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Bach Flower Remedies: Placebo or Cure for Emotional Distress?

This article on Bach Flowers is part of a new series on lesser known alternative medicines that are used as a treatment (In French called a ‘cure’) or as preventive measures against illness and emotional stress. These soft medicines (supplements or remedies) are available in Europe in pharmacies or by ordering online and available in America, Canada and probably where you live too. There are links at the end of the article on where to buy these Bach flower remedies. For most of these products, I have no commercial ties to these soft medicines and receive no benefit from my suggestions. While I back my health advice with my professional and personal experience, please do not accept my health advice as a substitute for seeking traditional medical treatment. 

Bach flower remedies with a twist

My story about Bach Flowers or Fleurs de Bach

I first heard about Bach flowers more than ten years ago when we were living in England. Right after my son was born, my oldest child, a mere 20 months older than her brother, was having a real difficult time adjusting to the new baby in the house. To put it bluntly she was outright jealous and she didn’t hesitate to show her anger against her baby brother. I had to watch her carefully, most days it was constant surveillance so my daughter didn’t physically hurt her brother.

I could see she was suffering. We tried to help her feel special and smooth the transition to having a sibling. But nothing worked.

And I was desperate.

At that time, someone suggested using a Bach flower remedy, developed by English doctor Edward Bach, to help against emotional jealousy. The specific flower remedy Dr.Bach used for jealousy is violet.

A few days later I put 3 drops of this flower dilution in her water cup and she drank it down. We repeated this a few times a day for several days.

It seemed to work, my daughter was more calm around her brother. Or was it my imagination? It wasn’t a magical transformation, but she seemed less angry.

Over the years, I have also used other Bach flower remedies such as ‘Rescue Remedy’ for stress (this is a popular one-do you know it?) and walnut flower to help with my children’s life transitions, such as when we moved to France from the UK or when one of the kids was having difficulty starting school or with a new teacher.

And recently we used the French Fleurs de Bach on a school trip

A month ago I went with my 9 year-old daughter and her classmates on a four-day school trip. It was going well until one night when a powerful thunderstorm scared some of the kids. The sight of the lightning, the sound of the thunder made my daughter and her friend particularly terrified.

One of the parents on the trip came to the rescue. This parent (now a friend) has extensive knowledge and training working with Bach flowers. She worked with the French Bach flower company called Deva and when she saw our kids terrified from this storm she whipped out her ‘assistance’ flower spray, and with my permission used it as a treatment to calm my daughter and her daughter down.

“Ah, my petit chou, ouvres ta bouche” (Here my sweet child, open your mouth).

Let me give you some medicine to help you calm down.

I saw the effects of the treatment immediately. This double dose spray of “calming down” flowers worked. Like immediately.

Deva labs-fleurs de bach

But was it a placebo effect? Was it the flowers that helped or just taking a dose of something which psychologically helped my daughter and her friend calm down? My ‘expert’ Bach flower friend told me she has used other remedies to help her other teenage daughter with incredible success. I believe her.

What are Bach flowers remedies?

Dr. Edward Bach, (1886-1936) was an English medical doctor, homeopath, bacteriologist and spiritual writer who believed, in ‘treating the patient, not the disease.’ His life goal was to develop natural remedies that would cure disease by treating the patient first. His legacy was the Bach Flowers, a set of 38 different flowers that correspond to 38 different emotional states.

“Even as a medical student Edward Bach spent little time with his books, since to him the true study of disease lay in observation of the patient and their differing reactions to their disease. He recognized that the same treatment did not always cure the same disease in all patients. He started to notice that those patients who shared similar personality characteristics often responded to similar treatment while others with different traits would need different treatment, although all were suffering from the same complaint.” (Source here).

Dr. Bach thought of disease and illness as a result of emotional conflicts and a person’s conflictual personality. When there is a lack of peace and harmony in a person’s emotional state this leads to bad moods and energy blockages and then to illness.

You can read more about Dr. Bach’s (very interesting) biography, work and his Bach flower legacy in these articles here:

Dr. Bach’s biography and his Bach flower legacy.

How to Bach Flowers work?

Advocates for Bach flowers claim that the remedies work because the energy within the flower, in a diluted state, matches that emotional energy state of the person’s need at that time. Bach believed that the dew found on flower petals keep the healing properties of that plant. Bach flowers are diluted in 50% alcohol and 50% water, with the basis of this diluted energies (called vibrational medicine) stemming from the base of homeopathy dilutions, developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Hahnemann (the Doctor of Homeopathy), believed that “like cures like”, a theory that Dr. Bach embraced and used for his Bach flowers development.

“Proponents of flower remedies reportedly maintain that their mode of action does not depend on molecular or pharmacological mechanisms but on the subtle energy that is transmitted from the flowers to this remedy.” (Dr. Weil).

On a large-scale, Bach flowers are used for treatment of lack of confidence, emotional and physical trauma, anxiety, stress and depression. Some use it as a support for cancer and in children for ADHD.

And at chez moi (at my house) I use it as an alternative therapy to help short-term emotional stress.

Who can use Bach flowers?

Bach flowers are safe and are used by young children, adults and animals. The flowers are diluted in alcohol. Those following a strict alcohol free diet should buy alcohol-free Bach flower remedies.

Are there any side effects?

There are no harmful side effects.

What are the scientific studies on the efficacy of Bach flowers?

A large study completed in 2010 concluded that there is no scientific evidence that Bach flowers help more than a placebo.

Since the scientific community feels that Bach flowers are not more beneficial than a placebo, why should I use them?

My view, similar to Dr. Weil’s valued opinion is that Bach flowers are harmless with no noted side effects. On a personal side, I have seen them work, and they have provided some comfort to my kids on a short-term basis. They are a natural product, coming from plants. Even if their effect is solely placebo, this is also a strong enough benefit to use these Bach flowers as a form of alternative medicine.

If you have a story to tell, please share it with us.  Or got to the end and want to read more? I would love to share my professional and personal stories as a nutritionist and mom living in France, just ‘next door’ to Italy, my second heart home. You can follow me on Twitter, or sign up for article updates and newsletter by clicking the button below. Your email will always remain private and by subscribing you can download your free E-report on “10 Simple Ways to Eat Like the French Without Having a Food Snob Attitude.”

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Here are some links to where to buy Bach flowers or a book on these remedies. If you use Amazon in your country to buy online, you can click on these links and it will transfer you to your country.

French Deva Laboratories, Specialists in Fleurs de Bach

The French company that manufacturers fleurs de Bach is called Deva. Their products can be purchased worldwide. Here are links to their website and where to buy these flower remedies. (Note the spray my daughter used was called ‘Assistance’ and this helped her when she was scared (see story above under class trip)).

Deva Laboratories

Where to buy these products

Warmly, Mary


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6 Responses to Bach Flower Remedies: Placebo or Cure for Emotional Distress?

  1. healthy man January 15, 2017 at 10:46 #

    Bach flowers have been discovered long ago and there are several other scientists that have discovered the numerous health benefits it has in man after Edward Bach tested this flower in his lab. thanks for the enlightenment on Bach flowers

  2. Lety December 16, 2013 at 12:16 #

    Thank you for your reply, Mary!
    I’m studying Bach flowers remedy, right because my mom have been suffering from depression in the last years. Of course, I’ve to admit that I don’t believe in Bach flowers as possible cancer treatment (I read similar news). But, in my opinion, emotional distresses can take advantage from a careful use of this kind of remedies.

    • mbrighton December 17, 2013 at 15:51 #

      I do agree with you. Best wishes for your mom. Depression requires a multi-faceted approach and I believe that Bach flowers can be part of the complementary support your mom could benefit from. Keep sharing your input, it is very valuable! Mary

  3. Lety December 12, 2013 at 10:52 #

    I do believe in Bach flowers, although they cannot be defined as belonging to conventional science :). Several years ago, when I was young and naif, I decided to administer Bach flowers to my mother, who suffered from depression, which was previously treated with conventional therapies (which worked well, indeed). But, after some years, depression came back and my mother refused conventional therapies. So I chose Bach flowers…But I made a mistake. I gave her Star of Bethlehem and Aspen. i read that the first one has to be administered carefully, because it can make emerge old traumatic events. But I thought “they’re just flowers…”. My mother ignored absolutely what I gave her. And, after some days, she started to suffer from inexplicable anguish. She told me that she felt as something bad was happened, or had to happen. So, I quickly thought that it was because of Star of Bethlehem and I stopped to give her Bach flowers. Now, I’m studying about this topic. I’d like to try again, but more awarded than twenty years ago!

    • mbrighton December 16, 2013 at 12:03 #

      Dear Lety, Thank you very much for your feedback. Bach flowers are a controversial alternative medicine. I believe they work and so do others, such as those who have tried it, like yourself. I find your story about your mom very interesting. We all make mistakes using medicines. In this story, what was interesting was what happened with your mom and the Bach flower “Star of Bethlehem.” I am sure what happened wasn’t just a coincidence. Thanks for sharing and I hope your mom is doing okay these days….

  4. Letizia December 10, 2013 at 11:38 #

    Very interesting, Mary!
    You know, several years ago, when I knew really few about Bach flowers, I tried to give some of them to my Mom. She often suffers from “bad mood”. So, knowing her, I chose Star of Betlehem and Aspen. Yet, I have to admit than I read that Star of Betlehem has to be used carefully. But I was young and I thought”well…They’re flowers, nothing of bad may happen”. But, my Mom, after a couple of days, started to suffer from something she did not succeed in explaining. She didn’t know about the different Bach flowers, so it was not a placebo effect. I suspended to use Bach flowers with her. Hence, although I’m strong supporter of conventional medicine, I believe also in Bach flowers potential effects and in the importance of administer them, carefully!

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