Archives of Psychiatric Nursing disseminates original, peer-reviewed research that is of interest to psychiatric and mental health care nurses. The field is considered in its broadest perspective, including theory, practice and research applications related to all ages, special populations, settings, and interdisciplinary collaborations in both the public and private sectors. Through critical study, expositions, and review of practice, Archives of Psychiatric Nursing is a medium for clinical scholarship to provide theoretical linkages among diverse areas of practice.
If peer-review, critical study and clinical scholarship are not just empty platitudes, what – if anything – should such a journal publish about Bach flower remedies? Perhaps something like this (straight from my new book)?
Bach flower remedies were invented in the 1920s by Dr Edward Bach (1886-1936), a doctor homeopath who had previously worked in the London Homeopathic Hospital. They have since become very popular in Europe and beyond.
- Bach flower remedies are clearly inspired by homeopathy; however, they are not the same because they do not follow the ‘like cures like’ principle and are they potentised.
- They are manufactured by placing freshly picked specific flowers or parts of plants in water which is subsequently mixed with alcohol, bottled and sold.
- Like most homeopathic remedies, they are highly dilute and thus do not contain therapeutic amounts of the plant printed on the bottle.
- Bach developed 38 different remedies, each corresponding to an emotional state which he believed to be the cause of all illness:
Agrimony – mental torture behind a cheerful face
Aspen – fear of unknown things
Beech – intolerance
Centaury – the inability to say ‘no’
Cerato – lack of trust in one’s own decisions
Cherry Plum – fear of the mind giving way
Chestnut Bud – failure to learn from mistakes
Chicory – selfish, possessive love
Clematis – dreaming of the future without working in the present
Crab Apple – the cleansing remedy, also for self-hatred
Elm – overwhelmed by responsibility
Gentian – discouragement after a setback
Gorse – hopelessness and despair
Heather – self-centredness and self-concern
Holly – hatred, envy and jealousy
Honeysuckle – living in the past
Hornbeam – procrastination, tiredness at the thought of doing something
Impatiens – impatience
Larch – lack of confidence
Mimulus – fear of known things
Mustard – deep gloom for no reason
Oak – the plodder who keeps going past the point of exhaustion
Olive – exhaustion following mental or physical effort
Pine – guilt
Red Chestnut – over-concern for the welfare of loved ones
Rock Rose – terror and fright
Rock Water – self-denial, rigidity and self-repression
Scleranthus – inability to choose between alternatives
Star of Bethlehem – shock
Sweet Chestnut – extreme mental anguish, when everything has been tried and there is no light left
Vervain – over-enthusiasm
Vine – dominance and inflexibility
Walnut – protection from change and unwanted influences
Water Violet – pride and aloofness
White Chestnut – unwanted thoughts and mental arguments
Wild Oat – uncertainty over one’s direction in life
Wild Rose – drifting, resignation, apathy
Willow – self-pity and resentment
Rescue Remedy, a combination remedy made up of five different remedies, is promoted against anxiety and stress.
- There are only few clinical trials of Bach flower remedies. Collectively, they fail to show that they are effective beyond placebo. A systematic review of all 7 studies concluded that the most reliable clinical trials do not show any differences between flower remedies and placebos.
- Since they do not contain any pharmacologically active molecules (other than alcohol), Bach flower remedies are unlikely to cause adverse effects other than those to the consumer’s wallet.
- Considering that Bach flower remedies are not effective, their risk/benefit balance cannot be positive.
And what did the journal in fact publish? Here is an excerpt from a truly remarkable article that just appeared in the Archives of Psychiatric Nursing:
… Bach Flowers are liquids that come in 10 and 20 ml “mother” bottles. The liquids are the essence of the substance used in the remedy preserved in a small amount of brandy. As is the case with homeopathic remedies, Bach Flowers are essences or energetic remedies.
Two drops from the mother bottle of the specific Bach Flower remedy are placed in a 1 oz glass dropper bottle that is filled with water. Because the Bach system is an energetic plant remedy system, using more than two drops in a bottle is not harmful but is also unnecessary as it is not more useful. The most important part in the use of the system is picking the correct remedy. There are books and the original Bach website (www.bachcentre.com) that provide Bach’s descriptions of the patterns of behaviors and health patterns associated with each of the remedies. For example, those who feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities can try taking “elm.”
The remedies are also powerful healers in infants and children. Behavior changes can be immediate with the use of the right remedy at the right time. The key is getting to know well the specific patterns of each of the 38 healers. The nurse who is knowledgeable of the 38 healers can then better perceive the patterns reflected in the infant’s behavior and then suggest the remedies that parents might want to read about. For example, walnut is used for those experiencing emotional difficulties related to transition and change. When a new infant is born, other children go through significant change and transition in their view of the world which is their family. Walnut can help all of the children if and when they exhibit signs of distress. Walnut is also helpful when infants are teething. Parents often ask whether a person who is allergic to walnuts would be allergic to the walnut flower essence Bach remedy. “The active ingredient in a flower remedy is an energy from the plant, not a physical substance” (Bach Centre, n.d..). It should not cause allergic reactions and should not interfere with the physical action of other remedies and medicines.
Illness is defined by Bach as it is in many healing traditions as the stagnation of energy flow. The remedies help to move people through emotion; they do not suppress emotions. Bach writes that, “the action of these remedies is to raise our vibrations and open up our channels for the reception of our Spiritual Self, to flood our natures with a particular virtue we need, and wash out from us the fault which is causing harm. They are able like beautiful music…to raise our very natures, and bring us nearer to our Souls…They cure not by attacking disease, but by flooding our bodies with the beautiful vibrations of our Higher Nature, in the presence of which disease melts as snow in the sunshine” (Howard & Ramsell, 1990, p. 62).
The Bach remedies move emotions but they do so very gently. Two drops of any remedy diluted in 1 oz of water can be put in the infant’s mouth or on their skin. One way to get to know the Bach Flower remedy system is to try the Rescue Remedy first, a combination of five of the 38 healers used in cases of stress, anxiety, and trauma. Four drops of Rescue Remedy can be put into any size container of water and then given in sips to help infants experiencing intense stress. For example, I once had to participate in the suturing of the forehead of a two-year-old. He was brought to the clinic by his father, a veteran who had seen combat. The child, who was normally curious and friendly, was wild with fear. He thrashed about with his head throwing blood everywhere. The nurses had a standing order to give Rescue Remedy to any patient and so we got permission from the dad and squirted a dropper of the remedy in his mouth while telling him that the flower remedy would help. It did. The child immediately stopped his thrashing. He did not stop crying or saying “no” as he held onto his father’s hand. But he was whimpering rather than thrashing about as we took care of his wound. The trauma and subsequent memory were abated.
YES, FOR ONCE, I AM SPEACHLESS.