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The Life of Dr Bach

Dr Edward Bach MB BS MRCS LRCP DPH, was an eminent homoeopathic doctor and bacteriologist. He practised for over 20 years as a Harley Street consultant and added to our homoeopathic materia medica certain remedies which we now know as the bowel nosodes.
The Discoveries and Philosophy of Dr Bach

It is well known that certain mental and emotional conditions have a direct link with physical symptoms. A common correlation is well known and documented between worry causing ulcers, anger causing stomach disorders and high blood pressure, stress predisposing towards diseases, frustration being similarly linked with tooth decay and resentment with arthritis (obviously this is not so in every case, but it has been observed often enough to be reported on).
Dr Bach wrote "There is no true healing unless there is a change in outlook, peace of mind, and inner happiness". Whilst we are not trying to say that a person's whole personality can be changed by administration of the flower remedies,they can act as an emotional handrail enabling a person to make a degree of progress. Bach wrote that "No effort directed to the body alone can do more than superficially repair damage".
His system of healing is therefore directed at the mind of the individual so that the mental and emotional state no longer works as a maintaining cause of disease.He saw the" primary diseases" of mankind as "such defects as pride, cruelty, hate, self-love, ignorance, instability, and greed". These were obstacles to the advancement of health and with his remedies he sought to temper the effects of our human nature on our physical health.He beleived the practitioners duty to be "To administer such remedies as will help the physical body to gain strength and assist the mind to become calm,widen its outlook and strive towards perfection, thus bringing peace and harmony to the whole personality". Therefore, when treating a patient Dr Bach concluded we should "Take no notice of the disease, think only of the outlook on life of the one in distress".
The discoveries of the appropriate flower remedies are a mystery, because though Dr Bach had scientific backgrounds,he left very little information about his methodology. He left no original plant observations nor did he train up succesors. The present custodians of the Bach Centre work entirely with original preparations rather than adding to his work. However Dr Bach stated that his work was complete. There is no doubt that intuition played a part in his discoveries and unlike homeoopathic remedies they have not been subject to scientific 'provings'. That they work, the student will find from personal and clinical experience.
Preparation of the remedies

The effects of the flower essence as defined by Dr Bach is different from the effects of prepara Ëtions of the essential oils, herbal extracts or homoeopathic potencies. The potency is found in blossoming process of the plant itself as it diffuses into pure water in a bowl in direct sunlight for three to four hours, or less if the flowers show signs of fading. As some remedies like Willow and Chestnut cannot be made in this way they are boiled for 1/2 hour in pure water. The resultant liquid is strained off and preserved with Brandy. Stock bottles can be bought at many chemist or health food shops or ordered direct from the Bach flower Centre or from Galen Homoeopathics. To prepare medicines for patients we advise obtaining 20 to 30 ml dropper bottles 3/4 filled with (uncarbonated) spring water and topped up with a small teaspoon of brandy. Two or three drops from the stock bottles are then added to the medicine bottle and the contents shaken. Usually between one and five remedies are put together to make a medicine.
The dosage is usually four drops to be taken at least four times daily directly into the mouth. This may be for a few days or even a few months in chonic conditions. Whilist changes may be very rapid in acute states such as shock, with chronic conditions it may be necessary to perservere for over 2 months before a change is noticed. A further way of precribing in very acute conditions is to add the remedy to a glass of pure water and sip it every few minute.
The prime field of action of the Bach flower remedies is on the emotional level and therefore, the information which we seek is related to the emotions.
How does the person feel about his/her condition? What stresses were in their life when and before the condition came on, and how were they reacting to them? Bach himself wrote "Think only of the outlook on life of the one in distress".


Dr Bach originally discovered 12 remedies which he considered were the answers to the most common negative emotions. He then went on to find a further 26 flowers which he claimed completed his work as they accompanied every negative state in their therapeutic range. I do not intend to discuss the remedies in great details; for quick reference, the remedies are listed below in the order used by Dr Bach in his book "The Twelve Healers and Other Remedies".


(1) Rock Rose *
Terror, panic to the point of being almost paralysed with fear. It was one of the original 12 remedies and deep acting. It is usually prescribed as a component of rescue remedy mentioned later.

(2) Mimulus
For the fear of the known, every day things, such as going to a new school, the dentist, or any ordeal. They tend to be shy, nervous, anxious people, and the remedy is commonly prescribed for children who find it difficult approaching new events and situations. Often the remedy will be prescribed with Larch which helps with confidence. If not treated the fear can develop into the terror or Rock Rose.

(3) Cherry Plum
A fear of themselves - of the mind giving way, of going out of control and doing something foolish including harming themsel Ëves.

(4) Aspen
Fear of no known course, unlike Mimlus, where the patients do not know why they are frightend. May help with panic attacks when the person doesn't know why they are afraid, or the child who has nightmares or wants to go to bed but he/she does not know why he/ she is terrified or anxious.

(5) Red Chestnut
A fear for others. The overprotective wife/husband or parent who always imagines the worst about their spouse or child


(6) Cerato
A remedy for lack of confidence in themselves and their decision making so that they are constantly seeking advice and cannot stand on their own feet.They are never satisfied with themselves.

(7) Scleranthus
A remedy which can be useful if someone is at a crosssroads in life and cannot decide between two courses of action. Indecisive and often procrastinates.

(8) Gentian
People who are discouraged and disappointed and easily give up when confronted with difficulty. It may be a useful intercurrent remedy; if recovery from treatment is slow or, whatever therapy is used there is a slight set back.

(9) Gorse
A step worse than Gentian. One leaves the pessimism of Gentain to the despair and hopelessness of Gorse. Compare with Rock Rose and Resue Remedy when there is also fear. It has been known that people sleeping by Gorse bushes have become very depressed ,although no scientific provings have been done as homoeopathic remedies.

(10) Hornbeam
For apathy and lethargy, though they may fulfil a task once stimulated. A good supporting remedy where more mental strength is needed.

(11) Wild Oat
This is similar in some ways to Scleranthus. However the person benefitted feels unfulfilled because they have lost their way in life. Their difficulty is in determining what occupation to follow, rather than the Scleranthus idea of choosing betwen two pathways.


(12) Clematis
A lack of interest. Often helpful for those, especially chil Ëdren, who switch off and appear to day -dream. It has helped many whose teachers say that they would do well at school if only they would concentrate on the present. People who build sand castles in the air ; they do not seem properly "earthed".

(13) Honeysuckle
If Clematis day dreams on the future, Honeysuckle looks to the past with nostalgia. They regret things they have done or not done in the past. Often this remedy will be useful on the anniversary of an ex-partner or at Christmas time when a patient is remembering happier times when their parents or spouses were still alive.

(14) Wild Rose
Apathy and resignation. Not so much a state of depression but more sense of having given up doing anything to help themselves. A useful "handrail" when a patient is not willing to alter their diet because they feel that it is no use and nothing further can be done for them.

(15) Olive
A great strengthener where, after illness (e.g.flu), even after pregnancy, everything is an effort and they feel exhausted. No energy.

(16) White Chestnut
A remedy which can help with bringing peace of mind where unwanted thoughts enter the mind and the patient seems to have no control. The thought may bring sleeplessness as they churn around, or the patient may be distressed, having mental arguments with themselves.

(17) Mustard
A state of depression for no known reason. As if a cloud of depression envelops them and later lifts. If the cause of depression is known Gentian or Gorse would be better remedies.

(18) Chestnut Bud
For people who seem to have health or other problems because they appear to keep making the same continual mistakes in their lifestyle without apparently learning any lessons from them.


(19) Water Violet *
Reserved, aloof people who enjoy being on their own. An element of pride and superiority which can lead to stiffness and other complaints.

(20) Impatiens *
Again people who enjoy being on their own to work at their own pace. They can have mental Ë tension and impatience and irritability. They may be impatient with the practitioner, seeking early recovery and also impatient with staff and colleagues who do not work quickly enough. This can lead to stress related ailments.

(21) Heather
People who suffer from loneliness and will talk about their suffering and their situation in life. The opposite of Water Violet is that they seek companionship and sympathy and are obsessed with their own troubles. An aspect of the homoeopathic remedy Pulsatilla is to be found here.


(22) Agrimony
People who do not want to burden others with their problems and will always try to be cheerful. In order to keep up a facade they may turn to alcohol, stimulants and drugs.

(23) Centaury
A remedy useful for people who have allowed themselves to become martyrs. The" Cinderella" type . There is weakness and a desire to please and they are taken advantage of. The remedy can help to give the person backbone. It is another aspect of the Pulsatilla constitution.

(24) Walnut
All diseases brought about by the failure of the body to adapt to change of the internal or external environment. Walnut helps us adopt and adjust to changes. This may mean help with the transition periods of life such as puberty and menopause, or it may mean help in adjusting to some trauma such as marriage, divorce, grief etc. It can help us to free ourselves from oppressive circumstances or even personalities and go forward to the next stages in our life.

(25) Holly
Dr Bach says this is a useful remedy for those who have thoughts of jealousy, hate and revenge "often where there is no real cause for their unhappiness". If there is a reason for jealousy and suspicion then that may have to be dealt with also though counselling and willingness to forgive.

(26) Larch
A remedy for children or adults who have lack of confidence in their ability, and make no attempt to try in either business or exams, etc. There is a fear of failure and some feelings of inferiority despite them often being very capable people. Experience shows that, where indicated, this remedy is often combined with Mimulus for children.

(27) Pine
This is useful for people with little self confidence who often feeling unworthy, guilty or of very little value. The person needing Pine may need help in discovering their spiritual identity and realising that their emotions are important. Someone who has been a door mat or continually "put down" by others and told that they are no good may end up needing Pine. This remedy should be compared and contrasted with Centaury.

(28) Elm
A medicine applicable to temporary feelings of inadequancy when a person is overwhelmed at the thought of some task they need to undertake. They feel unable to cope with their responsibilities for a short time

(29) Sweet Chestnut
Anguish is a word to sum up this remedy. They put on a brave face but inside they may describe themselves at heartbroken or at the end of their tether. Often the remedy may be used with Star of Bethlehem. It is a step worse than Agrimony, and again a remedy used for a short period to help someone though a temporary state.

(30) Star of Bethlehem
A remedy for all forms of shock and grief. It is used most in the combination called Rescue Remedy. Where a complaint stems from shock Star of Bethlehem may help with that aetiology and so remove a barrier preventing the person regaining health.

(31) Willow
Resentment and bitterness against other people or the way one has been treated in life can leave deep scars in the psyche, affect the physical health and lead to any number of chronic diseases. Willow is a hand rail which will help a person who is trapped by an "It's not fair" attitude. Many people identify themselves by their negative emotions e.g. "I am a bitter person". Willow may give them a desire to change and find a new identity. Rather than the anger of Holly there may be more of an introverted sulkiness and self-pity.

(32) Oak
People who soldier on against adversity without losing hope, (the opposite of Gentian) may need this remedy. They may stoically fight on until their mental or physical health finally breaks down. Oak may help people to find m Ëore of that necessary inner strength.

(33) Crab Apple
This is a great cleansing remedy often used in skin complaints where people feel unclean and do not like themselves or their looks. It is often used in skin complaints, such as eczema, where there are feelings of self-disgust. If a soothing cream needs to be used, a few drops of Crab Apple may be added to it.


(34) Chicory *
A possessiveness is found here. There is a selfish desire to control and they can use their illnesses as forms of emotional blackmail in order to get their own way. These emotions can poison them and lead to many conditions, from ulcers to headaches and skin complaints.

(35) Vervain *
A common remedy needed by the stressed business person. They work hard to accomplish their task which they believe only they can do. They are hard working perfectionists (similar in character to the homoeopathic remedy Nux Vomica.) who may suffer with stress related symptoms such as headach Ëes, ulcers, insomnia and hypertension. Vervain may help them to relax and develop a more balanced attitude to their work.

(36) Vine
Like Vervain, Vine tends to be a strong character, socially or in business. However their inflexibility can lead to intolerance and bullying. They have difficulty appreciating someone else's point of view and this, like that of the more altruistic Vervain ,can lead to many problems of tension and stress.

(37) Beech
Intolerance, fault-finding and criticism sum up the negative qualities which call for Beech. It may be an acutely needed remedy for the constitutional Chicory type person. Beech may be a handrail towards tolerance and humility, helping the person to be less irritable and less afflicted again of illness brought on by such tension.

(38) Rock Water
This is the one remedy made not from a plant but from a type of Spring water. Whilst Vine is intolerant and hard on others, this remedy is hard on themselves and intolerant of their own shortcomings. They deny themselves rather than imposing their beliefs on other people. The remedy may again help with this rigidity which can be unbalanced and lead to sickness.

This completes the list of 38 remedies. The "Twelve Healers" denoted by an asterisk (*) are perhaps the ones to learn first as these are our main constitutional types. The other remedies are helper or supportive remedies which were discovered later and deal with more temporary states of mind. The recommended text "Handbook of the Bach Flower Remedies" is full of case histories demonstrating the effects of the remedies and should be studied along with the remedy pictures given here. Mention should be made of two much used Combination remedies.


Many people who know nothing about the Bach Flower Remedies have heard of Rescue Remedy. It is sold as a composite remedy and contains Star of Bethlehem for shock, Rock Rose for terror, Cherry Plum for loss of control, Clematis for unconciousness/unreality and Imp Ëatiens for stress. It will therefore encompass all moods and emotions involved with shock. It is also sold as a cream to which Crab Apple has been added for cleansing, and is a general all purpose cream for shock conditions such as bruising, burns, cuts, sprains, etc.
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Pj Cousin is a full member of the British Acupuncture Council and of the Unified Register of herbal Practitioners
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