Flower remedies, or essences, are extracts from the botanicals themselves that are thought to contain mood-enhancing, beautifying, and healing capabilities. Flower and essence therapy generally refer to a type of therapy that uses bespoke flower essences for emotional health and balance—there isn't just one type of flower therapy, however.
"Flower therapy can also be the use of beautifully arranged bouquets of flowers to achieve healing properties and to improve mental health," says Allison Chawla, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, spiritual counselor, and certified life coach. "This can take many forms: the effect they have on our mental state visually, their aromas, oils they provide, or healing fragrant waters or tinctures that can be created from them."
Bach Original Flower Remedies is the best known system of flower medicine. It was founded and developed by a British physician and homeopath named Edward Bach in the 1920s and 1930s. The Bach Flowers are organized around 38 English wildflowers and plants that Dr. Bach determined to have a positive calming effect on emotional imbalances. The flower remedies use dilutions based on traditional homeopathic practice, each of which was crafted by Dr. Bach to help balance a specific feeling or emotion like fear, uncertainty, lack of confidence, or doubt.
Does flower essence therapy actually work?
There's a growing trend worldwide that supports natural healthcare products (and complementary or alternative therapies), many that have been tested through the years and are based on a long history of traditional use. "There is research that dates back as far as the 1930s that supports the use of flower therapy as a homeopathic technique for managing psychological suffering and difficult emotions within individuals, especially Bach Flower therapy," says Chawla.
A study from 1997, found that a three- to four-week flower essence therapy program helped improve anxiety in 89 percent of the 115 patients evaluated before and after therapy. Results of another study from 2001 "strongly suggest that flower essences may be used adjunctively to facilitate the resolution of mild to moderate depression."
Still, there is limited current scientific evidence to support benefits of flower essence therapy compared to placebo (and no evidence to prove it can treat physical pain or illness), and most of the clinical research includes anecdotal case reports. That said, there are also no reported adverse effects of essence therapy—so it's still safe to try, and there are no real downsides. For example, some cancer patients use flower essence therapy to help them feel better emotionally and mentally (which could potentially, indirectly help them feel better physically)—despite the fact that essences cannot prevent, control, or treat cancer (or other physical conditions). Sometimes the possibility of feeling better with the help of natural remedies, even if it's only placebo, is a welcome alternative to try.
How to Get a Little Healing From a Flower Arrangement
Choosing an arrangement of flowers that eases the difficult emotional or psychological state you're experiencing can be incredibly beneficial. "For example, if you're feeling very agitated or anxious, you can try a bundle of flowers that have very subtle and calming colors like off-white, light peach, or very soft yellow," says Chawla. "These colors are proven to help ease a heightened mood and bring calmness."
If you're experiencing depression, try something with brighter colors. "Tiger Lilies, sunflowers, bright reds, oranges, and greens, and select flowers that provide a pleasant scent to fill the room and inspire your mood," Chawla says. "I would also suggest something healing that can be carried around, like a fragrance water or oil, to apply throughout the day if you cannot stay by their arrangement."
How to Work With Essences at Home
This is where Bach comes in. Bach works like Jo Malone scents: You can use them individually or combine them for a totally personalized approach. "We recommend blending up to seven remedies together," says Kim Knoblauch, Bach's director of marketing. "Think about that—literally millions of different combinations that can be personalized to you to support whatever you're feeling. There's also Rescue Remedy, a blend of five of the most popular Bach flowers to support and relieve everyday emotional stress." Simply add the indicated number of drops to a drink or directly into your mouth at intervals throughout the day.
Of the 38 options, the most popular remedies include White Chestnut to calm a restless mind, so you can fall asleep naturally; Star of Bethlehem to neutralize grief (think those who've experienced shock like bereavement, illness, or bad news); and Mimulus to help face fears like public speaking, flying, heights, or darkness.
Just as with any type of complementary therapy, you might have to play around with what works best for you and try out various combinations based on researched effects. And in some cases, the results can be pretty immediate. "Many studies show that the feelings of gratitude and happiness appear in an instant," Chawla says. This applies whether you receive a bouquet, buy yourself a bouquet, or opt to mix some flower essence remedies into your morning water.