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The Sedative and Relaxing Properties of the California Poppy

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Background:

As spring sprang into action and plants started to blossom, I began to take notice of the unique and colorful flowers that appeared scattered amongst the sidewalks. One stuck out to me recently, on my backpacking trip at a scouting reserve called Monte Bello. This area is known for its vast abundance of a variety of native plants and animals. This bright-orange flower, which I came to realize, was called the California Poppy. If you couldn’t already tell by the name, the California Poppy is the native plant of California. Even after I returned from my outing, I saw a similar-looking orange flower sprouting up everywhere I went. This made me wonder, what actually makes these flowers so special? Why is it the native plant of California? I promptly returned home to quench my wonderment about this mystery flower and discovered the exceptional benefits and uses it provides for us.


The California Poppy (scientific name Eschscholzia californica) is most commonly found on the pacific west coast, however, they have been planted in many areas across the US and even parts of Asia and Australia. California Poppies are known for their ease to grow, their seeds germinate in the rainy months and soon after, during spring, they bloom all across the region with bright colors and wonderful sensations. These are popular plants in gardens. They often grow as a “super bloom” of sorts in spring months; when the germinated seeds achieve the desired conditions required for the growth of the plant, it can result in a large emergence of these flowers at approximately the same times of the year.

Health Benefits:

Aside from the beauty of the California Poppy, it is able to provide numerous medicinal benefits. Using the extract of the plant, supplements can be made which allow for a relaxing and sleep-enhancing effect when ingested. This key feature of the flower makes it commonly used to treat or reduce insomnia. In addition, the California Poppy can be helpful in treating bladder and liver-related diseases. Scientists have found that it is mainly useful for its assistance in mental disorders or issues, especially those related to anxiety, depression, and mood problems. Research suggests that when put in combination with other similar herbs, the California Poppy’s effects can be further enhanced or even allow for additional remarkable health benefits. Just some of these supplemental uses are to assist with mental and physical tiredness, nerve pain, and blood vessel problems, and can even be used for sedation in certain cases.

Science Behind It:

The California Poppy is able to provide these benefits due to the various chemicals and compounds that exist within the plant. The main reason for the plant’s ability of relaxation and sleepiness is because of alkaloids, which I have written about in previous blogs. The difference is, in this plant the alkaloids have involvement with enhancing gamma aminobuytyric acid receptors (GABA receptors). These exist throughout the body’s central nervous system and are known for being responsible for the regulation of sleep. The plant alkaloids of the California Poppy are able to enhance the effect of the GABA receptors, which aligns with its capacity to provide relaxation and sedative effects. As for the flower’s capability to provide even better effects when in combination with other medicinal herbs, this is again due to the plant alkaloids within it. These plant alkaloids are protopine and allocryptopine, which have already been stated to increase the levels of GABA within the body, however when in a mixture with another plant with similar abilities it can provide for an even higher sedative effect. One example of this is California Poppy extract mixed with Valerian extract (another medicinal herb). Based off of an experiment by ncbi.gov and healthline.com, “In a 1-month study including 36 people with insomnia, taking up to 4 tablets nightly of a supplement containing 80 mg of California poppy extract and 32 mg of valerian root extract led to significant improvements in sleep duration and sleep efficiency.” This evidence suggests the expansive uses for California poppy extract in terms of its use in treating insomnia patients in the future.

Conclusion:

As a result of my extensive research on the California Poppy, I now know how useful it can be in everyday life apart from being a beautiful garden plant. Although research on the plant’s benefits are significantly narrow and deserve more experimentation, I believe that in the future this medicinal plant could be very useful for treating insomniac patients, or even as a sedative for hospitals!


Works Cited:

“California poppy | Description & Facts | Britannica.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 April 2023, https://www.britannica.com/plant/California-poppy. Accessed 17 April 2023.

“A combination of Eschscholtzia californica Cham. and Valeriana officinalis L. extracts for adjustment insomnia: A prospective observational study.” NCBI, 1 March 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7109475/. Accessed 18 April 2023.

Feller, Maya. “California Poppy: Benefits, Uses, Dosage, and Side Effects.” Healthline, 10 December 2021, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/california-poppy. Accessed 17 April 2023.

Nelson, Julie Kierstead. “California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica).” USDA Forest Service, https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/eschscholzia_californica.shtml. Accessed 17 April 2023.


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