The Benefits of California Poppy

Man with anxiety.
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California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a plant whose extracts are used to treat a variety of health problems, such as insomnia. According to proponents of herbal medicine, California poppy extract acts as a nervine (a substance said to have a soothing effect on the central nervous system).

It should be noted that, unlike the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), California poppies do not produce morphine.

Uses for California Poppy

In alternative medicine, California poppy is often used to treat stress-related health issues, including anxiety. It's also said to alleviate pain and aid in the treatment of pain-associated issues such as headache and low back pain.

In addition, California poppy is sometimes used to treat the following conditions:

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder 

Some proponents suggest that California poppy can also help protect against age-related memory impairment and enhance mood

Benefits of California Poppy

To date, there's very little scientific support for the purported benefits of California poppy. However, some research shows that this herb may help relieve anxiety and promote relaxation.

For example, a study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion in 2004 found that a preparation containing California poppy extract, hawthorn extract, and magnesium may help treat some anxiety disorders.

The study included 264 patients with generalized anxiety of mild-to-moderate intensity.

For the study, participants were randomly split into two groups: 130 patients received the combination of California poppy, hawthorn, and magnesium; the other 134 patients were given a placebo. After three months of treatment, study members assigned to the former group showed a significantly greater improvement in anxiety (compared to those given the placebo).

In a much older study (published in the journal Planta Medica in 1991), tests on mice demonstrated that California poppy extract may offer anti-anxiety benefits as well as sedative effects. 


Due to a lack of long-term studies on California poppy and its health effects, the safety of long-term or regular use of this herb is unknown. However, there's some concern that using California poppy in combination with other sleep aids may cause drowsiness and other side effects.

Since California poppy may affect your central nervous system, it's crucial to avoid use of this herb at least two weeks prior to undergoing surgery.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Alternatives to California Poppy

California poppy is one of several natural remedies said to promote healthy sleep and help insomnia sufferers reduce their dependence on sedative medications. For instance, some research indicates that herbs like valerian and hops may help you sleep better. There's also some evidence that kava and lemon balm may be helpful to people dealing with anxiety-related sleep disturbance.

A number of essential oils used in aromatherapy may possess sedative properties that could help you get to sleep. These remedies include lavender essential oil, which has been found to alleviate insomnia in scientific studies. 

There are many other ways to improve your sleep hygiene and ease your insomnia without using sleep aids. For starters, make sure to get to sleep around the same time every night, and unwind before bedtime with a relaxing routine (such as taking a warm bath, listening to calming music, sipping chamomile tea, or performing some gentle yoga poses). 

Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, boosting your exposure to natural light, exercising regularly, and taking up a stress-reducing practice such as meditation may also be beneficial when it comes to getting a good night's sleep.

Where to Find It

Dietary supplements, tinctures, and teas containing California poppy extract are sold in many natural-foods stores and other stores specializing in natural products. You can also purchase California poppy products online.

Using California Poppy for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend California poppy as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using it, make sure to consult your physician first.


Hanus M1, Lafon J, Mathieu M. “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.” Curr Med Res Opin. 2004 Jan;20(1):63-71.

Rolland A1, Fleurentin J, Lanhers MC, Younos C, Misslin R, Mortier F, Pelt JM. “Behavioural effects of the American traditional plant Eschscholzia californica: sedative and anxiolytic properties.” Planta Med. 1991 Jun;57(3):212-6.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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