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Golden Poppy… The Sunshine of our Hearts

AKA: Eschscholzia californica, L. Family: Papaveraceae; Golden poppy, California sunlight, cup of gold, flame flower, qupe (Chumash name), munkai (Miwok name), herk’werh ‘we-chpega’r (Yurok name).

Propagation/Description: Eschscholzia californica is bright orange with blue-green, fern-like leaves and grows in bushy clumps up to 2 feet tall and wide. Their flower petals can reach 2 inches long and 3 inches wide. Sow the seeds shallowly (1/16-inch deep) in fall or early spring in mild, wet winter climates, including most of California west of the Sierra-Nevada. Seeds will germinate after the first fall rains or when the soil warms in the spring. In hot summer areas, the poppies will bloom in spring and early summer, and then the tops will die back, and the plants become dormant during the heat of the summer. They will reseed themselves if they are happy. When winters are cold, the poppy behaves as an annual, renewing itself from seed each year.

Folklore/History: Eschscholzia Californica, aka California Poppy or popularly known as the Golden Poppy, was adopted as the California state flower in 1903. It is is commonly seen blooming in the spring and summer along country roads and freeways throughout much of the state, making this plant a highly recognizable symbol of California, and April 6 of each year is officially designated as California Poppy Day. It is native to the Pacific slope of North America from Western Oregon to Baja California. Adelbert von Chamisso, naturalist aboard the Russian exploring ship "Rurick”, discovered and named the species. The Rurick visited Alaska and California in 1816 under the command of Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue. Chamisso named the California poppy Eschscholzia californica in honor of J. F. Eschscholtz, the ship's surgeon and entomologist. In Chumashan languages, the golden poppy was called “qupe,” and it appeared in a number of early Chumash myths and stories. One such story had the belief that “After death, as the soul journeys to Shimilaqsha, the Land of the Dead, it must pass a place where two ravens peck out its eyes. There are many poppies growing there in the canyons on each side. The soul quickly reaches its arms out to each side, picks two of these poppy flowers, and puts one in each eye socket. Thus, it is able to see again immediately. When the soul finally gets to Shimilaqsha, it is given eyes of blue abalone.” Early Spanish settlers called the flower the “copa de oro,” meaning “cup of gold,” or “dormidera,” meaning “to fall asleep.” When sailing along the coast, they saw the brilliant poppy fields on the hills and called this “the land of fire.”

Medicinal: Golden Poppy is a bitter herb which (bitter herbs) tend to promote a downward motion of energy or a more calming effect. It has a sedative and healing effect but is not psychoactive or narcotic like some poppy species. It is considered a diuretic and has been found to relax muscle spasms, relieve pain and promote perspiration. It is believed to also assist in opiate withdrawals. The entire plant is considered medicinal with the root being the most potent part most likely working in conjunction with GABA receptors. Studies have shown that it helps normalize psychological functions and assists with PTSD and anxiety. It is also believed that it can assist with suppressing the milk production in new and nursing mothers. It has been used traditionally to help with sleep deprivation and is considered safe for children although it is advised to use it with caution for children. It is advised to use it with caution as it closely resembles other species of poppy that is considered a narcotic.

Spiritual: The Poppy in general is associated with the Greek goddess Demeter, the planet Neptune, the element of Air and is the birth flower of August, linking it to the Leo sign. Many believe the Poppy to be rooted in helping with attaining Serenity, Relaxation, Perspective, Invisibility, healing/releasing emotion, soothing grief, raising spiritual energy, creating, or maintaining divine alignment, healing from depression, healing from addiction and good fortune. Whether this is what the Poppy is for you or not it cannot be argued that both physically and spiritually it provides a calming energy that helps us sleep, release stress, and release the fear-based motivation that drains us of our energy. Use the Poppy to restructure your motivation and align with a gentle and sustainable supply of energy. It can help us make peace with a death or help us to gain a better perspective of the universe and life and the things that are the most important. Helping us surrender and release the pain of things lost or things in our lives that no longer serve us and we need to let go.

Summary: My collective summary is that the California or Golden Poppy is rich in diverse benefits. Both physically and spiritually it helps to improve many aspects of daily life. We all need help to attain and maintain a well balanced physical, mental and spiritual life and the poppy seems to be one of the ways we can achieve that. Whether you look to this beautiful flower as a healthy alternative to a less stressful existence or as a means to achieving spiritual balance, the Poppy family is a golden ticket to helping get one step closer to that goal. Being cautious of the type of Poppy you choose to include is paramount to your health and safety so please do your research and consult with your physician before incorporating the Poppy into your health regiment but metaphysically it will be safe to use to soar into your life with serenity and peace. Give the Golden Poppy, a true ray of sunshine, a chance to help you enhance your life today!


· The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies, The Healing Power of Plant Medicine by Nicole Apelian, Ph.D & Claude Davis; Pgs. 57-58

· Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, 500 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH; Pg. 207

· The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety by Simon Mills & Kerry Bone; Pgs. 313-314

· The Magic of Flowers, A Guide to Their Metaphysical Uses & Properties by Tess Whitehurst; Pgs. 298-302

· Hedgewitch’s Field Guide by Siolo Thompson; Pgs. 86-88

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