Californian Poppy

Plant Profiles
Escholzia californica
Californian Poppy

Family: Papaveraceae

Part used:  Usual practise is to harvest the whole plant fresh, including the roots and the seed pods for tinctures. Some just harvest the aerial parts, especially for the tea.

Botanical Description

Technically a perennial plant but is treated by most growers as an annual. It is a perennial or annual plant growing to 13–152 cm tall with alternately branching blue-green foliage. The leaves are alternately divided into round, lobed segments. The flowers are solitary on long stems, silky-textured, with four petals, each petal 2 to 6 cm long and broad; flower color ranges through yellow, orange and red, with some pinks. Flowering occurs from February to September in the northern hemisphere (spring, summer, fall). The petals close at night or in cold, windy weather and open again the following morning, although they may remain closed in cloudy weather. The fruit is a slender, dehiscent capsule 3 to 9 cm long, which splits in two to release numerous small black or dark brown seeds. It survives mild winters in its native range, dying completely in colder climates. 

Location, Cultivation & Harvesting

Native to the western regions of North America. Grows readily from seed and preferably in light, sandy soil. Seed can be scattered by hand into very shallow furrows or simply sown on the surface of the soil and lightly pressed in. If no rain follows and the soil is very dry, be sure to keep the soil moist to promote germination. California poppy does not like to be transplanted, so it is best that it is sown where it is grown.
Harvest: 40-60 days of growing should see the plant to full bloom. It blooms for so long – at the time of writing it is mid-November here in Ireland (albeit everything is late this year) and the poppies are still going for it.

History & Folklore

It’s latin name is imprinted by a colonial expedition of a Russian ship in the 19th century. On board was German surgeon and naturalist Friedrich Gustav von Eschscholtz, who saw the San Francisco Bay area hills emblazoned with California Poppy. It was used by indigenous cultures to the area as food, boiled or steamed. 

Taste / Energetics

Bitter with a hint of sweet ; cooling



Morphine alkaloids (inc. protopine, sanguinarine, chelerythrine), eschscholtzione, glycosides)

Sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, anodyne, nervine, febrifuge

Traditional & Current Uses

Upper Cauldron
• Though a cousin to the opium poppy, Californian poppy is far less potent. It provides safe sedative medicine to calm down over excited states, cool down hot anxiety, tension and insomniac states. It is suitable for calming hyperactive children; there is widely reported success with helping little ones in getting to sleep.
• Brings down overactive yang energy, helping to cool down states of heat and bringing some water to the fire.
• Anodyne and relaxing, and can be good for migraines, headaches, neuralgia, back and muscle pain, arthritis, sciatica & shingles. 

Middle Cauldron

• It can help slow a rapid heart rate, relieve palpitations and reduce blood pressure

Lower Cauldron

• As it is an antispasmodic herb, Californian poppy can help to relax the gut and relieve colic in the stomach and gallbladder.