‘Bach Flower Remedies: Healing for the 21st Century’ by June Raymond

We live in a world in which old solutions no longer work and this is certainly true in the field of medicine where new forms of treatment are springing up all round us. Twenty years ago few people had heard of Flower Remedies and now they are well known and widely used. While Dr Edward Bach was the first to discover their beneficial effects, there are now a large number of people who are producing their own flower remedies both in England and throughout the world. In my own practice however I work only with the original Bach remedies which I find provide a comprehensive base for an inner journey of healing and I use those produced by ‘Healing Herbs’ rather than other brands which I have not found to be as good. For those who would like to study how Dr Bach’s remedies were first developed and why they work I recommend Julian Barnard’s detailed and fascinating book, ‘Bach Flower Remedies. Form and Function’ on which much of this article is based.

When I first came across the remedies at Findhorn twenty years ago I was sceptical and wondered just how gullible ‘new agers’ could be! As a result of my own experience however I revised my opinion and have been successfully treating people for both physical and emotional problems for more than eighteen years. I am now convinced that the flower remedies are an effective form of healing which has nothing to do with whether or not the patient believes in them, and everything to do with the remedies themselves. They are non intrusive and work by clearing the blocks and traumas that hinder the body’s own natural healing and bringing clarity and wisdom to the sufferer.

Flower Remedies are easy to use and completely safe. They have no side effects although sometimes they will take us through the deep emotions that need to be healed. It is useful to have a key or a book that will help to find the appropriate remedies but no harm will come if you choose a wrong one! I also recommend Healing Herb’s website which provides detailed information about each of the remedies. They are safe to use with conventional medication with which they do not interfere. The most commonly used remedy is of course ‘Rescue’ or ‘Five Flower’, a mixture that is invaluable in any emergency. They are suitable both for personal use and as an important tool for therapists and healers.

So who was Dr Bach and how did he discover flower remedies? In 1928 he was a Harley Street doctor with little that was marginal about his career. He was a successful surgeon who had progressively researched subtler forms of medicine, bacteriology, immunology and homeopathy before he finally turned his back on the medical establishment and began looking for a new form of healing. It was to be one that would treat the underlying emotional causes of illness and be linked to the inner spiritual journey. From homeopathy Bach had learnt to treat the person before the disease but his own vision was more radical even than that of Hahnemann, the pioneer of homeopathy. The story is told of how one evening at a dinner party Dr Bach spent the entire meal observing the different behaviour patterns of the other guests. He saw how people might be grouped according to their personality rather than their illness and believed that healing should begin by treating the individual’s personality type. Bach saw a specific illness as the result of our being out of tune with our soul’s purpose. It was a symptom rather than the cause of disease which was ‘generated by our inability to listen to the voice of our soul, a voice which would lead us to understand the individual meaning of our life.’ To heal the body alone he described as ‘at best a lesson deferred.’

Throughout his life Bach learnt from his own experience. In 1917 when he was thirty he collapsed and very nearly died. He was operated on for cancer but the prognosis was so bad that when one of his contemporaries who had attended the operation met him again on returning from the war he exclaimed, ‘But you should be dead!’ We know relatively little about Bach’s personal life but it clearly was not without trouble and it led him to the belief that only by learning to be free of the opinions and pressures of other people and being true to one’s own spiritual path can one find health. Not surprisingly when he set out on his journey to find a form of healing that would help the individual to grow to be in tune with their emotional and spiritual purpose, he first looked for a remedy to treat his own personality type. Bach’s friends and fellow doctors include in their description of him that he was quick to decide, quick to act, quick to anger, sometimes impatient of the slowness of others. His first remedy was for just such a person.

Bach’s search was now no longer to be in the laboratory but in the countryside for he believed that nature herself would be our healer. He wrote:

It is only because we have forsaken Nature’s way for man’s way that we have suffered, and we have only to return to be released from our trials. In the presence of Nature disease has no power; all fear, all depression all hopelessness can be set aside. There is no disease of itself which is incurable.

So he went to the country near Abergavenny to look for a remedy and found it in the flower of the riverside plant Impatiens, more commonly, Himalayan Balsam. He then went on to discover flower remedies for eleven other different personality types.

It is surely legitimate to ask how and why Bach should have found healing in flowers. This is where the world will divide and some people will feel unable to take the leap towards a new vision. This however is the explanation that makes most sense to me. It involves the shift we have made from understanding the world purely as matter to seeing it in terms of energy or wave function. That is the electromagnetic pattern or ‘thought form’ comes first and material being follows it. So when we understand the plant in detail, how it grows, its colour, habitat, method of reproduction and so forth we can then access its inner pattern.  Julian Barnard writes, ‘Bach carried in himself the vibratory pattern of the Impatiens mental state. There was a natural resonance between Bach, the man, and Impatiens, the plant. He recognised it.’ Bach then went on to find the remedies from flowers that resonated with the other personality types he recognised.

He developed a method of storing the potency of the flowers and eventually discovered thirty-eight remedies. After the first twelve ‘Healers’ there were seven ‘Helpers’ which treated not innate conditions but chronic acquired emotional states that can prevent healing taking place. He now had nineteen remedies which he potentised by the ‘sun method’.  That is, in order to transfer the vibrational pattern of the flower to water which, as in homeopathy, would hold its memory, he left the flower heads in a bowl of pure spring water for several hours in unbroken sunlight. The water was then mixed fifty-fifty with brandy to preserve it and then again mixed with more brandy to make individual bottles from which a few drops in water will make a remedy. It is possible by this method to obtain more than half a million bottles at the treatment strength from the one small bowl of essence! It had been Dr Bach’s aim to produce a medicine which would be safe, easy to prescribe and inexpensive so anyone would be able to use it. (No wonder he parted company with the established medical profession!).

Dr Bach died at the age of fifty having completed a further nineteen remedies. These last were all discovered in the year before his death in 1936. He described them as ‘more spiritualised’ than the first group being about the difficulties, traumas and darkness we encounter on our life journey. For each of these remedies he went through the negative experience and then found the flower, now most often from a tree, which brought relief to his condition. He potentised these second nineteen by a different boiling method which so far as I know has never been used by subsequent flower remedy innovators but which has a connection with their deeper character. The flower heads are put in a saucepan of spring water, brought to the boil and simmered for half an hour before being strained and mixed with brandy. So the sun’s energy does not come directly but through the agency of a natural material, wood, coal or gas, that has stored it under ground. Here experience is transformed through darkness for spiritual growth and fruitfulness. I find these remedies are particularly important not simply for physical well being but in the more profound work of transformation. ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone: but if it dies it bears much fruit’.

One of Dr Bach’s writings is called ‘Free Thyself’. It is a title that embodies much of the dynamic of the flower remedies, since with their help we discover within ourselves the understanding that we and we alone are responsible for our lives, our health and our healing and the knowledge gives us a freedom that is pure joy. The pain and traumas that hid this freedom from us are real and we need real healing to clear them. As we move forward on our journey victimisation and despair about our future are replaced by faith in our potential because as Dr Bach wrote, ‘As sons (this was written in the first half of the last century!) of the Creator, Sparks of the Divine Life, we are invincible, indestructible and unconquerable’!

Some useful books:

Julian Barnard. Bach Flower Remedies. Form and Function (Flower Remedy Programme. 2002).

Julian and Martine Barnard. (The Healing Herbs of Edward Bach. An illustrated guide to the Flower Remedies(Bach Educational Programme. 1988).

Ed. Julian Barnard. Collected Writings of Edward Bach (Ashgrove Press1994).

Mechtild Scheffer. Keys to the Soul. A workbook for self diagnosis using the Bach Flowers (The C.W.Daniel Company.1998).

Mechtild Scheffer. Bach Flower Therapy. Theory and Practice (Thorsons 1990).

June Raymond is a sister of Notre Dame who spent most of her life teaching English at secondary level. In 1998 she went to live on the isle of Erraid in the Hebrides with the Findhorn Community. Here she first encountered the Bach Flower Remedies and learnt about and the deep connection between spirit and the earth and the meaning of holism. After returning to Liverpool she has worked as a therapist and healer using flower essences. She trained with Julian Barnard of Healing Herbs and now also runs courses for practitioners. June lives in Formby, a little north of Liverpool.