An introduction to flower essences.


By Suzanne E. Sky, L.Ac.


Flower essences are liquid preparations, containing only minute traces of actual flowers, which convey the vibrational pattern and essence of specific flowers. Because of this, their action is subtle and extends beyond the physiological. Their action is not biochemical, but is vibrational. These gentle essences enjoy a reputation of being very safe. They have no side-effects and are non-toxic. Some people state they don't 'feel' any change or effect from using flower essences. However, many people find the flowers provide an essential factor in their healing process. Each person responds to flower essences according to their inner rhythm and needs.

Research in the modern field of psychoneuroimmunology shows a clear interrelationship between physical illness, stress and emotional/mental outlook. Flower essences help address issues which often underlay stress and health problems, helping to 'untie' or release these mental/emotional energetic knots. Flower essences can help transform emotions, attitudes or patterns of behavior to enhance one's development, growth and awareness. Flower essences expand our understanding of health care, recognizing the interweaving of spiritual, mental, emotional and physical aspects of wellness.

The name most closely associated with flower essences is that of Dr. Edward Bach, the English physician who first discovered them. In the 1930's, he introduced his set of 39 Bach Flower Essences® that changed the world of natural medicine forever.

Dr. Bach's life and discovery of Bach Flower Essences®

Dr Edward Bach was a remarkable man. He was an early pioneer of natural medicine who discovered results when he treated the person rather than the disease. Born in 1886, Bach entered the medical profession from a sincere desire to help others. Early on in his practice he noticed that the patients personality or temperament was more helpful in deciding which medicine would be most effective than any other factor.

Early in his career, Bach studied bacteriology and became fascinated by the connection between a person's colon flora and their health. He discovered that a vaccine made from the patient's intestinal bacteria, and injected into their blood stream, gave excellent results, especially in chronic diseases. When Bach discovered homeopathy, he modified his method and made homeopathic preparations known as nosodes (remedies made from pathological tissues). He classified the intestinal bacteria into seven main groups and made preparations still known today as Bach's Seven Nosodes. Soon, he found that when a patient entered his office, he could immediately tell which type of flora would be predominant in that person, and which nosode they would need. From this Bach correlated seven main personality types and began prescribing the Nosodes solely on the basis of the patients personality, rather than laboratory tests. The results were even greater than he expected, and he saw clearly the importance of treating the person rather than their disease.

While Bach had great respect for homeopathy and its founder, Dr. Hahnemann, he refuted the basic premise of homeopathy, that like cures like. Bach states "It is obviously fundamentally wrong to say that 'like cures like'. ...Like may strengthen like, like may repel like, but in the true healing sense like cannot cure like. ....And so in true healing, and so in spiritual advancement, we must always seek good to drive out evil, love to conquer hate, and light to dispel darkness. Thus must we avoid all poisons, all harmful things, and use only the beneficent and beautiful." (Collected Writings, page 113)

Bach became dissatisfied with using the intestinal Nosodes, desiring to find a natural method which would not require using pathological material. He felt herbs would provide the most suitable material and began investigating the plant world. As Bach continued to work with and observe people, he became even more convinced thata person's temperment and personality were the factors that determined what illnesses they were prone to and what medicines would help them.

The first two plants he discovered and used in his practice, that are still Bach Flower Essences® today, were Impatiens and Mimulus. The third one was Clematis. This was in 1930. Bach was so pleased with the results, he decided to give up his use of nosodes altogether and seek out other herbal remedies to add to his repertory. Dr. Bach gave up his successful, lucrative and prestigious Harley Street office and set out for Wales to discover new healing plants. Little did he know he was about to discover a whole new form of natural medicine and herbal preparation.

Tromping around Wales for many years led him to discover the remaining 36 Bach Flower Remedies®. Bach was very particular in his selection of flowers and where he found them. Each of his remedies is a specific botanical entity, and substitutions are not equally effective. Bach was a sensitive as well as a medical researcher and physician. This blend made him search out only non-toxic plants that offered the highest vibratory patterns. Of the 39 essences we attribute to Bach, 37 are from plants, trees and bushes. One remedy, Rock Water, is from a special spring. The 39th, is a combination of several remedies, used for acute and emergency situations.

Bach found great results using the flower essences with people who came to him from all over. No matter what illness the person had, he only gave remedies in accord with their mental/emotional state of being. Bach himself became ill several times and only recovered after discovering and using the appropriate flower essence. He discovered several essences in this way.

Dr. Bach died in his sleep in 1936, feeling his lifes work was complete. He stated that the 38 flower essences he discovered would cover every possible area of need. His goal was to discover a safe, effective system of medicine that even the simplest person could use to help themselves, without a doctor. He felt he achieved this goal with his system of the Bach Flower Remedies®, which anyone can learn and apply with a little study.

The cause of disease according to Dr. Edward Bach

Bach's writings are largely excellent discourses on the spiritual roots of disease. He felt disease to be the result of conflict between Soul and Mind. Health, he stated 'is our heritage, our right. It is the complete and full union between soul, mind and body." (Collected Writings, page 91).

"There are two great errors: first, to fail to honour and obey the dictates of our Soul, and second, to act against Unity." (Heal Thyself, page 12)

Of the flower essences he said, 'these new remedies act on a different plane to the old. They are more spiritualized and help us to develop that inner great self in all of us which as the power to overcome all fears, all difficulties, all worries, all diseases.' (Collected Writings, page 23)

How are the remedies chosen?

Very simply, by awareness of ones own mental, emotional and spiritual state of being. Bach left a very simple system of determining which essence or essences will be useful for us. If a person was discouraged, this may indicate a need for Gentian, which restores hope. If indecisive, a need for Scleranthus and so forth. For all negative states of mind, the essence chosen reflects the positive, uplifting aspect necessary to bring the person into balance. Look in the reference section for books that describe the essences and their use.

How are the remedies available?

Flower Essences are available in most health food stores and by mail order. (See Resources) They come in small amber glass bottles known as a stock bottle, or Mother Tincture. You may use the essence right out of the bottle. Or you can get even more mileage by using a few drops of the Mother Tincture to make a dosage bottle for yourself. For this, purchase a 1-ounce empty, sterile, amber glass bottle.

  1. Fill the bottom of the 1-ounce bottle with a little bit of brandy (Korbel is a good one), or apple cider vinegar to help preserve the essence. (Otherwise, things will start growing after a while). You can use natural vegetable glycerin, but this will not preserve the essence for long.
  2. Add a few drops of each remedy or remedies you have chosen. You can choose and mix up to 6 remedies together with excellent results. (Some people don't like to mix them.) More than 6 remedies is generally too much
  3. Fill the rest of the 1-ounce bottle with spring or filtered water. Shake well.

How do I use the flower essences?

Generally people take a few drops several times throughout the day. Some people adhere to a strict schedule of so many drops, two or three times a day. Others find it much more helpful to use them as needed. Especially in acute situations, it can be helpful to take the remedy more often. Usually when a person is "done" with their remedy, they will start "forgetting" to use it regularly. Since flower essences are primarily working at a vibrational level, and there is little, if any actual physical substance in the remedies, there are no side effects.

Some people are very strict about when and how to take flower essences, treating them like homeopathic remedies, which are ideally not taken with food, along with other restrictions. However, many practitioners and people add flower essences to their drinking water, salads, juices, and food with great results. Cooking is not advised as flower essences are fragile in respect to temperature. They must be protected from heat, light, and cold.

A fun way to use flower essences is to put a few drops in your warm bath and relax. Some people make a flower essence spray for their house, office, or wherever. This works well.

How are flower essences made?

There are several methods of preparation. Usually the flower is picked at a specific time of year and day, carefully placed in a bowl of pure water, and left to sit in the sun for a certain amount of time. Several essences are not prepared by the sun method, but by a special boiling method.

It is not advisable to make your own Flower Essences for several reasons. Bach was very particular in his selection of flowers and where he found them. Each of his remedies is a specific botanical entity, and substitutions are not equally effective. There are many types of Honeysuckle, but Bach specifically used only Lonicera caprifolium found in a certain area. Many of the species he used are difficult to identify without the help of a botanist. Even plants with the same botanical name, grown in different areas of the world have very different effects. This is due to the difference in soil and climate which naturally effect the chemical activity and quality of the plant.

Flower essences into the 21st century

Dr. Bach left the planet feeling that his 39 flower essences provided the complete flower essence kit for all time and stated no others would be necessary. In fact, his legacy spawned an era of avid flower essence research and discovery. There are currently hundreds of flower essences available from all over the world. There are even Flower Essence Pharmacies in existence, that stock a multitude of the Flower Essences available on the planet today.

Bach Flowers are the best place to start, because they were created in a grounded framework, which is easy to understand, and because they are excellent remedies. Use Bach's Collected Writings as a foundation of information to understand both Bach's approach and flower essences as remedies.

Combining essences

Usually, several flower essences are combined to make a flower essence formula. However, some essences combine well together, while others do not. You need to experiment for yourself. I combine Perelandra Essences freely with Bach and other essences. The woman who makes Perelandra Essences, Machelle Wright, also finds they combine well. Some people will not combine different Flower Essences under any circumstances. The Seven Herbs Essences do not seem to combine well, and are better used one essence at a time, which is, in fact, what the author (Matthew Wood) recommends. When in doubt, refer to the person who originally prepared the essences you are using.

Important note:

Flower essences work most beneficially as part of a wholistic program of health care, including exercise, nourishing diet, stress reduction, inner work, play, and rest. They are not a substitute for medical attention or professional psychological counseling. If you are ill, please consult a qualified physician.

A brief overview of Bach Flower Remedies®

Dr. Bach placed the flower essences into 7 main categories (see Collected Writings of Edward Bach, for more information):


  • Aspen - Vague, unexplainable fears/anxieties
  • Cherry Plum - Fear of reason giving way, mind being over-strained
  • Mimulus - Fear of known things, everyday fears the person bears quietly
  • Red Chestnut - Fearful/worrying about others
  • Rock Rose - Emergency remedy for fear, terror, panic


  • Beech - Over critical of others and of surroundings
  • Chicory - Over-caring or controlling of others
  • Rock Water - Strict lifestyle due to high ideals
  • Vervain - Strong opinions, and wanting to impress these on others
  • Vine - Strong-willed leaders


  • Heather - Don't like being alone
  • Impatiens - Prefer to work alone. Quick in thought and action.
  • Water Violet - Independent, self-reliant, prefer to be alone. Also for grief.


  • Chestnut Bud - For those who take a long time to learn from experience.
  • Clematis - Dreamy quiet people, dreaming of a happier future
  • Honeysuckle - Nostalgia, homesick or dreaming fondly of the past
  • Mustard - 'Dark clouds' of gloom or despair
  • Olive - Sapped vitality, no strength to go on
  • White Chestnut - Persistent thoughts or worries circling in the mind
  • Wild Rose - Loss of enthusiasm for life, resignation


  • Agrimony - Want to keep peace at any price, easily disturbed by quarrels.
  • Centaury - Difficulty saying No to others. May neglect their own life purpose
  • Holly - Anger and vexations of the heart
  • Walnut - Protection from all outside influences in daily life and transitions


  • Cerato - Lack of self-confidence in making decisions, always asking advice
  • Gentian - Easily discouraged,
  • Gorse - Great hopelessness
  • Hornbeam - Feeling of insufficient strength to meet the demands of life
  • Scleranthus - Unable to decide between two things
  • Wild Oat - Deciding on a life path, when many choices look exciting


  • Crab Apple - Feeling dirty, shameful, contaminated
  • Elm - Overwhelmed
  • Larch - Capable people who lack self-confidence
  • Oak - Strength to go on without loss of hope or effort
  • Pine - Apologetic, unable to accept compliments, self-blaming.
  • Sweet Chestnut - When one feels they have reached the limits of endurance
  • Star of Bethlehem - Comfort in times of great distress
  • Willow - Resentment, feeling life has been unfair


Composed of 5 essences formulated for use in acute or emergency situations, to assist in calming, clearing, and restoring harmony.


This list is by no means complete. These are ones I use myself and find to be reliable sources providing excellent quality.

Flower Essences

There are currently several different 'brands' available in health food stores. My personal favorite are the English Flower Essences from Flower Essence Services (also in health food stores). Prepared by Julian Barnard and his wife, Martine, in Wales. Julian Barnard has written several excellent books on Bach's work, listed below.

Flower Essence Services
PO Box 1769 Nevada City, CA 95959
(800) 548-0075 fax (916) 265-6467
They also offer a large line of North American Essences and the Seven Herbs Set that is a companion to Matthew Wood's book, Seven Herbs, listed below.
They have a newsletter, classes & sell a good selection of Flower Essence books through the Flower Essence Society, PO Box 459 Nevada City, CA 95959

In Europe, for information and resources on Bach Remedies, write:
Bach Flower Remedies, The Dr. Edward Bach Centre
Mount Vernon
Sotwell, Wallingford
Oxon. OX10 OPZ England

Perelandra Essences
PO Box 3603 Warrenton, VA 22186
Phone (703) 937-2153 Fax (703) 937-3360
You never get to talk to a real person. But they send catalogues and fill orders promptly. Their essences are especially excellent. Books and tapes available also.

Desert Alchemy
PO Box 44189 Tucson, AZ 85733
Phone (602) 325-1545
Excellent quality desert flower essences. They offer occasional classes.

Recommended reading on Bach's and other flower essences

Bach Flower Essences®

Many of these are available through the Flower Essence Society listed above.

  1. Collected Writings of Edward Bach, Edited by Julian Barnard, 1987
    Excellent reading. Philosophy and practical information on the remedies.
  2. The Healing Herbs of Edward Bach: An Illustrated Guide to the Flower Remedies, Julian and Martine Barnard, 1988
    A beautiful and informative book. One of my favorites.
  3. Patterns of Life Force: A Review of the life and work of Dr Edward Bach and his discovery of the Bach Flower Remedies, Julian Barnard, 1987
  4. The Medical Discoveries of Edward Bach, Physician, Nora Weeks, 1973, Keats Publishing. The book about Bach's life and work.
  5. Bach Flower Therapy: Theory and Practice, Mechthild Scheffer, 1986, Thorsons Publishing Group Limited. Great book for information on choosing remedies.
  6. The Bach Flower Remedies: Illustrations and Preparations, Nora Weeks and Victor Bullen, 1990, The Dr Edward Bach Centre
  7. Dr. Jessica Bear: Author of several unique and fascinating books on Bach Flower Remedies. Write to Balancing Essentials, PO Box 81625, Las Vegas, NV 89180. fax (702) 247-6693 for a complete listing.

Other Flower Essence Books

  1. Seven Herbs: Plants as Teachers, Matthew Wood, 1986, North Atlantic Books
    Highly recommended.
  2. Flower Essence Repertory, published by The Flower Essence Society
    A Flower Essences Materia Medica, so to speak. Very well done.
  3. Flower Essences: Reordering Our Understanding and Approach to Illness and Health, Machaelle Small Wright, 1988, Perelandra, Ltd.
  4. Vibrational Medicine: New Choices for Healing Ourselves, Richard Gerber, MD, 1988, Bear and Company