Bach Flowers – Some history – 2. Plant names and remedy indications

In the first part of this blog we looked at the three plants Dr Bach published information on but which didn’t make it into the final system. This time we’ll look at the 8 remedies from the 1930 papers which did make it into the Twelve Healers, noting some changes in indications and plant names.

Talking about changing indications, I am mindful of Dr Bach wishing his notes to be destroyed to preserve the simplicity of the system.  In 2014, the Bach Centre republished the full version of Free Thyself with original remedy indications, with footnotes describing the final version of the remedy indications. This is now in the public domain, along with the Homoeopathic World papers.  As in the previous blog, I feel it is useful to see evidence of the process that Dr Bach went through in developing the final system and the information here is presented in this context.

As before, I mention two papers from Homoeopathic World, one in February 1930 and the other later in 1930, Free Thyself from 1932 (2014 edition) and the Twelve Healers (2011 version of definitive 1941 edition, first publication date 1933, ‘final system’ enlarged version, 1936).  Remedy names in 1930 were the first part of the plant’s Latin name (its genus).

Agrimonia eupatoria

Agrimony: In 1930, later paper, Agrimony’s first appearance, listed as Agrimonia epatoria, but after this Agrimonia eupatoria and this is the correct Latin name today.  I think epatoria was probably a typo.

Agrimonia, the inquisitor, is described in 1930 as a tormented soul, masking their troubles. They appear genial but hide their suffering within. The description has not changed and we would recognise this as someone needing agrimony today.

Cerato: Ceratostigma willmottiana used throughout – as noted in the 1941 edition of the Twelve Healers the correct species name is willmottianum.

When cerato first appears in 1930 it is described as for the fool. They seek to go forward but are unable to define right and wrong and bind themselves to stronger personalities.  They come under the influence of others and often miss opportunities.  The remedy encourages the strength and ability to keep the right path when realised. This seems pretty much what we would understand as a cerato person today and is nicely described in Free Thyself in 1932 – a cerato has inner wisdom but lacks confidence –  ‘it is only this lack of confidence in yourself, this ignorance of your own wisdom and knowledge, that tempts you to listen too intently to the advice of others’.  In a footnote to the 2014 edition of Free Thyself, the emphasis in Dr Bach’s final description on a cerato’s desire to actively ask for advice is noted.  In the 1941 edition of The Twelve Healers Dr Bach writes ‘They constantly seek advice from others, and are often misguided.’

Cichorium intybus

Chicory: Cichorium intybus, the correct Latin name, is used throughout.

In the late 1930 paper, cichorium is described as being for the egoist. Those who want to use others for their own purposes and constantly talk about themselves and their own interests. They obtain sympathy by talking about their maladies and can be spiteful if they don’t get their own way.

However, in Free Thyself, chicory is described similarly to how we would describe a centaury today – a person who wants to serve the world but instead ends up serving the few.  In the Twelve Healers, chicory is described as for those who are very mindful of the needs of others and who desire those who they care for to be near.  In the final version of the system, the idea of chicory being for the controller rather than the controlled is clear, as in the 1930 description.

Clematis: (Feb. 1930 Clematis vitalba; late 1930 Clematis erecta flora; after this date back to Clematis vitalba).  No mention of change of species in late 1930 paper.  Clematis erecta is a synonm of Clematis recta, ground clematis.  Clematis erecta flora is a homoeopathic remedy and this plant name may have been used in error in the late 1930 paper.

In the first paper in 1930, the person needing clematis has little desire for life and in some cases, wishes for death.  They are described as daydreamers.  Later that year, clematis flora is said to be for the ecstatic who makes ‘dreams their master’ and does little on the practical side.  They tend to get carried away with things, neglecting ordinary things.  In illness, they are indifferent and have no fear of death.  They have two phases – ecstasy concerning ideals and in illness, calm resignation.  The remedy brings them ‘down to earth’.

In Free Thyself, Dr Bach mentions the plant’s common name traveller’s joy, saying ‘that beautiful plant…whose feathery seeds are always longing to be blown away and start again, will help you so much to come back and face life and find your work, and bring you joy’. This emphasis is repeated in the  Twelve Healers – clematis is for the dreamer with the remedy bringing them back to the present.

Impatiens: (Impatiens roylei, late 1930; Impatiens royalei, Free Thyself 1932, Impatiens Royleii, 12 Healers; in 1941 edition, a footnote gives the correct name as Impatiens glandulifera).  Impatiens roylei is a synonm of Impatiens gladulifera, the other two names appear to be mis-spellings.  The plant is sometimes known as  Impatiens glandulifera Royle indicating it was named by botanist John Forbes Royle.  The synonmn Impatiens roylei references Royle in the species name.  This name came from Wilhelm Gerhard Walpers, a German botanist indicated by Walp. (so Impatiens roylei Walp.)

The emotional indications given in Feb. 1930 are depression and fears, while later that year Impatiens is described as The Enthusiast.  The remedy helps the person with acute mental suffering, with the intensity of suffering the important indicator.  They are trying to overcome something and suffer greatly when they fear failure.  The remedy brings peace and mental uplift.  In Free Thyself, several of the indications are associated with other remedies today, as noted in the footnotes: some cruelty and malice deep down (holly), a desire to force others to adopt your way of thinking (vine), impatience which sometimes leads to cruelty and traces of the inquisitor (suggested in footnote as holly or beech).  In the Twelve Healers impatiens is indicated for those who are quick in thought and action and find it difficult to be patient with people who are slow.  They prefer to work alone when they can do things at their own speed.


Mimulus guttatus, the plant used to make the Bach flower remedy Mimulus

Mimulus: (Mimulus luteus Feb. 1930, late 1930, Free Thyself and also the Twelve Healers, with the latter having a footnote giving the modern name Mimulus guttatus).  Today we use Mimulus guttatus, but this is not the same species as luteus.  The difference between the two is slight – luteus has large red blotches on yellow petals while in guttatus the blotches are much smaller.  In the field, for the non-specialist it would be almost impossible to tell them apart, given that we would expect a degree of variation in ‘blotch-size’ in both species – at the extremes of variation, the two species would be almost identical (if you do a search on the internet, you’ll find many images of luteus which look identical to guttatus).  However, it is likely that the species Dr Bach was referring to was guttatus as this species was widespread in the UK in 1930, including in Wales (where Dr Bach discovered it), while luteus was rare.

Mimulus luteus, By I, Hugo.arg, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In the Feb. 1930 paper, the person requiring mimulus is said to have depression and vague, unknown fears, a dislike of controversy and a desire for quietness.  The remedy helps people who are devitalised by other too powerful personalities, allowing their confidence to return and enabling them to stand up and face the difficulties of life.

Mimulus, in the late 1930 paper is described as for hate, exhaustion and, again, vague fears and a liking for quiet solitude. The remedy brings calmness, loss of fear and pity to the nature. In Free Thyself, the indications have been refined to a fear of things you can name (the person is ‘robbed of joy through fear’). The remedy is also said to encourage sympathy.  A footnote suggests the latter is now associated with other remedies, including beech. Fear (the fears of everyday life, borne silently) is the only indication for mimulus given in the Twelve Healers.

Scleranthus: (Scleranthus annuus, late 1930, Free Thyself and the Twelve Healers).

Scleranthus is described in 1930 as for the weather vane, indicated by a lack of stability, confidence and self-reliance.  They always seek the advice of others and are easily swayed.  They are nervous, restless and avoid people except when they need advice.  They swing between extremes and lack the ability to concentrate.  In Free Thyself, reliance on the opinions of others (cerato today) has been removed and scleranthus described as for those who find it difficult to make decisions.  In the Twelve Healers, the scleranthus person is said not to seek the advice of others, bearing their indecision alone.

Verbena: (Verbena officinalis – late 1930, Free Thyself and the Twelve Healers).  The remedy was called verbena in 1930 but by 1932 in Free Thyself it has become vervain, as it is known today.

In the late 1930 paper, verbena is said to be for the puritan, who has high ideals yet fails at some point to live up to them.  They are rigid and narrow-minded and try to mould the world to their own ideals.  They lack tolerance both of others and themselves (beech and/or rock water today). The remedy softens the nature and broadens the outlook.

In Free Thyself, the vervain person burns with enthusiasm but tries to force others to follow their principles (vine today) and wants the result immediately (impatiens).  The remedy brings the tolerance to better teach and lead others.  By the time of the Twelve Healers is published, the indications have been refined to for those with fixed ideas which they rarely change and which they wish to convert all around them.  They wish to teach rather than force people to follow their ideas.

What can we take from the above?  In terms of the plants, I think the confusion which can arise from plant names (impatiens) and also the difficulty in identifying subtle differences between species in the field (mimulus).

Looking at the remedy indications from 1930 and comparing with those in Free Thyself and the final version of the system shows how Dr Bach refined and fine-tuned his system throughout.  When people ask how we know the system is complete and that we don’t need to add any more remedies, this is good evidence – Dr Bach took the time and the effort to get it right before stating his work was complete.  Publishing interim versions allowed people to experience the benefits as soon as possible but his work was ongoing throughout this period.  If you have any comments, please post them in facebook.

Thanks to: Tessa Jordan for copies of the Homoeopathic World articles and Stefan Ball for providing information on the prevalence of mimulus species at the time Dr Bach was working.

References: Dr Edward Bach, Some new remedies and their uses, The Homoeopathic World, February 1930, 33-37

Edward Bach, M.B., B.S., Some fundamental considerations of disease and cure, The Homoeopathic World, (Oct.-Dec.?), 1930

Edward Bach,  Free Thyself, 1932, (2014 edition)

Edward Bach, The Twelve Healers and Other Remedies, the definitive edition, 1941