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Flower Essences: A Brief Overview

by Leanne J. Sotir, PhD, RNCP

Flower Essences: A Brief OverviewFlower essences where first developed by Edward Bach, a homeopath and former bacteriologist. With his intuitive knowledge he left his practice in London in 1930 to develop a new system of healing based on the energy of wildflowers. Although some people do consider these homeopathic remedies, they are not based on the homeopathic principle of “like cures like.” These subtle and safe liquid extracts contain vibrational energy that can aid a person in changing their negative beliefs and life patterns. These essences also stimulate our hidden aspects of the self, awakening profound psychological awareness and allowing us to access messages from a soul level, enhancing our soul’s development.

Flower essences help us learn the lessons through our ailments and imbalances, and this helps us create a positive outcome in our health problems. The essences do this by helping us meet the challenges of physical and emotional pain and suffering. Flower essence therapy correlates a message of a plant with a particular quality within the human soul. By awakening the innate capacities of our soul, flower essences enhance health on spiritual, emotional, and physical levels. The main purpose Dr. Bach had for creating these essences was to show the world that these essences could support the evolution of our souls. He believed if we discovered our personalities and our emotional states that we could heal physical issues.

Dr. Bach started his career as a homeopathic physician and a bacteriologist. He was inspired by a well know homeopathic physician named Samuuel Hahnemann. His early career was as a surgeon, but eventually turned to a more natural approach. His inspiration of homeopathy led him to refine his bacterial vaccines into a series or oral remedies called nosodes. He developed seven of these bacterial nosodes or vaccines and they were very successful in treating many different illnesses. When he worked with the nosodes, he tried to detect which bacteria would work for which person simply by observing his patient. In this respect, he was already moving toward a way of working centered more upon the individual person and less on the pathological detail found in the laboratory test (Barnard, 2002). His knowledge, training, and intuitive nature later developed into effective yet gentle remedies known as flower essences.

Bach felt that Orthodox medicine had failed him because it concentrated on the physical results of disease. Bach’s approach and philosophy was his belief that the real cause was conflict between the soul and the mind. He did not agree with most physicians that disease originated only on a physical level, and believed in a holistic approach to health. Bach believed we should listen to the body, mind, as well as the spirit because he felt it could convey a message. Dr. Bach’s philosophy was “Heal Thyself.” He did not use the physical symptoms to make his diagnosis, but solely and entirely the negative soul states that are the consequence of conflict in carrying out the intentions of soul and personality and that may in the end lead to physical illness (Scheffer, 1988). He truly believed that when our thoughts and feelings are in line with our spiritual path, we could combat disease, both physical and mental, and continue on our life’s journey.

While observing guests at a dinner party he attended, he started to notice that each person seemed to fall into distinct categories and realized that each type of person would react to illness in a different way. He realized that people should be grouped by their personalities and the way they behaved and not necessarily their illnesses. This neatly illustrates the way that a skilled observer can understand a person through a gesture of the body: your body speaks its mind (Barnard, 2002).

When Dr. Bach first noticed the dew that had settled on leaves and petals, he felt that this could somehow absorb and transmit the plants’ healing properties. To prove his theory he would use his own body for testing by using his empathetic qualities and began taking on different emotional and mental states. This was the beginning of his journey to discover flower essences for different personalities and types of people. While trying diligently and failing to get the approval from orthodox medicine for his nosodes and his theories regarding flower essences, he left his practice for London in 1930 and set out to discover more flower essences. His search was not in medical journals or libraries, but within himself and in the fields of wild flowers. As he traveled the English countryside of Wales, he began to intuitively listen to the plants. He seemed to take on the emotions of them and the people that they could help. He spent many days just spending time and observing the plants. He noticed such things as the soil type, color, shape, and number of petals. He also observed such things as where the plant grew and what type of weather conditions they could live in. The root system was also important, as well as how the plant germinated. He intuitively let the plants guide him in selecting which flower is best for which condition. Bach eventually identified thirty-eight flowering plants and trees that provided relief for a wide variety of emotional and physical ailments before his death in 1936. Dr. Bach left the world with a legacy of intuitive insight into the genius and simplicity that nature has to offer (Dillard. 2009). 

HOW TO MAKE A BACH FLOWER REMEDY: SUN METHODThe sun method was the original method of preparing Bach flower essences.

Materials needed:

A thin glass bowl

A quart jar with a lid, this is to carry the water to the site

A funnel

An amber dropper bottle to store the essence

Non-carbonated spring water

Brandy- as a preservative.

*Make sure all items used are properly sterilized by boiling them.

Select a location and the flowers you wish to harvest. Choose a sunny morning, preferably around 9:00 a.m. It is also a good idea to sit with the flowers for a while and focus on how you would like to use these flowers as a flower essence to help someone in need. Be sure to place the bowl of water near where you harvest the flowers. Gently place the flowers on top of the water without overlapping them. Allow them to sit in the sun anywhere between two and seven hours depending on the condition of the plant and the strength of the sun. Watch for any changes to the flowers between these hours. After about four hours, there will be slight signs of the petals fading, giving evidence that their subtle properties (vibrations) have been transmitted to the water (Green, 2000).

Next remove the flowers with a stalk from the plant you are preparing, this is a way to ensure that you do not use your hands in the preperation of the flower essence. The final step is to pour the Mother Essence into the jar that previously carried the spring water. This then can be mixed with an equal part of brandy and be stored in a cool dark place.

If you would prefer to purchase an already prepared essence, there are 38 Bach flower essences to choose from. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, a way to begin would be to learn how Dr. Bach himself developed these essences. He began by developing the system of 12:7:19, which translates to the Twelve Healers, the Seven Helpers, and the Second Nineteen.

THE TWELVE HEALERS – These are the twelve soul types, which are the particular nature by which we are born. Below are some examples of them:


REMEDY                        STATES/FAULTS                  GREAT VIRTUES

Agrimony                        Tortured                               Peace

Chicory                           Restraint/ Demanding            Love

Centaury                         Weakness                             Strength

Mimulus                          Fear                                    Sympathy

Vervain                           Over-enthusiasm                  Tolerance


THE SEVEN HELPERS –These are for chronic conditions and emotional states that have developed over time. Here are a few examples of these remedies below:


REMEDY                                                        CHRONIC CONDITION

Gorse                                                              Hopelessness

Olive                                                               Deep exhaustion

Rock Water                                                      Strict with oneself

Vine                                                                Critical and exacting


THE SECOND NINETEEN– These are the reactive emotional and mental conditions, which occur from life trauma. These are the most widely used remedies. Below are a few examples of these:

REMEDY                                                          EMOTIONAL STATE

Aspen                                                             fear for no apparent reason

Holly                                                               Anger and hatred

Mustard                                                           Depression

Wild Rose                                                         Apathy 

RESCUE REMEDY This is one of the most widely known flower essences. It is recommended for emergency conditions only. If life has dealt you a severe blow, such as a divorce or job loss, you may want to try this emergency stress formula (Jager,2005). They include the essences listed below:

Impatiens- for tension and irritability

Rock Rose- for panic and terror

Cherry Plum- for fear that one may lose control

Star of Bethlehem- for numbness and trauma of any kind

Clematis- unconsciousness or the tendency to pass out.

Flower essences are a wonderful addition to improving your emotional health. Once emotional health issues are addressed, physical health often improves. Although there is not any hard scientific evidence of how they work on the body, they have helped many people with certain conditions. In a retrospective case study analysis done of 384 subjects using Bach flower essences, results showed positive results. About 88% of all subjects reported an improvement in their emotional outlook (Howard, 2007). Flower essences are considered very safe and can be used on infants, children, pregnant women, and pets. The Bach Flower Remedies are compatible with any other form of treatment, including high homeopathic potencies and psychotropic drugs (Scheffer,1988). They can also be used with other modalities such as meditation, visualization, cognitive behavioral therapy, and hypnosis. It is however always a good idea to inform your medical doctor of all therapies, even alternative, that you are using.

When utilizing these essences, you can make your own, or work with a qualified Bach essence practitioner. You may also find a practitioner who makes their own custom essences. These essences can be purchased online, health food stores, as well as some large supermarket chains. You can also educate yourself by going to www.bachflower.com. This website has information on all 38 Bach Flower Remedies. It also has a questionnaire that can help you learn what essences may be good for you. You can also check out their book section and even find a practitioner in your area.



Bach Flower Research Programme. Remedy plants section. Retrieved November, 16,         2010, from http://www.edwardbach.org/therapy/RemedyPlants.asp

Barnard, J. (2002). Bach flower remedies: form and function. Massachusetts: Lindisfarne Books.

Dillard, S. (2009). Discover your psychic type. Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications.

Green, J. (2000. The herbal medicine-maker handbook. New York: Random House, Inc.

Howard, J. (2007). Do Bach flower remedies have a role to play in pain control?A critical analysis investigating therapeutic value beyond the placebo effect, and thePotential of Bach flower remedies as a psychological method of pain relief.

Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 3, 174-183. Abstract received from PubMed database. PMID 17631260.

Scheffer, M. (1988). Bach flower therapy: theory and practice. Vermont: Healing Arts Press.