A new client recently called me to say she was feeling worse rather than better since taking her Bach flower remedies. This happens in my practice just a few times per year. The situation calls for sensitive consideration, but in most cases it is cause for optimism rather than concern.
Though most people notice a steady improvement within a week of starting treatment with Bach flowers, a minority complain of worsening of their original complaints, or the emergence of new symptoms. There may be psychological ones such as heightened anxiety, irritabilty or nightmares; physical ones such as skin ‘break-outs’ or looser bowels; or the worsening of a pre-existing medical problem, arthritis for example. Such symptoms suggest a so-called ‘healing reaction’, which shows that the remedy is resonating with the person. Most healing reactions only last a few days and are likely to be followed by a good response in the longer term.
Healing reactions are best explained in terms of cleansing out of suppressed feelings, a kind of detoxification process, for the remedies themselves have no side-effects and cannot introduce anything negative which is not already there. They may also represent a change in perception of the symptoms or a change of attitude towards them, as the flower remedies reveal hidden layers of emotion and personality (‘peeling the onion’). A similar effect can be found with other types of natural therapy too; in homeopathy it is called an ‘aggravation’.
It is always important to consider other diagnostic possibilities. If there are physical symptoms such as a gastric upset, maybe the mixture has become infected – this could happen if it was not prepared hygienically, has been kept longer than the recommended three weeks, not kept cool, or if the dropper has been touched onto the tongue. Or, the symptoms may be due to some other cause unconnected with the remedies, and need medical assessment.
Healing reactions can be seen with any of the 38 flowers, but several times in my own practice I have seen them resulting from mixtures which contain Agrimony. Dr Bach recommended this for ‘ .. people who love peace and are distressed by argument or quarrel … though generally they have troubles and are tormented and restless and worried in mind or in body, they hide their cares behind their humour and jesting … ‘ Such people often conceal their anxieties from themselves as well as others, sometimes with the aid of drink or drugs or comfort eating, but may be restless at night. The remedy enables more open acknowledgement of emotions, and this can be uncomfortable at first.
Some practitioners do not tell their clients about the possibility of a healing reaction to their clients, but I prefer to explain it, because if they develop a reaction without warning they may assume the remedy does not suit them and stop taking it. If a healing reaction does occur I encourage them to persevere with treatment but to reduce the dose for a while, and may suggest using the Rescue Remedy for a few days.