The Language of Bach Flowers

A few months ago, I was giving a talk about the Bach remedies, describing how the remedies are made…and mentioned the energy of the flowers being transferred to the water.  At this point, someone in the front row interrupted and challenged me on what exactly was transferred….energy is a measurable thing so can it be measured?  And if not, then how could I say something was transferred?  One of the ‘joys’ of living in Cambridge is the large number of scientists ready for a ‘lively discussion’!   After several minutes I did manage to get on with the talk, but it did get me thinking about the language we use to talk about the remedies.

Bach flower essences

Bach flower remedies…but what are they made of? image

The problem is, while the effects of the remedies are obvious to us, anecdotal evidence is not going to convince a cynic – so saying they work in a reproducible way is not enough to prove something is transferred from the flower.  Nor is anything that sounds pseudo-scientific.  So, in this blog I thought I’d have a look at a few of the words we use to describe what the remedies are made of.

Let’s start with the word that got me into bother…ENERGY.  The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines energy as ‘the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity’, or more scientifically ‘the property of matter and radiation which is manifest as a capacity to perform work’. The important thing is energy is a measurable quantity.  If we can’t (or haven’t) measured transfer of energy from flowers to water, then can we say energy is involved?  There is clearly the transfer of something – the water we put the flowers onto often changes colour, so something chemical IS transferred and with this will be energy (as where there’s mass there must be energy).  But this isn’t really what we mean (and in any case by the time the mother tincture is made then further diluted, any quantity of chemical compounds originating from the flowers will be minimal).

Energy is also used in other contexts – e.g. the energy of the room changes when X comes in.  I think most of us have experience of this – when, without saying or doing anything, a person can make a place feel different just by being there, but it’s impossible to quantify and is it good enough to use to describe what’s in the remedies?   There’s a whole area of complementary therapies based on ‘energy healing’ and I guess we use the word energy the way they do – an unmeasurable but tangible force which can affect anything it comes into contact with.  But while this is fine if you’re talking to people open to this way of thinking it probably won’t ‘cut it’ with someone more cynical.

flowers energy

Impatiens glandulifera

Another issue with energy, if you use the analogy of X changing the energy of the room, is that each person has a different effect (energy) i.e. we’re all of the same species but have a different effect on the energy and yet, but when we’re making remedies I think we’d say e.g. that all Impatiens glandulifera flowers would produce Impatiens flower remedy with the same energy.

If energy can be troublesome, what about ESSENCE.  I do like is – it puts across the idea of it being the important part of the flower which is used.  And it’s not a word which is used often otherwise.  Except perhaps in food flavourings, but even the use of essence in e.g. vanilla essence,  use doesn’t contradict our use. OED defines essence as ‘The intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character.’  Sounds good!

Another possibility is VIBRATION…or sometimes vibrational energy.  This has the same issues as energy…in this case OED defines as ‘An oscillation of …an electromagnetic wave’ (a measurable quantity).  However, a further, informal definition is given for vibrations – ‘a person’s emotional state, the atmosphere of a place, or the associations of an object, as communicated to and felt by others.’ It does feel a bit 1960s (think ‘Good Vibrations’) but it does work pretty well.

Bach flowers energy

A representation of energy or vibrational fields; image

Where does this leave us?  Well, I think the important things are to pick what we feel comfortable using but most importantly, be ready to explain what we mean with an appreciation that our chosen words may have other meanings or connotations to other people.

As for me, my experience with my heckler made me wary of using the word energy but after thinking about it I think all 3 of the above options have merit.   What do you think?  Comment on Facebook and maybe we can have our own ‘lively discussion’!

Source: Oxford English Dictionary,