Bach flower remedies are a form of vibrational, or energy, medicine that act at the psychological and spiritual levels. Nowadays the remedies are mainly used for treating emotional problems, but people dealing with physical illness can often benefit too. These remedies can safely be combined with other treatments, and they have no side effects (except possibly in cases where alcohol is forbidden, because they contain traces of brandy as a preservative). It is important to understand that they are complementary, not alternative, to orthodox medicine and that they do not offer direct treatment for specific disease conditions. Every person requires a different combination of remedies, and up to six flowers can be mixed in the same course of treatment.
The primary aim is to relieve the emotional distress caused by the illness, making it easier to cope in a more positive way, and I have found that around 80% of clients in my practice report benefit in this respect. Here are a few examples of flowers that may be useful:
Understandable fear and anxiety about the illness itself, or about the prospect of medical or surgical treatment: Mimulus
Feelings of impurity or ‘body image’ problems such as may accompany infections, skin lesions, or heavy medication: Crab Apple
Shock or grief after hearing bad news: Star of Bethlehem or the Rescue Remedy
Difficulty in making decisions, such as choosing between two kinds of treatment: Scleranthus or Cerato
The flower remedies do not suppress these natural negative feelings, but help bring them to the surface of awareness, so that they can be processed and released and replaced by their positive equivalents.
Another aim is to enhance the potential for self-healing. Dr Edward Bach (1886 – 1936) taught that imbalance of mind and spirit plays a major part in causing disease and that his flower remedies, by helping to correct such disharmony, could promote recovery. In his classic short text Heal Thyself Bach explained disease in terms of a learning experience, an opportunity for positive transformation and reorientation to one’s true path in life.
Many of Bach’s intuitive insights in this field have since been validated by research showing that negative mental states, when combined with biological risk factors, predispose to physical illness including such major conditions as cancer and cardiovascular disease. The mind-body link is complex, made up of many strands. Emotional state has a direct impact on physiology, including the neurological, endocrine and immune systems; it may lead to behavioral choices that affect health; and it colors the perception of bodily sensations.
Examples of characteristics which might have contributed to development of an illness or are hindering its recovery, and can be helped by the flower remedies, would be:
Impatience and irritability: Impatiens
A pessimistic or hopeless outlook: Gorse or Gentian
An overly strong sense of duty leading to overwork and exhaustion: Oak
Excessive self-discipline and self-denial: Rock Water
Changing ‘maladaptive’ personality traits such as these will be worthwhile for its own sake, though it carries no guarantee of physical improvement because medical prognosis depends on so many different factors.
True healing is not just about dispelling sickness and negativity. It also involves mobilizing feelings of love and joy, and activities that serve to fulfill a sense of purpose in life. This may pose a challenge for those who have mental ‘blocks’ preventing them recognizing or following their true calling. Here again the flower remedies can help. Examples:
For those who lack the confidence to make the most of their talents: Larch
For those who give others’ needs too much priority over their own: Centaury
For those who want to do something worthwhile with their lives but do not know what it is: Wild Oat
With the Bach system, uncovering the emotional history does not require detailed deep analysis, but is a gentle process with its own natural pace. Different flowers may be needed to deal with the layers of a problem as they are revealed: ‘peeling the onion’.