Flower essences are vibrational healing tools with remarkable effectiveness in promoting well-being across a wide spectrum–from self-esteem and chronic illness to depression and addiction/abuse recovery. Although vibrational healing remedies may seem like relative newcomers, they’ve actually been around a long time.

Acupuncture and homeopathy, which was developed in the early 1800s by Samuel Hahnemann, M.D., are probably the most widely known vibrational healing systems. Ayurveda, the 4,000-year-old medical tradition from India, also uses a system of vibrational correspondences between people, food, natural substances and energies to maintain health and treat illness.1 It had a powerful influence on the medicines of Tibet, China, Japan and Indonesia

Flower essences in their modern form date from the work of Edward Bach, M.D., in the early part of this century. There are earlier, tantalizing references to flower remedies, however. The Vedas, among the oldest written texts known and one of the sources for Ayurveda, contain references to treating the ill with fresh flowers.2 The Aborigines of Australia still use fresh-picked blossoms in hot coal saunas, a practice thought to be 10,000 years old.3 The aborigines also eat flowers with dew on them, or, in the case of inedible flowers, simply sit in a clump of them to absorb the healing vibrations.4

The renowned 16th-century physician Paracelsus von Hohenheim taught that the cause of all illness was energy imbalance.5 He used dew gathered from flowers to treat his patients.6 Our Western tradition of giving flowers is likely a lingering remnant of a more extensive, forgotten tradition.

Healers, whether shamans, herbalists or medical doctors, have always combined observation, intuition and experimentation. Flower essence research is similar. A researcher may begin by taking in the energy of a flower through touching it, tasting it, breathing in its aroma, observing its relationship to its environment, or by any other relevant means and noticing changes in his or her own emotions, thoughts or bodily sensations. Of necessity, those who make essences should be highly sensitive, self-aware individuals. As one practitioner says, “I access primal healing energies from the natural world, building relationships with plants and calling upon them as allies, much as shamans do.”

The next stage is applying the essence and the information gained by observation and intuition to treat related problems. Through repeated trials, it is possible to gain further understanding of what an essence can do and whom it may help. Unless someone has an allergic reaction to a particular remedy, flower essences are completely safe even if misprescribed, because a person’s own energy field will not be receptive to the wrong essence.

How Flower Essences Work

Flower essences are the energy patterns of flowers imprinted on water. Rather than chemically altering the body or imposing specific changes, flower essences shift the human energetic field, especially the nervous system, toward greater harmony and balance. This can cause thought, emotions, attitudes or beliefs to change, which in turn can influence physical systems either directly or through re-patterned actions or lifestyle changes.

Jacques Benveniste, director of a research unit at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and a respected immunologist, coined the term “molecular memory”7 for the ability of water molecules to “act as a ‘template'” and take on the pattern of other molecules. He hypothesizes a subtle energetic language by which molecules communicate.8 Robert Becker, a researcher at Upstate Medical Center at the State University of New York in Syracuse, says: “Bioelectromagnetics is still beset by an enormous amount of uncertainty, but there has to be some kind of energetic reaction to explain molecular communication, and the obvious candidate is low-frequency electromagnetism. I’m sure that Benveniste is on the right track.”9

A number of naturopaths, M.D.s, chiropractors and other health practitioners actively use flower essences in their practices. They use them because they work–they help their clients. The most common hypothesis given for why they work is that the electromagnetic pattern of the essences causes a shift in the electrical field of the human body, most notably the nervous system.

The “mother” essence, the original water the blossoms touched, is preserved, usually with brandy. A number of drops of this mother essence is used to create a stock dilution, transferring the flower’s energy pattern along with it. This is the commonly available form at wholesale and retail level. The stock can be further diluted to prepare dosage bottles. Either stock or dosage strength is used to administer flower essences. They are taken as is or by adding drops to water or another beverage. Alternative preservatives such as vegetable glycerine, vinegar and grapefruit seed extract are readily available for those sensitive to alcohol.

Unlike homeopathic remedies, flower essences are unaffected by meals, caffeine, drugs and strong odors. They are fragrance-free, act gently and can be used in complete safety by anyone. There is no risk of overdose or a wrong prescription as any unneeded energies are harmlessly dissipated.

Like any true healing, flower essences work by stimulating the individual’s innate capacity to heal. It amounts to recognition of this fact that many modern physicians now recognize the contribution of attitudes, beliefs and emotions in curing disease and maintaining wellness. Here are some examples of flower essences at work.

Case Studies

White foxglove (Digitalis purpurea var. alba)

Digitalis purpurea has been in use as a drug for two centuries, providing glycosides that act directly on the heart muscle.11 Although the plant is poisonous, the flower essence contains none of the plant’s chemicals, poisonous or otherwise. Only the healing energy pattern is transferred from flowers to water. Interestingly, both uses of the plant concern the heart, one the physical organ, the other the emotional center of being.

Western medicine is beginning to see that many conditions are rooted in emotional pain from the past. The key word for white foxglove essence is release. This is for people who are stuck, who have kept their grief inside. The essence helps them let go and fosters awareness of the reason they continue to grieve.

An example is Dorothy, a woman in her late forties who held onto the sadness and anger she’d felt since she was 21 and lost her husband. White foxglove essence helped her move out of this self-defeating pattern to be completely present with her emotional process as well as her job. Her life is now moving in a fresh direction, and she has a sense of purpose.

White bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis v. alba)

Bleeding heart is a perfect example of how the common name of a flower can reflect intuitive folk wisdom. White bleeding heart essence is especially good for those who feel abandoned or had very poor parenting. Vulnerable and filled with grief, these people feel they have never been loved. Their reactions to life stem from this metaphorical wound to the heart. The essence works to shift this mistaken understanding by showing them there is enough love for them, that there is limitless love in the universe.

For Adam, raped at age four, white bleeding heart helped him overcome his terror of re-experiencing and feeling that four-year-old’s isolation. Long ago, he had split off both this young self and his adult, “future” self. In his 40s he still suffered from the mental disability caused by this split and was unable to cope with the fear both split-off selves provoked. White bleeding heart was a significant essence in his steps to healing. He has begun to function as an adult, has overcome many fears and is beginning to experience some anger.

Then there is Beth, who tried everything to get her father to love her. Her father had a heart attack a year ago, and now Beth feels angry and misunderstood. She can’t keep her emotions from shutting down. White bleeding heart helps her be open to her hurt and move through it to the understanding that even though her father didn’t love her, she is still lovable.

Red hollyhock (Alcea rosea)

Red hollyhock renews faith and hope. It brings people fully into the present in a joyful way, even those people whose world has disintegrated–through a cancer diagnosis, a divorce, a lost job–as well as those who don’t want to be where they have to be. As a catalyst in unhappy situations, it helps people change what isn’t working.

The first day a disenchanted marketing executive took red hollyhock, he found himself enjoying his workload for the first time in a long time. After a month, he could see a way out of the job that no longer fulfilled him and was making plans for his own venture.

Pale corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens)

Excellent for women giving birth, this essence helps surrender to transition. At times, people know they have to make a change, move into the unknown, but they’re scared. Pale corydalis helps them release fear and be present for the process.

Elaine, a recovering alcoholic and single parent, was enmeshed in power struggles in her stressful job. Her parents had been absent a lot; there was alcoholism in the family. She wanted to be more positive, responsible and involved in her life but didn’t know how. Whenever pain came up in her therapy, she couldn’t cry. Pale corydalis allowed her to surrender to the process of change. She was able to break out of the strictures of childhood, cry and become more her own person.

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

This condiment has long been used as a digestive stimulant.12 As a flower essence, it’s a kick in the pants for people who are stuck in old feelings. They find a righteousness in feeling bitter, blaming others, seeing themselves as victims. When over-identified with pain in this way, it’s impossible to experience the sweeter things in life.

Lisa quit her job and separated from her husband after recovering memories of severe childhood abuse. The marriage continued to deteriorate as she moved through her traumatic memories. Despite more than three years of intensive therapy, it was horseradish essence that helped her release the pain of her childhood and the anger and blame she’d held against her husband, her family and herself. Her marriage is on the mend now, and she’s working on an advanced college degree.