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Dr. Bach and Flower Essences: A History

I’ve just read a fascinating book about the creator of flower essence medicine called The Medical Discoveries of Edward Bach, Physician by Nora Weeks. (Book info at the end.)

In the past, I have been skeptical of flower essences, not knowing if they worked or not. it was one thing I had a hard time with in my herbal education.

They are said to be subtle in nature, and carry the homeopathic-type energy of the flowers. I wasn’t sure if it was the flower essences changing a person, or a person being mindful of the changes they want to make, through the taking of the medicine four times a day over several weeks.

Dr. Bach was an English doctor who studied bacteriology. He was born in 1886, and had Welsh in his background (The book emphasized this a LOT, somehow associating it with rural nature). He did love nature and being outdoors throughout his lifetime.

Early in his career he was very sick, suffering a brain hemorrhage after tending many, many patients during World War I. Though many expected him to die, he recovered though his dedication to helping others and love for his work. He realized that, to quote the author,

“an absorbing interest, a great love, a definite purpose in life was the deciding factor of a man’s happiness on earth, and was indeed the incentive that carried him through his difficulties and helped him in the regaining of his own health.”

He also studied why some war camps were ravaged by disease, but others barely touched. He was able to find and isolate bacterial strains, grow them, and then used them to unofficially inoculate some of the war camps against disease. This took place during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. What’s interesting to me is that he injected these good bacteria into the soldiers’ bloodstreams, instead of having them ingest it. Somehow the good bacteria got to where they were needed and this method worked. (These were not named, and I wish they were. But the book did list his published medical papers.)

He was able to cure some illnesses through “autogenous vaccines”:  growing the bacteria a person had, raising their numbers, and give it to the same person again by mouth. This somehow cured them. I am wondering if it was merely showing the immune system, 70-80% found in the gut, the big problem?

Other vaccines were a mixture of five problem bacteria strains, and these were called “nosodes.” Eventually Dr. Bach ended up with Seven Nosodes, named that. (What is a nosode, she wonders…)

Later he found that he could isolate seven different problem bacterial strains, and match the patients’ presenting personalities to the correct bacterial strain that had infected them. He played a game where he tried to do it as they walked from the waiting room to the check-up room, and have it before they got there. Apparently they were very distinct and separate. I would love to read more about this.

Then he went to work at the London Homeopathic Hospital, where his theories agreed with Hahnemann’s, the founder of homeopathy, who had lived a long time earlier. Dr. Bach ended up reading Hahnemann’s book all night.

Hahnemann theorized that there were three types of disease, the third called “psora.” Dr. Bach felt that psora was having bad bacteria in the digestive system, and that Hahnemann saw this pretty clearly, even though he lived so much earlier. (Bad bacteria in the gut can release toxins that affect body and brain, and lower the stomach acid in order to live there more easily.) Dr. Bach ended up writing some papers to confirm the theories of Hahnemann.

Dr. Bach was in search of a better system of medicine, and had been for a very long time. Some people were not cured, even after going through surgery or long treatment. Dr. Bach decided to leave a lucrative practice. The noise and chaos of big city London had been a burden to this sensitive man for a long while, so he went to live in smaller towns around England, especially on the coasts. He travelled around the countryside looking for certain flowers that could be used for medicine. According to the book, he became more sensitive as time went on, and could feel the energy of the flowers, even before taking it back to be tested.

He wanted a simple system of medicine that could be used by everyone, that would be inexpensive and also easy to get. His flowers were not from far away places, for the most part, but common and easy to find.

How Flower Essences Are Made
Flower essences are made by placing flowers into a bowl of clean water and letting them sit in full sun during summer, for 4-6 hours. Then the water is poured into a clean bottle, and preserved with alcohol. Then the mixture is diluted twice to a great degree, which does seem similar to homeopathic medicines. During the whole process, one tries to keep the flowers and water from touching the medicine maker, which would add one’s own energies to the medicine.

Usually they are taken 4 drops four times daily for 2-3 weeks. However, Dr. Bach used them for three months or more with patients.

What’s interesting to me is that as he found and worked with the flower essences, he started treating long-standing chronic cases as well as acute cases with these. And he did it at no charge to the patients, and with great success, for over seven years. He felt that the patient’s main mood or emotional issue must be treated first. When the mind became peaceful and happy again, then the body would then be able repair itself.

How is this possible? I am wondering if this is like brain balancing therapies (Geddes is one person, and his book reads like a sales brochure. Another one involves sounds (Robert Monroe Institute.) Or if it is bringing the brain naturally back into the “rest and digest” state of calm.

But if this worked so well, why do we not use it today? Some of his cases sounded quite serious: acute or chronic. People sought him out and followed him around the country, so he must have been helping them. Or was it the free medical care?

As he saw patients again, the flower essences had to be adjusted. This was because the emotional state of the patients had changed over time, with different things appearing and disappearing. He often used the flower essences in groups together.

Later, Dr. Bach experienced great physical illnesses in rounds before finding the flower essence medicines. These were usually for the tree-sourced medicines. (This was different from previously.)

Having seen the importance of keeping the mind well to avoid disease, he often helped organize social events in his small town.

He died in his fifties, around 1936. I was wondering if there would be anyone still alive who had actually worked with him personally. I guess they would be 100 years old now. There is a Dr. Bach institute in England that I plan on looking up in the future.

I feel like I have to give flower essences a second look now, and see if they work well for clients. First, heal thyself, right?

What are your thoughts on flower essences?

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(My book has a last publish date of 1969. the publisher is C. W. Daniel Company, Ltd. Ashingdon, Rockford Essex England.)


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