Dr. Edward Bach and the Bach Flower Remedy System: Background
Edward Bach devised and compounded a system of plant-based homeopathic-style tinctures for emotional and psychological healing. The Bach flower system was the first of its kind and remains the most thorough set of homeopathic remedies for mental and emotional distress. Falling within the umbrella of complementary medicine, Bach flower remedies can and often should be a part of the professional healer's arsenal of interventions. The 38 different remedies have been used in a number of different health care settings, from nursing and midwifery to psychiatric care (Mantle, 1997). "There is no scientific evidence that any Bach flower remedy produces a medicinal effect, and there is some evidence that the method does not work," ("Bach Flower Remedies," 2013). Research on the Bach flower remedies has been disappointing. One study tested the impact of Bach flower remedies on pre-test anxiety in students. The researchers found, "Bach-flower remedies are an effective placebo for test anxiety and do not have a specific effect," (Walach, Rilling & Engelke, 2001, p. 359). In spite of the lack of scientific evidence for their effectiveness, healers continue to find the Bach flower remedies effective interventions especially when used in conjunction with other types of treatment.
Nurses continue to find Bach flower remedies attractive and effective because they are safe, and "do not appear to interfere with any other medication," (Mantle, 1997). The Direct from Nature Company (2013), which produces and distributes the Bach flower remedy system in the United States, points out, "work in conjunction with herbs, homeopathy and medications and are safe for everyone, including children, pregnant women, pets, the elderly and even plants." Although many practitioners dismiss the Bach flower remedies as "implausible," the system presents no deleterious effects for patients (Hall, 2012). The remedies are "sufficiently diluted to minimize the presence of any active ingredients," ("Bach Flower Remedies," 2013).
Dr. Bach said, "accept the remedies as part of life." In your own words describe what the remedies mean to you, and how your use of them developed after your first encounter.
Edward Bach has said to "accept the remedies as part of life." The statement refers directly to the fact that many scientists and physicians do not accept the remedies due to the lack of scientific evidence to support their effectiveness in treating various mental and emotional disorders. As a practitioner and a patient, I believe that science is only one means by which to evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment intervention. The scientific method relies on a limited set of tools and analytical skills, bypassing a realm of human experiences and subjective impressions that also have a bearing on health and healing. I have used the Bach flower remedies in spite of their not being scientifically testable, and I do accept them as a part of life.
I appreciate the way the Bach flower remedies honor the power of nature as healer. Flowers are most commonly appreciated only for their visual and aromatic beauty. However, there is more to the floral kingdom than decoration. Like many other plants, the 38 flowers used in the Bach system also offer the means by which to achieve wholeness and healing. The remedies have led me to think about plants and flowers differently, and with more respect. I do not look at my garden in the same way; and I have a greater appreciation for the mystery of nature's beauty.
The remedies have become for me a system whereby individuals can achieve harmony with themselves and the world around them. I have used the flowers in this way, with positive results. Those I have worked with have similar reactions to the flower remedies. Peace of mind and well being are the most common reactions to regularly interacting with the flower remedies. They are not drugs; they are the means by which to avoid needing drugs.
Describe how your experience and/or training in the other healing arts has influenced your use of the Bach system, and how the remedies fit into your life, both personal and professional.
My first encounter with the Bach flower remedies came in Bali, when a friend of a friend was charging a small fee for administering the treatments. This individual, who I will call Fred for the purposes of anonymity, possessed the entire range of Bach flower essences. He would prepare an individualized formula for each person that he treated, after a short interview with the client. Refraining from counseling or advice-giving, Fred would simply ask the person which emotional or mental symptoms were chronic or acute. He would then narrow down the emotional or mental issues to a select few, and prepare a flower remedy for that person using a maximum of six different flower essences. For example, when I first saw Fred, I was experiencing a bout of anxiety and depression. The anxiety and depression overlay an undercurrent of chronic anger. I also mentioned to Fred my tendency towards low self-esteem, self-doubt, and indecision. Fred wrote down diligently all that I told him, and excused himself while he prepared the formulas. He squeezed a few drops of a select few essences in a dropper bottle filled with pure water, and instructed me on how to use the specially designed formula. I was to squeeze a few drops under my tongue, or into a glass of water, up to five times per day. When I asked him to tell me which of the flower remedies he had prescribed for me, he said, Holly, Larch, Willow, Crab Apple, and Wild Oat. I wrote these down, and years later recalled how accurate Fred was in choosing the remedies that were appropriate for my state of mind at the time we met.
The flower essences seemed innocuous, if not partially effective in relieving much of my anxiety and depression. It "took the edge off," so to speak. While nothing dramatic happened, I do recall feeling calmer and more stable. When I returned home, I investigated Bach flower essences and decided to purchase my own set of remedies because it was more cost-effective than buying individual vials of five or six unique ones. The purchase hurt my wallet, but I became determined to learn and understand the flowers. I began to "accept the remedies as part of life."
In what ways has the course affected or influenced your understanding of the remedies and of the Bach system as a whole?
Because I had invested time and money into the Bach flower remedies, I decided it might be a good idea to investigate the means by which to become a practitioner. I had already begun school as a counselor, I was doing yoga regularly, and also received my first Reiki initiation so that I could become a healer. The Bach flower essences fit in well with the other types of healing I was drawn to, and became part of a holistic approach that I continue to cultivate today. As Barraclough (2007) points out, "the Bach system is a good example of a holistic therapy," (p. 117). The Bach flower system is a holistic type of complementary medicine because it "treats the person and not the disease, considering each client as a unique individual rather than prescribing a standard treatment for certain symptoms or diagnoses," (p. 117).
Reflecting on my introduction to the Bach flower remedies in Bali, I recalled how Fred indeed considered me as a unique individual when preparing an individualized formula. This became my approach when clients came to me. Instead of projecting my beliefs or values onto them, I withheld judgment, and instead referred to the guidelines in the books and articles about the Bach flower essences. The Bach flower remedies also provide a means by which the practitioner can empower the client, rather than take control or assume a paternalistic stance. As Barraclough (2007) puts it, the Bach flower system "encourages self-responsibility for healing, rather than being based on an authoritarian doctor-patient relationship," (p. 117). Barraclough (2007) writes from the perspective of a nurse using complementary medicine to help cancer patients; showing how the Bach flower remedies have a broad and multifaceted approach that reflects the core values of nursing and healing.
As I started to incorporate Bach flower remedies into the broader rubric of my own healing practice, I became less concerned with the lack of scientific evidence used to support their use in mainstream medicine. It is not important that doctors dismiss many types of complementary care; so long as those methods of complementary care do not harm, they do not violate the Hippocratic oath. Moreover, the Bach flower remedies are safe. They are effective; even if they are effective for the "wrong" reasons such as providing a placebo effect (Walach, Rilling & Engelke, 2001). Weil (2013) notes, "no studies have confirmed that the remedies have any effects that differ from those of placebo," but continues to recommend Bach flower remedies as a complementary care option. If a placebo is…