California Poppy for Pain

California Poppy for Pain

California Poppy for Pain

When one thinks of poppy, one may think a bit about opium. In fact it is quite a distant relative to the opium poppy Papaver somniferum. But yet, people continue to connect the two. We’ll learn that there’s a lot more to California poppy than this association.

What is the California Poppy?

California poppy is native to california, as you might expect. It is also the official state flower of California. It grows all along the western coast of the United States, too. It likes sunny weather and sandy soil. The soil should also have proper drainage. The poppy works well in California because it is tolerant of the droughts that come along with summer. Despite these planting preferences, the California poppy can also be grown in gardens and less perfect environments. This poppy is a perennial plant with a short life unless it is grown in cold climates. Then, it is an annual plant. California poppy works best where there is little competition, there it will re-seed itself with little trouble at all. The California poppy is a tall plant that can reach nearly two feet, if given the proper soil and water. The leaves are a greyish green color. The leaves sometimes have a tiny dash of red at the ends.

California poppy does not have any opiates in it. It is not an addictive plant and is considered safe by most (Flower Essence Society).


Every plant has a history, and this plant’s story starts with the Native Americans of the  California area. They used the poppy for many remedies.

The California poppy’s modern story starts with the Spanish settlers that made their home in California. They were greeted by fields of California poppies. It is even suggested that the brightness of the poppies helped to guide the settlers’ ships as they sailed up the California coastline. For this reason, they referred to the coast as the “land of fire.” They gave the poppy a nickname too: “cup of gold.” The scientific name Eschscholzia is not Spanish, but rather refers to Friedrich Gustav von Eschscholtz. Von Eschscholtz was on an expedition in the early part of the 1800s in the San Francisco Bay. He noticed the hills lit up with these bright poppies (Flower Essence Society).

California Poppy for Pain

It is rumored that California poppy can be used to treat pain. Let’s take a look at what makes up the poppy as well as what it may do for pain.

California poppy contains flavonglycosides and alkaloids, the latter which are in fact the main active ingredient. California poppy contains a few types of these alkaloids (e.g., chelirubine, sanguinarine and macarpine). The California poppy is said to to offer the following health effects:

  • acting as a sedative
  • elicit effects much like an analgesic
  • working as an antispasmodic

It performs these actions while also going forth with a gentle approach. The California poppy is most commonly used for treating conditions and to achieve benefits such as:

  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • improve memory
  • heavy coughs
  • high fevers
  • incontinence in children
  • ADD and ADHD in youth
  • for nerve and muscular pain
  • for tooth pain

And it is in the last two claims that we’ll take a closer look. Does California poppy really work for pain? It is believed that the odontalgic properties are in the root of the poppy. This part, when cut, can be put on the part of the body experiencing pain, supposedly treating it (The Herbal Resource).

The Critics

There are many sites and scholars that hesitate to make such simplified and bold claims. Emax Health, for example, discusses a few research articles in depth looking in hopes of figuring out how true the claims really are.

Their conclusion was less than hopeful for those proud fans of California poppy. They very bluntly end their article with: “…the evidence that taking an extract of the California Poppy as a safe and effective pain reliever is based on very little actual research that demonstrates safety and efficacy in humans.”

Dosage and Health concerns

If you decide to go ahead with California poppy in your daily diet, be sure to talk with your physician first. After talking with your healthcare professional, they may decide you can take California poppy for pain or other reasons. The dosage and guidelines might look something like this:

  • Take between a half and a whole teaspoon (about 40-80 drops).
  • The perfect dose amount should not make you too sleepy.
  • The trick is to find the dosage that helps you to reduce pain without overdoing it (The Ecology Center).

If you choose to take the herb in dried form, you can also get your California poppy by way of a nice cup of tea.

Again, even though the plant is considered to be relatively safe with little or no documented side effects, it is important to consult a physician before introducing it to your habits. It is also cautioned that pregnant or breast-feeding woman do not take California poppy in any form (Herbal Resource).


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