What Is Bach Flower Therapy?

You've probably never heard of Bach Flower Therapy—I hadn't either until recently. But with the big boom in essential oils and essences we've been seeing, I was immediately intrigued by this homeopathic wellness trend of using natural methods for limiting everyday nuisances like stress and poor sleep. Even Hollywood A-listers like Salma Hayek, Emma Watson and Jennifer Aniston, among others, have said they use Bach flower remedies for their calming effects and to stay cool under pressure. To find out what all the hype was about (and exactly what it is), I turned to the pros.

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Bach Flowers were developed by a naturopathic doctor named Dr. Edward Bach back in the 1930s. "He was a physician who believed physical illness stemmed from an imbalance of the emotions," says Alexis Smart, flower essence practitioner and founder of her eponymous flower remedies company. "He found that the essence of flowers, when ingested, have a profoundly positive effect on mood. Once the emotions are restored to balance, the body begins to heal itself of physical illness." Energy healer and holistic health practitioner Carolyn Harrington adds, "He was truly an innovator because he developed these before energy healing was very popular."

Harrington explains that in a nutshell, Bach flowers (there are 38 of them) are just flower essences. "What that means is that if you take a plant, put it in water, then put the water in sunlight, the essence of the plant goes into the water (the water is then preserved in organic alcohol). What Dr. Bach discovered though, was that different plants could help alleviate different negative conditions and emotions, such as anxiety, insomnia and lack of energy. 

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But if you're thinking you can just buy some flowers, stick them in water and drink it, unfortunately you're pretty far off. "It is possible for someone to make their own Bach flower remedies, but the process is pretty in-depth and I would not suggest doing it," advises Harrington. "The pre-made Bach flowers (flower essence liquids from the Bach Flower Association) are readily available at health food stores, as well as online at Amazon.com. To use them, put a few drops in water or some other liquid, and drink it. You don’t need to buy any plants." Smart says you can also take them by putting four drops of the essence under your tongue, which is really common.

Image/bachflower.com

If you're wondering if Bach flowers can help you, Harrington says all types of people can take advantage of the healing properties in one way or another. "Everyone can benefit because our emotions directly impact our health. If you are dealing with a negative emotion, like worry, fear, stress or terror, it will negatively impact your health. It may not be evident at first, but down the road, something may manifest as a disease if you don’t take care of a negative emotion. So these Bach flowers help you deal with the negative emotion to eliminate it from your system."

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The most popular Bach flower essence is Rescue Remedy (a blend of Impatiens, Star of Bethlehem, Cherry Plum, Rock Rose and Clematis), which is used when you are nervous or experienced a terrifying event. "People take this for all sorts of reasons—maybe they have test anxiety and can take it before an exam to feel more peaceful," explains Harrington. 

One big question we were wondering (I'm sure you are too) is, are they safe? "The beauty of Bach flowers is that because they are just water, they are so safe," explains Harrington. "They can’t hurt; there is nothing chemical about them." 

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As with many homeopathic remedies, the scientific community isn't fully convinced with the efficacy and has trouble proving the benefits. A 2010 randomized clinical trial study conducted by the NIH failed to show any differences between flower remedies and placebos. But as believers of the method will contend, it's not intended to be medicine. Says Harrington, "It isn’t like taking a pill and your feelings will go away. It is a slow detox of that emotion. It won’t change your situation; it only changes your perception of the situation."