By Erica Grossman, LMT
Essential oils have become a common household item in the last few years, but a gentler, lesser known plant-based product might be a great additional tool to have on hand during these current times of high stress, fear, and uncertainty.
Flower essences were developed in the 1930s by Edward Bach, an English physician. Like homeopathic remedies, flower essences are vibrational in nature. They are highly dilute products and are believed to influence mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Because flower essences are typically taken internally, they are often confused with drugs, supplements and medicines. Flower essences have no direct impact on the body’s biochemistry. They are often described as catalysts which allow the person to begin an inner transformative process. They are not meant to treat specific diseases or ailments, to reduce pain, or suppress symptoms. Unlike herbal remedies, flower essences are not chosen based on physical symptoms but rather on emotional “symptoms” or feelings. Unlike essential oils, flower essences are not used for aromatherapy, and there is no scent associated with them.
A lovely description of the action of flower essences is the comparison to the physical effects we can feel when we hear a moving piece of music, or seeing an inspirational work of art. While neither the music or art is physically “touching” us, our body is still experiencing some kind of reaction. We can call this a soul/spirit/energetic/qi response based on our personal belief system. Flower essences fit nicely into the healing modalities of acupuncture and massage as it also seeks to adjust and tone the energetic levels of the human body. It can provide gentle shifts to emotional well being of the person, which often spills over into the physical body, immune system, and overall health patterns.
It has been argued that flower essences are simply working on the placebo effect, and that there is no active material that can be tested with modern medicine to prove efficacy. The placebo effect is a quantifiable result stating that people who are treated with an inert (inactive) medication or treatment will still show signs of improvement. Many studies have shown that people who receive placebo treatment will still experience demonstrable changes based simply on the belief that they are receiving any treatment at all. If this is the case, why do we dismiss it, when it’s clearly showing a deep mind-body connection? Even if a medicine is a placebo, if it has no risk to the patient and could possibly help in some small way, should it not be used?
How are Flower Essences Used?
Flower essences are most commonly taken orally from a dropper bottle, directly under the tongue or mixed in a small amount of water. They can also be used directly on the skin or incorporated into a bath or topical application such as oil or lotion. When purchasing flower essences, we usually receive a “stock level” dilution which should be diluted down to a dosage level. This makes the initial cost of various flower essences much more reasonable as they will be further diluted at home and will last for quite a while.
When preparing dosing for self or family, it is often easiest to make a dosage bottle for each person. Fill a one-ounce (30ml) glass dropper bottle nearly full of fresh filtered water. Add two to four drops of flower essence from the stock bottles selected. Typical remedies include up to 3 various essences as needed. After adding the flower essences, cap the dosage bottle and shake or tap the bottle lightly. Individuals can self-dose from their dosage bottle as needed, directly into the mouth or in a glass of water. As there is no preservative in this bottle, it should be used in a short period of time (several days to a week).
For bath use, add about 20 drops of each stock essence to a standard size tub. Stir the tub water, and soak for at least 20 minutes. For topical use, add 6-10 drops of each stock essence to 1oz of oil or lotion.
Bach flower essences can be purchased online here. North American and Bach flower essences can be purchased online here. Some flower essences may also be available through Amazon.com or other online retailers. Bach and FES are the two most well known and trusted brands. Empty mixing bottles can also be purchased online.
Cautions and Contraindications
Please be aware that like other forms of energetic therapy, more is not better. Taking a full bottle of stock flower essence will not make one “feel better faster” than taking a more dilute dosing. And of course, this is not to replace any existing therapy, medicine, or other remedies prescribed by your practitioners or doctors.
What to expect when taking flower essences? Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much more than a subtle decrease of negative emotional symptoms or burden. Other times it can feel like a great relief or overall increased feeling of wellness or positivity. If we are to choose the wrong flower essence, we typically will not feel much of anything at all. It is also possible to experience a “healing crisis” even when we do choose correctly. This can be characterized by a possible intensification of certain traits prior to experiencing a transformation. If these feelings become unusually intense, one may reduce the frequency of dosing or stop altogether.
Which Flower Essences are Right for Me?
There are 38 original European flower essences (commonly called Bach Flower Essences) and numerous additional North American and Australian Bush Flower Essences that have been more recently developed. The information in this post is far from comprehensive, and should not be used for long-term healing, but has been selected due to current international health concerns to be a gentle emotional support for people dealing with fear, uncertainty, and stress. Please read the descriptions below to get a sense for which essences might be right for you at this time. Try to limit your focus to three, if possible. Read more about Bach flower essences and North American flower essences if you need more clarification. Additionally, many people will find great benefit in Bach’s most well-known blend, Rescue Remedy, which is available in self-dosing bottles, sprays, pastilles, creams and other methods of delivery. There are also specific blends that can be used to assist with restful sleep, and even for highly anxious pets.
Flower Essences for Stressful Times
Agrimony: false outer calm, hiding inner conflict; using numbing drugs, food, or drink to cover anxiety and pain
Aloe: burnout or exhaustion; unbalanced work patterns; depleted from poor work/life balance
Aspen: the use of drugs to cover fear; fear of the unknown; nightmares; hypersensitivity; to help find the courage to face the unknown
Borage: feeling disheartened, discouraged or weighed down; to bring cheer, the courage to face challenges
Cherry Plum: extreme tension or stress; destructiveness or fear of losing control when under extreme stress or pressure; erratic behavior; feeling beyond the limits of coping
Clematis: escapism; excessive daydreaming or fantasies; difficulty paying attention; avoiding the present with daydreams of the future
Crab Apple: obsessive feelings of cleanliness; compulsive cleaning; deep need to purify self and surroundings
Elm: despair about one’s ability to fulfill responsibilities; fatigue from taking on too much; wanting to be the hero; overwhelmed by present events; the inability to step back and get perspective; to gain the confidence to meet challenges, demands and responsibilities
Gorse: feelings of hopelessness; the expectation of suffering; to encourage hope in those who have abandoned hope
Hornbeam: weariness; lack of interest in work or other daily tasks; the desire to sleep as an avoidance of tasks; feeling intimidated by life
Impatiens: impulsive; quick to anger; frustrated with the slowness of others; easily irritated; exhausted; difficulty focusing; restless
Mimulus: avoiding or escaping daily challenges; excessive anxiety and nervousness about daily life; holding self back due to fears; specific phobias; timid or fretful
Mustard: overcome with helplessness or hopelessness; free-flowing anxiety, also accompanied with depression; deep despair; suffering in silence; sudden feelings of gloom
Oak: the provider and protector of others; one who takes on the role of hero; one who has difficulty setting limits and boundaries with work that needs to be done; overextended, overexerted, not knowing when to rest; pushing oneself even when exhausted
Pink Yarrow: the tendency to be an emotional sponge; one who absorbs qualities of others; emotionally oversensitive; feeling drained from absorbing negative energy of others; paranoid; uneasy in crowds; excessive personal identification or sympathy towards others
Red Clover: to bring calm to situations of panic and group hysteria; to keep one’s individual awareness and clarity; to keep calm and centered in the midst of challenging circumstances
Rock Rose: overwhelming fear; fear of death; to find courage when facing fears
Self Heal: recuperative healing; to bring self confidence in one’s healing ability
Star of Bethlehem: to soothe trauma, deep shock
Sweet Chestnut: feelings of abandonment; extreme anguish; despair
White Chestnut: constant worry; recurring thoughts; repetitive or circular thoughts; restless or fitful sleep due to anxiety or mental chatter
Yarrow: feeling drained and depleted from absorbing negative thoughts of others, or by one’s social or physical environment; overabsorption of others’ suffering, resulting in feelings of depletion