The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.) contains a variety of natural compounds including several alkaloids found exclusively in this plant. Because of the sedative, anxiolytic, and analgesic effects, this herb is currently sold in pharmacies in many countries. However, our understanding of these biological effects at the molecular level is still lacking. Alkaloids detected in E. californica could be hypothesized to act at GABAA receptors, which are widely expressed in the brain mainly at the inhibitory interneurons. Electrophysiological studies on a recombinant α 1 β 2 γ 2 GABAA receptor showed no effect of N-methyllaurotetanine at concentrations lower than 30 μM. However, (S)-reticuline behaved as positive allosteric modulator at the α 3, α 5, and α 6 isoforms of GABAA receptors. The depressant properties of aerial parts of E. californica are assigned to chloride-current modulation by (S)-reticuline at the α 3 β 2 γ 2 and α 5 β 2 γ 2 GABAA receptors. Interestingly, α 1, α 3, and α 5 were not significantly affected by (R)-reticuline, 1,2-tetrahydroreticuline, codeine, and morphine-suspected (S)-reticuline metabolites in the rodent brain.