With its vibrantly colourful annual flower, the California poppy is
a wonderful asset to brighten the garden in summer and yet it has
so much more to offer as a great antidote to stress. It is the
state flower of California, native to the west of North America and
is also found growing in southern France, Australia and Chile. It
was first described by Adelbert von Chamisso (c.1820), a naturalist
on a Russian ship, the Rurik, on a scientific expedition to
California in 1810. On seeing hillsides apparently on fire with
their covering of the poppies, he named the genus in honour of his
close friend Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, a Baltic German botanist
who was also the expedition's physician. The flower is usually
golden orange in colour, hence its common name ‘golden poppy’.
California poppy is a member of the Papaveraceae family, cousin to
the infamous opium poppy, but far less powerful. The leaves and
flowers have a wonderfully relaxing effect and constitute a great
‘feel good’ herb with subtle euphoric properties. The plant was
used for colicky pains and toothache by the native Americans and
early settlers and was first introduced to Europe as an ornamental.
It began to be used as a medicine in the last century, when it
rapidly gained a reputation as a non-addictive alternative to the
opium poppy, and a safe remedy to calm excitability, restlessness,
anxiety, pain, tension and insomnia in adults and children alike.
California poppy contains isoquinoline alkaloids (including
californidine, sanguinarine, escholzine, protopine, crytpopine,
chelidonine), flavone glycosides (including rutin, quercetin and
isorhamnetin) carotenoids and essential oil. It acts as a nervine,
sedative, analgesic, febrifuge, antispasmodic, anxiolytic,
thymoleptic, antihistamine and uterine stimulant.
It is an excellent herb for the nervous system and can be thought
of as a gentle balancer to the emotions and a calming remedy for
times of stress; research has borne out its sedative and anxiolytic
properties. It is suitable for calming both children and adults,
helping to reduce anxiety and tension in the day and induce sleep
at night without side effects of drowsiness or stupor. It can be
used to ease depression, restlessness and agitation, and is
especially good for people who find it hard to let go and relax and
push themselves too hard, often to the point of exhaustion.
Its antispasmodic action relaxes muscles throughout the body,
making it a useful remedy for soothing tense, aching muscles and
treating stress-related gut problems, IBS, colic and gallbladder
pain. It can also be used for relieving tension headaches and is
excellent for treating bedwetting in children, asthma and spasmodic
coughs where there is a stress element; in fact it can be added to
prescriptions for a wide variety of stress-related conditions. By
calming the nervous system California poppy influences the heart
and circulation. It slows a rapid heart, relieves palpitations, and
reduces blood pressure.
Ms Mona Yang