Flower remedies

Flower remedies

Flower remedies are specially prepared flower essences, containing the healing energy of plants. They are prescribed according to a patient’s emotional disposition, as ascertained by the therapist, doctor, or patients themselves.


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 flowerremedy systems.

The Bach Flower Remedies were ostensibly the only system of significance from the 1920s until the 1970s, 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.

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.

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.

flowers essence

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.


Flower remedies are more homeopathic than herbal in the way they work, effecting energy levels rather than chemical balances. They have been described as “liquid energy.” The theory is that they encapsulate the flowers’ healing energy, and are said to deal with and overcome negative emotions, and so relieve blockages in the flow of human energy that can cause illness.


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 are:
  • 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.


Bach remedies and flower essences are not difficult to understand, and are considered suitable for self administration. The only difficulty may be in finding the correct remedy, as it can sometimes be tricky to pinpoint an individual’s emotional disposition. They are even safe for babies, children, and animals.

An important aspect of treatment with flower remedies, is that if you feel instinctively that you need a particular remedy, you are encouraged to act on that instinct. However, it is advisable not to continue a particular remedy once you feel you no longer need it, and to try a different one if you feel that progress is not being made.

The remedies are administered from a stoppered bottle and need to be diluted. Individuals sensitive to alcohol can apply the concentrate directly to temples, wrists, behind the ears, or underarms. They should be kept in a cool dark place; like this they should last indefinitely. However, a diluted remedy should not be kept longer than three weeks.

Two drops of each diluted remedy should be taken four times a day, including first thing in the morning and last thing at night. If the rescue remedy is being used, four drops should be used instead. Most therapists recommend that they be taken in spring water, but the remedy can be taken directly from the bottle, if care is taken that the dropper does not touch the tongue, as this would introduce bacteria that would spoil the remedy.

It is not recommended that more than six or seven Bach remedies be used at any one time. Instead, it is preferable to divide a larger amount up into two lots to ensure the optimum effectiveness of the remedies. No combination, or amount of combinations of the remedies can cause any harm, rather they become less effective.

Unlike FES, the Bach Centre does not encourage research to “prove” that the remedies work, preferring that people find out for themselves. They strive to keep the use of the Bach remedies as simple as possible, and to this end they do not keep case records. Bach warned before he died that others would try to change his work and make it more complicated.

He was determined to keep it simple so that anyone could use it, and that is why he limited the system to only 38 remedies. The Centre points out that many who have used Bach’s research as a starting point have added other remedies to the list, even some that Bach himself rejected.

Side effects

Flower remedies or essences are generally regarded as being totally safe, and there are no known side effects apart from the rare appearance of a slight rash, which is not a reason to discontinue treatment, says the Bach Centre.

Research & general acceptance

Bach flower remedies and flower essences have not yet officially won the support of allopathic medicine, despite the fact that more and more medical doctors are referring patients for such treatments on the strength of personal conviction. However, it is difficult to discount the scores of testimonials. Some practitioners refer skeptics to the research that has been done regarding the “auras” of living things. Theoretically, the stronger the aura, the more alive an organism is. Flower essences have very strong auras.

Among mainstream medical practitioners, psychiatrists and family practitioners appear to be more willing to study flower essences than physicians in other specialties. One pilot study at Penn State Hershey Medical Center found that the Bach flower essences were effective in reducing the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children as measured by two standard assessment instruments for ADHD.

Another area of medicine in which acceptance of Bach flower essences is growing is small-animal veterinary practice. Two full-length books on the use of flower essences for behavioral problems in animals were published in 1999, and some schools of veterinary medicine now include flower essences as part of elective courses in holistic or complementary veterinary treatments.

Training & certification

The official Bach International Education Program training courses are all recognized by the Dr. Edward Bach Foundation, and taught by accredited Bach trainers. These qualifications are not recognized by the medical authorities.

Bach therapy may be self-administered, but for those who would prefer the advice of a practitioner, look for a registered Bach practitioner, or a homeopath or herbalist who also deals with the Bach flower remedies.