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California poppies, my pretty, will help you sleep

In the classic film, “The Wizard of Oz,” the Wicked Witch tricks Dorothy and her trio of compatriots to wander through a field of poppies.

“Sleeeeeeeep….sleeeeeeep…..” the witch cackles as they suddenly fall pooped into the poppies.

Ah yes, another twisted perception of herbalism. You see, my pretty, it takes more than a sniff of the pretty poppy to knock you on your yellow brick road. However, the trip you take with the medicinal California poppy will not include sightings of munchkins, flying monkeys or any member of the Lollipop Guild. While the herb is classified in some herbals as a “narcotic” (i.e., a sedative), the California poppy is a mild-mannered relaxant, safe enough for even a baby to imbibe.



While the velvety, orange-petaled California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) is in the same family as the famed Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), their effects are nothing alike. What you will get with the California poppy is a gentle sedative and mild painkiller that is non-addictive.

In order to truly benefit from California poppy, it’s important to note the best way to take the plant. Hands down, the tincture is the way to go. When you purchase the tincture, make sure it’s made from the fresh, whole plant. This includes even the root if possible.



As a sedative, California poppy tends to “cool” hot nerves and edgy states of anxiety. Think of the “Type A” personality and you’ve got a good idea of what a “hot” personality is like. The herb makes an excellent remedy for insomnia or to “cool the fire” when you can’t stop that endless tape in your head.

The recommended dose is 15-25 drops of the tincture under the tongue three times a day. If you’re one of those people who occasionally wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep due to worry or anxiety, keep a bottle of California poppy tincture next to your bed and squirt a dropperful (approximately 25 drops) under your tongue the minute you awaken. This remedy will often enable you to drift back to sleep and feel refreshed in the morning.

California poppy is also effective for minor pain relief, such as toothache pain or post-surgery trauma. The North American Indians used to press the fresh plant or a compress of a strong tea infusion into a painful toothache. While this method can still be used today, it will not “fix” the toothache ” it will simply temporarily kill the pain until you can get to a dentist. For minor, general pain relief, try 15-25 drops of the tincture three times a day.

There is an important caution with California poppy. Excessive quantities can often cause a “hangover” effect the following morning or a feeling of “being fuzzy in the head.” This can also lead to nausea. California poppy is not an herb to take long-term without a break, nor is it an herb that can be doubled in dose to be more effective. Take it for no longer than two or three weeks and stick to the recommended dosage of 15-25 drops of the tincture three times a day.

Doubling or tripling the dose in order to knock yourself out will only cause a bleary, foggy perspective when you awaken.

Just when you thought there was nothing natural out there to help you sleep and relieve minor pain, here comes along this cheery little flower. So, click your spoon against your tincture bottle and repeat after me: “There’s no plant like California poppy, there’s no plant like California poppy … ”

This column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.


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