California Poppy

California poppy                                                                                                                            Eschscholzia californica

This member of the poppy family (Papaveraceae) is an excellent and legal alternative to other less palatable members. It blooms in June and July, growing tired of the overheated conditions of late summer; in warmer climates, you can get two crops per season from this prolific self-seeder. We harvest the leaves and flowers, occasionally the root. It is considered an invasive weed down South – for us, it suffices to plant it in broad areas and allow it to take over. You can harvest the long seedpods, or just let is self-seed, adding a layer of compost at the end of every season.


Elemental associations: Water
Phytochemistry: Alkaloids, flavo-glycosides (D. Hoffmann)
Actions: Sedative, anodyne, anti-spasmodic, hypnotic, bordeline narcotic
Specific systems: Nervous, children


The California poppy is very similar, though much milder, than the opium poppy. It is useful in any condition that has chronic or acute pain (requiring fairly large doses), and helpful in insomnia where pain or anxiety are leading causes. Specifically, it can also help when the problem is early-morning (2-3 am) waking rather than simply falling asleep.
It can be used for the deep mental relaxation necessary for visioning or some ritual use; some have smoked the dried leaves and flowers for this purpose. For a strong hypnotic brew, combine in equal parts with Scullcap and Jamaican Dogwood.
It is an invaluable and gentle remedy for children, aiding in teething and nervousness.


Indications: Early-morning waking; anxiety; teething and sleeplessness in children; cramping at night
Contra-indications: None really. Any herb can be habit-forming if not used with respect.
Preparation/Dosage: A tincture is prepared from the fresh flowering plant, 40% alcohol, 1:3. Take ½ tsp (children) to 1 ½ tsp (adults) in the evening, 30 minutes before bed, or throughout the day for teething.
An infusion can be made from the dried herb; use 6 TBS per quart of water.