Flower Essences

Flower Essences are tools of transformation, catalysts for change.

Flower essences are the essences of flowers captured in water. They contain a healing vibration that catalyses change and enables transformation on emotional mental and spiritual levels.

The words 'essence' or 'remedy' are used interchangeably because they refer to the essence or healing vibration of the plant. This becomes the remedy or healing agent for the imbalance that is present.

Flower essences are used because they help us to feel better. They work to heal us primarily on emotional and mental levels and restore harmony.

We shall start with a story from my own practice, using Rescue Remedy, the flower essence everybody knows.

John's story

John's wife was in hospital in intensive care. She had just had a Caesarean Section for toxaemia of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia). She was unwell but her condition was not critical. John, on the other hand was at home in a state of complete terror and panic. He was sitting in a corner of his sofa, looking at the floor mumbling "She's going to die, it's going to be awful, what will I do? She's going to die, it's going to be awful, what will I do? She's going to die, it's going to be awful, what will I do?" He sat there, shrunken, pale, looking years older than the 30 he was. His mother had been comforting him for several hours before the doctor was called.

Three drops of Rescue Remedy were put into a glass of water. He sipped it, not because he knew what it was but because he was told to. "She's going to die, it's going to be awful, what will I do?" Sip. Sip. He sipped the glass every 30 seconds. Initially there was no change, but after 4 minutes the tone of voice changed. The words were the same but there was less conviction in his voice. Sip. Sip. Almost imperceptibly, he changed in front of our eyes. By the end of 10 minutes the litany of woe had stopped. He stood up for the first time, dried his eyes and said "Well there's no point in moping about crying here. Why don't I ring the hospital, find out how she is and go and see her?"

He was better, fully in control of himself again. Next day he bought six bottles of Rescue Remedy, one for each room in the house including the bathroom. Perhaps he missed the point on dosage, but he was certainly convinced they worked.

That was the most dramatic instance I have ever seen of Rescue Remedy working, but was it all in the mind? Was it a placebo effect?

Isabel - a placebo?

Isabel was two and she loved her new baby sister Rose. When Rose was three months old the love became rather weaker and quickly turned to jealousy. Some of you may have had the privilege of the experience of living with toddler jealousy. This is a phenomenon where a previously normal child turns into a whining, manipulative, hateful, jealous little monster. You will know that at the three week stage (otherwise known as the strangle point) you have read the books, done all the right things, been kind and supportive and followed all the right advice. You will also know that none of it works.

In the little leaflet on Bach Remedies, against the words jealousy, envy, revenge, suspicion and greed appears the remedy Holly. So, into Isabel's little red beaker went three drops of Holly essence with every drink. To her the beaker was no different. Within two days she had changed into a loving little angel, her true and better nature restored.

Isabel hadn't heard of the placebo effect, even if she had noticed what went into her beaker. It was this episode that proved to me that, although there may be a placebo effect for an adult choosing their own remedies, for children there is none. Also that flower remedies work very quickly on children.

Rescue Remedy is widely used on the dog show circuit and at a local animal sanctuary. The effects on animals are often transformational, calming anxious or aggressive animals or dissolving the effects of shock.

Dr Edward Bach's Theory of Health

The name Dr Edward Bach is almost synonymous with flower remedies. He is the father of modern flower remedy therapy. A bacteriologist, homeopath and Harley Street physician, he trained in London, qualifying in 1912. A keen observer of human character, in 1930 he formulated his theory of the causation of disease in a slim but incisive volume entitled Heal Thyself.

He proposed that a symptom complex, or disease, was the end-result in the physical body of a conflict whose origins were to be found in the emotional, mental and spiritual disharmonies that arise. He stated that, though treating the physical symptoms with material means might be of value, no cure would come about unless the deeper conflicts were addressed. Dr Bach championed Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, as being an exception to 'modern materialism' - whatever that was in 1930. Hahnemann, he felt, realised 'the love of the Creator and the Divinity which resides within man' and used God-given plants and natural remedies to enable the life force or Inner Healer to throw off a disease.

Bach further proposed five points about the cause of illness. These points are found again and again in much modern philosophy and mind-body-spirit thinking.

  1. The physical body is the earthly temple or physical vehicle for the Higher Self or Soul. The Soul is our Real Self and a reflection of the divine.
  2. We are each a personality, who for our lifetimes, don a physical body. The purpose of life's journey is to gain experience and knowledge on the earth plane. Earth is an amazing workshop for souls on their life's journey enabling us to develop qualities and skills.
  3. A single lifetime on earth is only a small, though vital, part of each Soul's development, 'as one day at school is to a life'. The Soul itself is an immortal spark of the Divine. It is difficult for us fully to understand these concepts, said Dr Bach.
  4. Health is harmony of Soul and personality or, as we would say, mind body and spirit. From this harmony flows joy, peace, happiness and health. If we lose our guidance from our Higher Self due to our own Ego or that of others muscling in, then conflict arises. Such conflict or disharmony is the root cause of disease and unhappiness. Whether rich or poor, prince or pauper, our daily life offers each of us the most appropriate lessons and opportunities for our personal growth.
  5. There is a Universal Consciousness which connects all things. Further, the creative force behind all matter is Love. The Creator can be imagined as a great blazing sun of Love, sending rays in all directions. We and our consciousness are just particles at the tip of each beam, sent out to gain experience and knowledge, ultimately to return to the source to enrich it. We are all part of the whole.

Bach felt that there were two possible major causes of imbalance, both of which would bring disharmony and eventually disease. One is to lose touch with your Inner Guidance - so that the personality or Ego rules rather than acting in tune with your Higher Self. The other is to act unkindly or wrongly against another person or Nature, for this would be an act against the whole. Treating others judgementally is not useful, for other souls are at different stages of development.

However an understanding of the error and a subsequent effort to correct the fault would lead back to health and happiness, joy and peace. Bach felt that the disease was a means of showing the error of imbalance. If corrective steps were taken they would lead back to health before the last resort of pain and suffering occurred. Physicians and practitioners of the healing arts should use both physical remedies (medicine and surgery) as well as give the patients the knowledge of why they suffered and what could be done to cure the root causes.

He formulated this theory partly from his own observations as well as from traditions such as those of Hippocrates, Paracelsus and Hahnemann.

Today we may reflect on the words 'health', which can be split into heal-th, and comes from the same root as hale, whole and holistic. The word 'disease' implies that one is not at ease.

As a homeopath and bacteriologist Bach made two crucial observations.

First, that emotional, mental and spiritual imbalance create disease. He sought from nature gentle cures to restore health by addressing these factors, first finding answers in homeopathy. It was in this field that he noticed that people could be classed into a number of different types of temperament. Furthermore these groups of people shared similar imbalances in their gut bacteria. He first developed injectable vaccines that gave a partial relief of symptoms in these people, whatever the disease. Rejecting this approach as crude, he potentised his bowel flora cultures into homeopathic 'nosodes' or treatments. The Bach nosodes are still used today by homeopaths.

The second crucial insight was that, whatever the disease picture, it was the personality that should be treated - particularly the patterns of emotional imbalance.

Dr Bach wrote "Take no notice of the disease. Think only of the outlook on life of the one in distress. As the individual is treated and becomes well, the disease goes, cast off by the increase in health". He pointed out that the mind shows the pattern of illness or imbalance before the body does, and that in illness there is a change in mood away from that of normal life. Observation and early treatment of these imbalances kept the vital energy of the body high and maintained health.

Bach dealt perhaps harshly with material or physical medicine, but he was practising just prior to the great age of pharmaceutical medical advances such as antibiotics. In 1930 meningitis was feared for its high mortality rate. Pneumonia would reach a 'crisis' after which the patient either died or recovered. An ear infection could lead to mastoiditis and deafness or meningitis, whilst a dirty wound from gardening or a dog bite could also be fatal. We are fortunate to be able to take for granted that in cases like these antibiotic therapy will produce a 'miracle cure'.

His concern to avoid adverse effects of treatment led him to leave homeopathy and his Harley Street practice. In 1930 he left London to seek a gentler form of treatment for emotional imbalances, the true deeper causes of disease as he saw them.

Dr Bach and Flower Remedies

First in Wales, then near Cromer in East Anglia, and lastly in Oxfordshire, he discovered plant after plant which answered his needs. There is no doubt that Bach, a natural healer, was also a spiritual sensitive. This gift he developed to the point where he could tell the healing properties of a flower by holding it in his hand. He himself called his remedies his helpers, showing that he knew of his healing powers.

Perhaps inspired by the writings of the 16th century Paracelsus he sought the healing power of flowers. Paracelsus, sometimes called the Father of Modern Medicine, rediscovered the healing power of the morning dew on a flower. Flowers are the highest, most evolved part of a plant. They make us feel better. They bring a smile to our faces.

Bach's inquiring mind soon discovered that the power of dew from a flower in the sun was greater than that from a flower in the shade. His great innovation was to establish a method of capturing and preserving this vibration. Water is the universal carrier of vibrations, but will go stagnant in a few days.

Bach hit on the idea of using sunshine to potentise quantities of water in a glass bowl rather than collecting dew-drops. Collecting dew is of course perfectly possible but rather time consuming and tedious! The potentised water could now be preserved by mixing it in equal proportions with brandy. This is mother tincture.

Mother tincture heals people, but with his homeopathic background Bach soon established that a dilution of 6 drops mother tincture in 10ml brandy would make an effective stock strength. Such a process allows the advantages of economy of effort and long term storage. Further dilution in a similar way into a dropper bottle of water would also have sufficient healing power.

Bach was sensitive to the point that, when finding his later remedies, he would suffer the state of mind in acute distress for up to three days before finding the plant which would give him instant relief from his symptoms.

Dr Bach performed a phenomenal and invaluable service to humanity in bringing forward his 38 essences and making known in his written works the methods of making them and his philosophy of illness and health.

Partly due the weakness of the sun in winter months, Bach developed the boiling method by which half of his remedies are prepared. This has considerable similarity to the great British herbal tradition he would have known. One remedy, Rock Water, is actually healing (holy?) water taken from certain healing wells.

In all cases the preservation with brandy is the same to make mother tincture and stock essences.

Dr Edward Bach's rediscovery of an ancient system of therapy, mentioned by Paracelsus and used down the ages by Aboriginals and other native tribes, was such an important and momentous advance that it is entirely fitting that the original set of 38 remedies that he developed from Mother Nature should always carry his name as a mark of respect.

Bach Remedies worldwide

Dr Bach intended and wrote that he wished his 38 remedies to be used inexpensively by the layman at home just as much as by the professional physician. He also made the method of preparation known in his Twelve Healers and Four Helpers (CW Daniel, 1933) so that any folk, lay or professional, might prepare the remedies to which he was proud to put his name.

The 38 original remedies are now made according to the original Bach method, not only in Dr Bach's own locations by the Bach Centre at Mount Vernon but from identical plants in various locations, by a number of producers in Britain and overseas. They are distributed worldwide by one of the original firms with whom Dr Bach was proud to associate, A Nelson and Co, and also by Healing Herbs, Milagra, Crystal Herbs, Sun Essences, Deva, Korte PHI and a number of other producers worldwide.

The Next Stage

Bach Remedies continued to be made at Mount Vernon, Sotwell, near Oxford, after his death by his helpers. For a number of years they were produced but not widely known. Had it not been for the dedication of Nora Weeks and Victor Bullen, they might have disappeared altogether. By the 1970s many people had been helped by the Bach Remedies. Inspired by the Bach Remedies Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz joined forces to make the FES essences in the USA. Soon after, Gurudas' book Flower Essences and Vibrational Healing appeared describing a number of essences.

Steadily the number of producers has grown through the 1980s and 90s so that, now, flower essences are produced in every continent of the world. There are now many gifted and talented makers. Many of them hold workshops and train practitioners in the use of their essences. Some like FES have produced a variety of educational materials and have detailed analyses of thousands of case studies to give a depth of experience to approach that of the Bach system. There is now a variety of educational material, courses and workshops run throughout the world. Brazil even has a Postgraduate Diploma in Flower Essence Therapy at the University of Sao Paulo, whilst, in UK, Universities and Adult Education establishments now have modules on Flower Essence Therapy.

New innovations in making essences have brought forward some exciting developments. Some are now made in vodka, rather than water and some are potentised by moonlight. Such processes bring out different healing vibrations from the flower. Even using differing numbers of blooms can alter the character of the remedy. Essences are also made from gems, shells and other facets of Nature's bountiful creation.

What is interesting is that, though a particular essence may originate from say Britain or California, the needs of humans are similar, to the point that those essences are equally needed in New England as they are in Australia. Likewise essences from New Zealand, Peru or Brazil also have a global application.

The Bach remedies were developed in the 1930s and deal mainly with the basic emotional issues we all face, although there is actually tremendous depth to each of his remedies. In the last 25 years many new essences have been developed to deal with other issues and aspects of personality. Change is inevitable in life, and it would be unrealistic to expect the new essences of the 1970s and 1980s to be the only ones in common use in another twenty years. This reflects the increased pace of life, the ease of communication and travel, and increased awareness of not just the emotional issues of life but the spiritual and metaphysical ones as well.