Introduction to the Bach Flower Remedies

This is a series of lessons kindly written for us in the Whitewicca forums by RowanBerry and saved here for easy reference.

WHAT ARE THE BACH FLOWER REMEDIES? The Bach Flower Remedies are a system of healing with flowers that treats the emotional, mental and spiritual nature rather than the physical body.

They were discovered by Dr Edward Bach in England in the early 1930s. They are actually quite easy to make. They are liquid preparations, and are administered by drops from the dropper, either directly onto the tongue or into a glass of water or juice. Flower remedies are also known as flower essences but they are not to be confused with the essential oils used in aromatherapy, which are also sometimes called essences.


The flower remedies are closest conceptually to homeopathic remedies, in that the activating agent is increasingly diluted and only small doses are taken, usually 4 drops at a time. Apart from this similarity, they are quite unique, and they differ from homeopathic remedies in other respects.


It is believed that flower essences have been around for a very long time, possibly dating as far back as Ancient China. Traditional peoples have always been aware of the healing power of flowers. And there is evidence that a number of traditional cultures, including the Egyptian, Malay, African and Aboriginal Australian, have used flowers in healing. But the earliest written record of their use is by the 16th century European healer and mystic, Paracelsus, who collected dew from flowers to heal emotional disharmony.


In modern times, flower essences were discovered, or some say rediscovered, by Dr Edward Bach, an English physician, bacteriologist, immunologist, pathologist, homeopath and herbalist. Now, it’s very important that we look at the life and work of Dr Bach, because this gives us a much better understanding of the background to the discovery of the Bach Flowers.

These healing flowers were not stumbled upon in a random or haphazard way. Their discovery was actually the result of many years of scientific experiment, painstaking observation and deep thought. During his work as a medical practitioner, Dr Bach observed his patients very closely. Some of these observations had a deep impact on him and led to an increasing dissatisfaction with orthodox medicine, and were to form the basis of the new system of healing treatment that he pioneered.


  • That the same treatment did not always cure the same disease in all patients.
  • He also noticed that patients with a similar personality or temperament would often respond favourably to the same treatment, even if they had different diseases. So, these two observations convinced him that the personality was more important than the body in the treatment of disease.
  • Another observation was that the process of healing was often painful and temporary. This developed in him the conviction that true healing should be gentle, painless and benign.

Through his own experience with a life-threatening illness, Bach made a very important discovery. In 1917, he was diagnosed as suffering from advanced cancer and given three months to live. He knew that overwork, lack of sleep and emotional turmoil were contributing factors. But to everyone’s amazement, he made a remarkable recovery. What pulled him through was his all-embracing need to fulfill what he saw as his life’s mission.

From this experience, Bach concluded that an absorbing interest, a great love, or a definite purpose in life were the decisive factors in creating our happiness on earth.


Over a number of years, Bach experimented with different forms of healing treatment. He turned to bacteriology for a time and developed a series of vaccines made from intestinal bacteria that proved to be very successful in treating some forms of chronic disease. But he was still dissatisfied. He did not like using needles or the products of disease to heal people.


It was Bach’s introduction to homeopathy which was able to take him a step further in his quest. In 1919, he took up the position of pathologist and bacteriologist at the London Homeopathic Hospital. It was here that he discovered the work of a kindred spirit, Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy. Bach was deeply influenced by Hahnemann’s book ‘The Organon’. In this book he discovered what he considered to be the principle of true healing, and that was:


Bach had believed this himself for a long time, and he was very excited to find that many of Hahnemann’s ideals were identical with his own. So, this principle, of treating the patient and not the disease, was to form the basis of Bach’s new system of healing.


The inspiration of homeopathy led Bach to refine his bacterial vaccines into a series of oral remedies called nosodes. These were seven oral vaccines homeopathically prepared from seven groups of bacteria and, like the vaccines, were also used to treat chronic illness. Bach found that the seven bacterial groups corresponded to seven different and definite human personalities. By treating patients according to their temperamental symptoms with the nosodes, he obtained excellent results.

This method of diagnosis appealed to him above all others because, apart from its emphasis on prescribing according to the personality rather than the physical body, it also saved people from the discomfort and embarrassment of physical examinations, which Bach had always disliked.

The Nosodes were very successful. In fact, they are still used in homeopathy today, and are known as the Bach Nosodes. But Dr Bach was still dissatisfied with this form of treatment, despite its success. Even though the Nosodes were homeopathically prepared, he still disliked a remedy that was made from the products of disease. This is where Bach deviated from homeopathy, or as he saw it, he decided to go one step further than homeopathy. Bach had come to believe that the homeopathic principle of ‘like cures like’ or ‘disease cures disease’ was not the way of nature, and he became determined to replace the Nosodes with purer remedies.


It was this determination and his strong belief that true healing lay not in the laboratory, but amongst nature, that led Dr Bach to abandon his medical practice to search the fields and woods for a simpler and more natural system of healing treatment.


One of the most important discoveries made by Bach was that all of humanity could be divided into twelve groups. This understanding came to him suddenly one evening while he was dining in a large banqueting hall. Like all true geniuses, many of his discoveries came to him in the form of flashes of inspiration and realisation. Apparently, Bach had attended this dinner somewhat unwillingly and wasn’t enjoying himself. So, to pass the time, he began to watch the people around him, and suddenly he had a realisation that the whole of humanity consisted of a number of definite groups of types. He noticed that every individual in that large hall belonged to one or other of these groups, and he spent the rest of the evening watching all the people he could see. He observed how they ate their food, how they smiled and moved their hands and heads, the attitudes of their bodies, the expressions on their faces and, when he was close enough to hear, the tone of voice they used. He saw that the resemblance between certain people was so close that they might have belonged to the same family…By the time the dinner was over he had worked out a number of groups.


What Bach identified as a result of that evening’s observations were twelve groups of personality traits or twelve archetypal patterns of behaviour in people. He also called them ‘world’ types. So, when he began to roam across the countryside seeking the healing remedies, he knew what he was looking for. He knew the personality trait or emotional state, and he generally knew something about the quality of the plant, tree or flower that would heal that state.

During the years that followed, he walked many hundreds of miles, wandering all over the country, in search of what we know today as the Bach Flower Remedies. Dr Bach searched the fields for the healing remedy for each of these twelve groups. It took him 4 years to discover them all, and he called them ‘The Twelve Healers’.


In the space of the following year, 1933, Bach discovered what he called ‘The Seven Helpers’. These were for the states of mind which had become more persistent than those of the first group, for the people who had been chronically ill for a long time and had given up hope.


The last nineteen remedies were discovered very quickly, over a period of six months. A year or so later, in 1936, Dr Bach died, at the age of 50. Throughout the process of discovering and preparing these last 19 remedies, Bach suffered greatly. He had become acutely sensitive and before he discovered the next remedy, he would experience the state of mind that it would heal. He also suffered intensely on a physical level. In her biography of Dr Bach, Nora Weeks tells us that before the finding of one remedy, his face was swollen and extremely painful. Another time, he had a severe haemorrhage and the bleeding didn’t stop until the remedy for the mental state he was experiencing was found.


The primary reference and source for all the historical material relating to Edward Bach and his life is: The Medical Discoveries of Edward Bach Physician, by Nora Weeks.

After each bulletin I will post some questions. You can use these to “test” your understanding or simply to expand your thinking. I hope you will find this useful.

1. What was your opinion of Bach Essences and the abilities for flower essences to heal prior to reading the Week One Material?

2. After reading the Week One posting… what is your opinion now on Dr. Bach’s theories on the abilities of flower essences to heal? Did the reading change and previously held views?

2. What do you already know about Bach Flower Remedies and Essences?

3. What do you hope to gain from participating in this learning thread?

4. Explain your understanding of “Treat the Patient and Not the Disease”.

5. What do you think the relationship is between human suffering and disease? As a culture do you think we are doing enough to alleviate either?

6. Discuss your thoughts on Bach’s idea that modern medicine is “materialistic.”

7. What do you think about Bach’s theory that the origin of disease is a conflict of the soul and mind? What are your thoughts about the Mind/Body/Spirit Connection?

8. How can our mental attitude help or hinder our healing?

9. Have you had an illnesss or time in your life where you attitude and state of mind has benefited or hampered your healing process?