Therapy of the Month – Bach Flower Essences

by Rowan on September 22, 2017

In this month’s interview, we explore the marvels of the flower essences invented by Dr Edward Bach with Julia Linfoot, Bellenden Therapies co-founder and a registered flower essences practitioner with the Bach Foundation

What are Bach Flower Essences?

In some ways it is easier to start by saying what they are not. They are not herbal remedies, as there are no natural chemicals in them like there are in plant extracts, and they are not essential oils, which are also made from plant extracts but in a different way. Dr Bach’s essences (or remedies) are made by steeping flowers in water and exposing them to natural heat (sunshine). They do not contain any chemical component of the flowers at all, only the essential energy of the flower.

Bach Remedies are used all over the world and many people swear by them – Rescue Remedy is even advertised on the side of buses – but they remain something of an enigma. Their efficacy is not scientifically proven, nor has it ever really been formally investigated. Learning a bit about Dr Bach himself helps us to get some insight into the mystery of his remedies.

Who was Dr Bach?

Edward Bach (pictured above) was conventionally trained in medicine, and in 1912 he started his career as a bacteriologist and vaccine researcher at University College Hospital. He later ran his own busy general practise in Harley Street. His research into vaccines was highly acclaimed, but despite this he felt dissatisfied with the way doctors were expected to concentrate on diseases rather than looking at their patients as whole and unique human beings.

He was a deeply spiritual man as well as a keen amateur botanist to naturally his attention turned to the healing power of plants.

“Just as God in his mercy has given us food to eat, so has He placed amongst us the herbs of the fields, beautiful plants to heal us when we are sick”

By 1930 he was so enthused by the direction his work was taking that he gave up his lucrative Harley Street practice and left London, determined to devote the rest of his life to the new system of medicine that he was sure could be found in nature.

His development of the beautifully simple system of flower remedies grew from a deep conviction that the root of all illness lay in a disturbance of the mind or emotions – an idea we are now familiar with as stress-related disease. Bach puts it altogether more poetically, though: “health is our heritage and our right; it is the complete and full union of soul, mind and body, working in harmony”.

What are the main benefits that using Bach Flower Essences can provide?

There are 38 remedies in total and they each address a specific emotional states such as ‘fears and worries of unknown origin’ or ‘exhausted, but struggles on’. They can be used singly or in combination so that there is a huge number of possible blends of flowers that can be chosen to fit the specific emotional states we experience.

The flowers are from plants of the British countryside, including trees like white and red chestnut, beech, larch and aspen, and flowering plants like chicory, gentian and heather. The lovely little white flowers of star of Bethlehem are used to alleviate the shock of those who have suffered a trauma. The cheerful yellow flowers of gorse are said to offer hope to those with feelings of hopelessness. People using the remedies often report a gentle but definite shift in their emotional state. Without anaesthetising emotion or changing the basic nature of the experience, the user finds that they feel lighter, less stuck in their trauma or fear, and able to find a fresh perspective quite effortlessly.

What does a Flower Essences session involve?

An open and honest conversation. As a practitioner I am basically there to listen, so that I can understand how the person consulting me feels and how they are experiencing their current situation. I make no assumptions, or judgements about how a person ‘should’ feel.

Two different people caring for an elderly parent with dementia may experience completely different forms of stress – one could be exhausted from constant caring, never getting a break, and feeling guilty about wanting one, the other could be engaged in unwanted conflict with siblings and feeling deep unexpressed grief at the loss of a parent who they never really got to know properly. These two individuals would come away from the consultation with very different blend of flower remedies, though superficially they might be judged to be suffering from similar types of stress.

What attracted you to becoming Bach Flower Essences practitioner?

I am a qualified homeopath and first heard of the flower remedies when I was training in homeopathy. Dr Bach, although never a qualified homeopath himself, worked at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital for many years, and developed some homeopathic remedies as a result of his vaccine research.

I have used the flower remedies for myself and my family, and in my homeopathy practice, for many years. The use of the remedies is not regulated, as they are completed harmless and not classified as drugs or herbal remedies, so there is no legal requirement for a formal qualification. Dr Bach himself intended his remedies for “self-help” because he was well aware of the power that medical qualifications confer, and how some doctors misuse this power.

Last year I decided to undertake the official training offered by the Bach Foundation and completed their Practitioner training. Having used the remedies for years I assumed that I already knew it all, but of course I was wrong (luckily, there’s a flower essence for intellectual arrogance!) I really enjoyed studying the remedies properly and getting to know them more accurately.

What is your favourite thing about Bach Flower Essences?

The beautifully subtle way in which they work. Sometimes when my mood has been transformed by a remedy, it almost makes me laugh. For me, it can feel a bit like being a child who is lovingly coaxed from a bad mood into a giggle. I have seen clients start to emerge from the long tunnel of depression when they’ve taken some flower remedies for a couple of weeks, and others with serious anxieties start to stand up a bit straighter and look the world in the eye. Being able to help a person with these remedies is a pleasure and a privilege.

What is your favourite therapy to use as a patient (besides Bach Flower Essences)?

Homeopathy is a big part of my life and I would always reach first for a homeopathic remedy if I was unwell. I’m also a big fan of massage, osteopathy, yoga, nutritional remedies, sleep, shared laughter… Many things in life are therapeutic.

If you could only take one, what would be your Desert Island Essence?

I would have to say Rescue Remedy, because it does exactly what it says on the tin. It contains:

–  Star of Bethlehem – for the after effects of shock
–  Rock Rose – for feeling terrified
–  Cherry Plum – for the feeling of being close to losing control
–  Clematis – for being dreamily disconnected
–  Impatiens – for being intensely restless or constantly in a hurry

Rescue Remedy certainly covers a lot of the general effects of what we now often refer to as ‘stress’, and although it’s not a substitute for a well chosen personalised blend of remedies, its certainly an excellent go-to when you’re having a bad day.

Julia Linfoot RSHom is a Registered Homeopath and has used Flower Essences in her practice for many years. She has completed the Bach Foundation’s course for Homeopaths and now teaches Flower Essences at 2 Homeopathy Colleges training professional Homeopaths. She can use Flower Essences on their own or alongside Homeopathic treatment.

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