by Julia Brayshaw
abbreviated version of this article first appeared in
production of flower essences
When, in 1992, an illness prompted my discovery of flower essences, it was as though a beloved friend from childhood had at last resurfaced. As a child I had recognized flowers to be medicine for the soul, and it is this recognition that lies at the heart of flower essence therapy.
The culture of my childhood was not able to nourish the special kinship that I felt with the plant world, the delight I found with the flowers and the awakenings I experienced in their presence. Today our world is still dominated by a mechanistic view that does not recognize our intrinsic connection to all of nature. This 300 year old epistemology understands intelligence as residing only in humans. In this framework nature functions as a vast machine. Through objective study of the natural world, humans can gain dominion over all of creation.
This view is being challenged today
as archaic and erroneous. However, it is so embedded in our linguistic
and social structures that it exerts a powerful, often unconscious influence
on what we value, consider normal, what we manifest, and how we understand
ourselves. Within its parameters, a medical system focused on eradicating
disease and human suffering at the expense of living systems appears
to be common sense, indeed, to be our only
English physician, Edward Bach, in the 1930s, developed the most common
method of flower essence preparation. Fresh blossoms are floated in a
glass bowl filled with spring water and exposed to direct sunlight for
a few hours. Once the water is infused, the blossoms are removed and the
infusion is added to an equal volume of brandy. Only two drops of this
mother tincture are required to make a brandy-filled stock bottle. For
the dosage bottle, two drops from the stock bottles of each desired essence
are added to a one ounce bottle filled with water and a small amount of
brandy. A conventional dose of four drops four times per day means this
bottle will last approximately one month (Barnard and Barnard, 1988).
As can be seen, flower essences are not physical substances; what has
been "harvested" is a vibrational imprint, and a small amount
of flowers yields hundreds of dosage bottles.
Considering the choices for preserving agents as well as the nonphysical
nature of the essences, it is understandable that Patricia Kaminski
Richard Katz (1994), who have for over two decades compiled many hundreds
of case studies from their own work and that of others, could write: "In
general, flower essences are among the safest, most self-regulating
health remedies available" (p.95). They explain that since a remedy's
healing potential is unlocked only when there is a resonant response,
remedy will have no effect. Also, the action of an essence is neither
to mask nor suppress symptoms, as is the case with a biochemical substance,
which triggers changes in brain chemistry. Rather, essences, with their
capacity to entrain our energetic patterns, serve as awakeners, promoting
awareness and unlocking possibility, allowing the user to determine appropriate
In my practice, some clients have been able to discontinue
At some point during her sophomore year of high school, my daughter Dayna
found that she was barely able to drag herself through the routine of
her day. She knew that she needed to find a way to reinfuse her life with
meaning and inspiration. When she continued to spiral down to a loss of
all motivation and even a loss of the ability to believe that life could
be different, she knew that she needed help, and she asked for flower
essences. I combined California Wild Rose and Iris along with a few other
essences based on the way in which she was suffering. Within two weeks
I noticed that she had copied passages from two poems and pasted them
on her wall. Lines from Robert Frost's "The Road Less Traveled"
appeared next to Emily Dickinson's, "If I can stop one heart from
breaking / I shall not live in vain. / If I can ease one life aching or
cool one pain, / or help one fainting robin / unto his nest again, / I
shall not live in vain." Another week found her successfully working
through high school red tape to obtain credit for self-designed projects.
Before long, Dayna was leading middle school students in drama and writing
groups that became forums for the participants to nourish relationships,
personal growth, and self esteem.
Imagine the process had she been given antidepressants. These drugs do
not heal, rather they mask the very symptoms that can guide the way to
healing. When emotional and mental suffering is merely ameliorated, this
can assist someone to carry on with his daily routine and job; he is able
to better fit in with society. While there certainly are circumstances
in which this type of medication is an act of compassion, in Dayna's case
My daughter's flower essence experience along with many others present a challenge to the conventional way of viewing sickness and health. Embedded in our medical system is the idea that pain, diseases, and disasters arise from outside ourselves and randomly inflict themselves upon us. Therefore we must be vigilant so as to eradicate them much like an invading enemy. Through the experience of flower essence use, because of the healing processes that are set in motion, people begin to achieve a whole new orientation, based on the connection of the inner world to the outer. They begin to recognize a coherence, order, and purpose operating in their lives and come to understand life events, including pain and illness, as paths to growth and awakening.
The synchronistic occurrences that appear in many case stories of
The new orientation, affecting our view of the unfolding of life events,
clearly comes to life in people who take flower essences for assistance
in coping with physical illness. They find that their relationship to
the illness begins to change; soon it becomes a coherent and meaningful
aspect of their lives, a messenger guiding the way to deeper healing and
self recovery. In my experience, certain general themes have repeated
in various forms. For example, women with breast cancer confront the impoverishment
of some level of their childhood and recognize its influence on their
ability to trust that the world can support and nourish them. Another
pattern appears for people with allergies and/or autoimmune responses.
They often uncover a history of emotional or physical violation, and as
they learn to attune to their inner guidance they begin to empower themselves
When we are able to attune to a flower, we can understand why flower
remedies intrinsically hold the power to heal our relationships with our
bodies and with the whole of the natural world. Flowers captivate all
of our senses, helping us to joyfully inhabit our bodies, celebrating
our connection to physical life. The sensual becomes a portal to the extra-sensory
dimensions of emotion, the imagination, inspiration, even spiritual awakening.
The arresting beauty of flowers evokes metaphor and story, much like the
language embedded in our bodies. Flowers communicate through the language
of color, shape, texture, fragrance, movement.... As with the messages
of the body, metaphor provides a bridge for unfolding meaning, helping
us to understand the relationship between the gesture of the plant and
the healing qualities it offers.
A flower essence transmits to the user a vibrational pattern characteristic
of a particular flower species. Like a holographic segment, this pattern
contains the gesture and adaptive strategy, the archetypal blueprint,
of that species of plant. At the same time, the pattern holds the essential
qualities of all flowers and the wisdom of all flowering plants. When
we follow a path of flower essence use, we partake of the intelligence
of Nature, the way of harmony, balance, and interconnection.
True healing, rather than eliminating the undesirable, is an embrace
of what we have cast off, a movement towards wholeness. It is accompanied
by an expansion of consciousness, as disowned aspects are welcomed into
awareness. Through our separation from and subjugation of the natural
world we have
Buhner, S.H. (2002) The Lost Language of Plants. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.
Kaminski, P. (1998) Flowers That Heal. Dublin, Ireland: New Leaf.
Kaminski, P. and Katz, R. (1994) Flower Essence Repertory. Nevada City, CA: Earth-Spirit, Inc.
Shah, A. and Shah R. (1998) Himalayan Aditi flower essences presentation.
Julia Brayshaw lives in Olympia,
Washington where she maintains a private pratice in psychotherapy. She
is a licensed mental health counselor as well as a Flower Essence Society
certified practitioner. She is presently engaged in the writing for a
project called "A Medicine of Place", which is a collaboration
of written word and visual art highlighting some of the Pacific Northwest
flora that grace her home region. She is a member of both the ESM Practitioner
Network and FES Practitioner Network. Julia can be reached at 360.956.9285
or contact her by email, email@example.com.
P.O. Box 459, Nevada City, CA 95959
800-736-9222 (US & Canada)
tel: 530-265-9163 fax: 530-265-0584
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