Wednesday 18 February 2009

Libraries, troubles and Bach Flower Remedies

It often surprises me how many books on things like paganism and complementary therapies one can find in even a small public library. These resources are a great way of learning about a subject without actually paying for a book or going to an expensive workshop or evening class.

When I was in the library the other day, a copy of The Bach Flower Remedies Step by Step: A Complete Guide to Selecting and Using the Remedies caught my eye.

I sometimes use Bach Rescue Remedy in times of stress, but I never really knew how it worked. I'd assumed it was a bit like homeopathy, simply because the bottles sit next to the homeopathic remedies in the chemist shop. I thought it was about time I learnt more, so I borrowed the library book to find out.

The Bach Flower Remedies Step by Step is a slim and easy to read guide to the theory behind the system and on selecting and using the remedies.

I learnt that although Dr Edward Bach, who developed the Flower Remedies during the 1930s, had worked as a homeopathist, the Flower Remedies do not work in the same way as homeopathy or herbalism. Herbalism uses plants to treat diseases, homeopathy is a holistic approach, but Bach Flower Remedies could be described as a psychological or even psychic therapy.

Dr Bach believed that a person's body was a mirror of what was going on in their mind, that negative mental states could cause physical illnesses or prevent a person from getting well. He developed the Flower Remedies to "treat the patient, not his disease".

There are 38 individual remedies prepared from different flowers and trees. The book explains how each is designed to treat a specific mental state or personality type. For example, gentian is for "despondency ... as a result of a disappointment", hornbeam is supposed to "give emotional strength to those who cannot face the day ahead", pine is for "feelings of guilt" and wild rose is for those who lack "enthusiasm or ambition".

The Rescue Remedy contains five individual remedies and is for emergencies. It is supposed to tackle shock, panic, tension, feelings of loss of control or being bemused.

To take a remedy, you just put a few drops into a bottle or glass of water and sip it, or you can pop a couple of drops straight onto your tongue if you want to.

But are the remedies effective? I suspect this is an area of debate, with some people believing they do and others putting it down to the placebo effect.

By the way the system is described in the book, the Flower Remedies appear to be more spiritual than scientific in the way they work. The book says:

"Dr Bach's remedies are an extract of the healing life of the plant which is non-physical and therefore something abstract. It cannot be measured or analysed like a chemical or drug, and so the potent element cannot be extracted and identified... The healing energies simply lift our vibrations and unblock the channels within our minds so that we can approach life more positively."
A Bach therapist has to spend quite a bit of time with their patient, asking them questions to try to understand their state of mind. To me, that sounds like counselling and I would imagine letting someone talk about their worries to a sympathetic ear could be beneficial on its own.

But was the book useful? Yes, definitely. It was also very easy to read and interesting. It has also left me intrigued to try out some of the individual remedies as well as Bach Rescue Remedy in times of trouble. But it has also made me understand the skepticism of those who say the efficacy of Flower Remedies is all in the mind.

The Bach Flower Remedies Step by Step: A Complete Guide to Selecting and Using the Remedies (Bach Flower Remedies Repertories) is published by Vermilion and costs £4.99.

Note: This is not medical advice. Always consult a qualified expert before taking any remedy. If you are unwell, see your GP.

The Bach Flower Remedies Step by Step: A Complete Guide to Selecting and Using the Remedies (Bach Flower Remedies Repertories)
Nelsons Bach Rescue Remedy dropper 10ml

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