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Herb of the week: California poppy.

Botanical name: 

Photo: Eschscholzia californica 10. A short-short profile:

Latin: Eschscholzia californica.
Family: Poppy family, Papaveraceae.
Parts used: Aboveground parts. (Roots.)
Taste: Bitter.
4 humors: Dry (?), cold.


  • calming
  • great for opiate addictions
  • bitter (= good for the digestion and the appetite)

Non-food uses:

  • The bright orange sap of the root makes nice temporary tattoos.


  • If you dry the herb, contain it. If you don't, you'll twitch every time a seedpod flings off its load of small round ammo. The sound that makes when landing is quite similar to that of a mouse that's run into some paper. brrrrrrlll. *twitch*. twwrrrrrlll. *twitch*.
  • I think I've seen the roots mentioned somewhere or other as being antifungal but can't find that reference. Give a tincture or a tea of it a shot for athlete's foot or similar types of foot rot, and please report back!


  • I've mostly given it in addictions, as a fresh herb tincture.
  • The tincture is also great for insomnia. I blend it with either milky oats or St. John's wort.
  • The tea is nice and calming.
  • It's a cold herb, so add a heating herb (ginger or similar) if you give it to somebody who's cold.

Comments on Facebook:

  • From Margi Willowmoon:
    E. californica is generally safe internally for kids. It can help relax agitated or jumpy children near bedtime. It also makes a good relaxing bath herb for adults or children (whole plant). Internally, can help ease anxiety (as part of a formula) and is a nice gentle insomnia herb for helping kids or grown ups fall asleep.
    5 December at 20:44
  • From Lady Barbara:
    Our California Poppies stand along busy streets looking so radiant and elegant as traffic roars by. I've always liked that 'visual' for what it FEELS like.
    5 December at 21:03
  • From Catriona Stewart:
    Love this herb, very good for chronic anxiety; described to me as being helpful for anxiety with emotional pain; I use it for anxious Aspie people.
    8 December at 11:11
  • From Breda Sneddon:
    Petals lovely in salad. The flowers can be warmed in olive oil and used as a conditioning hair mask. I wish every hairdresser would offer this relaxing treatment!
    8 December at 18:04
  • From Henriette's herbal:
    Wow, nice ideas!
    8 December at 19:40

Comments on the herblist:

  • From Elaine McD.:
    Date: 2011 12 05 - 14:48:55 +0200

    I use California poppy in a blend with cordalis aurea. Great for insomniacs. I've had a few who have "tried everything" and finally get sleep from this blend. I'm planning a batch of infused oil for the crop this year -- last year the deer ate it and even pulled it from the ground.

    I find the plant rather enchanting. The vivid orange flowers and the blue gray lacy foliage. UMMM

  • From Karen F.:
    Date: 2011 12 05 - 18:38:30 +0200

    I tinctured two herbs for one of my massage clients who has extreme pain when muscles in his stomach legs etc seize up due to multiple back surgeries.

    This is what he told me: The California Poppy helps replace his Soma muscle relaxers.

    I tinctured him wild Blue Lettuce and he takes six drops, it helps him cut down on his pain meds. 10 drops mellowed him out unto the next day.

Please add your own experiences etc. in the comments.


Is it possible to get this herb in tropical climate??


It's at home in the desert of southern North America ... and it's an annual. Give it a try.

i had a client who experienced nervous stimulation/excitation in response to california poppy. it was in tea, in a blend with several other sedative herbs for insomnia. when the cal poppy was removed from the blend, the stimulant effect disappeared.

of possible relevance, this individual was undergoing m-to-f transgender hormone therapy. she also reported that she'd had this reaction to an opiate (codeine) in the past. at least one other person on the herbstudent (Yahoo) list had seen this effect before, though.