California poppies are beautiful flowers that grow wild in many parts of North America.

In addition to beautifying landscapes across the United States, this plant may offer some medicinal benefits. It’s often touted for anti-anxiety and sleep-inducing effects, but you may wonder whether these claims are backed by evidence.

This article explains everything you need to know about California poppies, including their supplements and potential health benefits.

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The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a flower that belongs to the Papaveraceae or poppy plant family. It’s the state flower of California but grows in many other U.S. states, including Arizona, as well as in Northern Mexico (1, 2).

California poppies grow abundantly along roadsides as native wildflowers and are also commonly grown in gardens.

California poppy flowers range in color from orange to yellow and are a food source for pollinators like bumblebees. They’re also known as “cup of gold” and “California sunlight” because of their bright, cheery color (3).

How is California poppy used?

In addition to being a popular flower amongst gardeners, the California poppy is used for medicinal purposes.

Supplements containing California poppy extract, including tinctures and capsules, are said to have calming effects. Proponents claim that these supplements promote relaxation, reduce mild pain, and enhance sleep.

In fact, the California poppy has long been used in folk medicine for its sedative properties (4).

California poppy supplements are commonly mixed with other calming herbs like valerian, but some supplements contain only California poppy extract.

Summary

The California poppy is the state flower of California. It grows wild in many areas of the United States and is also a popular garden flower. It’s typically marketed as a natural sleep enhancer and commonly combined with other calming herbs like valerian.

The California poppy contains a variety of plant compounds, including alkaloids. These compounds act on GABA receptors, which are distributed throughout your central nervous system.

GABA receptors respond to the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuron firing. It’s one of the main neurotransmitters responsible for sleep regulation (5).

Drugs or compounds that enhance GABA receptors — increasing the amount of GABA in your body — have sedative effects, while those that inhibit GABA receptors have stimulative effects (6).

Alkaloids in California poppy, including protopine and allocryptopine, interact with GABA receptors. While studies are limited, some research suggests that the extract of this plant has sedative properties when used as a supplement (4).

All the same, owing to a lack of research, it’s not suggested to use California poppy to treat any health conditions.

May promote sleep when combined with other herbs

Limited evidence suggests that California poppy extract may promote sleep when mixed with valerian extract.

Like the alkaloids found in California poppy, compounds in valerian (Valeriana officinalis L.) — like valerenol and valerenic acid — enhance the response of GABA in your body, leading to sedative effects (7).

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 (8).

At the study’s end, the participants’ Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) decreased by about 30% (8).

However, this study didn’t have a control group. Plus, the researchers were employed by the supplement company, which may have influenced the results (8).

Aside from this one study, there’s limited human evidence on California poppy’s sleep effects. What’s more, no evidence indicates that California poppy treats sleep disorders when taken on its own. As such, its effectiveness is unknown.

May have sedative and anti-anxiety properties

Research in humans and animals suggests that California poppy extract may have sedative and anxiety-reducing effects. However, these studies are all from the 1990s or early 2000s, so their conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt.

For example, an older study found that California poppy extract had anti-anxiety and sleep-inducing effects in mice. Another older rodent study found that the extract helped relieve pain (9, 10).

Additionally, a 3-month study in 264 people with mild to moderate anxiety demonstrated that taking 2 tablets containing California poppy extract, hawthorn extract, and magnesium twice daily reduced anxiety symptoms more effectively than a placebo (11).

Although these findings seem promising, no human research suggests that California poppy is effective for any of these conditions on its own.

More recent human research is needed.

Summary

Limited evidence suggests that California poppy has sleep-inducing and anti-anxiety effects when combined with other ingredients. However, California poppy isn’t considered safe or effective for treating any health condition due to a lack of studies.

California poppy may interact with certain medications and cause adverse effects.

One study warned that California poppy extract and its alkaloids, including escholtzine and allocryptopine, may interact with certain drugs. These include blood thinners like warfarin and blood pressure medications like metoprolol (12, 13).

Additionally, insufficient research exists on the safety of high doses of California poppy extract.

Considering these factors, it’s discouraged to take this supplement without first consulting your doctor.

You should consider other safer and more evidence-based natural treatments for both anxiety and sleep over California poppy. For example, magnesium, saffron, and vitamin D may relieve anxiety, while valerian and melatonin may promote sleep (14, 15, 16, 17, 18).

Nevertheless, it’s best to check with your doctor before taking new supplements.

Summary

California poppy extract may interact with blood thinners and blood pressure medication. Due to a lack of research, little is known about its potential adverse effects.

There are very few human studies on California poppy extract.

Since the few studies available have mixed this supplement with other ingredients like valerian root, magnesium, or hawthorn, it’s currently unclear whether California poppy has any benefits on its own.

No evidence currently suggests that this supplement helps treat insomnia, anxiety, chronic pain, or any other medical condition or symptom.

How do you take it?

California poppy is available in tablets, capsules, tea, and tinctures.

According to the National Capital Poison Center, a typical adult dose of California poppy extract is 40 mg twice a day (19).

However, due to a lack of research, it’s best to choose other supplements. Doctors typically advise against taking any supplement that hasn’t been proven safe or effective.

If you do want to try California poppy, be sure to consult your doctor first.

Summary

No evidence suggests that California poppy is effective for treating any medical condition or symptom on its own. If you decide to try this supplement, talk with your doctor first.

The California poppy is a beautiful wildflower that some people claim offers anti-anxiety and sleep-inducing effects when taken as a supplement.

However, aside from a handful of studies, very little evidence indicates that this plant offers health benefits when used on its own. As such, it’s not recommended to take California poppy supplements to treat any health condition.

If you’re still interested in taking California poppy supplements, talk with your doctor first.