Editor's note: the following article published in the Italian veterinary journal "Atti Corso Introducttivo alla Medicina Non Convenzionale Veterinaria," has been edited and slightly abbreviated from the original version. It was translated into English from Italian. The article was written by Dr. Laura Cutullo, professional veterinarian and specialist in homeopathic remedies and Bach flower essences.
Images in the body of the text are by Laura Cutullo.
Abstract: Thanks to its effectiveness in combining with conventional medical therapies in the presence of behavior disorders, in recovering and maintaining a healthy condition, flower therapy presents a large range of utilization for both pets and livestock.
For pets, it acts gently and effectively in relieving them from many illnesses and behavior disorders affecting their personalities and making living together difficult.
In cattle breeding, flower therapy can greatly improve the animal’s well-being, reducing stress and improving physical condition to the benefit of productivity. Furthermore, not leaving toxic or harmful residues, flower remedies fall within the pharmacopoeia to be applied to organic breeding.
In this article we will analyze the basic principles, the applicability, the method and practical tips for administration.
Between 1930 and 1936, a new method of therapy was developed in the United Kingdom due to the genial intuition of Edward Bach, a doctor who discovered in some flowers and plants the power to soothe the stirs of the soul. It was a revolutionary method, completely different from phytotherapy, closer to homeopathy, but with peculiar features. Dr. Bach decided to name it Flower Therapy.
Starting from the careful observation of the emotional dysfunctions of his suffering patients, Edward Bach persuaded himself that illness is the materialization of deep inner lacerations, arising out of negative feelings making their way within the individual to such an extent as to result in severe physical symptoms.
Part of this thought was introduced into "official medicine" more than 20 years after Bach’s intuition, when the WHO (World Health Organization) started promoting the idea that health is not only the absence of illness, rather it is a state of physical, mental, emotional and social well-being of the individual.1 As if to say: if people live better and peacefully, their bodies are also better.
Bach’s theory represents the cornerstone of preventive medicine, industrial medicine, social medicine and bioethics. Changes in these fields resulted from the powerful social struggles carried out in the western world since the 1900s, such as the drainage of marshy areas; the creation of sewers and waterworks; the treatment and control of foodstuffs; meat and milk production on an industrial scale; and veterinary police regulation and even veterinary medicine.
This concept of health as well-being touching many areas (psychological, physical and environmental), which seems today almost trivial, was at first recognized within the medical-scientific entourage only half-heartedly; and then with an increasingly firm belief. This statement has had the merit of taking away from illness its peculiarity, considering as a starting point the whole individual condition.2
Today psycho-neuro-immunology claims the existence of an extremely close relationship among brain, immune system and endocrine system. This study attempts to show the extent of that relationship in determining the state of health, not only as reaction to illness, but as a cause of illness itself.
In veterinary medicine, we are facing the same conceptual focus since attention is increasingly addressed to the importance of animal well-being, considered both from psychological and environmental points of view. In other words, the animal well-being is regarded as a primary factor in health maintenance, in production increase and therefore in the increased economic productiveness of livestock, insomuch as it has become an object of regulation from the European Union.
Flower Therapy deals with the very psychological and emotional well-being as the cornerstone for reaching or maintaining physical health. This was already stated by Dr. Bach, even though in a more poetic manner, deeply imbued with his faith.
According to Flower Therapy, a patient’s psychological state is not only decisive for their health, but is responsible for it. Therefore, getting rid of the illness is the consequence of having gotten rid of one’s own negative feelings, no matter if these are fear, inferiority complex, sense of guilt, etc. As long as the individual is not able to face these mood concerns to treat them, restoring emotional harmony, the illness will keep sending signals, framing the body.
On the contrary, the existence of harmony among body, spirit, and soul makes possible relief and recovery, particularly if the individual is able to prevent the symptoms of the disease by not acting on negative feelings.
It is crucial not to mistake Flower Therapy with psychotherapy, since the Bach method, though using the interview as in psychotherapy, considers the flowers its very tool. This "tool kit" includes 37 flowers and rock water (pure spring water), in addition to a combination of five flowers forming an emergency remedy, i.e., the Rescue Remedy (this is the name created by Dr. Bach, now a registered trademark of Bach Center). Each of them presents a specific and precise range, creating a balance to restore an altered emotional state of mind, by developing the opposite positive emotion.
These are the very flowers that we may use in veterinary medicine to help our “patients.” Dr. Bach identified precise negative emotions able to distress the individual and open the doors to disease. For each single emotion, he found the appropriate Flower Remedies; each of them works in specific patterns and covers various emotional nuances:
- For fear: Rock Rose, Mimulus, Cherry Plum, Aspen, Red Chestnut
- For uncertainty: Cerato, Scleranthus, Gentian, Gorse, Hornbeam, Wild Oat
- For insufficient interest in present circumstances: Clematis, Honeysuckle, Wild Rose, Olive, White Chestnut, Mustard, Chestnut Bud
- For loneliness: Water Violet, Impatiens, Heather
- For those over-sensitive to influences and ideas: Agrimony, Centaury, Walnut, Holly
- For despondency or despair: Larch, Pine, Elm, Sweet Chestnut, Star of Bethlehem, Willow, Oak, Crab Apple
- For over care for welfare of others: Chicory, Vervain, Vine, Beech, Rock Water
- Rescue Remedy/Five-Flower Formula
Though developed for soothing human pains, Flower Therapy has also given very goods results when used to treat animals, which Dr. Bach also treated, personally verifying how Flower Remedies worked on them.
This action is also effective in veterinary medicine, since we are talking of “vibrational” medicine: flowers are carriers of specific energetic information able to re-tune those vibrations within the organism which seem to be confused or disharmonic, rebalancing the whole individual and encouraging the self-healing processes. As far as vibrational medicine is concerned, it may be useful to refer to inquiry methods of systemics and in particular to the Black Box method which is a topic we are not going to explore in this article.
As the study on Flower Remedies has gone forward for decades, other groups of essences have been added to those first 38 Remedies: the Californian, Italian and Australian Flowers, some of them still under testing, but all based on principles and methods developed by Dr. Bach.
The California Flowers, also known as the North American Essences, the "FES Quintessentials," are composed of 103 essences, each of them with its own specific range.
The main difference between the FES flowers and Bach flower remedies is the presence in FES of the polarity concept. In FES Flower Therapy the focus is always on virtues rather than vices, (as it occurs in the Bach system). Within the same individual can be present a given positive aspect, or its lack, or its surplus. The utilization of an essence relative to that virtue acts by developing the ability to downsize the surplus or increase the lack of that same virtue.
This is not the proper place to examine the 38 Bach flower remedies, let alone the over 100 FES Quintessentials flowers; you may refer to specific publications for more information.
What we need to clarify is the method and its applicability in veterinary medicine.
What is it?
From a practical perspective, Flower Therapy is the oral and/or percutaneous administration of “essences” obtained from flowers using a particular method (either sunshine or boiling method). Each of them provides either a calming or an enhancing, according to the specific needs, particular emotional state; they help the “emission” of the positive emotions, or the “opposite virtues.”4
Bach began studying his patients’ souls based on the method taught by Hahnemann, the famous homeopathy scholar, but went beyond the homeopathic concept of "similar treating similar." In Bach’s opinion, it is true that hate can be overcome by a bigger hate; but it can only be cured by love. A fear can be defeated and forgotten by a bigger fear, but the real treatment of any fear is perfect courage.5
Why use it?
Leaving apart any personal considerations, either ethical or philosophical, there are pragmatic reasons why veterinary medicine adopts flower remedies, either for pets, for which flower remedies have proven to be very effective, and also for livestock.
In fact, Flower Therapy is:
- simple: its simplicity, which does not mean shallowness, is more apparent than substantial. We could compare this therapy to an iceberg, of which at first we can only see a slight portion; nevertheless, to be able to use it with quite good results, the initial commitment in terms of study and effort is quite modest, which is an aspect not to be undervalued considering the number of undertakings any professional must face on a daily basis.
- easily administered: to give Flower Remedies is very simple, since they are almost tasteless, they can be taken along with any food, in the drinking water, or directly in the mouth. In addition, the dosage is standard for almost all animal species, regardless of size, age, or states of health;
- usable in combination with allopathic therapies: Flower Remedies do not oppose traditional drugs, since their action impacts on a different plane. This allows the veterinarian to not necessarily make drastic therapeutic choices (Flower Remedies vs. drugs); rather, they combine very well with traditional treatments since they help the animals to better overcome stress situations and to be an active part in the healing process.
- without side effects: there are no side effects or adverse side effects; if the choice of flower remedies proves to be wrong, the only effect is that no results can be obtained;
- inexpensive: the investment, either in the course of study or in its practical application, is modest; the out-of pocket cost of each bottle of the final remedy is very low, thus allowing the doctor to have a fairly good profit without forcing the client to high expense.
The veterinarian who also wants to be a Flower Therapist must face his/her patients with the best practice, great attention and a precise mind.
The first consideration to be made, with an animal which has physical symptoms as well as behavioral problems, is to evaluate if they have physical damage (such as a wound)—which is outside pathogenic onsets, or if they have a real disease. Is the disease an inner deep disorder resulting in external (material) damage? This determination is done to understand what to do, or even more, to determine if the intervention is necessary to only “readjust” the physical body seized with a mishap, or if a deeper help is needed, i.e., on the underlying disturbance resulting in disease.
The second consideration to be made, even more importantly, is to understand the direction taken, from the holistic perspective, by a pathologic process.
The material evolution of a pathogenic type has always a centripetal direction: it deepens into the body from outside to inside, from the most peripheral parts down to the vital organs.
The body, for defensive reasons, tries to leave disease in the most external parts, those mainly “expendable,” by acting in a centrifugal direction.
Therefore, the most external symptoms, such as those affecting skin as well as the so-called “discharges,” (such as wet feces), even though more visible and often more “suffered” by the animal’s owners, must be considered as the least important trouble by which the body expresses its pain.
If we try to visualize this concept by means of a cone, representing the individual’s hierarchy as a whole, we see that the highest portion is the Self, of the deepest, either conscious and unconscious being, including mind and thinking. The second layer of the cone is the ability of doing, that is, to put into practice what lies in the ideas; the realization of the will. The third layer constitutes the cardiovascular system (including blood, lymph and intra- and extra-cellular fluids), the fluid portion of the body. Then we have the internal organs and finally the lowest layer, the external organs.6
The cone represents schematically the individual as a whole;
the arrows indicate the direction of the vital strength action as well as the direction where the healing process should occur.
If we consider the disease not as a single pathology but as a totality of symptoms arising over time, it is clear that, due to the relationship among the various layers, the evidence of the primary disorder, at the top of the cone level, will occur in the lowest level. In other words, the body will send a signal, but trying at the same time to give up its wholeness as little as possible.
On the other hand, if due to either suppressive therapies or a worsening of the disease, the vital strength weakens, the symptoms will be more serious; in other words, they will be evident in the highest layers, to finally become inconsistent with the life itself.
This schematization is certainly a bit rigid, but allows us to consider the improving as well as the worsening of the patient’s situation from a holistic perspective, without merely focusing on a single pathologic event, which can even seem to be solved.
As an example, the animal may not be suffering from pyoderma anymore, but this does not necessarily imply that he has “recovered.” If afterwards breathing, hepatic or kidney symptoms occur, even if mildly, this means that the animal’s health has worsened, from the holistic point of view.
The treatments addressed only to organic levels can result in a superficial injury recovery, but the healing process is still distant, since the disease’s causes remain and can again occur, even more seriously.
“The doctor must know what it is damaging the health and remove it. If the root of an old tooth is causing persistent headache, this is a cause to be removed. Prescribing drugs when a sliver irritates a nerve, would be nonsense, a kind of severe negligence. It is necessary to aim to the differentiation removing externals causes and re-arranging external causes.”7
Bach does not exclude the recourse to physical or chemical remedies which may prove to be not only useful but also essential to obtain the body healing or even its survival.
Bach, on the other hand, firmly indicates the primary need of the “treatment of the mental and emotional state, which is crucial for reaching the real healing.”
In Bach’s opinion, the disease is not only a functioning defect of the body; according to his principles, the illness, as known to us, is the total result of a conflict between our spiritual Self and our passing Self. As long as both aspects are in agreement, we are in a very good health.
Diagram of the cone upside down
In the healing process, the centrifugal direction must be followed: the therapeutic action must begin from the inside and then get to the outside, from center to periphery, from the top to the bottom, from inside to outside, from main organs to less important ones.
If Flower Therapy provides good results, we will see a movement of the symptoms in the following direction: as long as the emotional and mental aspects improve, the first to give signals of re-balance (center), and there will be also a movement of physical symptoms towards the periphery.
But what is the link between the various layers of the cone? What brings wholeness to the physical and astral bodies?
Kent, one of the fathers of homeopathy who, along with Hahnemann, had a great influence on Bach’s thought, (Bach, it is worth mentioning, was a great homeopath before discovering Flower Remedies), affirms that everything is permeated with a spiritual influence, an active substance permeating any material body, having a unique origin and without which no life is possible. It is invisible and substantial since it interacts with the material; it is intelligent, in the way that has a purpose; and it is coordinating, since it connects single entities determining their co-operation. The vital strength of the body, without which there is no protection from outside attacks,8
comes directly from this spiritual influence.
It is within us as well as in animals and plants, it permeates each tissue, each cell. The natural flow of this “simple element” can be altered: in this case, there is also a change in the vital strength, which is immaterial and not measurable.
Therefore, this variation results in the predisposition to develop the disease. Edward Bach, who was supported by a deep religiousness, located this simple substance in the Soul.9
In order to reach this strength, we must use elements similar in their quality, power, action, and range. In other words, elements where the “energy” component and the vibrational power have been extrapolated. The homeopathic remedies have this feature, being composed of matter undergoing a dilution process, called dynamistic.
Flower Remedies also have this feature: the vibrational energy is caught by adopting a simple method, that is using the sun or fire energy and a pure source of water.
Preparation of the remedies: Sunshine Method and Boiling Method
Bach utilized only wild flowers, growing in the countryside as well as portions of trees such as oak, willow, elm, olive, and chestnut. Only one remedy does not belong to vegetable world, that is Rock Water.
The preparation of remedies includes three stages: the first preparation or mother tincture; the second preparation or stock bottle and the third preparation or treatment bottle.
The flowers are picked at specific flowering times, so that they enclose the energetic principles at their highest level. They are put on the surface of pure spring water in a glass bowl.
The bowl is then left in the sunshine for few hours or until the petals begin to fade.
At this stage, the flowers can be lifted out and the water is poured in bottles with the same amount of brandy, in order to preserve the remedy. This is the first preparation or mother tincture.
In Sri Lanka and in India, this is the traditional method – excluding brandy – to prepare from some types of flowers healing drinks acting at various levels. In my opinion, Dr. Bach, considering also the close relationship between the United Kingdom and those countries, became acquainted with this method and his studies began exactly from this.
Some remedies cannot be prepared using the sunshine method and therefore the boiling method is utilized: the tree’s portions to be utilized are boiled for 30 minutes in spring water. Then, the fluid is strained off and poured in bottles and the same amount of brandy is added.
Each remedy undergoes a dilution process... . This is the second preparation or stock essence.
Which remedies can be used with animals?
The utilization of Flowers Remedies is possible either with pets or livestock, regardless of species, age or physical state. The therapy should be carefully tailored for each individual, but when it comes to whole groups of animals (same stable, same farm, same battery, etc.) it is possible to consider the group as an individual and prescribe the treatment on the grounds of the peculiar features of each “collective oneness,” administering the same treatment to all animals.
Thanks to the quality of being custom made, Flower Therapy is a terrific solution for those animals we can understand individually, such as for horses, who respond very well to Flower Remedies due to their extreme sensitivity and, obviously, for pets, particularly those living in the cities.
In fact, the stress due to urban environments, along with the physical closeness to the owner, sharing often an extremely confined area, results inevitably in the reality typical of a herd composed of different species.
In such a context, the animal becomes in fact a “family member.” It fills within people an emotional space becoming increasingly bigger and not to be underestimated as far as its emotional extent10 is concerned.
Flower Therapy relies on interpretation of behavior, and even more, on objective observation, since the behaviors provide the best indication to establish the therapy and choose the most appropriate Flower Remedies to solve the problems.
Various psychological situations must be analyzed very carefully and with great experience, differentiating the real behavioral alterations, or better still the exaggerations of this behavior, from the standard ways of being of that individual within a specific species, breed, age, and life style. In other words, it is necessary to understand if we are facing ethological anomalies or not, either in frequency or intensity.
It is necessary to identify the disorder(s) causing pain in the animals by observing their specific behaviors, either when food habit or relationship with the owner are impacted.
What is observed must be recorded without prejudices, guilt-feelings or moral judgment towards owners or keepers. Only by observing the animals (and people living with them, when it comes to pets), without emotional involvement can we make a good diagnosis and therefore identify the best therapy.
The veterinarian flower therapist, besides having an excellent knowledge of Flower Remedies (as well as the animals he/she takes care of), should have a remarkable attention towards the human soul to try to understand the owners and their points of view.
When it comes to the causes of a given disorder, it is crucial to clarify the psychological context where the animal lives. It is important to listen to the animals’ owners or their keepers and try to establish with them a proper empathy to adequately evaluate the presented situations, giving advice on the most appropriate logistical solutions, case by case, and prescribing the most suitable Flower Remedies and the simplest administration method within the context examined.
Some people utilizing Flower Therapy affirm that it is based on use by people and too deep to be used on animals, since they are obviously lacking in the same skills as possessed by humans.
As stated and written on various occasions, I am convinced that the self-examination and re-processing of psychological issues playing an important role in Flower Therapy applied to humans, does not represent an obstacle to animal care. In fact, animals do not have masks and shells to hide from themselves or others what they really are. Animals are more straightforward and more instinctual compared to us. They do not need to find again their own souls, being themselves their “small souls.”11
Administration to caged animals (birds, hamsters, dwarf rabbits, etc.)
Flower Remedies can be added to the drinking trough or put in the water bottle. They should be added again with each water change.
The individual dosage is the same for puppies or adults, cats, dogs or horses (and even persons):4 drops, 3 or 4 times a day, directly in the mouth, in drinking water or along with food if necessary.
Careful attention should be paid if drops are put directly in the animal’s mouth. It may be necessary once given the drops, to rinse the dropper very well in cold water before putting it back in the bottle to eliminate any possible residue of saliva.
The drop amount is not imperative, if more drops than prescribed are given, the consumption of the remedy is quicker but its effectiveness does not increase.
If many animals drink in the same bowl, there are no drawbacks: the remedy is active only for who needs it, the others are not “sensitive.”
The Flower Remedies can be administered without fearing adverse side effects, because there aren’t any. Sometimes at the beginning of treatment a worsening of the situation may occur. This is due to the fact that the action carried out by the remedy may uncover a problem previously confined to the unconscious.
If, for instance, the cause of the animal’s disturbance dates back to a previous shock, following the first administration of Star of Bethlehem (Bach’s main remedy for trauma), the animal may “live again” emotionally that situation and then permanently remove it. In the first days of treatment, we may observe in our patient an increase of fear, sadness or excitement.
This stage, however, is not always evident, and is very short, and is followed by clear improvement where the animal gets back on an even keel.
If the choice of the Flower Remedy is wrong, then no adverse effect can be seen. The Flower Remedies restore the balance in an altered emotional state, they give a kind of boost so that the balance can be restored; they do not result in any artificial behavior.
Wild Rose for instance, can be used in the presence of a state of boredom and apathy, when the animal is absent-minded, sad and inactive or debilitated after a long illness. If used on an individual who does not need to re-balance his energy, no action will occur. On the contrary, if it is administered to an animal who really needs it, Wild Rose will inject strength and energy. It is worth mentioning that, in both cases, this remedy WILL NEVER TURN these patients into overexcited or hyperkinetic individuals.
It is possible to administer various remedies at the same time, for various symptoms. Generally speaking, up to six remedies can be given, but a certain flexibility is allowed.
The treatment can last a few days or some weeks, up to three to four months, for very old problems.
Dr. Laura Cutullo
Laura’s involvement in veterinary medicine began in 1991. After graduating in Veterinary Medicine at the State University of Milan, Italy, she began her studies in homeopathy attending a 4 year post-graduate course at the Classic Homeopathy School “Mario Garlasco” in Florence, Italy. During this same period of time, Laura developed a deep interest in Bach flower remedies which affected her future professional activity. She contributes to scientific as well as to more popular publications with a particular focus on holistic medicine and natural therapies, her major areas of interest. In 1997, Laura published the first Italian book of Bach Flower Remedies for pets, "Fiori di Bach per gli animali" (published by Xenia, Cod: ISBN 978-88-7273-240-3). In this book, for the first time, Flower Therapy was studied with special regard to its application to pets’ care, particularly dogs and cats. Together with Paul Pignattelli, MD, Laura has contributed to the book "Medicina veterinaria non convenzionale" (Unconventional veterinary medicine) (published in Italy by Edagricole) writing the chapter devoted to Flower Therapy. Since 2002, Laura has been one of the contributors to the magazine "Salute Naturale" (Natural Health). Teacher of Veterinary Flower Therapy at the 3-year School of Flower Therapy (UF and Riza) in Milan, Laura has also taught post-graduate courses. Since 1991, Laura has been carrying out her holistic veterinary practice in Milan, with particular attention to pets’ care. Visit her website: www.naturaliter.it.
1 Marcello Marino, Salute e malattia (Health and Disease), published in Italy by Franco Angeli, 2003
2 Marcello Marino, Salute e malattia (Health and Disease), published in Italy by Franco Angeli, 2003
3 E. Bach – The Twelve Healers and Other Remedies, 1933
4 E. Bach – Be Thyself – (Published in Italy by Macro Ed. 1995)
6 L. Cutullo, Lezioni di Floriterapia (Flower Therapy Lessons), 2002-2007
7 J.T. Kent – Homeopathy Lessons, by Mario Garlasco EDIUM, 1978
8 J.T. Kent Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy, 1881-1913
9 Edward Bach - Heal Thyself in Heal with the Flowers Ipsa, Italian Edition, 1981
10 L. Cutullo – Fiori di Bach per gli animali (Bach Flower Remedies for Animals)- 1997, published by Xenia
11 L. Cutullo – Fiori di Bach per gli animali (Bach Flower Remedies for Animals)- 1997, published by Xenia