Bach flower remedies (BFR) are a range of flower concentrates. The original range has 38 remedies, each corresponding to treatment of a negative emotional state (Thaler, Kaminski, Chapman, Langley, & Gartlehner, 2009). Naturally grown, wild flowers are collected to make the remedies (Thaler et al., 2009), and with the exception of Rescue remedy, each remedy is based on one flower (Ernst, 2010). Rescue remedy is a blend of five essences.
The premise of BFRs is that most human illnesses can be linked to emotions or negative states of mind, and by treating these emotions the diseases are alleviated. They are prescribed according to the individual condition of a person, and two people suffering from similar ailments could receive different treatments (Ernst, 2010).
Flower essences are similar to homeopathic remedies in that they contain incredibly small quantities of the healing substance, and derive their therapeutic value from the vibrational and energetic qualities of the remedy (Gerber, 2001). The effectiveness comes from a subtle energy or life force imparted by the flower onto the remedy (Ernst, 2010). When consumed, the life force from the remedies is believed to have action on the body, acting on the subtle energy in a person “to rebalance the conscious and unconscious, and dissolve old patterns of behavior” (Thaler et al., 2009, p. 3). They treat negative feelings, although patients often feel worse before they see an improvement (Thaler et al., 2009). However, because the remedies are diluted, they do not produce toxic effects on the body (Ernst, 2010).
Dr. Edward Bach, a British physician and microbiologist, developed BFRs in the 1930s. He studied Hahnemann’s homeopathy by reading Organon, and was inspired to create homeopathic-like remedies (Gerber, 2001). He was dedicated to find remedies to treat emotional states after realizing that many physical complaints he treated his patients for were accompanied by negative emotional states (Gale, 2014). He did not like the homeopathic approach of using disease-producing elements in the remedies, and instead searched for natural elements that could treat emotional aspects of disease. He discovered essences of flowers and created 38 remedies (Gerber, 2001).
Bach believed that BFRs assisted the body to heal itself by bringing about a positive emotional state. Although BFRs were created to treat stress and psychological issues, they could also be used to treat medical conditions (Thaler et al., 2009). They could be administered individually or taken in combination with up to seven other remedies. Prescription of a remedy was tailored to the individual needs of a patient, and treatment could take days, weeks, or months, depending on the patient and the condition (Thaler et al., 2009).
The Dr. Edward Bach Healing Centre in England continued to prepare flower essences after Bach’s death in 1936 (Gerber, 2001). These remedies were used in naturopathic schools in Europe and the United States. In 1979, with the establishment of the Flower Essence Society (FES), knowledge and information on flower essences were exchanged amongst flower essence workers and therapists. Since then, the use of flower essences has spread beyond BFRs (Gerber, 2001).
The few clinical studies on the effects of BFRs on anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, pain relief, and stress have not been conclusive. They have indicated that BFRs are as effective as placebos, which means that although they produce a positive effect on the body, the effect is no different than taking no medication or than the positive psychological effect a placebo might have (Ernst, 2010; Thaler et al., 2009). Nonetheless, BFRs have a following of clients, and there is demand for them. More clinical studies are needed on BFRs.
Availability and Administration
BFRs can be purchased commercially, and Rescue Remedy is the most widely available. They can be made through the sun method, which involves collecting “fully opened flower heads still fresh with dew” that are then left to float for a few hours in a glass bowl filled with pure spring water placed in sunshine (Thaler et al., 2009, p. 2). They can also be made through the boiling method, which involves placing branches and leaves in boiled water for thirty minutes (Thaler et al., 2009). In both methods, the plant matter is removed and the remaining liquid, the mother tincture, is believed to retain the energy of the flower (Thaler et al., 2009). The mother tincture is mixed with 27% grape brandy as a preservative (Gale, 2014). Most of the essences are sold in liquid form in 20 ml dropper bottles, although there are cream forms of Rescue Remedy (Gale, 2014). The liquid remedies can be administered orally by diluting in water or by placing on pulse points in the body at a recommended dose of four drops four times daily (Gale, 2014). They are sold as food supplements, and because of their low toxicology, they are considered safe to be consumed by pregnant women and children (Ernst, 2010).
Ernst, E. (2010). Bach flower remedies: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Swiss Medical Weekly, 140, w13079. doi:10.4414/smw.2010.13079
Gale (2014). The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, (4th Ed). Farmington Hilla, MI: Gale Cengage Learning.
Gerber, R. (2001). Vibrational Medicine (3rd ed.). Rochester, VT: Bear & Company.
Thaler, K., Kaminski, A., Chapman, A., Langley, T., & Gartlehner, G. (2009). Bach flower remedies for psychological problems and pain: a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 9(16), 1-12. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-16