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Are California Poppies Habit-Forming?

Q. I bought a bottle of herbal sleep medicine. The reviews say this product does help people sleep.

I wonder, though, if these pills are safe to take and not habit forming? The three main ingredients are fresh flowering California poppy, valerian root and passionflower. Isn’t poppy the plant that opium and other narcotics are made from?

A. Although California poppies are in the same family as the opium poppy, the plant contains a different set of chemicals. The California poppy has a reputation as a mild sedative. Probably most of the power of this herbal sleep medicine is from the valerian root, which has been shown to help people get to sleep faster.

Passionflower also has a strong reputation as a sleep aid. If you are looking for natural ways to get the sleep you need, consider our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. In it, we discuss the pros and cons of many sleeping pills, and we also offer a variety of natural tactics. None of the natural approaches are habit forming, but some of the medications lead to rebound insomnia if they are stopped suddenly.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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