This delicate, bright and cheerful plant is not often thought of when one thinks of herbal medicine. Even so its medicine is both gentle and effective. Useful for anxiety and insomnia, it is appropriate that the plant has a gentle, nourishing approach, as people who suffer from these conditions are often quite sensitive and a harsher medicine can be upsetting to their more fragile constitution. Indeed if you have seen this plant, it’s tender stalk and leaves and delicate flower petals are a delight. All parts of the plant are used, including the seeds, which are calming but lack the opium found in its distant cousin, opium poppy.
Eschscholzia californica is native to California and can be found along the entire Western coastline of that state. One of my favorite uses of this plant is for spasmodic headaches, the kind that throb when you run up a flight of stairs. It combines well with lavender, feverfew and kava for this purpose, and this same combination can also help with IBS, or spasmodic colon, an uncomfortable digestive condition that is often accompanied by headache.
Since the plant is so gentle, it is perfect for use with children. It can help children who are anxious and can’t sleep at night, or who are unfocused and restless. The root is loaded with analgesic properties which help not only with headaches, but also tooth pain. Is it a coincidence that this plant can be used aptly for the same conditions in the elderly? What a perfect botanical option since the plant not only helps one relax and sleep, but also sharpens the intellect and focus. Beautiful!
Rosemary Gladstar includes poppy in a handy recipe for migraines in her book, Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. Partnering poppy with lavender and feverfew she notes that you can substitute poppy seeds for California poppy if you are in a pinch. A half teaspoon of this tincture (check out her book for the how-to) taken every day can help prevent chronic headaches and migraines.
California Poppy is my Herb of the Month for July, and is also the featured herb for October’s MidAtlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. The conference tagline, “Be Naturally Brilliant,” highlights the special message that comes from this plant: "Live gently on this earth, slow down, relax, and shine brightly each day."
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