California poppy, golden poppy, flame flower, dedal de oro (thimble of gold), copa de oro (cup of gold), yellow poppy
California poppy is native to western North America from Baja California to Washington state
Some herbalists only make use of the aerial parts of California poppy, while others prefer using the whole plant, root and all. Harvest California poppy just as the flowers are going to seed; fresh preparations are considered the most potent
The California poppy holds a special place in the state's history and culture. It was officially designated as California's state flower in 1903, and every year on April 6th, the state celebrates California Poppy Day. But the flower's significance goes beyond just its beauty. Indigenous peoples of California, including the Pomo, Mendocino, Yuki, and Kashaya, have long used the plant to reduce or stop lactation. They would apply the juice from the root or mashed seedpods topically to the breasts, which was believed to discourage infants from suckling and decrease milk supply. While the exact mechanism of action is unknown, bitter alkaloids in the plant have been speculated to play a role in this effect.(1)
The California poppy has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes by Native peoples for centuries. The root of the plant is often used as a sedative for insomnia and as a pain reliever for injuries, muscle pain, headaches, and toothaches. The Chumash tribe even chew the root to alleviate toothache pain. The root can also be made into a poultice or sliced and applied topically for cuts, burns, and scrapes. Some Indigenous peoples also cook and eat the young green leaves of the plant. In addition, a decoction of the flowers can be used topically on the scalp to kill lice.(2)
The California poppy is a popular herb used by Western herbal practitioners to address a variety of health concerns. Its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antispasmodic properties make it a go-to for pain relief, including headaches, migraines, and neuralgia. Additionally, it is often used to alleviate muscular tension, muscle spasms, and backaches. Some practitioners also recommend it for its calming effects on anxiety and sleep disorders.(3)
The California poppy, while in the same family as the opium poppy, does not contain narcotic or addictive properties. It does, however, have analgesic and anxiolytic applications that are similar to those of the opium poppy. While older literature suggested that California poppy contained trace amounts of opium alkaloids, modern studies do not support this claim. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that California poppy can play a role in fighting the opioid epidemic. The herb contains isoquinoline alkaloids that interact with opioid receptors in the brain, easing opiate withdrawal and soothing pain through interactions with GABA and serotonin receptors.(4)
California poppy, a plant native to the western United States, has been found to have potential benefits in helping individuals overcome addiction to opioids and other pharmaceuticals. Naturopathic doctor Eugene R. Zampieron has reported success in using California poppy tincture to help clients break their addiction to drugs such as oxycodone and low-dose Naltrexone. In one case study, a client was able to break her addiction to oxycodone in just one month with the help of California poppy, while also experiencing relief from chronic neuropathic pain. Another client was able to successfully wean off of low-dose Naltrexone and reported better pain relief with the use of California poppy. These findings suggest that California poppy may hold promise as a natural alternative for managing pain and addiction.(5)
Adult Dose (6)
Tincture: 0.5-2 mL fresh plant (1:2, 95%) or dried plant (1:5, 60%) as needed or 3x/day
Infusion: 8 fl oz (1-2 teaspoons dried aerial parts in 1 cup water); drink 1 cup at bedtime to promote sleep.
While California poppy is known for its sedative effects, it's important to be cautious when using it. Higher doses may interfere with activities like driving or operating heavy machinery, and combining it with other sedatives can have additive effects. It's also important to avoid using California poppy with alcohol, tranquilizers, MAOIs, analgesics, or other central nervous system depressants. Overdose can result in headaches and fatigue the following day. Pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant should avoid California poppy, as one of its alkaloids has been shown to stimulate the uterus in animal studies. While low doses may be safe for children, it's not recommended for infants.(7)
(1)Salmón, E. (2020). Iwígara: The kinship of plants and people. Portland, OR: Timber Press.
(2)Adams, J.D., & Garcia, C. (2009). Chumash treatments for tooth decay and gum disease. Wilderness Way, 14(4), 22-23.
(3)Marciano, M. (2015). Eschscholzia californica. Retrieved from http://thenaturopathicherbalist.com/2015/09/20/eschscholzia-californica/
(4)Fedurco, M., Gregorová, J., Šebrlová, K., Kantorová, J., Peš, O., Baur, R., … Táborská, E. (2015). Modulatory effects of Eschscholzia californica alkaloids on recombinant GABAA receptors. Biochemistry Research International, 2015, Article ID 617620. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/617620
(5)Zampieron, E.R. (2018). Successful application of Eschscholzia californica to combat opioid addiction. International Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 11(4), 228-229. https://doi.org/10.15406/ijcam.2018.11.00403
(6)Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
(7)Marciano, M. (2015). Eschscholzia californica. Retrieved from http://thenaturopathicherbalist.com/2015/09/20/eschscholzia-californica/
Double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a fixed combination containing two plant extracts (Crataegus oxyacantha and Eschscholtzia californica) and magnesium in mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders
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