3. Edward Bach and the Discovery of Flower Essences

This is the third post in the flower essence series. If you want to start at the beginning, here is the link to the first article. I will provide it again at the end of this post.

Flower essences are a bit strange: Who thought of this remedy? Where did it come from? And what exactly is it?

Some of you may have heard of the “Bach Flower Remedies,” or perhaps the most famous flower remedy (“flower remedy” and “flower essence” are the same thing): Rescue Remedy. This is a popular stress treatment sold in many stores across the United States. This is also a common treatment for pets. Rescue Remedy is actually a combination of five different flower essences which we will look at later in this series.

In this article, however, we will meet the person who discovered it all: a man by the name of Edward Bach.

Edward Bach

Edward Bach is the man credited with discovering, or perhaps one should say “uncovering” flower essences. Bach graduated from medical school at the University College Hospital of London in 1912.

Interested in immunology and bacteriology, he began to study the flora of the colon. He found that people with chronic disease had an overgrowth of certain bacteria in their intestines. He decided to create vaccines against these “bad” gut bacteria. He watched patients recover from chronic diseases using these vaccines. This is not something we do today, but what a fascinating idea nonetheless!

Bach’s is credited with saving many lives with vaccines for the military during the influenza pandemic of 1918. Around this same time, he himself became ill and developed a severe hemorrhagic disease that nearly killed him. And so, a combination of being tired from the war, his own illness and administrative changes at the University College led Bach leave his position at the college and begin a new job at the London Homeopathic Hospital.

This turned out to be quite a fortuitous change for him. Bach was initially skeptical about homeopathy- a type of medicine that even then was not mainstream – but after reading Organon der Heilkunst (1810) written by Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, Bach was intrigued. He later referred to homeopathy as “the first streak of the morning light after a long night of darkness.” Edward Bach began to use homeopathic principles to treat his patients with much success.

Homeopathy is based on the premise of “like treats like.” It addresses illness using minute doses of remedies based on plants, herbs, mosses, poisons, and metals. These are highly diluted in water so that almost none of the original material remains in the final concoction. Instead, the water takes on the energetic signature of the material, and treats the symptoms that the material, in raw form, would create.

For example, mercury poisoning causes brain damage. But the very, very diluted mercury in homeopathic form actually treats brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Here is a study that looked at using Mercury homeopathic for brain issues in rats.

Bach began to incorporate some of these principles into his “bad gut bacteria vaccines.” While Bach felt that his clinical results with the vaccines were positive, he did not like the skin reactions that would appear after the vaccine. He wondered if there might be a less painful way to administer them. And so, based on these new homeopathic principles he had learned about, he created: the the Bach Nosodes to treat gut dysbiosis. He basically changed the vaccines into homeopathic remedies. He found the “nosodes,” as he called them, to be just as effective as the vaccines, without the side effects.

After many years, Bach felt that he was only able to treat certain diseases. He felt that there was something missing from his practice, and wanted to dedicate more time to searching for those pieces.

And so, towards the end of his life, Bach decided to sell everything and move to the countryside, desiring to be closer to nature. He also believed nature might hold the answers for the ailments that still plagued his patients— ones that he had not been able to cure with modern medicine or homeopathy. He took a break from seeing patients and instead spent this time meditating and walking in nature.

One early morning in spring, Bach went on his usual walk, when he noted that the flowers were soaked with morning dew. In a moment of true genius (or intuition…or both), he thought to himself: perhaps the flower dew might have some healing benefit? He collected the morning dew from different flowers and placed each into a separate container. Then, using homeopathic principles, he diluted the dew with water.

Bach administered some of this “homeopathic flower dew” to each of his patients and watched what would happen. To his amazement, he found that the flower and tree dew seemed to calm the patient’s emotional states. He found that this effect was also able to be replicated in patients taking the same remedy. This led him to discover that each flower remedy treated a very specific emotional state. He also found that by treating emotions, certain illnesses would improve as well.

He began to form the belief that some diseases were due to an inharmonious state of mind. He wrote that “Science is tending to show that life is harmony — a state of being in tune — and that disease is discord or a condition when a part of the whole is not vibrating in unison.”

And so Bach discovered what today we call: the Bach Flower essences.

Though generally known as the Bach Flower essences or remedies, some of them actually came from trees and bushes, and one — rock water — from healing springs or wells.

There are a total of thirty-eight remedies classified under Bach’s original formulas. All of these are still in common use today.

They treat emotions such as:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Trauma
  • Worry
  • Excessive fear or concern for another
  • Impatience
  • Jealousy
  • Feeling like a victim

And so, thanks to the genius of Edward Bach, today we have these marvelous essences to assist both us and our pets through challenging emotional times.

Edward Bach passed away in his sleep in 1936- at the age of fifty. His flower essences live on til today.


Since the original Bach Flower Essences, many more flower remedies have been discovered. Today we have, for example: The Australian Bush Essences, Desert Essences and the Alaskan Flower Essences, to name a few. One of my favorite organizations that writes and sells flower essences is here in California: The Flower Essence Society, based out of Nevada City.


Based on Bach’s story, in our next post we will look at how Flower Essences are made. I will also show you how you can even make your own at home!

Thank you for reading my blog series on flower essences! To start from the beginning, click on this link here.

Resources:

The Life of Edward Bach; The Sun Magazine. March 1978. https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/36/the-life-of-edward-bach Accessed April 28, 2020.

Wood, Matthew. Vitalism: The History of Herbalism, Homeopathy, and Flower Essences. Berkeley, California 1992. North Atlantic Books.

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