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Californian Poppy

Papaver Somniferum

What are the Potential Health Benefits of Californian Poppy Seeds?

Explore the potential health benefits of Californian Poppy Seeds as we delve into the various advantages that these seeds may provide for your overall well-being.

What are Californian Poppy Seeds?

Californian poppy is in the poppy family. Its other names include Mexican Poppy and Gold Poppy.

Poppy seeds are known for their nutty flavour and are packed with fatty acids and antioxidants.

Californian poppy is a small, short-lived perennial plant found throughout California. It has blueish-green stems and the four-petalled flowers are generally orange and may occasionally be yellow or white.

Active compounds: Alkaloids and berberine

What are the benefits of Californian Poppy Seeds?

Poppy seeds are commonly included in baked goods and traditional cuisine across the world. Both the seeds and the oil offer various health benefits, from use in headaches, coughs, asthma, biliary colic (occurring when a gallstone blocks the bile duct) and insomnia, to name a few [i].

Californian poppy is a sub-opiate, which means it is mainly opiate-like in its action on the body. Opiates act to reduce pain perception by inhibiting neurotransmitter release. Opiates favour a parasympathetic dominance; which can be described as the ‘rest and digest’ mode of the nervous system.

Of the opium alkaloids found on poppy seeds, morphine, and codeine are the most pharmacologically active and have been detected in very small amounts in poppy seeds. The European Food Safety Authority introduced an acute reference dose of 10 μg morphine/kg of body weight as a safe level for morphine in food products. Thus, moderate poppy seed consumption is considered safe [ii]. Herbal supplements and poppy extract from reputable brands will be monitored in terms of this content.

In Ancient Samaria, the poppy was called ‘hul gil’, meaning the plant of joy. Later, the poppy reached the early Egyptian civilisation where trade expanded for the sake of its medicinal properties in aiding sleep. In Europe, the Ancient Greeks also held this plant in high regard, also due to the medical values. The Greek Gods of sleep Hypnos, Thánatos and the goddess Nyx, goddess of the night, are all depicted with poppy wreaths as a symbol. The popularity of the poppy then quickly spread across the world.

Sedative effects

Californian poppy has sedative effects and also prevents muscle spasms. The action on pain relief applies to both nerve-centred and muscle pain. It is also said to be of use in diminishing a spasmodic cough, if presenting with a fever [iii].

When applied to the skin, the plant is antimicrobial and may be used on a wide array of bacterial conditions.

Heart and skin health

Poppy seeds are nutritious when consumed as food, containing high levels of manganese. This trace element is important for bone health and for the function of blood clotting. They are also high in copper, a mineral required by the body to make connective tissue and transport iron [iv].

Additionally poppy seeds and the oil extracted from them contain active components such as polyphenols, which act as antioxidants to reduce risk of developing diseases such as heart disease [v] [vi] [vii].

Research suggests that diets rich in unsaturated fats may reduce your risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to 17%. This is said to be due to the high ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat [viii] [ix].

It is also thought from current evidence that the fats in poppyseed oil may also support wound healing, as well as prevent skin lesion such as scaly lesions. Thus it is popular to apply directly to the skin [x] [xi].

Other indications for use

Pain, from acute injury

Insomnia and anxiety

Spasmodic cough

Cuts and external wounds

Safety precautions

Californian poppy could potentiate reliance on pain relieving or sedative pharmaceuticals.

Pregnancy and breast feeding

Do not use during pregnancy and breast feeding as safety has not been proven.

Long-term use is acceptable, as the plant is not generally considered habit forming.


Californian poppy can slow down actions of the central nervous system causing sleepiness and other effects. This may cause additive effects and therefore cause excessive drowsiness when paired with anaesthesia and other sedative medications used during and after surgery. It is recommended to stop using California poppy at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.


Please do not use poppy seed in cases of severe nut or seed allergy

Image credit Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

Recommended For

Viral Infection , Cardiovascular Health / Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) , Skin Support , Inflammation , Sleep , Anxiety , Stress

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