By Melissa Nazareth
Home to the ancient science of Pushpa Ayurveda, India is no stranger to the gentle yet deeply effective benefits of flower remedies and its power in healing. Recent years, however, have witnessed a strong revival of the complementary therapy owing to a host of reasons, says Melissa Nazareth
Ruth Simpson from Brisbane, Australia, was only eight years old when she was sexually abused by her father’s friend. “I harboured mixed feelings about this strange experience and didn’t even know it was wrong until I was older. I was confused about my sexuality. There was a constant conflict with everything I did in life. I would enthusiastically start something only to find my energy fizzled out, and then quit and start something else.”
Feeling constantly overwhelmed and conflicted, Ruth met Aditi Surti, a certified Bach Flower practitioner from the Bach Centre in the UK, and an entrepreneur living in Mumbai. “I took Bach Flower Remedies for a month and after a three- months break did another round for a month. Today, I am a Sous Chef at a leading Brisbane restaurant. After changing eight jobs in four years, I’ve stuck to this job for 15 months, and finally feel more focused and peaceful,” she affirms.
Says Swati Mehra, a Surat based independent Bach practitioner and a beneficiary of flower remedies, “My husband was exhausted after a dance practice for our nephew’s wedding but a few drops of Oak, Olive and Hornbeam later, he felt energetic. I administered three pills of Mimulus to my son who was stressed out during his exams and it instantly calmed his fears. Once, when my triggers were pushed one after the other while eating out, it gave me an upset stomach, I took a dose of Cherry Plum and White Chestnut, and felt better.”
Pooja Rajpal Kasala from Qatar, yet another witness to flower power, chanced upon Bach Flower Remedies while on a backpacking trip to France. “I was stressed about walking many kilometers on a daily basis and Rescue Remedy calmed my mind. I felt a lot more in control and even managed to keep pace with other more experienced trekkers. I’ve been using Bach Flower Remedies intermittently ever since. Red Chestnut when I feel deeply worried about my loved ones, especially my mum, who stays away from me and Aspen to curb my anxiety-driven panic attacks.”
Back to the basics
What exactly are these flower remedies which work so subtly yet powerfully? While evidence suggests flower essences were used long ago in ancient Egypt, Sumeria, aboriginal Australia and, of course, India, Dr Edward Bach (pronounced ‘batch’), the modern day father of flower essences, discovered them between 1930 and 1936. After years of intense experimentation with over 1000 flowers, the English surgeon, bacteriologist and pathologist shortlisted 38 remedies (37 flowers and rock water, i.e., water from streams not exposed to man-made environmental conditions) which could heal body-mind-spirit disharmony when used individually or in combinations. He correlated these 38 remedies to seven emotional states which he discovered while tending to war-returned soldiers. These emotions were - fear, uncertainty, insufficient interest in current situations, over-sensitiveness towards self or surroundings, hopelessness or depression (melancholy), despondency and despair, and over-concern for others. Dr Bach believed that conventional medicine focussed on the disease rather than the patient who is a more holistic entity, a sum total of his physical, mental, spiritual and emotional faculties. That is why healing must also have a comprehensive approach in order for it to work.
Bach Flower remedies are prepared using two methods: Sun method and Boiling method. In the Sun method, flowers picked in full sunshine are immersed in a bowl of water, while in the Boiling method the flowers are boiled in water. The heat of the sun and of the boiling water transfers the flowers’ self-healing energy into the water after which the flowers are removed and alcohol, usually brandy, added for preservation. The end product is called the mother tincture. Though conventionally, flower essences are administered in liquid form, either orally or by rubbing on the wrists, some therapists prescribe other methods and forms too such as pills, sprays, gels, and creams.
Unlike ayurveda which harnesses plants’ chemical properties, flower remedies tap plant energy. When in their natural habitat, plants exhibit unique traits, characteristics, and survival instincts. These natural responses, in other words, energy or vibrations, when administered to the human body through flower remedies help restore the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Dr Rupa Shah, who runs her clinic with her husband in Mumbai, says, “Certain Morning Glory flowers are in full bloom during the day but fade away as the sun goes down. Their essence is given to those who have trouble waking up in the morning. Palm trees have the innate ability to grow tall and when its essence is taken by youngsters, preferably in the age group of 11 to 16 years, it helps in height gain. If someone suffers a sun-stroke, we administer remedies made from sun-loving flowers. We’ve even healed patients with menstrual problems by prescribing remedies made from moon-loving flowers as menstrual cycles work in sync with moon cycles.”
Dr Bach formulated 293 million combinations from the 38 natural remedies he discovered. “Today that figure stands at 700 million,” says Mumbai-based Sharmee Divan, a Bach Foundation Registered Practitioner (BFRP). Sharmee and her partner, Aarti Ranadive, also a BFRP, are all-India coordinators of Bach Centre UK accredited courses. It all began when Sharmee’s interest in the subject led her to contact the Centre. “I couldn’t leave India for personal reasons and wondered if there was a way to get the Centre’s expertise here.” Luckily for Sharmee, the centre agreed to send a teacher to India and since February 2014 Sharmee and Aarti have been successfully running Bach International Education Programme (BIEP), acknowledged by the Bach Centre UK, across the country. “We teach all the three levels needed to become a BFRP,” says Sharmee who believes that the Bach Centre, UK, has significantly contributed to the resurgence of Bach Flower Remedies in India by educating the masses. The Centre follows Dr Bach’s verified and original methodology and philosophy which focuses on keeping things simple and accessible to all.
Sharmee introduced Bach Flower Therapy to Antara Iyer in 2014. “I was getting married, and was naturally overwhelmed and quite stressed,” says Antara. “I took a remedy which addressed my then current state of mind, and gave me a quick solution. I continued taking Bach remedies to help myself adjust in my marriage and new home. My interest in the subject spurred me on to learn more about Bach remedies and I am currently training to become a BFRP.”
Aditi attributes the comeback to a greater awareness of the remedies being gentle and deeply effective, people being more open to experimenting with alternative methods of healing, and beneficiaries being willing to share their experiences with others. Speaking of recent developments in the field, she says there have been variations in the usage of Bach Flower remedies. “There is Bach Flower body mapping, Bach Flower usage with acupressure or energy meridian points, Bach Flower usage on body chakras and aura, and more.” She points out that these are not the findings of Dr Bach but of many therapists who have taken this amazing energy medicine to a different level by conducting their own experiments like Dr Bach himself did. “Many people in India are not aware of these yet but I practice using Bach Flower on body maps with great results.”
Fiona Brown from Los Angeles, USA, was introduced to Bach remedies by Aditi. “I had suffered from bouts of depression for four to five years and after having my baby it had gotten even worse,” she says. “It was a difficult pregnancy during which my gynecologist suggested I go to a psychiatrist. I shuddered at the thought of taking medicines during the pregnancy. Later, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I also had pregnancy diabetes. Moreover, I was having relationship issues with my husband. Then I discovered Bach Flowers and did a couple of video sessions with Aditi, online. After taking the remedies for almost two months, the daily emotional drama began to disappear. I started enjoying little things like gardening and taking my son to the park. I even started having moments of happiness with no reason and was cheerful. My weight issues and diabetes continued post pregnancy but now, a year later I am 20 pounds lighter and my diabetes is manageable with food alone, plus I am off the medicines.”
Today, so many countries including Australia, Canada, North Africa, South America and India are tapping local flowers for their healing essences. Aditi often uses Australian Bush Flower essences for some physical problems and confirms that they work just as well as Bach Flower remedies.
Dr Rupa Shah, along with her husband Dr Atul Shah, also sources local flowers for their practice. With over four decades of experience in conventional and alternative medicine, they have a range of 50 indigenous remedies made from Himalayan flowers under their brand Aum Himalaya Sanjeevini Essences. In fact, Dr Rupa tells us that the Impatiens flower which Dr Bach discovered has its origins in India too. Another example is of the Ashoka flower which has been so named because of its ability to render one ‘without sorrow’. Says Dr Atul, “We harness the healing and living energy of flowers.” Highlighting the fact that they don’t cut the flowers, he adds, “Flowers that are not cut have a different energy from flowers that are cut as do other parts of a plant including the stem, bud, leaf, root and tree bark, which we use too.”
Mumbai based Dr Ravindra Kapadia, a radionics expert, has included Bach in the range of alternative therapies he practices. “Flower Remedies have come back in a big way,” he says, adding that with the increase in stress levels there has been a rise in psychosomatic problems for which flower essences are truly helpful.” Dr Kapadia has treated asthma, stress, anger, skin problems, and diabetes among other ailments with positive results. In addition, he teaches Bach Flower remedies to spread awareness.
Flower essences yield results in anything from seconds to months. Sometimes problems may recur and one may have to re-administer the remedies. It’s worth mentioning that none of the therapists and practitioners we spoke to disregarded the role of conventional medicine in healing. There are also cases where the healing process may involve some discomfort like pain, fever, an itch rash, foul smelling perspiration or urine. These are signs of what homeopathy calls healing aggravation/crisis but they subside eventually. Though there are arguments surrounding flower remedies today, placebo effect being the most common, the growing number of success stories says otherwise. “My partner Aarti works with animals and I with women,” says Sharmee, adding that many a time they’ve seen that children and animals respond better to Bach Flower than adults. Further rubbishing the placebo argument is Dr Atul who shares a case where they healed a race horse with an ankle injury. In fact, flower remedies can be administered to plants as well!
The last decade has witnessed a steady rise in the number of flower remedies all over the world, in addition to burgeoning literature and an overall awareness of the practice; a proof that flower essences are here to stay. So go ahead and try it, since you have nothing to lose!
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