Flower essence therapy

by Miki Iwai
Reiki Practitioner

What is it?

You might have seen the small, amber-colored tincture bottles at health food stores, along with vitamins and herbal supplements.  Flower essences are “herbal” in the sense that they are made from plants, but very different from typical herbal supplements such as Echinacea to deal with colds and Gingko to improve memory. 

Perhaps the most romantic of all natural therapies, flower essences replicate the dew that naturally collects in flowers.  They are made by infusing plant material (flowers, flower buds, tree bark) in spring water under very specific conditions. The water becomes imprinted with the life force (energetic vibrations) of the plant and the solution is then diluted to a level where no physical plant matter can be detected (1:300 from the original infusion of the flowers).  A small amount of brandy is added as a preservative.  Because the remedy is primarily made of water and is taken in very small doses, it can be used by anybody.

Flower essence is an all-natural remedy used to balance mental and emotional states, which can in turn improve related physical aches and pains.  You could think of them as vitamins for your mind and soul.  They help improve mental attitudes and emotional tendencies that ultimately impact how a person feels and behaves, that in turn affect physical conditions. Many individuals, particularly those with multiple symptoms that have resisted other treatments, respond very well to flower remedies.  The conditions addressed by flower essences is truly diverse, addressing symptoms such as negative impatience, self-esteem, anxiety, lack of motivation, mental exhaustion, loneliness, apathy, procrastination and intolerance, among others.  Some essences also address acute issues such as panic attacks and emotional shock, helping individuals to better deal with traumas. 

Flower essence therapy was pioneered by Dr. Edward Bach (1886-1936), a British surgeon trained in orthodox medicine.  He was an accomplished bacteriologist and immunologist, but was dissatisfied with the prevailing medical approach of addressing symptoms rather than their cause. He believed that disease conditions were based on emotions. 

Recognizing that the same treatment did not always cure the same disease in all patients, Bach had an insight that patients with similar personalities often responded to similar treatment while others with different character traits would need different treatment.  He therefore felt that it was more important for treatments to address a patient’s personality rather than symptoms, and sought to develop a simple and gentle plant-based system to treat the whole person. 

Bach began developing his flower remedies in the late 1920s, and found that when he treated the feelings of his patients it released the body’s self-healing abilities, and their unhappiness and physical distress were alleviated.  He abandoned his lucrative medical practice in 1930 to dedicate the rest of his life to developing flower remedies.  By 1935 he had identified 38 plants that made his system of flower essence therapy complete, and passed away a year later at age 50. 

There are now several companies continuing Bach’s work:  Bach Flower Essences are still made in England according to his methods and specifications, and the system of flower remedies has been expanded by companies in the United States, Australia and other regions that have added more plants to the repertoire.

How does it work?

Flower essences work in a very different way from pharmaceutical medicine. For example, while antidepressants and mood enhancers may work by affecting neurotransmitters to block or increase certain brain signals to make the symptoms seemingly disappear, flower essences work by balancing an individual’s energetic vibrations with those of the plants the remedy is made from. They work at a deeper level to address the habits and conditioning an individual has developed over a long time, which may be the root cause of seemingly unconnected problems.

Flower essence therapy recognizes both the positive and negative aspects of a character trait, and helps to balance them by strengthening the positive aspects. For example, Water Violet is recommended for emotionally reserved individuals that tend to be aloof in their dealings with others. They often exude an image of independence, superior capability, and self-control.

When in a negative Water Violet state, individuals may feel drained by others, withdraw, feel apathetic and isolated, and have difficulty bonding with others.  These states may be balanced by the Water Violet essence to warm up the personality and bring out the positive aspects of the character, such as self-confidence and the ability to see things from many perspectives.

This quality may help to open up the person to others, and the ability to connect better with others may in turn improve self-esteem issues that might have developed and buried deep within over some time. These improvements may also decrease tensions in physical areas such as the neck, shoulders, heart, and stomach areas and help the associated organs to work better by enabling stuck energies to circulate and be processed.

How is it taken?

Flower essences are generally taken over a period of few weeks. Many individuals choose to take them for long periods – months or even years - for self-improvement, and work through various aspects of their character. The selection of essence may be adjusted over time, because as one issue is brought under control, a deeper issue often emerges.  Life events such as marriage, birth of a child, and career change, may also pose big challenges that require the special support of flower essences.

Flower essences may be taken singly or in combination, but most flower essence therapists agree that less is generally better, and that no more than 7 essences should be combined at a time so that their effects are easier to observe and monitor.  The standard is to take 4 drops of the essence 4 times a day.

The essence may be taken sublingually (4 drops under the tongue), or may be added to water. This is not a hard and fast rule, however:  unlike standard medications flower essences contain no bio-physical components, and therefore has no risk of overuse or overdose. The general rule is regularity over quantity:  using small doses throughout the day is better than taking a large dose once a day.  Aside from taking the tinctures internally, there are other creative applications, such as direct physical applications on problem areas, adding it to oils, creams and lotions, or adding it to bath.  

How do I know which remedies are right for me?

There are many approaches to selecting a flower remedy:  many individuals choose their own remedy, and some individuals have them selected by flower therapy practitioners. Selection is generally made based on the negative aspect of the personality trait to be addressed (for example, Hornbeam for procrastination, and Crab Apple for “clean freaks”).  There is abundant literature and information on the Internet that can be used to find out the flower essence that works for specific mental traits.  Another approach is based on intuition, and some individuals and practitioners use tools such as pendulums and flower essence cards to narrow down potential selections.  Since flower essences work gently it is best to use the same essence, whether singly or in combination, for at least 2 to 3 weeks to monitor their effect before changing or adding additional flower essences.

While there are no side effects to flower remedies, a well-matched formula may lead to energetic movement and accelerate the body’s self-healing and detox processes. Thoughts and emotions may arise, enabling the individual to develop an awareness of negative programming, mental and emotional habits that get in the way of well-being. These act as catalysts to abandon self-limiting perspectives and enable better navigation of life’s many challenges.

Miki Iwai is a San Francisco based Reiki practitioner, and can be reached at: miki.iwai7@gmail. com

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