Bach flowers

During all my years working as a doctor in Oxford, UK, I never knew that in the nearby village of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell there is a cottage called Mount Vernon where Dr Edward Bach (pronounced “Batch”) lived in the 1930s, and now houses the foundation devoted to carrying on his work. After I moved to New Zealand in 2000, I started exploring this system out of curiosity. I was sceptical, but saw such good results when I gave remedies to some of my friends that I went on to take the full training course and qualify as as Bach Foundation Registered Practitioner.

The best-known preparation is the crisis formula, marketed as Rescue Remedy, a mixture of five flower essences intended to relieve acute stress. For longer-term treatment it is better to use an individually tailored combination, containing up to six of the 38 flowers each corresponding to a different emotional state. Clients come for many different reasons: anxiety or loss of confidence, coping with stressful circumstances including physical illness, relationship problems, being at a crossroads in life.

Edward Bach (1886 – 1936) qualified as a medical doctor from University College, London. He specialised in pathology and bacteriology and did private practice in Harley St. At the age of 31 he was diagnosed with an abdominal cancer which was thought to be terminal, but threw himself into work with the aim of making a real contribution to medicine before he died, and recovered – so becoming convinced that the mind has a great influence on physical health. He believed that orthodox medical treatments were too toxic, and did not deal with the underlying causes of disease, and wanted to find a form of natural healing which would treat the whole individual rather than only physical symptoms. He studied homeopathy for a while. Then on a walking holiday in Wales he had an intuition that certain wild flowers corresponded to different human emotions. Soon afterwards he gave up his career in London and moved into the country. Despite a series of reprimands from the GMC he devoted the rest of his short life to completing his series of remedies, treating patients free of charge, and writing books about his philosophy of healing. He believed that the root cause of most ill-health was a psychological or spiritual imbalance – a negative emotional state, conflicted relationships with others, or being on the wrong path in life – in other words, a lack of harmony between the earthly personality (ego) and the higher self (soul).

The remedies are prepared by soaking or boiling the petals of flowers in spring water, adding brandy as preservative, then diluted for taking by mouth. Unlike herbal medicines, they contain no chemical trace of the source plants – it is surmised that they retain an energetic, or vibrational, imprint of the flowers. As such they are often dismissed by conventional scientists, although their mode of action can perhaps be understood in terms of quantum theory. A few randomised controlled trials have been published which mostly conclude the remedies are no more than placebo. Unfortunately these trials were carried out in a way which bears little relation to the way the remedies are used in practice. I would agree that there is a large psychological element, which comes from clients actively considering their problems from a new perspective and thereby mobilising a self-healing response, but this does not explain why babies and animals usually respond so well. About 80% of adults in my own practice have reported an improvement. The remedies are very safe although a minority of users develop a “healing reaction”, with mental or physical symptoms getting worse before they get better. You can find out more about the Bach flowers from bachcentre.com.

I usually see clients in the informal setting of my home in Devonport, Auckland. Please note this venue is not suitable for people with mobility problems or allergy to cats, but I can also arrange home visits. The standard charge is $60 NSD for the first consultation and $30 NSD for followups (cash, cheque or internet banking – no EFTPOS or credit cards). For inquiries please email jennifer.barraclough@gmail.com, or phone 021424447.