being.