Bach Flower Remedies are often mistaken for homeopathy. Yet they are quite different. They were invented about 100 years ago by Dr. Edward Bach (1886–1936), a doctor homeopath who had previously worked in the London Homeopathic Hospital. His remedies are clearly inspired by homeopathy; however, they are by no means the same because they do not follow the ‘like cures like’ principle and neither 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 concentrations of the plant printed on the bottle. In other words, flower remedies (or essences) are placebos. This does not stop enthusiasts to continue submitting them to clinical trials.

This study tested the effects of flower essence bouquets on the signs and symptoms of stress in nursing students. The study was designed as a randomized clinical trial, triple blind, with two groups (flower essence group and placebo group), carried out with 101 nursing students. Bach’s flower essences Cerato (Ceratostigma wilimottianum)Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera)Elm (Ulmus procera)Impatients (Impatiens glandulifera), Larch (Larix decidua), Olive (Olea europaea) and White Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) were selected by the researcher based on the experience of attending nursing students on flower essence therapy. The formulas were prepared in a 30 ml amber glass bottle with a perforated cap with a white seal and bulbs, and labeled according to randomization (Group 1 or Group 2). The groups applied the treatments for 60 days at a dosage of 4 drops 4 times a day. The outcome was evaluated using the Baccaro Test and the Perceived Stress Scale applied at the beginning and at the end of the intervention.

The results demonstrated no significant difference between the groups in stress reduction (p > 0.05). Both groups showed a reduction in scale scores (p < 0.001) with a large effect size. There was an influence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the reduction of Baccaro Test scores.

The authors (who seem to have been advocates of Bach Flower Remedies) concluded that the intervention with flower essence therapy was not more effective than placebo in reducing stress signs and symptoms.

Is anyone surprised?

I am not!

6 Responses to Bach Flower Remedies are pure placebos

  • I remember reading about a veterinary case some years ago where the owners had given the dog so much rescue remedy he became intoxicated with the brandy base used in the preparation of such remedies. It may have relieved his stress, but not in the way Dr Bach intended!

  • What amazes me id the good doctors admitted there was no effect.
    Not seen in most SCAM studies

  • The authors are nurses. This practice, of a very clear pseudoscientific nature, is prohibited by the Brazilian Code of Medical Ethics. The Federal Council of Medicine, however, considers Homeopathy and Acupuncture as medical specialties, which seriously violates the same Code.

  • Well, I respect a good skeptical scientific approach to things, but Ernst has had a fatal flaw in his reasoning that has precluded clear, scientific, thinking on this subject. And that fatal flaw is: Bach Remedies are NOT by any stretch of the imagination infinitely dilute.

    Therefore, they could have physiological effects (and several double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have indicated just that).

    The Bach Remedies are very slightly diluted, in fact. From the main “mother tincture” two drops are taken and diluted in 30 ml of brandy to form the stock bottles you can buy in stores, and then two drops from that are either consumed directly or further diluted into another 30ml “treatment bottle”, and taken under the tongue, typically.

    The 5x dilution on the label (which would also in no way indicate it being ‘infinitely dilute’, as it would only be a 1 in 100,000 dilution in the first place, if true) is only there for legal labelling purpose, nothing else, and not indicative of how they are produced.

    So, if the whole stated premise of why they couldn’t work is clearly and easily identifiable as being scientifically false, then all conclusions drawn from that premise that it is just a placebo at play is also false, circular, reasoning…a no-no for scientists.

    In fact, based on conservative estimates, one bottle of Bach Remedies you buy in stores could be further diluted by a factor of hundreds of millions times before they would even reach the level that the government requires certain chemicals to be removed from drinking water, and which can have health effects even at those minute doses.

    This is because some chemicals are banned even at the one in a trillion and one in a quadrillion levels in drinking water, as shown on EPA charts…you can do the math yourself about how the Bach Remedies compare, even at a falsely-high 1/100,000 dilution.

    So, Ernst, probably time to admit you were mistaken and re-evaluate the Bach Remedies with fresh, scientific, eyes, I would say!

    • Did I say they are “infinitely dilute”?
      They are too dilute to have health effects considering their ingredients.
      They have not been demonstrated to have effects beyond placebo.
      Therefore, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are not effective.

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