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Bach Flower Remedies for Mental Health Conditions

There are plenty of anecdotal reports on the effectiveness of Bach flower remedies for psychological and emotional conditions like anxiety and depression, but the scientific evidence is scant.

Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Background

Dr. Edward Bach (1886 - 1936) was a British physician who believed that illness is the effect of disharmony between body and mind and that symptoms of an illness are the external expression of negative emotional states. The term flower remedies refers to a set of preparations developed by Dr. Bach. Flower essences are also products derived from Dr. Bach's work.

Dr. Bach asserted that harmful emotions are the main cause of disease, and he classified various emotions into seven principal categories. These categories were then divided further into 38 negative feelings, each of which was associated with a particular therapeutic plant. He also developed a compound of five flowers called Rescue Remedy to be used in emergency situations for trauma.

Bach flower remedies are usually consumed as alcohol-based preparations, but they are also available as creams. Australian bush remedies, Alaskan flower remedies and treatments made from Brazilian rain forest plants are believed by some to be therapeutically similar to Bach flower remedies.


 


Theory

Bach flower remedies comprise a therapeutic system that uses specially prepared plant infusions to balance physical and emotional disturbances. It is believed that every Bach flower remedy is related to an area on the surface of the body. Negative moods change energetic structure in these places, which may be accompanied by pain and disturbing sensations. A flower diagnosis may be obtained by pinpointing the appropriate area on the body map.

The production of Bach flower remedies is handled in two ways: Using the "sun method," flowers are picked on a warm summer day in full sunshine. The flowers are placed in a glass bowl with fresh water, preferably taken from a spring close to the location of the flower. The bowl is then placed in the sun for two to four hours. According to Dr. Bach, the sun transfers the vibration of the flowers into the medium of the water, which in this way becomes energetically infused. The flowers are then removed from the water, and an equal portion of alcohol is added for preservation (Bach originally used brandy). This solution is stored in a stock bottle. During treatment, the remedy is usually diluted with water and is consumed as an alcohol-based preparation, although it may also be available as a cream.

The second method of preparation is the "cooking method." Because not all flowers, shrubs, bushes and trees bloom at a time of year with plenty of sunshine, this approach is considered necessary. In the cooking method, flowers and buds are picked according to the sun method and boiled down. The extract is filtered several times and then mixed with an equal portion of alcohol as a preservative.

There are numerous anecdotes about successful treatment with Bach flower remedies, although published scientific research is limited.

Evidence

Scientists have studied Bach flower remedies for the following health problem:

Anxiety
A small number of studies report the effects of Bach flower remedies to be similar to those of placebo for the treatment of anxiety. These studies have not been well designed, and additional research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

Unproven Uses

Bach flower remedies have been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are potentially life-threatening. Consult with a health care provider before using Bach flower remedies for any use.


 

Aloofness
Ambivalence
Apathy
Cleansing
Depression
Despair
Discouragement
Egotism
Emotional healing
Envy
Excessive pride
Failure to learn from mistakes
Fear, including fear of the unknown
Guilt
Hatred
Hopelessness
Impatience
Inability to say "no"
Indecision
Inflexibility
Intolerance
Jealousy
Lack of confidence
Mania
Mental anguish
Mental exhaustion
Narcissism
Nostalgia
Overdue pregnancy
Phobias
Physical exhaustion
Possessiveness
Procrastination
Repression
Rigidity
Self-hatred
Selfishness
Shame
Trauma
Wanderlust

Potential Dangers

Many Bach flower remedies contain alcohol, which may cause nausea and vomiting if taken with metronidazole (Flagyl) or disulfiram (Antabuse). Alcohol may also cause drowsiness. Driving or operating heavy machinery may be inadvisable if using Bach therapies with high alcohol concentrations. Alcohol intake should be limited in pregnant or breast-feeding women.

People allergic to certain plants or flowers may be sensitive to Bach flower remedies, although only a small amount of the plant may exist in the solution. Treatment with Bach remedies should not delay consultation with a health care provider for a potentially severe illness.


 


Summary

Bach flower remedies, and other systems of botanical treatments derived from Bach's work, have been recommended for many psychological and emotional conditions. There are numerous anecdotes about successful treatment with Bach flower remedies, although effectiveness and safety have not been thoroughly investigated scientifically.

The information in this monograph was prepared by the professional staff at Natural Standard, based on thorough systematic review of scientific evidence. The material was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School with final editing approved by Natural Standard.

Resources

  1. Natural Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics
  2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): A division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dedicated to research

Selected Scientific Studies: Bach Flower Remedies

Natural Standard reviewed more than 40 articles to prepare the professional monograph from which this version was created.

Some of the more recent studies are listed below:

  1. Alex D, Bach TJ, Chye ML. Expression of Brassica juncea 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA synthase is developmentally regulated and stress-responsive. Plant J 2000;Jun, 22(5):415-426.
  2. Armstrong N, Ernst E. A randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial of Bach flower remedy. Perfusion 1999;11:440-446.
  3. Armstrong NC, Ernst E. A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of a Bach flower remedy. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery 2001;7(4):215-221.
  4. Barnes J. Complementary therapies: other therapies. Pharmaceut J 1998;260:1124-1127
  5. Cate P. An ABC of alternative medicine: Bach flower remedies. Health Visit 1986;Sep, 59(9):276-277.
  6. Downey RP. Healing with flower essences. Beginnings 2002;Jul-Aug, 22(4):11-12.
  7. Ernst E. Bach flower therapy: what is the value of a water-brandy mixture? [Article in German]. MMW Fortschr Med 2000;Nov 2, 142(44):36.
  8. Ernst E. E. Ernst's rejoiner to P. Mittman and D. Ullman on the Bach flower remedy study. Altern Health Pract 2001;6(3):247-248.
  9. Ernst E. "Flower remedies": a systematic review of the clinical evidence. Wien Klin Wochenschr 2002;Dec 30, 114(23-24):963-966.
  10. Fisher R. With Bach flower remedies life can take on deeper meaning. Beginnings 1993;Mar, 13(3):1, 4.
  11. Long L, Huntley A, Ernst E. Which complementary and alternative therapies benefit which conditions? A survey of the opinions of 223 professional organizations. Complement Ther Med 2001;Sep, 9(3):178-185.
  12. Mantle F. Bach flower remedies. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery 1997;Oct, 3(5):142-144.
  13. Rolli E. Dialog: physician and nurse on the topic of Bach flower therapy: interview by Wolfgang Fuchs [Article in German]. Osterr Krankenpflegez 1999;Feb, 52(2):16.
  14. Szterenfeld C. Country watch: Brazil. AIDS STD Health Promot Exch 1995;(4):8-9.
  15. Walach H, Rilling C, Engelke U. Efficacy of Bach-flower remedies in test anxiety: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial with partial crossover. J Anxiety Disorder 2001;15(4):359-366.

 

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APA Reference
Writer, H. (2009, January 9). Bach Flower Remedies for Mental Health Conditions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alternative-mental-health/treatments/bach-flower-remedies-for-mental-health-conditions

Last Updated: February 8, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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