California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
The California poppy is native to the western United States, including California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and south into Baja California and Mexico. When the Spanish explorers first saw coastal California, these poppies covered entire stretches of the hillsides. They called California the Land of Fire in honor of the golden poppy-covered hills. Relatively low-growing, the plant can range from 2 inches to 24 inches tall. Its most obvious feature is the bright orange-yellow flower. This plant grows well in areas that have been disturbed. It is tolerant of drought and it self-sows easily. The poppy does not contain opium, although it is used as a milder remedy for many of the same conditions. This is the state flower of California.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally California poppy can be used as a sedative to aid sleep without the side effects one can get from prescription sleep medications. It is also used for colic and pain in the gall bladder. It stabilizes the psychological state of the patient. Sometimes this herb is used to treat chronic bedwetting. Historically, the Native Americans used the sap of the poppy to relieve pain from toothaches, ulcers and sores. It has also been used for headaches and anxiety.
Externally California poppy can be applied directly to a sore area to relieve the pain. The Native Americans also cooked the plant in oil to make a tonic for the hair.
Other Uses The seed is a common ingredient in many sedation preparations on the market.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
Combined with hawthorn and magnesium salts, this is a safe herbal remedy for mild to moderate anxiety. Another formula is birthwort, kava, lavender, night-blooming cereus, passionflower, St. John's wort and/or valerian.
Aerial parts The dried aerial portions of the poppy are used medicinally.
There have been no studies to show whether California poppy is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding or for children under 6 years old. Do not use with any other substance that can increase the sedative effects. Do not use this herb before driving or any other activity where drowsiness would be detrimental.
Preparation and Dosage
Although used most frequently as a tincture, an infusion can be made from 1 or 2 teaspoons of dried herb in 1 cup of boiling water. Allow this solution to steep for 10 minutes. One cup can be taken at night to promote a relaxing sleep. For tincture, 1 to 4 ml can be taken before bed.