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What Is California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)?

What Is California Poppy

Known for their beautiful, vibrant flowers, California poppies have become a mainstay of gardens worldwide. But could there be more to these perennial plants than first meets the eye? Keep reading to find out if California poppy extract could hold multiple wellness benefits.

What exactly is California poppy?

Take a trip across America, and you won't travel far before spotting California poppies (Eschscholzia californica). In fact, this member of the Papaveraceae family has become a favourite in gardens across the world, thanks to its vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow.[1]

California poppy is especially prevalent in Arizona, Northern Mexico, and, unsurprisingly, California. Not only does the plant thrive under the Californian sun, but the California poppy was officially adopted as the state flower in 1903.

However, it isn't just the beautiful colours and the plant's adaptable nature that have won over fans. Among scientists, it's the flower's proposed influence on functions related to sleep and mood, and its synergy with other natural herbs, that is of chief interest.

What is California poppy good for?

The California poppy has long been used as a holistic herb. Believed to encourage restful sleep, many people favour the flower for its soothing influence, and regularly consume it as a tea, tincture, tablet, or capsule.

Despite the flower's popularity, research into its mechanism of action is limited. What has been uncovered so far indicates that the plant's compounds may act on the GABA system. Responsible for controlling neuron signalling, the GABA system (alongside the neurotransmitter GABA) shares many links with sleep, mood disorders, and general well-being.

It's thought that compounds capable of binding with GABA receptors can help "turn down" overactive neuron firing, thus helping to balance the mind and body. Fortunately, the California poppy contains several alkaloids capable of binding with GABA receptors, and it's via this interaction that the flower could affect well-being.[2]

What are the potential benefits of the California poppy?

Research is limited, but there are a handful of preclinical and animal model studies we can use to establish potential benefits.

California poppy and sleep

The California poppy is regularly linked to sleep. Fortunately, a 2019 study by French researchers appears to support the relationship, albeit with a slight caveat. The observational study used a combination of herbal extracts (Eschscholzia californica and Valeriana officinalis), rather than relying solely on the California poppy.[3] Combined, the two extracts showed promise for promoting proper sleep function, but researchers highlighted that further investigation was needed before any definitive conclusions could be made.

California poppy and mood disorders

Keeping with the theme of combined plant extracts, a 2004 paper from Innothera Laboratories used fixed quantities of Crataegus oxyacantha, Eschscholzia californica, and magnesium against a placebo in "mild-to-moderate" anxiety disorders.[4] Of the 265 patients, 130 received the study drug (Sympathyl), with efficacy and safety data recorded at 7, 14, 30, 60, and 90 days. Compared to placebo, researchers noted a greater decrease in "subjective patient-rated anxiety". However, the study group did highlight a marked increase in adverse effects, calling into question the risk to benefit ratio.

California poppy and sedative activity

Given the flower's links to sleep, it's not surprising that, according to a 1991 study, high doses of California poppy extract may produce a sedative-like effect. In the study, researchers gave mice upwards of 200mg/kg of aqueous Eschscholzia californica.[5] Interestingly, sedative properties were observed at 100mg/kg, with mice failing their locomotion test and falling asleep. Doses as low as 25mg/kg may prove impactful, but further evaluation of behavioural effects is needed. Finally, the paper claims that "our aqueous extract did not induce toxic effects", a finding that could prove pivotal for future human trials.

Potential side effects of California poppy

The lack of human trials means we don't know much about the long-term impact of California poppy consumption. Fortunately, short-term use appears safe, with few reported side effects. However, it's crucial to consider the sedative-like influence of the California poppy, especially if you're currently taking (or plan to take) medication of a similar nature.

When looking to source California poppy supplements, only consider reputable suppliers. Because it's common for the flower to feature alongside other herbs and ingredients, there is a risk that poor-quality products may include unwanted or even harmful elements. If you have any concerns about the suitability of California poppy, the best person to speak to is a doctor or physician for case-specific advice.

How much California poppy should you take?

When it comes to dosing California poppy, the best advice is to follow the recommendations associated with specific products. If you're new to taking California poppy extract, there's no harm in starting with a lower-than-recommended dose to gauge how the extract affects you. Once you're accustomed to the plant's influence, you can increase accordingly.

Thankfully, there are several forms of California poppy extract to choose from. California poppy tea is a straightforward product, albeit with a lower bioavailability than other options. Capsules, tinctures, and tablets are much more concentrated, so be sure to verify how many milligrams of extract each one contains beforehand.

Is California poppy safe?

The limited research supporting the California poppy makes it challenging to draw a definite conclusion regarding its safety. While short-term use appears safe and well-tolerated, we don't know much about the long-term implications. And then there is the frequent blending of California poppy with other herbal ingredients to consider.

However, provided you take a common-sense approach to California poppy extract, there's little reason not to try it yourself. Just ensure you speak to a doctor or physician first for case-specific advice, don't exceed dosing recommendations, and cease use immediately if you experience any unwanted side effects. Given the plant's synergy with other herbs, you can rest assured we haven't seen the last of the vibrant and alluring California poppy.

Want to experience California poppy extract alongside tried and tested ingredients? Visit the Cibdol store today for a complete selection of wellness supplements. Or, to learn more about GABA and GABA receptors, visit our CBD Encyclopedia for everything you need to know.


[1] California poppy. Encyclopædia Britannica. Published 2018. Accessed May 26, 2022. [Source]

[2] Fedurco M;Gregorová J;Šebrlová K;Kantorová J;Peš O;Baur R;Sigel E;Táborská E; M. Modulatory effects of Eschscholzia californica alkaloids on recombinant gabaa receptors. Biochemistry research international. Published 2015. Accessed May 26, 2022. [Source]

[3] Abdellah SA, Berlin A, Blondeau C, et al. A combination of eschscholtzia californica cham. and valeriana officinalis L. extracts for adjustment insomnia: A prospective observational study. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine. Published March 1, 2019. Accessed May 27, 2022. [Source]

[4] M; HMLJM. 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. Published 2004. Accessed May 27, 2022. [Source]

[5] Rolland A;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 medica. Published 1991. Accessed May 27, 2022. [Source]

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