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Flower Remedies

Overview :


Perhaps the most famous and widely used system is the Bach flower remedies. This system originated in the 1920s when British physician and bacteriologist, Dr. Edward Bach (1886–1936), noticed that patients with physical complaints often seemed to be suffering from anxiety or some kind of negative emotion. He concluded that assessing a patient's emotional disposition and prescribing an appropriate flower essence could treat the physical illness. Bach was a qualified medical doctor, but he also practiced homeopathy.

As a result of his own serious illness in 1917, Bach began a search for a new and simple system of medicine that would treat the whole person. In 1930, he gave up his flourishing practice on Harley Street at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital and moved to the countryside to devote his life to this research. It is known that at this point, he ceased to dispense the mixture of homeopathy and allopathic medicine that he had been using. Instead, he began investigating the healing properties of plant essences and discovered that he possessed an "intuition" for judging the properties of each flower. Accordingly, he developed the system of treatment that bears his name, and is also the foundation for all other flower-remedy systems.

The Bach Flower Remedies were ostensibly the only system of significance from the 1920s until in the1970s, when there was a renewed interest in the subject by doctors working in the field of natural medicine. Perhaps the most notable was Dr. Richard Katz, who was seeking new methods of dealing with modern stress and the resulting ailments. He focused on the concept of a psychic, psychological effect and chose to pursue this line of research.

In 1979, Katz founded the Flower Essence Society in California, (FES). This society pledged to further the research and development of Bach's principles. As of 2000, FES hosts a database of over 100 flower essences from more than 50 countries. FES is now an international organization of health practitioners, researchers, students, and others concerned with flower essence therapy.

Bach Flower Remedies
Name Remedy
Agrimony Upset by arguments, nonconfrontational, conceals
worry and pain
Aspen Fear of the unknown, anxiety, prone to nightmares, and
Beech Critical, intolerant, and negative
Centaury Submissive and weak-willed
Cerato Self doubting and overly dependent
Cherry Plum Emotional thoughts and desparation
Chestnut Repeats mistakes and has no hindsight
Chicory Selfish, controlling, attention-seeking, and possessive
Clematis Absorbed, impractical, and indifferent
Crab Apple Shame and self-loathing
Elm Overwelhmed and feelings of inadequacy
Gentian Negative, doubt, and depression
Gorse Pessimism, hopelessness, and despair
Heather Self-centered and self-absorbed
Holly Jealousy, hatred, suspicion, and envy
Honeysuckle Homesick, living in the past, and nostalgic
Hornbeam Procrastination, fatigue, and mental exhaustion
Impatiens Impatience, irritability, and impulsive
Larch No confidence, inferiority complex, and despondency
Mimulus Timid, shy, and fear of the unknown
Mustard Sadness and depression of unknown origin
Oak Obstinate, inflexible, and overachieving
Olive Exhaustion
Pine Guilt and self blame
Red Chesnut Fear and anxiety for loved ones
Rock Rose Nightmares, hysteria, terror, and panic
Rock Water Obsessive, repression, perfectionism, and self denial
Scleranthus Indecision, low mental clarity, and confusion
Grief and distress
Despair and hopelessness
Vervain Overbearing and fanatical
Vine Arrogant, ruthless, and inflexible
Walnut Difficulty accepting change
Water Violet Pride and aloofness
Worry, preoccupation, and unwanted thoughts
Wild Oat Dissatisfaction
Wild Rose Apathy and resignation
Willow Self pity and bitterness

The Society has connections with an estimated 50,000 active practitioners from around the world, who use flower essence therapy as part of their treatment. FES encourages the study of the plants themselves to determine the characteristics of flower essences. They are compiling an extensive database of case studies and practitioner reports of the use of essences therapeutically, allowing verification and development of the original definitions. They are also engaged in the scientific study of flower essence therapy.

EDWARD BACH (1886–1936)

Edward Bach was a graduate of University College Hospital (M.B., B.S., M.R.C.S.) in England. He left his flourishing Harley Street practice in favor of homeopathy, seeking a more natural system of healing than allopathic medicine. He concluded that healing should be as simple and natural as the development of plants, which were nourished and given healing properties by earth, air, water, and sun.

Bach believed that he could sense the individual healing properties of flowers by placing his hands over the petals. His remedies were prepared by floating summer flowers in a bowl of clear stream water exposed to sunlight for three hours.

He developed 38 remedies, one for each of the negative states of mind suffered by human beings, which he classified under seven group headings: fear, uncertainty, insufficient interest in present circumstances, loneliness, over-sensitivity to influences and ideas, despondency or despair, and overcare for the welfare of others. The Bach remedies can be prescribed for plants, animals, and other living creatures as well as human beings.

FES says they have developed the theories of Paracelsus and Goethe who researched the "signatures" and "gestures" of botanical specimens, on the premise that the human body and soul are a reflection of the system of nature. FES plant research interprets the therapeutic properties of flower essences according to these insights.

In this regard, they have devised 12 "windows of perception" for monitoring the attributes of plants. Each of these windows reveals an aspect of the plant's qualities, although they maintain that what they are seeking is a "whole which is greater than the sum of its parts." The 12 windows are not considered independent classifications, but more of a blended tapestry of views of the qualities that each plant possesses.

The first window is concerned with the "form" of a plant—its shape classification. The second focuses on its "gesture" or spatial relationship. The third window is a plant's botanical classification; the Flower Essence Society maintains that considering a plant's botanical family is essential to obtaining an overview of its properties as a flower essence. The fourth window concerns the time orientation of a particular specimen regarding the daily and seasonal cycles. Why do some flowers bloom at different times of the day, while others, such as the evening primrose, respond to the moon? The fifth window observes a plant's relationship to its environment. Where a plant chooses to grow, and where it cannot survive, reveals much about its qualities. The sixth window observes a plant's relationship to the Four Elements and the Four Ethers, as FES maintains that plants exist in one of the elemental or etheric forces in addition to their physical life. "Elements" refers to those developed by the Greeks, as opposed to the modern concept of "molecular building blocks." It seems that commonly, two elements predominate in a plant, indicating a polarity of qualities, while two can be said to be recessive. The seventh window relates to a plant's relationship with the other kingdoms of nature: mineral, animal and human, while the eighth relates to the color and color variations of a plant. Katz explains how the language of color tells us so much about the "soul qualities" of a plant. The ninth window concerns all other sensory perceptions of a plant, such as fragrance, texture, and taste. The tenth window involves assessing the chemical substances and properties; the eleventh studies medicinal and herbal uses, as by studying the physical healing properties of plants, we can also understand something of their more subtle effects on the soul. Finally, the twelfth window involves the study of the lore, mythology, folk wisdom, and spiritual and ritual qualities associated with a particular plant. Katz relates how in the past, human beings were more in touch with the natural world, and the remnants of this unconscious plant wisdom live on in the form of folklore, mythology, and so on.

Because flower remedies operate on approximately the same principles as homeopathy, practitioners quite often prescribe the two therapies in conjunction with each other. They can also be used concurrently with allopathic medicine.

The system consists of 38 remedies, each for a different disposition. The basic theory is that if the remedy for the correct disposition is chosen, the physical illness resulting from the present emotional state can then be cured. There is a rescue remedy made up of five of the essences—cherry plum, clematis, impatiens, rock star, and star of Bethlehem—that is recommended for the treatment of any kind of physical or emotional shock. Therapists recommended that rescue remedy be kept on hand to help with all emergencies.

The 38 Bach Remedies

  • agrimony: puts on a cheerful front, hides true feelings, and worries or problems
  • aspen: feelings of apprehension, dark foreboding, and premonitions
  • beech: critical, intolerant, picky
  • centaury: easily comes under the influence of others, weak willed
  • cerato: unsure, no confidence in own judgement, intuition, and seeks approval from others
  • cherry plum: phobic, fear of being out of control, and tension
  • chestnut bud: repeats mistakes, does not learn from experience
  • chicory: self-centered, possessive, clingy, demanding, self pity
  • clematis: absent minded, dreamy, apathetic, and lack of connection with reality
  • crab apple: a "cleanser" for prudishness, self—disgust, feeling unclean
  • elm: a sense of being temporarily overwhelmed in people who are usually capable and in control
  • gentian: discouraged, doubting, despondent
  • gorse: feelings of pessimism, accepting defeat
  • heather: need for company, talks about self, and concentrates on own problems
  • holly: jealousy, envy, suspicion, anger, and hatred
  • honeysuckle: reluctance to enter the present and let the past go
  • hornbeam: reluctant to face a new day, weary, can't cope (mental fatigue)
  • impatiens: impatience, always in a hurry, and resentful of constraints
  • larch: feelings of inadequacy and apprehension, lack of confidence and will to succeed
  • mimulus: fearful of specific things, shy, and timid
  • mustard: beset by "dark cloud" and gloom for no apparent reason
  • oak: courageous, persevering, naturally strong but temporarily overcome by difficulties
  • olive: for physical and mental renewal, to overcome exhaustion from problems of long-standing
  • pine: for self-reproach, always apologizing, assuming guilt
  • red chestnut: constant worry and concern for others
  • rock rose: panic, intense alarm, dread, horror
  • rock water: rigid-minded, self-denial, restriction
  • scleranthus: indecision, uncertainty, fluctuating moods
  • star of Bethlehem: consoling, following shock or grief or serious news
  • sweet chestnut: desolation, despair, bleak outlook
  • vervain: insistent, fanatical, over-enthusiastic
  • vine: dominating, overbearing, autocratic, tyrannical
  • walnut: protects during a period of adjustment or vulnerability
  • water violet: proud, aloof, reserved, enjoys being alone
  • white chestnut: preoccupation with worry, unwanted thoughts
  • wild oat: drifting, lack of direction in life
  • wild rose: apathy, resignation, no point in life
  • willow bitter: resentful, dissatisfied, feeling life is unfair

Originally, Bach collected the dew from chosen flowers by hand to provide his patients with the required remedy. This became impractical when his treatment became so popular that production could not keep up with demand. He then set about finding a way to manufacture the remedies, and found that floating the freshly picked petals on the surface of spring water in a glass bowl and leaving them in strong sunlight for three hours produced the desired effect. Therapists explain that the water is "potentized" by the essence of the flowers. The potentized water can then be bottled and sold. For more woody specimens, the procedure is to boil them in a sterilized pan of water for 30 minutes. These two methods produce"mother tinctures" and the same two methods devised by Bach are still used today. Flower essences do not contain any artificial chemical substances, except for alcohol preservative.

Bach remedies cost around $10 each, and there is no set time limit for treatment. It may take days, weeks, or in some cases months. Flower essences cost around $6 each, and there is also no set time for the length of treatment, or the amount of essences that may be taken. These treatments are not generally covered by medical insurance.

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