Eschscholzia californica (California poppygolden poppyCalifornia sunlightcup of gold) is a species of flowering plant in the Papaveraceae family, native to the United States and Mexico. It is an ornamental plant flowering in summer, with showy cup-shaped flowers in brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow (occasionally pink). It is also used as food or a garnish. It became the official state flower of California in 1903.


Traditional Use

The California poppy is known in folk medicine for its sedative, anxiolytic, and antinociceptive effects. Because of these sedative, anxiolytic, and analgesic effects, this herb is currently sold in pharmacies in many countries. (1)

Eschsholzia californica is a traditional medicinal plant of the Indians used by the rural population of California for its analgesic and sedative properties. (2)

Active Constituents

The effects of California poppy have been traditionally assigned to protopine and allocryptopine. Both alkaloids act as weak stimulators of the binding of GABAA receptor agonists in the rat brain, as anti-inflammatory agents and as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Another aporphine alkaloid isolated from this plant, namely, N-methyllaurotetanine (NMT), was reported to act as antagonist at the serotonin 5HT1AR receptor. Protopine and allocryptopine were also found to block human serotonin and noradrenaline transporters (hSERT and NERT) and possess antidepressant-like effects on animal models. (1)

Scientific Evidence

It is believed that mild sedative and antinociceptive properties of dry aerial parts of E. californica may be assigned to binding of morphine (and/or other alkaloids) at the μ-opioid receptors. (1)

Acetylcholine is an organic chemical that functions in the brain and body of many types of animals, and humans, as a neurotransmitter. Acetylcholinesterase is the primary enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of acetylcholine and of some other choline esters that function as neurotransmitters.

All isolated compounds from California poppy were tested for human blood acetylcholinesterase (HuAChE) inhibiting activity, and two benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, reticuline 9 and 14, showed promising inhibitory activity against HuBuChE. (2)


Dosage and Safety

Typical recommendation for the E. californica dose is two 300 mg capsules of dry plant material before sleep. (1)



(1) Modulatory Effects of Eschscholzia californica Alkaloids on Recombinant GABAA Receptors. PUBMED

(2) Behavioural effects of the American traditional plant Eschscholzia californica: sedative and anxiolytic properties. PUBED

(3) Eschscholzia californica. Wikipedia