October 11 2021

If I lived in a more benign climate, I probably wouldn’t spend much time indoors. Just step out the door and everything lightens a little-yes, sunshine, but it’s more than that. Maybe even the air itself as described by the Scandinavian term ‘friluftsliv’ which means ‘open air living’. This term was popularized by Norwegian poet and playwright Henrik Ibsen in the 1850’s, who used it to describe the value of spending time in remote locations. It’s good for our spiritual and physical well-being.

I am fortunate enough that nature is right out my door-my gardens and our farm with it’s meadows, creek, and hayfields. Though nature isn’t far away for most of us in Montana. Actually, as a person who deals with anxiety, having this garden therapy available to me is an absolute blessing. Tending plants gets me out of my head and puts a simple, solvable task in front of me. My garden is my own world and if all this isn’t enough to calm my mind, plants have another trick up their green sleeves. They’re medicine, of course.

The one that has piqued my interest lately is California Poppy, specifically because of its use as a sedative and anxiolytic (relieves anxiety). It might seem logical to jump to the conclusion that this poppy is too close to opium poppies, but it’s not. Though a member of the poppy family, Papaveraceae, it is a different genus and neither an opiate nor addictive. It is native to the western United States-yes, California-but is easy to grow and self seeds readily. I made a tincture (plant steeped in alcohol) and I am drying the above ground parts of the plant for making tea.

I do think it is hard to separate the placebo effect from true results-if we believe something will work, it is more likely to-so I try to maintain a little skepticism before I’m sold. Also worth noting is that we are talking eye-droppers of the alcohol tincture-put that shot glass away! I do think that I am sleeping more soundly and getting better at recognizing anxiety when I feel it. At any rate, no harm in trying such an easy and safe remedy. But, please do your research and question whether this is right for you-I could never answer that question for you.

And if all else fails, get outside, the gardens are calling. Doesn’t hurt to have sunny flowers nearby, either.

California Poppy, Eschscholzia California, annual