January 25, 2012

The Essence of Flowers according to Dr Bach

Flowers make us feel good. They're beautiful, they smell delicious, and they bring the crisp, uncomplicated joy of nature with them wherever they go. Everyone knows flowers are a feast for the eyes, nose, and heart, but British researcher and physician Dr. Edward Bach proved that flowers can restore and maintain perfect health in all of us.

Close-up of a signature arrangement from Anne Paterson's Flowers
Dr. Bach developed his flower essences in the late 1920s and early 1930s based on his firm belief that "we each have a Divine mission in this world, and our souls use our minds and bodies as instruments to do this work, so that when all three are working in unison the result is perfect health and perfect happiness." He asserted that a negative mind-state is at the core of all illness: "It is not possible for us to be ill unless we are not in harmony with our true nature." To treat the bodily symptoms of that illness alone is not sufficient. In other words, the whole body/mind/spirit complex must be brought into balance for deep healing to occur.

He gave up his lucrative western medical practice and went to the the English countryside to begin work on a more holistic system of medicine. There, he intuited that the dew on the plants, heated by the sun, held all the healing properties of the flowers it laid upon. As he continued, his intuition became so sensitive that simply by holding or tasting a plant, he immediately knew its healing properties. In this way, he developed, one by one, the 38 flower essences that are known today as the Bach Flower Essences.

While the Bach Flower Essences (BFEs) work on the same basic principle as the more commonly known healing technique Aromatherapy (the use of essential oils--potent aromatic substances extracted from all fragrant plants--for physical and emotional healing), there are two major differences: BFEs are generally taken internally while essential oils are normally applied to the body or used to fragrance the air; and essential oils can be used to treat symptoms as well as to promote positive qualities, while the BFEs, like any other medicine prescribed by a doctor, cannot be used simply to promote the positive but must be used to balance the negative state that those essences address.

Unsurprisingly, there is a significant correlation among the folkloric meanings of flowers and their healing properties of their corresponding Bach Flower Essences. Clematis, for instance, is said to signify ingenuity, and its Essence balances excessive daydreaming and lack of concentration by enabling people to express their artistic and creative gifts in practical and material ways. Honeysuckle symbolizes the bond of love. Its Essence enables one who is lost in nostalgia to release their dwelling on old memories and go out to develop new relationships and interests, making life meaningful and vital again. Gentian's meaning is, literally, I look to heaven, and its Essence vibrates to the frequency of faith, melting away feelings of discouragement brought on by life's numerous setbacks and delays. Stars of Bethlehem signify reconciliation, perhaps between one person and another or perhaps between one part of the self and another. It's Bach Flower Essence is useful for restoration and the release of any trauma from cellular memory so that healing can occur.

This correspondence is present in flower meanings and their aromatherapeutic essential oils also. Chamomile, for instance, which is said to hold the meaning of Energy in Action, helps as essential oil to overcome oversensitivity, stress, anxiety, hysteria, insomnia, suppressed anger, and hyperactivity; and it also treats physical symptoms like PMS, menstrual pain, ulcers, and light constipation, helping to unblock energy and ensure its smooth movement through the body. Neroli (orange blossom) essential oil is often used as an aphrodisiac. The orange blossom carries meanings of fruitfulness, marriage, and eternal love. The rose, paragon of beauty, virtue and love, in essential oil form helps to rejuvenate cells, heal all complexion types, and slow aging. It further promotes self-confidence, and is useful for treating relationship conflicts, envy, and intolerance. The Wild Rose Bach Flower Essence vibrates to the frequency of inner motivation and assists with the realization that we can always use the power of choice to change our lives for the better.

Does this mean we have to run out and buy all kinds of ointments and tinctures in order to receive all the rejuvenative benefits of flowers? Definitely not. All the healing properties of flower essences are often present simply in their very symbolism. Flowers have an aromatherapy all their own, elevating mood and inducing cheerfulness. Further, each flower, according to its colour, will also affect different aspects the body/mind/spirit based on the ancient Eastern philosophy that our bodies contain and emanate seven wheels of energy known as chakras:

One of the easiest ways to bring an energy centre into balance is with colour, and the easiest ways to integrate colour into daily life are with diet, wardrobe, decor, and flowers.

So the next time you want to pick up a few blooms for someone you love, someone you want to apologize to, someone you want to forgive, or even for yourself, you'll know there's more to knowing that flowers make us feel good than meets the eye. Flowers have the power to heal in many ways. But don't get too caught up in particulars, (What does this flower mean? What does it do? How is it going to affect my reproductive system?) just let your inner wisdom guide you. Choose what you naturally gravitate to. The power of intuition is strong, and if we trust it, we can rest assured we'll pick out just the right remedy for any occasion.

Additional reading and information:
Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self
Natural Wisdom & Know-How: Useful Practices, REcipes, and Formulas for a Lifetime of Health
The History and Language of Flowers
The Original Bach Flower Remedies

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