The state flower of California, this jubilant splash of color across the countryside is more than just a pretty little flower; her medicine has been used for centuries.

A member of the Papaveraceae family, California Poppy does not have the habit forming narcotic constituents that her cousin Opium Poppy has. Though native to North America, her botanical name Eschscholzia californica was given to her by naturist Adelbert von Chamisso on board a Russian ship in honor of the expedition’s physician Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz. Eschscholzia californica spp. mexicana is considered to be a subspecies of E. californica and can be used interchangeably. 


In the warmer climates of southern California and the southwestern United States of America, California Poppy grows as a short lived perennial. In colder climates, she grows happily as an annual, freely self seeding and coming up each year. In my garden in southern Illinois (zone 6b), she returns yearly to the same patch of the garden. California Poppy is easy to grow in any garden. Seeds can be sown in the fall or the spring for the next growing season.

Energetically, California Poppy is bitter, cooling and drying.   Medicinally, we use her as an analgesic, anodyne,  antispasmodic, anxiolytic, febrifuge, hypnotic, nervine, sedative and soporific.


All parts of California Poppy can be used though it is most popular to use just the aerial parts. Curandero Chuck “Doc” Garcia taught me that the roots are often used in acute situations for treating toothache with a bit of it being placed between the gum and cheek next to the afflicted tooth. Her anodyne, or numbing properties, offer instant relief for toothaches.


As an analgesic, California Poppy works well for all types of pain but especially well for pain associated with the nervous system such as sciatica pain, nervous tension headaches and  chronic pain, especially when the pain can be described as hot and throbbing.


As a nervine, I like to use California Poppy for calming and restoring the nervous system, very similarly to St. John’s Wort, without the worry of sun sensitivity and drug interactions that St. John’s Wort comes with. California Poppy is very soothing to the nervous system, relieving anxiety with her anxiolytic action. As a soporific/hypnotic, she can cause drowsiness and sluggishness when used during the day so adults should not drive or use equipment when taking California Poppy. Anyone taking liberal doses of California Poppy will notice a dullness in their awareness or alertness.

Though she is strong in her actions as a sedative, she is very gentle and works well for kids of all ages. For kids who are overstimulated, she is calming. I like to mix her with other herbs such as Catnip, Passionflower and St. John’s Wort for those who have ADHD.


She can also help with bedwetting when it is caused by nervousness or tension.

For adults and kids alike, she is great for using for those who are restless and cannot go to sleep at night, especially when the insomnia is caused by thoughts that won’t shut off. She’s good to keep by the bedside stand too for those who wake in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep. During the day, California Poppy is great for helping those with nervous spasmodic jitters or anxiety.


California Poppy is a mild febrifuge and relies on her cooling energetics to help bring down fevers. She is especially helpful to treat hot, spasmodic coughs and aches associated with influenza and other bronchial conditions.

According to Brigette Mars, California Poppy flower essence  “encourages awakening to one’s abilities and spiritual potential by fostering inner listening and self-responsibility.”

You can make your own California Poppy extract very easily! California Poppy is most commonly used as a extract due to his bitter nature. Use this extract internally or externally. Some people like to turn California Poppy into an elixir by adding some honey to the mix. I prefer to keep it bitter so that the bitter principles can be used as well.

You will need:

Fresh or dried California Poppy*
Grain alcohol
Filtered water
A jar
A label

If you are using fresh plant material, chop it up well and fill your jar. If you are using dried, fill your jar half full.

Add enough grain alcohol to fill halfway then fill the rest of the way with water.

*Don’t have any fresh or dried California Poppy on hand? Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite place to go to when I cannot find my herbs locally

General Dosage
30 drops. Can be repeated a few times every 30 minutes.
Ages 2-6    7 drops. Can be repeated a few times every 30 minutes.
Ages 7-12 15 drops. Can be repeated a few times every 30 minutes.

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