Flower Remedies

Although many cultures have used flower remedies for healing purposes over the centuries, the practice didn’t emerge in the West until the early 1920s with the research of Edward Bach, a pathologist, immunologist, and bacteriologist. Prepared from the flowers of wild plants, bushes, and trees, flower remedies are used to help stabilize emotional stresses that reflect the root cause of disease. Bach believed the basis of illness was found in disharmony between the spiritual and emotional aspects of human beings. This disharmony, found whenever conflicting moods produced fear, lassitude, uncertainty, loneliness, over-sensitivity, despair, excessive concern, and insecurity, lowered the body’s vitality and resistance to disease. By assisting with the integration of emotional, spiritual, and physiological patterns, the remedies are used to produce a soothing, calming effect, there by allowing the body to heal itself.

Bach discovered the works of Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, while working at London Homeopathic Hospital. When he considered Hahnemann’s theories in light of the tranquility and inner harmony he experienced when outdoors in natural surroundings, he concluded that the solutions to disease-causing states could be found among plants, trees, and herbs. Bach searched the English countryside for curative plants and conducted research into their uses, often testing the remedies on himself prior to offering them to patients.

Bach opposed those aspects of modern medicine that address only the physical elements of illness. He believed that conventional treatments, such as pills, drugs, and surgery, were often counter-productive because, in many instances, the temporary relief they produced suggested a complete return to health while negative mental and emotional patterns continued unchecked. True healing was thereby postponed and the inevitable result was more serious illness at some later date. Bach’s remedies were, therefore, intended to treat the mood and temperament of the patient rather than the physical illness.

Flower remedies are made by floating freshly picked blooms in bowls of spring water and leaving them in sunlight. In this way the “essence” of the flower is transferred to the water. More woody plants, or flowers that bloom when the sun is weak, are prepared by boiling for half an hour. The resulting solution is then fixed in proportions with brandy, which acts as a preservative, and stored in a dark glass bottle. Portions of that “mother” solution are then distributed in I-ounce dropper bottles.

There are 38 flower remedies in all; 12 relate to what Bach saw as the key personality types, and 26 are used to bring relief from different kinds of emotional discomfort and distress. The most famous, Rescue Remedy, often used as first aid, is actually a combination of 5 flower remedies. The Bach Flower Remedies are included in the Supplement to the 8th edition of the Homeopathic Pharma copoeia of the United States and are officially recognized as homeopathic drugs.

Training Today there are many varieties of flower remedies, or essences, as they are often called,and the preparation is essentially the same. In the mid-1970s, Richard Katz researched new flower essences and founded the Flower Essence Society. The Society now has a database of over 100 essences from different flowers in over 50 countries, has training programs available, and sponsors and assists controlled scientific studies on flower essence therapy. It conducts seminars and certification programs for active flower essence practitioners and for the general public. The Practitioner Certification program is available to all participants who complete the Practitioner Intensive. This nine-month program involves classes and complete documentation of three in-depth case studies. In addition, practitioners using Bach’s original 38 remedies can be certified by the Bach Foundation in Mt. Vernon, England, or at other sites throughout the world operated by Nelson Bach Ltd. The Practitioner Certification Training is a 6-month program,after which practitioners sign a Code ofPractice that includes ethical standards and specifies that practitioners are not licensed to diagnose medical illness or otherwise practice medicine.

Reported uses

Flower remedies are simple to use alone or in combination with any of the other remedies, and are relatively inexpensive. They’re available in both liquid concentrate and cream form and are used to treat a wide range of personal difficulties, such as everyday stress-related problems, periods of transition, and job-related tensions. Flower remedies are also used to treat hyperactivity in children, dieting and eating problems, learning difficulties, sleeping problems, mild depression, and the trauma of bereavement, separation, or divorce.

The cream helps to hasten the healing of abrasions and lacerations. Relief is often achieved when massaged into swollen and painful joints. Although not a substitute for emergency medical care, Rescue Remedy has been reported to significantly calm the sufferer who is experiencing fear and panic. Health practitioners such as chiropractors, dentists, psychiatrists, and massage therapists also use flower remedies as an adjunct to conventional therapy.

How the treatment is performed

For occasional negative moods, emotional difficulties, or an immediate stressful situation, drops may be placed under the tongue, or in a small glass of water or juice, four times daily. The client sips the remedy at intervals throughout the day until improvement is shown. In some circumstances, as with Rescue Remedy, it’s safe to take every 10 to 15 minutes as needed. The concentrate can also be applied directly to the temples, wrists, or behind the ears, or in compresses or baths. In general, the strength of the remedy is determined by the frequency of the dosing, not by the number of drops taken at one time.

For long-term distress, the practitioner may determine the correct remedy by interviewing the client, or by having the
client complete a questionnaire that will guide the practitioner’s choice. Remedies are prepared by adding 2 to 4 drops of each flower essence chosen, with a teaspoon of brandy, apple cider vinegar, or vitamin C powder as a preservative, into an opaque I-ounce bottle, which is then filled with spring or filtered water (distilled or carbonated water shouldn’t be used). Four to six drops are taken under the tongue or in water four times a day.

The personal formula is continued until emotional difficulties are resolved, or there is a lifting of the negative emotional state, or a stabilizing of the over-reactive personality traits. Once symptoms have resolved, the remedies may be discontinued. New formulas can be made as needed. Because the remedies have a unique and personal effect on each person, the specific effects and duration of treatment can’t be predicted. In general, most people experience improvement within 1 to 12 weeks; however, some take longer. Some change may be noticed within 1 to 3 weeks.


Flower remedies are suitable for people of all ages. There are no known contraindications. Though rare, some may experience a minor reaction such as a rash, mild diarrhea, or an accentuation of the emotion for which they are taking the remedy. Since the remedies are nontoxic, these reactions may be part of the process of confronting feelings or a result of the process of detoxification. In some cases, adverse reactions may result from the patient’s unconscious resistance to change.

Clinical considerations

  • Some patients may experiences a “peeling effect” that is, as the initial emotional difficulty resolves, underlying emotions may surface and the need for additional remedies may arise.
  • Advise patient to discontinue use if an adverse reaction, such as rash or diarrhea, occurs, and to consult his health care practitioner.
  • Though the alcohol preservative volume is minuscule, if alcohol-sensitive the person may need to dilute the concentrate before taking.

Research summary

While numerous published anecdotal reports support the positive effects of flower remedies including many from physicians and psychiatrists-the concepts behind their use haven’t yet been validated scientifically. The Flower Essence Society, in an attempt to compile a foundation of research into the efficacy of flower remedies, compiles case studies and practitioner reports of the clinical use of essences. The studies include in-depth longitudinal cases backed by detailed practitioner documentation. In addition, the Flower Essence Society sponsors and assists controlled scientific studies on flower essence therapy.

Research Jeffrey Cram, a research and clinical psychologist with the Sierra Health Institute in Nevada City, California, has completed two double-blind, placebo controlled studies of the effects of flower essences on stress. In the first he found muscular activity (EM G) at spinal locations corresponding to the heart and throat chakras had significantly reduced levels of reactivity after the use of the flower essences. In another study, those taking a flower essence formula showed far less reactivity to lights, as measured by the beta wave brain activity at nine sites clustered around the frontal lobes, and by muscle activity in the heart chakra area.

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