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 potentized. 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.

The aim of this new randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was to compare the efficacy of flower therapy for the treatment of anxiety in overweight or obese adults with that of a placebo. The authors examined improvement in sleep patterns, reduction in binge eating, and change in resting heart rate (RHR).

The study included 40 participants in the placebo group and 41 in the intervention group. Participants were of both genders, from 20 to 59 years of age, overweight or obese, with moderate to high anxiety. They were randomized into two groups:

  1. one group was treated with Bach flower remedies (BFR) (bottles containing 30 mL of 30% hydro-brandy solution with two drops each of Impatiens, White Chestnut, Cherry Plum, Chicory, Crab Apple, and Pine), purchased from Healing® Flower Essences (São Paulo, Brazil)
  2. the other group was given a placebo (same solution without BFR).

All patients were instructed to orally ingest the solutions by placing four drops directly in the mouth four times a day for 4 weeks.

The primary outcome was anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory [STAI]). Secondary outcomes were sleep (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index [PSQI]), binge eating (Binge Eating Scale [BES]), and RHR (electrocardiogram).

Multivariate analysis showed significant reductions in scores for the following variables in the intervention group when compared with the placebo group: STAI (β = −0.190; p < 0.001), PSQI (β = −0.160; p = 0.027), BES (β = −0.226; p = 0.001), and RHR (β = −0.07; p = 0.003).

The authors concluded that anxiety symptoms, binge eating, and RHRs of the individuals treated with flower therapy decreased, and their sleep patterns improved when compared with those treated with the placebo.

Did the alcohol in the verum preparation had a relaxing effect? No, I was teasing. The amount would have been too small and the effect would have been the same in both groups. But what could have caused the observed outcome? I have to admit that I have no idea.

I read the study several times and could not find a major flaw. Hence it must have been the flower remedy that caused the positive outcome? No, I am teasing again. I find this impossible to imagine. These remedies contain nothing that might explain the results and all previous systematic reviews of all the available trials have all reached a negative conclusion. Before I seriously consider the option that flower remedies are more than placebos, I would like to see an independent replication.

31 Responses to Flower Therapy for Anxiety in Overweight or Obese Adults

  • I wonder just how strictly the study was ‘blinded’. If a practitioner knew what the patient was getting it would be easy to ‘nudge’ the study results

  • I’m sure bunches of flowers would work better than Bach Flower Remedies!

  • I can’t see any mention of controlling for whatever initiatives participants were taking as regards their weight and/or other problems. I think it would be very important to understand this before rushing to the florists

  • I will make a personal experiment with BFR. Dr. Edward Bach was a MD for sure and he was absolutely convinced that this stuff works. Besides, I am a Bach fan in music. Dropping allopathic medicine may also work somehow. After I dropped my useless allopathic blood pressure medication (10 mg enalapril daily, zero measurements during ten years), I became quite horny. As Jim Morrison put it, no one gets out of here alive.

  • Zorro, Doctors a hundred years ago were convinced of a lot of things that have not stood up to investigation a century later.

    What is the relevance of the music of J.S. Bach and his sons, to the Bach flower remedies two hundred years later?

    Bach Flower Remedies may work, but nothing has shown them to work better than placebo.

    You need to be wary of the “post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy” thinking that because B happened after A, then A must have CAUSED B to happen.

    As Professor Ernst explains in another thread, his and Simon Singh’s book “Trick Or Treatment” started to sell well after Professor Ernst broke his shoulder. Should authors wanting sales therefore break a shoulder? Cargo Cult is but a short step away!

    • @DavidB
      “Doctors a hundred years ago were convinced of a lot of things that have not stood up to investigation a century later”

      So you want to continue to put your faith in money for medicine doctors ?
      What makes you think that they are correct today ?

      • “What makes you think that they are correct today?”
        Because for instance, in the ensuing years we have developed methods to test and differentiate right from wrong.

      • Seventy-six years ago my granny died, at the age of 42, leaving a husband and two small daughters. She died of “Pleural Effusion, Cardiac Failure”.

        In later life my mother realised that the cardiac failure and pleural effusion were probably caused by heart valve damage from Rheumatic Fever she (and her young sister who died) contracted in youth.

        Today, an awful lot more is understood about, and can be done about, Rheumatic Fever, and heart valve damage.

        No-one, I imagine, suggests that medical science is in a finished state. But it progresses, and it has progressed a very long way since my granny died seventy-six years ago.

      • @Listener

        So you want to continue to put your faith in money for medicine doctors ?

        Do you mean to say that doctors worked for free a hundred years ago?
        Or do you mean homeopaths? You know, those medically incompetent, greedy charlatans who charge their hapless customers several times the amount a normal GP earns, and sell them plain water and useless sugar crumbs for a ‘remedy’?
        Or do you mean that our highly trained modern-day doctors should work for nothing? Perhaps accepting a couple of carrots and a chicken from a grateful patient …

        What makes you think that they are correct today ?

        The HUGE reduction in child mortality, from 22% around 1900 to 0.3% now? The HUGE increase in life expectancy, and still climbing today? The fact that most bacterial infections are reduced from a serious problem to a minor nuisance? The fact that far more heart conditions can be successfully treated now than even 40 years ago? The fact that far more people survive cancer than 50 years ago – and that some cancers such as childhood leukaemia were a certain death sentence in 1970, but now have a > 90% survival rate? The fact that medical science now succeeds in developing not one but even multiple effective vaccines within a few months of a novel, dangerous virus emerging? Etc etc etc.

        That is what makes me think that doctors and medical science are correct today. And no, quacks have NOT contributed anything in all those years, nor have they achieved any progress at all, let alone similar spectacular progress that was made (and is still being made) in real medicine today.

        • Indeed. Homeopathy, and Bach’s Flower Remedies, which are not homeopathy, did NOTHING for Smallpox, for Diptheria, for Whooping cough, for Tuberculosis, for Mumps, for Measles, for German Measles, for Leprosy or for Polio.

          Those are ‘epidemic’ diseases, and medical science has made huge strides an eliminating, treating, and managing them.

          Bach Flower Remedies and homeopathy have also done NOTHING to improve treatment of Arthritis, Rheumatism, Lupus, or any of a host of other degenerative auto-immune conditions. Or any health condition at all.

          • @DavidB

            Homeopathy, and Bach’s Flower Remedies, which are not homeopathy, did NOTHING for Smallpox, for Diptheria, for Whooping cough, for Tuberculosis, for Mumps, for Measles, for German Measles, for Leprosy or for Polio.

            In all fairness, homeopathic ‘treatments’ did actually reduce mortality compared to regular treatments occasionally, especially in its early years.

            However, this was not because homeopathy worked so well, but because regular medicine was often more harmful than the diseases it treated – and homeopathy was simply equivalent to doing nothing.

            So it might be argued that homeopathy’s positive contribution to modern medicine is the concept of doing nothing when treatment is not necessary – even though this insight is of course coincidental, and not the result of homeopaths’ research efforts …

          • Fair comment.

  • Let’s compare Bach Flower Remedies with antidepressants. According to Dr Rusworth (M.D), “Anti-depressant drugs are ineffective against depression. The harms of these drugs clearly outweigh the practically non-existent benefits.”

    Bach Flower Remedies and placebo do no harm, but their benefits do exist because the placebo effect for sure is real.
    Perhaps the subconscious mind cannot make a difference between BFR, placebo and allopathic drugs since all of them are “prescribed” by an authority figure or at least recognized by the conscious mind. However, if my wife one day secretly begins to spice my food with ground placebo or BFR, I think there will be no effect at all.

    • My hope, if I have the misfortune to develop a medical condition requiring treatment, is to get a treatment that works BETTER than placebo.

      • @EE

        So, they won’t be wrong again going forward … C’mon Edzared, we both know that is BS.

        • @EE

          In fact, I’ll tell you why that is completely BS.

          If MD’d really wanted to stop chronic disease, they would spend more time educating themselves and their patients proper food consumption.
          IE, types of food to eat and not to eat. When to eat, and how much to eat.
          The answer is not more RCT’s to create more Meds… to treat symptoms. NO !

          Md’s are barely educated in nutrition, ditto for the general population.
          This serves well the Food corporations, the fast food industry, the medical industry, the pharma industry… yes, even the FDA.
          Is it any wonder that proper nutrition is not being taught ? hmmm. Everybody is making money off of cheap addictive food, or treating the sickness that results from the same.

          A large and growing percentage of the world population is insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is the cause behind multiple chronic illnesses. Metabolic disease is a sever health issue.
          If anybody doesn’t believe that food consumption is behind the current state of affairs with insulin resistance and metabolic disease, you had better take another look and educate yourself.

          • @Listener

            I love it when you go on a totally off-topic rant and as an ally of yours, I had to respond.

            I don’t want to eat nutritious food because it doesn’t taste good. I love fast food that is full off additives, and it is cheap. Saves me money and it has copious amounts of sugars, salts and saturated fats, what is not to like about that?

            Why do you want to push your liberal nutrition agenda down everyone’s throat? I don’t want anyone telling me when, what and how much to eat. If I want to eat large quantities of fast food, then that is my personal choice, and I am free to do whatever I want to, after all I am living in a free country. My motto is “Live free, eat cheap fast food and die needing insulin” and that is on my bumper sticker of my gas guzzling pick-up truck.

          • @Honest-Ape

            If nutritious food doesn’t taste good, you reveal your own problem. You are eating before you are actually hungry. … YOU PIG !
            If you are hungry, even nutritious foods can be made to taste good…. for even the biggest pig. Butter or healthy oils with healthy seasoning added to vegetables taste great
            The problem today is most people don’t even know when they are hungry. A large percentage of many populations eat 5-7 times a day in this age, Only forty five years ago this was not the case. People also need to be educated that eating or drinking all day long spikes blood insulin to unhealthy levels. Repeating this everyday is the cause behind most chronic disease.

            I don’t suggest that anybody be forced to eat what they don’t want., you are mistaken. I fully support free choice. However, I do support people being educated as to why they are sick…. before they get sick. I also support the idea that people that choose to be sick from consuming toxic foods to be responsible for their own healthcare I never suggest forcing people to eat what they don’t want to, you suggested that. The best way to change behavior is to make people want to change, not to force them to do something they don’t want to do.

            I’m suspecting you are one such individual that is in need of some more nutritional education.

          • What has this got to do with Bach Flower Remedies?

          • @DavidB

            I know nothing about such flower remedies to treat anxiety of the obese, so my post has nothing to do with the topic. However, it has everything to do with the obese person, and possibly the anxiety they carry. You can muddle on about such remade topics if you choose.
            Can you people ever attempt to investigate the cause of the disorder rather than the treatment ? Why would anybody that’s not motivated by money even think of treating the symptom rather than the problem ?

            Obesity is a result of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Eliminate the insulin resistance via proper eating and you solve the issue (and many other disorders). No need for flower remedies…. just eat real food, and don’t eat more than a couple times per day.
            A twenty-four hour fast once per week will almost inhibit insulin resistance completely…. period.

            Anybody that thinks that insulin resistance is only an issue for the diabetics is mistaken. The physiological results are far far reaching.

          • Obesity is a result of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Eliminate the insulin resistance via proper eating and you solve the issue (and many other disorders).

            Obesity in many people is associated with insulin resistance, but by no means all obese people are insulin resistant. One clue is the distribution of body fat – in the case of insulin resistance it is mainly central and particularly intra-abdominal. If the fat is distributed more generally (i.e. arms and legs) then insulin resistance is less likely to be the main problem.

            Insulin resistance is a precurser to type II diabetes but also associated with many other problems e.g. cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Weight loss, combined with a diet that does not promote excessive insulin secretion (by-and-large this means unprocessed foods and a reduction in carbohydrate intake) will go a long way to helping the problem. However, exercise is key. Short bursts of intense exercise alter the way that muscles metabolise glucose for 48 hours afterwards and should be part of the routine for anybody at risk of insulin resistance.

            Note that the genes that are responsible are the same ones that helped our ancestors survive when food was in short supply. Unfortunately they are maladaptive in today’s world.

        • why don’t you learn how to spell the name of the host of the blog where you waffle bull?
          too difficult for you?

  • Life expectancy in the UK has steadily risen in the 20th and 21st centuries.

    Figures for the 18th and 19th centuries were skewed by the very high infant mortality rates, but thanks to affordable food, better standards of living and advances in medicine, infant mortality fell drastically.

    Years ago I had a little book from early days of Trading Standards bodies. Flour was adulterated with Alum to whiten it, and tea with iron filings, to make the brew more brown.

    Skeletons of ancient Egyptians have teeth ground down by grit in flour, and jaws full of holes due to awful dental abscesses.

    To quote (or maybe I am paraphrasing) comedian Dara O’Brean, “Nutritionist is to Dietician as Toothiologist is to Dentist”.

    • Dara Ó Briain Talks Funny: Live in London (2008)

      Here’s my favorite little fact. If anyone is ever described to you as a nutritionist, just be slightly wary, right? What they’re saying may be perfectly true, but “nutritionist” isn’t a protected term. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. “Dietician” is the legally protected term. “Dietician” is like “dentist”, and “nutritionist” is like “tooth-i-ologist.”

      END of QUOTEÓ_Briain

  • I note that a complete set of Original Bach Flower Remedies is on sale for £153.

    I like good brandy, but that’s quite an expensive way to buy 400ml of it.

  • @Dr. JMK

    There are obese people that are not insulin resistant, true. Equally there are insulin resistant people that are not obese and still suffers from metabolic syndrome. In other words, insulin resistance effects both the obese and the non-obese person alike.
    However, just because insulin resistance doesn’t evidence itself in obesity doesn’t mean there are not other chronic effects creating patient disease.

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