Bach Flower Remedies to the rescue

Photo: O Driscoll
The essence of flowers can do more than just add a decorative touch, according to Dr. Edward Bach. When we visit a sick friend or relative in the hospital, our first impulse is to bring flowers. At some level, we sense that there's something about fresh flowers that will help the healing process. Bach Flower Remedies are a popular alternative medicine based on the healing powers of flowers. Pioneer in alternative treatments Dr. Edward Bach, a British physician, become convinced that some flowers have such healing powers that their "essence" should be ingested by patients. He created Bach Flower Remedies, which have become Bach began a distinguished career in medicine in 1919, when he was appointed Casualty Medical Officer for the University College Hospital in London, supervising the treatment of hundreds of soldiers wounded in World War I. It was there that he observed the effects of stress and trauma in relationship to the recovery potential of his patients. Surgery and standard medical practice did not hold all the answers to healing, leading him to a great interest in the field of immunology. Over time he began to diagnose and treat patients according to their mental and emotional aspects, not just their external physical symptoms. In 1930, Bach abandoned his lucrative London practice and began to treat patients in the small villages of Wales and England as he wandered the countryside studying native plants. He became convinced that disease of the body is due not primarily to physical causes, but that moods and states of mind can also undermine the health of bodily organs and tissues. Mind, body and spirit Nowadays, there is an entire new field of medicine called psychoneuroimmunology that is based on this concept. But Bach's thinking went further. Through experimentation and observation, he came to believe that flowering plants have high vibrations that are able to raise the lowered vibrations of humans. In the book, The Secret Life of Plants (Avon, 1973), Bach is quoted as saying that such flower based herbal remedies "draw down spiritual power, which cleanses mind and body, and heals". Before he died in 1936, Bach had isolated 38 flowering plants that he felt had positive energy to neutralize specific negative emotions. To obtain the flower essences, he picked the best specimens grown in sunlight and steeped them individually in bowls of water under the heat and light of the afternoon sun. The result of this process is the 'mother tincture' which is further diluted with brandy to preserve the essence. Any Bach flower remedy is taken in liquid form as a few drops placed under the tongue. Thirty-eight emotions According to the Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (Stoddard, 1996), each of the 38 remedies counters a specific state of mind by "introducing new information into the emotional and mental fields of the individual". For example the Wild Rose remedy is for someone feeling apathetic and resigned, while the Aspen remedy is for someone feeling apprehension for no known reason. A list of each remedy with the corresponding emotional state is available at the Bach Centre. There are now more than 25,000 practitioners of Bach flower remedies worldwide, serving hundreds of thousands of clients. Virtually no reliable clinical studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of the remedies until recently. Rescue me now On July 2, 2007, the Medical News Today reported the results of a study on the effectiveness of a popular Bach Flower preparation called Rescue Remedy. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Miami School of Nursing in conjunction with the Sirkin Creative Living Center. Using a sample of 111 individuals aged 18 to 49, the study was a double-blind clinical trial comparing a standard dose of Rescue Remedy against a placebo of identical appearance. A standard test to evaluate anxiety was administered before and after the dosage. The result was that Rescue Remedy was found to be "an effective over-the-counter stress reliever with a comparable effect to traditional pharmaceutical drugs yet without any of the known adverse side effects, including addiction." Bach Flower Remedies are sold at many health food stores as well as pharmacies. Joyce Nelson is an environmental journalist based in Toronto.