Apothecary Featured Herb: California poppy

yellow flower in close up view

If you’ve driven past the Sanctuary this summer, there’s a good chance you saw our happy crop of California poppies, or Eschscholzia californica, smiling out onto Loucks Road. These pretty petals open up every morning and close as the sun sets. And just like their tall cousins, Papaver somniferum, these flowers have a wide variety of medicinal uses. Read on to learn how to incorporate them into your herbal toolkit.

photo of a flower field

California Poppy Uses

As you might expect from a member of the poppy family, California poppies are beneficial when it comes to relaxing things, which means they can be useful in a variety of ways.

California poppy has a soothing and relaxing effect, making it an ideal herb if you suffer from anxiety. It can help to settle and regulate the nervous system. While typically this is an effect built over long-term use in small doses, it has even been known to help people with acute symptoms.

Because of its relaxing power, you can use California poppy as a sleep aid when you are struggling with insomnia. Its sedative effects are fairly mild. For this reason, it can provide the gentle support you’re looking for to treat sleeplessness in children, adults, and the elderly.

Accordingly, California poppy also relaxes the body. We recommend it for muscle pain including menstrual cramps, tension headaches, and spasms. It’s a non-addictive alternative to the strong prescription drugs derived from other members of the poppy family.

How to Take California Poppy

We recommend taking California poppy orally as a tincture. You can often find it in blends with other herbs to suit specific needs. While less common, the leaves are also edible.

Planting Your Own California Poppies

If you grew up on the West Coast, you may have seen these flowers everywhere. Not only do they derive their name from California, but they serve as the state flower. As you might expect, these plants do well in full sun and don’t require a ton of water. Sow their seeds in the spring to enjoy them in the summer months, though they will become dormant in extreme heat. Deadhead them to encourage new blooms.

Another important reminder when choosing to plant them: California Poppies should not be confused with the somniferum members of the Papaveraceae family. The seeds of the tall red flowers we often associate with the name poppy are not only a great addition to bagels but also an essential component to several narcotic drugs. Both make beautiful additions to any garden, but they are very different flowers!

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