Facts about California Poppy

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Facts about California Poppy

California Poppy Quick Facts
Name: California Poppy
Scientific Name: Eschscholzia californica
Origin United States and Mexico
Shapes Slender, dehiscent capsule 3 to 9 cm (1.2 to 3.5 in) long
Taste Bitter
Health benefits Improves sleep, Relieves anxiety or tension, Combats ADHD, Boosts cognitive function and Treats wounds
Eschscholzia californica commonly known as California poppy, Californian poppy, golden poppy, California sunlight, golden cup, flame flower, la amapola, and copa de oro (cup of gold) is a species of flowering plant in the family Papaveraceae and is native to hillsides, roads and open areas of California but is found along the entire western coast of the United States as far north as Washington state and as far south as Mexico. It is an ornamental plant flowering in summer with showy cup shaped flowers in brilliant shades of orange; yellow and red (occasionally pink). It is also used medicinally and in cooking. It became the official state flower of California in 1903. Genus name honors Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz (1793-1831) of Tartu (Dorpat), Estonia, who attended Otto von Kotzebue on his first expedition around the world (1815-1818). Specific epithet means of California. The flower is usually golden orange, hence its common name “golden poppy.”

Plant Description

California poppy is a perennial or annual plant that grows about 5–60 in (13–152 cm) tall. The plant is found growing in open, well drained areas, in grasslands in deserts, and from valleys to foothills. The plant normally thrives well even in sandy, poor soils, with proper drainage. Plant has alternately branching glaucous blue-green foliage. The leaves are alternately divided into round, lobed segments.  The bright yellow-to-orange flowers are solitary, axillary and long-pedicled. They are 2.5 to 4 cm in diameter with a cup-shaped receptacle. The sepals are fused. Four crenate petals, orange-red at the base, form an open dish. The stigma is thread-like. There are numerous yellow stamens. Flower color ranges from yellow to orange, with flowering from February to September. The petals close at night or in cold, windy weather and open again the following morning, although they may remain closed in cloudy or rainy weather.


The fruit of the California poppy is a narrow; dehiscentes (burst, naturally) capsule is anything between 3 cm and 9 cm (about 1.2 inches and 3.5 inches) in length. The natural fruit splits open into two and release several small seeds that can be black or dark brown in color. California poppy has the ability to stay alive in mild winter (depending on your range). California poppy withers completely when weather conditions become very cold. Plant foliage turns straw-brown after flowering. Cultivars are available in semi-double to double forms in additional colors including white, pink, red, lilac and purple.


The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is both an annual and perennial.  It is often yellow though most people are more familiar with the orange ones.  Here are the different subspecies and varieties

  • californica subsp. californica var. californica is a perennial with yellow flowers and is somewhat prostrate found from San Francisco north along the coast.
  • californica subsp. californica var. maritime is a perennial with yellow flowers, is short and very prostrate and found from Monterey south to San Miguel along the coast.
  • californica subsp. californica var. crocea is a perennial with orange flowers and is taller and grows in non-arid inland areas.
  • California subsp. californica var. peninsularis is an annual and orange growing inland.
  • californica subsp. mexicana (the Mexican gold Poppy is found in the Sonoran Desert)

Health benefits of California poppy

California poppy is a beneficial herb which is commonly used for depression, long-term mental and physical tiredness (neurasthenia), nerve pain, various psychiatric conditions, blood vessel problems, sensitivity to weather changes, and sedation. While California poppy seed acts as a pain reliever, it also has other health benefits. Listed below are few of the health benefits

1. Improves sleep

Many people use California poppy seed as a natural sleep inducer. They report that it works as soon as you take it and can bring restful, refreshing sleep for people who suffer from insomnia.

2. Relieves anxiety or tension

Due to the sedative effects of this poppy, many use it to treat anxiety or tension. It’s also been used to help treat incontinence in people who have trouble with it during high levels of stress.

3. Combats ADHD

Since it is natural, with no known side effects, it’s an effective and safe anti-anxiety remedy for children. Those with behavioral problems, such as ADD or ADHD have found the California Poppy Seed to be just as effective as the prescription medication they take for their disorder.

4. Boosts cognitive function

Elderly people can also benefit from this natural remedy. It can improve the intellectual capacity for those suffering from memory or concentration issues due to aging.

5. Treats wounds

Due to the antimicrobial properties of the California poppy seed extract, the tincture can be applied directly to cuts and scrapes to help decrease the risk of infection and speed up healing.

Traditional uses and benefits of California poppy

  • California poppy leaves were used medicinally by Native Americans, and the pollen was used cosmetically.
  • Californian poppy is a bitter sedative herb that acts as a diuretic, relieves pain, relaxes spasms and promotes perspiration.
  • It is taken internally in the treatment of nervous tension, anxiety, insomnia and incontinence (especially in children)
  • Watery sap is mildly narcotic and has been used to relieve toothache.
  • Its gently antispasmodic, sedative and analgesic actions make it a valuable herbal medicine for treating physical and psychological problems in children.
  • An extract of the root is used as a wash on the breasts to suppress the flow of milk in lactating females.
  • It is a potent herb for the nervous system.
  • It calms and soothes your mind and gives relief from mental imbalance.
  • It calms cognitive capacity, mental health and the learning power of a person.
  • It calms the nervous system and helps in proper functioning of the heart.
  • California poppy gives relief from palpitations and blood pressure.
  • It provides relief from all neurological pains like headache, migraines, neuralgia, sciatica and back pains.
  • It gives relief from pain and reduces the risk of infections.
  • It cures cuts and scrapes.
  • Its sedative effects give relief from toothache.
  • It is known as a powerful herbal pain reliever.
  • Because of its sedative properties, the California poppy can be used in the treatment of behavioral disorders such as ADD, ADHD in children and young adults.
  • This herb has also been used to improve intellectual capacity, memory, and concentration in the elderly.
  • It has been used as a remedy in cases of high fever, rapid pulse, and persistent spasmodic cough.
  • Leaves of the flower are used externally in powder form for antimicrobial properties as a treatment for the elimination of head lice with the same effectiveness as Berberis repens.
  • When crushed, California poppy leaves can serve as an effective treatment for head lice.
  • Native American Indians would cut the root and apply the juice of the Poppy’s root to the source of their tooth pain.
  • Native Americans also used an herbal poultice made from the poppy for the treatment of sores and ulcers on the skin.
  • Hair tonic made from the California poppy by some local Californians is used to make hair grow thicker and shinier.
  • Make infusion of the dried root of California poppy. Drink a cup before going to bed daily. It is beneficial for dealing with insomnia.

Culinary Uses

  • The Native American tribes used the poppy seed for cooking and they contain edible oil.
  • Golden Poppy seed is also ground for flour.

How to Consume California poppy

California poppy has not known culinary uses. However, remedies are made from the aerial parts of the plant. They are largely used for promoting relaxation and sleep.

Natural Forms

  • Infusion. California poppy teas and tisanes are considered safe when used in moderation for three months or less. Many choose to sweeten them with mint or even honey.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Liquid extract. Liquid extracts are the most common commercial preparation of California poppy.
  • Supplements provide the most consistent dose of California poppy.

Dosage and Health Concerns

If you decide to go ahead with California poppy in your daily diet, be sure to talk with your physician first. After talking with your healthcare professional, they may decide you can take California poppy for pain or other reasons. The dosage and guidelines might look something like this:

  • Take between a half and a whole teaspoon (about 40-80 drops).
  • The perfect dose amount should not make you too sleepy.
  • The trick is to find the dosage that helps you to reduce pain without overdoing it (The Ecology Center).

If you choose to take the herb in dried form, you can also get your California poppy by way of a nice cup of tea.

Again, even though the plant is considered to be relatively safe with little or no documented side effects, it is important to consult a physician before introducing it to your habits. It is also cautioned that pregnant or breast-feeding woman do not take California poppy in any form

Other Facts

  • Petals may close at night or if it is very cold, cloudy or windy, and open again the following morning.
  • Native Americans in the region used the pollen of the Californian Poppy for cosmetics, for example, to cover skin blemishes.
  • It was also used as a hair tonic by cooking the seeds in olive oil and this is still practiced today.
  • Every year April 6 is celebrated as the California Poppy Day and May 13-18 as Poppy Week.
  • Cutting or removing the plants growing on private land without seeking the consent of the owner is considered illegal.
  • California Indians cherished the Golden Poppy as both a source of food and for oil extracted from the plant.
  • Golden Poppy seed, also called maw seed, is not narcotic and is used as birdseed and for a flavoring or garnish in baking.
  • Poppy oil, derived from the Golden Poppy seeds, is used in cooking and illumination and in paints, varnishes, and soaps.
  • The Golden Poppy has been the symbol of the dead and of sleep since antiquity.


  • Use of the California poppy is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • High dosages may cause Drowsiness and hangover.
  • Driving and operating machinery to be avoided.
  • California poppy can slow down the central nervous system, causing sleepiness and other effects.
  • Stop using California poppy at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

















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