California Poppies

I’ve just returned home after spending nearly 2 months in California. Oh how I love that state! The people, the mountains, the sunshine, and of course the bright and bountiful flowers found everywhere.

Standing in wildflowers found along a sidewalk in Oakland, CA.

There are many things that impress me about California, and San Francisco in particular. One of those things is how at every street corner, at nearly every shop, or even alley way,  beauty, spirit and activism seems to be remarkably woven together.
Take the Women’s Centre building for instance:

To get an idea of the scale of these murals, notice the two people standing in front of the building. Not only are the paintings gorgeous in their bright colour, they are rich with meaning. The sign held by one of the characters reads, “More funds for women’s health research”.

What I love most about the murals on this building is the effort to illustrate diverse representation within women’s health. In the paintings we have a woman in what looks like a doctor or nurse uniform with her tools of technology behind her. Next, a woman with a placard fighting for more funding; then a woman performing energy healing.

When not awe-struck by all the art my eyes, as usual, settle on what weeds are bursting through the sidewalk cracks. Here it was loud and clear:

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) were abundant everywhere! This beautiful plant also grows wildy all over Salt Spring Island. It somehow made sense to see so much of this beautiful flower that is also a sedative and helpful for insomnia. San Francisco is so stimulating, it was easy to never sleep with all the great people, food, music, and creative city life.  Of course the flower would be plentiful on every corner generously offering itself to the human aid. Plants are amazing that way–they grow where they are most needed.

Unlike it’s cousin the Opium poppy, California poppy is not a narcotic nor addictive.  In fact, it normalizes the nervous system, making it a safe choice for sleeplessness, anxiety and nervousness, even in small children. I have mostly used it in cases of irritability, heat congestion in the liver coupled by insomnia or restless sleep. I have used it in a small handful of cases for sciatica and other sharp shooting pains and it has worked very well.
I’ve made a fresh tincture with it, and also brewed it as a tea. If you have it growing around you, harvest the entire plant (flower, stem, leaves and all), chop it, and dry it for tea. Beware, it is VERY bitter! I combine it with mint, or some other palate-pleasing herb to buffer the intense flavour.

Speaking of, it’s beautiful outside, and I’m eager to be back on the island. I’m off to walk the garden before night falls, and plan next weeks post.

Have you tried California poppy? Let me know if you do. Write comments & questions below. I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Carol on December 15, 2020 at 3:48 pm

    Hello, has this helped you with insomnia? My mother is in Vancouver and she’s suffering from insomnia. Is there anyway she can buy dried Californian poppy? She lives in downtown Vancouver so I doubt she will find ones that are free from pollution.

    Thank you so much

    • Seraphina Capranos on December 15, 2020 at 4:44 pm

      Hi Carol,
      Yes, California Poppy is hugely helpful for insomnia. If your mother is in Vancouver, I highly recommend she or you, get in touch with Finlandia Pharmacy or Gaia Gardens. They have professional herbalists on staff, and they can make a mixture for her. Good luck!

  2. Mugs Bloomquist on July 28, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I would like to know a recipe for California Poppy tincture, to preserve for the winter. Seeds, whole plant as for the tea?
    Thanks beautiful

    • sersaphina capranos on July 31, 2011 at 8:34 am

      Hi Mugs ~ check out the post Tinctures for July and follow those directions for making a tincture. I used Vervain in that post, but you can use California Poppy. Harvest the flowering plant: that means the orange flowers, stem, leaves, and root all while it’s fresh—I dig up the whole plant, then cut it with scissors right into my jar. Use a 75% rum to tincture it. Hope that helps!

  3. Tucker on July 11, 2011 at 10:51 am

    This is so amazing!!
    I love the art work, just looking at it makes me happy inside.

    Are the poppies that you find on Salt Spring the same as in Vancouver?
    I see them growing wildly everywhere here as well.

    Keep up the Blog, I love reading what you have to write!

    • seraphina capranos on July 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      Hi Tucker,
      Yes–these are the same poppies that grow along most of the west coast. Look for them in a clean (away from potential car exhaust fumes, pesticides, dog excrement etc) environment. They love sun, and do well in dry soil, so look around in fields and meadows.
      Thanks, I’m glad you like my blog!

Leave a Comment