California Poppies blanket the Western United States in a golden orange during the spring and summer. Growing annually and sometimes perennially, these prolific self sowing wildflowers open when the sun is out and close up at night. They are a member of the Papaveraceae family and prefer to grow in full sun in sandy soils. In California, they are found almost anywhere under 5000 feet that is sloping and gets spring rains or some type of moisture. It’s found throughout the Southwest, and as far east as West Texas and as far north as British Columbia.The plants reach modest heights of 2 feet, and typically spread out in fields or grow in clumps close together. They have long, slender stalks with finely dissected feathery alternate leaves that appear blue in the spring, and a solitary orange flower with vibrant, velvety petals. The flower always has four petals that fall off when the seedpod ripens, appearing as a slender needle with a ring around the base. Unlike other members of the poppy family, California poppy does not produce a milk sap. The plants can be easily cultivated by scattering seeds in backyards or open fields.
California Poppy is a sedative, hypnotic, anti-spasmodic, and anodyne herb most commonly used in treating pain, restlessness, and insomnia. The plant oxygenates the circulatory system, helping to absorb vitamin A. It has a reputation of being a non-addictive, less powerful alternative to the opium poppy. Although both poppies are in the same family, California poppy has a different effect on the nervous system; rather than acting as a narcotic and disorienting the user, California poppy typically normalizes psychological functions, making it a gentle and valuable treatment for both physical and psychological problems. It can be used safely to treat children for coughs, sleepless, bedwetting, nervous tension, and excitability. Excessive dosage of the plant can cause a mildly hung-over feeling the next day, generally ruling out all those seeking a pleasurable experience from the plant. In the words of Michael Moore, a widely respected Southwestern herbalist, “the plant is functional, not fun”. Topically, the plant can be used to treat surface pain and superficial fungal infections such as ringworm.
The Californian Native Americans boiled or roasted the leaves of the poppy to treat colic pain and chewed the leaves to treat toothaches. The Cahuilla Indians considered the plant poisonous, and it was only used by their healers. As a flower essence, California poppy is used to assist emotional clearing. French studies have shown that the California poppy does in act as a sedative, reduce anxiety, and proved to be nontoxic.
Flavor Profile and Energetics
1-2 teaspoons of dried herb infused in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes, drunk before bed, or 1-4 ml of tincture at night.
If trying to administer to children, combine with more pleasant tasting herbs such as mint, licorice, or chamomile.
Avoid during pregnancy.
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