California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)


California Poppy Summary

California poppy is a relative of the opium poppy that gives us morphine. This particular member contains a different set of alkaloids with similar, but milder effects.

California Poppy is the official state flower for California but grows throughout the Southern parts of the United States.

It's primary uses — both in modern herbal medicine and traditional herbal medicine — is for treating anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia. It's one of the most potent herbal sedatives available.


+ Indications

  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Insomnia (Sleep onset and Sleep maintenance)
  • Migraine headaches
  • Skin ulcers (Topically)
  • Substance Abuse

+ Contraindications

May interact with benzodiazepines or other sedatives (additive). Caution Advised.

Herbal Actions:

  • Analgesic
  • Antispasmodic
  • Anxiolytic
  • Nervine

How Is California Poppy Used?

California poppy is used for its sedative and analgesic effects. It contains a set of alkaloids similar to morphine, though not as strong. It can be used both internally for anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain, as well as topically for skin irritations and ulcers.


Herb Details

Weekly Dose

Part Used

  • Aerial parts

Family Name

  • Papaveraceae


  • Southern parts of The United States of America

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Constituents of Interest

  • Eschscholtzine
  • Californidine
  • Sanguinarine
  • Chelerythrine

Common Names

  • California Poppy
  • Kaliforniese papawer (Afrikaans)
  • Pavot de Californie (France)


  • CYP3A4
  • CYP2C9
  • CYP2C19
  • CYP2D6
  • CYP1A2


  • No adverse effects expected.


  • Bitter

Duration of Use

  • May be used long term.

Botanical Information

California poppy is a member of the Papaveraceae family. This family contains roughly 42 genera and about 775 different species. The Eschscholzia genus itself contains about 12 different species.

The species, Eschscholzia californica, is very diverse, as it has been extensively bred commercially and by hobbyists as an ornamental garden flower.


Research Overview:

Still compiling research


Clinical Applications Of California Poppy

California poppy extract enhances GABA binding and is an opioid receptor agonist. It's been shown to displace fluorazepam from the benzodiazepam receptor. This is likely the main mechanism of action for California Poppy's sedative, and analgesic effects.



  • May possess additive interaction with benzodiazepines.


Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)


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