Prickly Poppy

Interesting Facts About The Prickly Poppy Plant

Prickly poppy has enjoyed quite a rich history in Shamanic practice and ritual.  Known as the “nourishment of the dead” by the Aztecs, the flower has enjoyed a recent rebirth by spiritual explorers and modern-day Shamans everywhere.  Every part of the plant offers psychoactive properties and up until quite recently, you could only get your hands on the dried leaves to be used in smoking blends or as a tea.


The prickly poppy plant has many common names such as yellow thistle, yellow poppy, thorn poppy, Mexican poppy, chicalote and cowboy's fried egg.  These plants are native to deserts from California to Texas and Utah to Nevada.  They are typically found growing wild in mass quantities by gravel or sandy washes and roadsides that are located below 8,000 feet.

The flowers are papery and white with one single yellow stamen in the middle.  They have six wrinkled, broad, delicate petals that grow to be three inches wide and they bloom year round.  This pale green, very branched plant can grow to be four feet tall at maturity and has yellow prickles all over it.  Very lobed, long, spiny leaves that resemble thistles can often grow to lengths of eight inches from the stem.

Anyone who attempts to pick prickly poppy quickly learns that the plant definitely deserves its name.  The seedpods and leaves are armored with fierce needle-sharp spines.  If an animal like a cow or a goat should attempt to graze on these plants, they are also certainly punished.  Not only does the animal suffer but the poisons are then passed along in its milk so their young or humans who then drink the milk can suffer from edema.

Despite the plant's bad effects when ingested, prickly poppy was once used for many beneficial external applications.  An extract was employed by the Comanche Indians to treat sore eyes.  Later, folk healers prescribed the plant's juice as a natural remedy to heal lesions and warts.

Today's Uses

The fresh latex from the prickly poppy has many protein dissolving constituents.  This latex can be used to treat cold sores, lip blemishes and warts.  Literally, the entire plant can serve the purpose of a mild painkiller.

In Cuba, very small quantities of the infused seeds are used as a sedative in children who are suffering from asthma.  In larger quantities, the oil that is found inside of the seeds is purgative.  The prickly poppy flowers are an expectorant and are ideal for treating coughs as well as other chest conditions.


While the properties of the plant have always served medicinal purposes, there are recreational uses for it as well.  The fact that it has been used in certain circumstances in surgery as an anesthetic tells you that it definitely has a sedative effect.


American natives and Mexicans used it as a smudging herb since the seeds are known to provide narcotic properties from their latex ooze.  Natives also smoked both the petals and the leaves to induce and enjoy a euphoric state.

There are many alkaloid substances that are found in prickly poppy. These substances are extremely similar to other plants that are considered psychoactive but without having any hallucinogenic properties.  Chemical compounds in the plant include berberine and propopine.  When you smoke this plant, it mildly depresses your central nervous system for a short period of time which reduces pain and provides euphoric effects.

One rolled cigarette that is made from dried parts of the plant is all that you need for a calming effect that lasts a minimum of 30 minutes.  It offers similar effects to cannabis and the chance of addiction is suggested to be relatively low.