Californian poppy

Common name: Californian poppy
Other names: California poppy, golden poppy, California sunlight, cup of gold
Latin name: Eschscholzia californica
Affinity: Nervous system
Actions: Analgesic, sedative, anxiolytic, hypnotic, anti-spasmodic
Diseases: Pain(2), neuralgia (nerve pain)(2), insomnia(3), anxiety(2), migraine(3), depression(3), nervous bowel(3)
Parts used: Flowers, leaves, and stems


Characteristics: Californian poppy is a short lived perennial native to western North America that grows in a range of habitats, ranging from sea level to 2000m in altitude (Becker et al., 2005; Robinson et al., 1995). It usually germinates during early winter through to early spring and tends to flower well into fall. Californian poppy has large bright golden flowers.

History: The American Indians used Californian poppy for colic pain and it has a long history of traditional use in Northern America (Hoffman, 1988).

Current applications: Thomas Bartram lists it for insomnia, migraine, stress, nervous bowel, anxiety, depression and neuralgia (Bartram, 2013). He also recommends it with passionflower for insomnia.

Science: Californian poppy is a known analgesic and anxiolytic from studies using in vivo models (Rolland et al., 2001; Rolland et al., 1991). However, there is only one human study of Californian poppy, and unfortunately it was a patented extract study in complex with hawthorn and magnesium ((Hanus et al., 2004). Regardless, the authors found a reduction in anxiety in line with the traditional use of this medicinal plant. However, more studies are clearly required to understand this medicinally important plant.

Safety: Californian poppy is safe even for the young, old, and pregnant or breast feeding women.

Dosage: 1-4ml tincture two or three times daily.

Brands: I recommend Herb Pharm.

Scientific Summary

Research on models

Analgesic effects: Californian poppy has been shown to demonstrate analgesic effects in the periphery of in vivo models (Rolland et al., 2001). It appears to act in a manner dependent on a benzodiazepine receptor.

Anxiolytic effects: This poppy has been found to exert an anxiolytic effect (anxiety reducing) on in vivo models (Rolland et al., 1991).

Research on humans

Anxiety: One study (n = 264, double blind placebo controlled) examined Calafornian poppy, hawthorn, and magnesium in a patented extract called Sympathyl (Hanus et al., 2004). Individuals took two 375mg tablets twice daily for 3 months. There were statistically significant decreases in anxiety.


Bartram, Thomas. Bartram’s encyclopedia of herbal medicine. Hachette UK, 2013.

Becker, Annette, Stefan Gleissberg, and David R. Smyth. “Floral and vegetative morphogenesis in California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.).” International Journal of Plant Sciences 166.4 (2005): 537-555.

Hanus, Michel, Jacqueline Lafon, and Marc Mathieu. “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.” Current medical research and opinion 20.1 (2004): 63-71.

Robinson, George R., James F. Quinn, and Maureen L. Stanton. “Invasibility of experimental habitat islands in a California winter annual grassland.” Ecology 76.3 (1995): 786-794.

Rolland, A., et al. “Neurophysiological effects of an extract of Eschscholzia californica Cham.(Papaveraceae).” Phytotherapy Research 15.5 (2001): 377-381.

Rolland, Alain, et al. “Behavioural effects of the American traditional plant Eschscholzia californica: sedative and anxiolytic properties.” Planta medica 57.03 (1991): 212-216.