If cold, put on a cardigan and, if hungry, have something to eat; if you wake up one day lacking in confidence take some drops of Larch.
There are 38 flower essences, developed by Edward Bach. Each one contains the essence of a flower, and corresponds to a particular emotional state. These essences can be used either in isolation, or combined, to make a remedy to treat emotional or physical ailments in people and animals.
I’m no expert, but flower remedies feel a bit like magical potions to me. I make them for myself and for those close to me, like emotional salves to help us through difficult times, intuitively choosing which flowers to include. A lot of people are familiar with “rescue remedy” – the first aid of flower remedies – which is a ready made blend of 5 flower essences, but you can also make unique remedies to help you through specific circumstances. I’ve heard the flower essences described as “emotional tuning forks”, as they work on an energetic level, and help you return to centre when life has thrown you off balance, working on homeopathic principles.
The creation of flower essences involves a balance of the four elements, as earth and air nurture the plant to the point of maturity when it’s ready to be picked, fire (in the form of sunlight) extracts the essence of the flower, and water carries and holds that essence.
This water is then combined with brandy to act as a preservative and there you have your flower essence. I’ll be honest, I use ready made flower essences, and the detailed method for making your own would be a whole other post, but the information is readily available online!
One of my favourite books on the topic is Bach Flower Therapy – Theory and Practice by Mechthild Scheffer. It’s a good starter reference book on flower essences, with sections on their history, advice on making remedies for others, and an encyclopedia of the flowers with suggestions for when they may be useful. The best part of this book for me is the additional lists of supporting actions you can perform alongside taking each essence, to strengthen its effect.
I thought I would share one of the remedies I’ve made, to illustrate the way I choose which flower essences to include.
Heartbreak remedy to heal a loss of love, friendship and community (!)
- Holly (for hatred, envy and jealousy)
- Honeysuckle (for living in the past)
- Impatiens (for impatience)
- White Chestnut (for unwanted thoughts).
I made this remedy for myself in 2010, when I was going through a brutal time, after a recent ex girfriend of mine and a close friend got together. I suddenly found myself bereft, unable to access the supportive queer feminist community we were all part of because I couldn’t face running into them. It was a real dark ten of swords time for me, where I couldn’t see a way forward after this double loss of my relationships with these two women, exacerbated by me being painfully aware of how joyously happy they were with each other. Winter turned into spring and into summer and still I wasn’t feeling any better, so on the 17th August I made myself this remedy. And it helped. Not immediately, but gradually, I started to feel better.
Here’s why I chose each of the essences:
I did feel hateful. And envious. And jealous. I couldn’t bear that these two women, who I had previously been so close were able to find such happiness at my expense. I literally couldn’t cope, and I felt wretched and resentful. I hated myself for feeling like that. But I couldn’t shake it. It dragged on and on an on.
I was living in the past. I couldn’t get over the relationships I’d had and then lost, and the way it had happened. It seemed so unfair, and I kept getting stuck on this point, the injustice of it all. This preoccupation with the past not only stopped me from moving on, but made it impossible for me to even imagine a future without this emotional pain, where I could again have the kind of love and community that I had lost. This in turn made my hurt greater, as I couldn’t see a point when things would be better, and it just felt relentless.
I wanted to feel better, straight away. This was unbearable. I wanted it to be fixed, now. But there was no quick fix. I knew I needed to sit with my feelings, consider the perspectives of others in the situation, allow time to pass and imagine a different future for myself, and for that to happen I had to stop being so impatient.
I was plagued by unwanted thoughts of the two of them together, made worse by hearing things from mutual friends, or seeing them interacting on social media, or being warned that they had also been invited to events I was invited to. My imagination was in overdrive, imagining that these two must be blissfully happy all the time, which made me especially indignant that I was so unhappy. I imagined that all the things that my girlfriend has complained about with me were suddenly miraculous fixed now she was seeing my ex friend, that their relationship was perfect and that they were compatible in all the ways that I wasn’t. It was exhausting, and I couldn’t turn these thoughts off.
I made up this remedy, combining the essences in a 30ml bottle, and I took a few drops whenever I felt these feelings weighing heavy on my heart. The desire to neck the whole thing and be cured was strong, but in my experience that’s not how it works. Little and often, slow and steady, gradually I got better.
I didn’t have the book at the time, but if I had have looked up the supporting actions I would have found the following, which now seems dryly funny as an answer:
Supporting measures for the holly remedy: fall in love.
I’m sure falling in love would have helped me move on from this a lot faster. But, in many ways, it felt impossibly unimaginable at the time, and falling in love again didn’t come until much later, when I’d done my healing. And I still believe the making and taking of this flower remedy played its part in that process.
Recommended reading: Bach Flower Therapy – Theory and Practice by Mechthild Scheffer,
Botantical drawings of plants are used under the Creative Commons License, photo by Emily.
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