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Flower Essences in General Practice

by Dr Andrew Tressider(more info)

listed in flower essences, originally published in issue 27 - April 1998

To have a practitioner of Complementary Medicine (CM) as one’s partner in General Practice has positive benefits for the entire practice by providing an opportunity for individuals to seek alternatives to standard pharmacological approaches to ailments of either mind or body.

It has long been my belief that as the practice of medicine becomes more focused and pharmacological treatments more precise that some individuals are in danger of being overtreated and suffering from iatrogenic disease (doctor induced). Even fifty years ago the situation was very different – many diseases had no therapies associated with them. Consequently doctors relied on their personal abilities to ease their patients’ distress coupled with a number of preparations which often had little therapeutic benefit but were free from the risk of harming the patient.

Impatiens. One of the 38 Flower Remedies discovered by Dr Edward Bach.
Impatiens. One of the 38
Flower Remedies discovered by Dr Edward Bach.

I have no doubt that there is a place in the medical practitioner’s armament for ‘benign’ therapies which have no likelihood of causing iatrogenic disease. Such therapies would be suitable for self limiting disorders and symptoms of transient mental turmoil.

‘Although not comfortable with recommending therapies whose mode of action is inexplicable (or seems irrational) I am pragmatic enough to sanction their use wherever appropriate in conjunction with conventional medicine,’ Dr Peter Glanvill MB BS GP Chard Somerset since 1979.

Case study

The suggestion of using Bach Flower Remedies to treat what might be the underlying cause of my back pain at first seemed novel and different. Although I agreed to give them a try I was very sceptical. They had been around since the 1930s and were developed by a physician with a Harley Street practice so why wasn’t every doctor prescribing them? I liked the idea of trying to treat the real problem rather than the symptoms of pain in my back particularly where the consultant anaesthetist had difficulties inserting the epidural for the Caesarian delivery of my daughter.

Walnut. One of the 38 Flower Remedies discovered by Dr Edward Bach.
Walnut. One of the 38 Flower Remedies discovered by Dr Edward Bach.

To begin with the Remedies (Mustard and Walnut) did not seem to be having a noticeable effect but I was also taking pain killing tablets. Then I began to notice that various events or occasions in my life would come to mind. Often I would rethink these occasions, see what was really good in them for me and feel much more at ease with the thoughts.

This happened not only to the good memories but to the bad ones as well. It was as if someone had opened the emotional filing cabinet and no way could I close it. Gradually I have found incident after incident coming to mind for reassessment, memories which at one time I could never have faced again, memories which I could not under any circumstances have shared with anyone could be dealt with and put away. Pandora’s box of personal memories was revealing the bad things and gradually each was being cleaned away.

Pine: one of the 38 Flower Remedies discovered by Dr Edward Bach
Pine: one of the 38 Flower Remedies discovered by Dr Edward Bach

In this process I learned to really cry again and not to withhold my feelings and batten them down. As a child my mother had insisted that my father never saw me in tears, but now the tears could flow freely. There was no guilt feeling about crying now.

As the gentle cleansing and healing process has gone on over the weeks I have begun to realise that I am still an attractive woman with a lot to contribute to the world I live in.

The whole effect seems to me to be rather like an old Dutch master’s portrait which has become grimy and soiled with time and smoke from the fire. When it is gently cleaned and restored with modern techniques the beauty of the picture is almost better than in its original state; the lights and tones shine through much more clearly, the subtle hues and highlights become more apparent.

Lady, age 53, Dec 97 having taken Mustard and Walnut for six weeks.

I’m a GP in Chard, Somerset in a three handed practice. My philosophy is to provide the best of orthodox medicine to my patients and also to use complementary approaches where appropriate. Empowerment of the individual is the keystone of my approach, seeking to work with the patient as a partner. For the last four years flower remedies have formed an invaluable aid to my practice of medicine, as they help a person gently to heal any aspects of emotion or personality that may be out of balance.

My use of flower remedies in practice has grown steadily and reflects the personal use I make of them both for myself and for family and friends. They have been powerful tools to help me initially with stress and then further to help me on the journey we call life.

Given a handful of broken glass everybody knows what to do. To be given a heartful of broken emotions, however, throws many of us into confusion. Rather than drop or process them people hide, deny, bury or secrete the pain within themselves. Most of us carry lots of emotional broken glass within us, consciously and unconsciously, painfully remembered or thankfully forgotten. It is carried because nobody taught us how to deal with it (‘Stiff Upper Lip Syndrome’) and because the common wisdom is that 1) It’s too painful to process it and, anyway 2) Time Heals.

Most peoples’ experience of flower remedies starts with hearing about or being given Rescue Remedy for stress or upset. It is a powerful agent to calm such circumstances. To experience the effect personally is to open a state of inner knowing of the power that a flower remedy has to change negative emotions. The results of full scientific double-blind placebo controlled trials may as yet be awaited, but experiential truth is still perfectly valid.

To move further into the practise and personal use of flower remedies, firstly through the Bach system, and then perhaps the Bailey, Crystal Herbs, Findhorn, Australian Bush, FES, Desert Alchemy, Master’s or other systems is to proceed on the journey of life in a Rolls-Royce at a comfortable speed rather than slogging through the emotional trials of life on foot with blisters, torn socks and holes in your boots.

In General Practice I do not prescribe flower remedies on NHS prescription, but rather write a recommendation for each person depending on their needs. Of course people consult me as their GP, not as a Flower Remedy Practitioner and so are sometimes a little surprised when I suggest that there may be an emotional component to their health which could be positively enhanced simply, painlessly and inexpensively.

Naturally the most important thing for each patient is first to be understood and then advised or treated for the presenting complaint – any other aspects of their health such as the emotional components may not appear relevant to them. This is the difference that a holistic approach makes.

For example, a person with acute tonsillitis may well benefit from

1.    Penicillin for the streptococcal infection.
2.    Vitamin supplement particularly vitamin C to boost the immune system.
3.    Olive for the chronic tiredness which made them susceptible to the bacteria that many healthy people carry.
4.    Mustard, Walnut and Willow for the unhealed memories of a painful divorce or bereavement ten years previously.
5.    An appropriate homeopathic remedy.
6.    The acute pain can be relieved easily and rapidly by acupressure.

Of course not every one is keen on this sort of approach at first suggestion, but frequently even sceptics are willing to give it a try, as more and more people understand the concept of Integrated Medicine.

Flower Remedies can be used effectively in the acute situation either orally or on the wrist – it always causes me to smile when the man who comes in feeling stressed and hassled accepts the offer of a rapid sequence treatment just to humour me – and then after perhaps three minutes and ten remedies is utterly convinced that flower remedies work – but is also so surprised! But then the first time any of us finds out something new true and exciting which we had previously disbelieved or thought way out we too are surprised!

Many practitioners know the patient who returns week after week with a list of symptoms, in whom organic disease has been excluded. Such people respond well to Heather, which restores a healthy outward interest and dissolves the inward-looking negative attitude. It has been a pleasure to see people blossom into their positive potential on short courses of this remedy in particular – no longer do they return concerned by their own symptoms, a relief to the practitioner as well!

Recommending the Flower Remedies is a part of my practice I could not now work without. Every household should have a bottle of Rescue Remedy along with the sticky plaster, the paracetamol, lavender oil and Arnica 6c – as more and more people take responsibility for their own health this list will grow. In five years time most households will include one person who has skill in aromatherapy or homeopathy or massage or reflexology or flower remedies or healing – or all of these and more!

Although I recommend remedies from the whole range of Bach (and the Bailey’s and Australian Bush, both available locally), certain remedies come up time and again. For instance most people benefit from a course of 4–6 weeks of Mustard and Walnut. This relates to the hassle and lack of joy that many experience on a daily basis, whether in their own lives or second-hand from the newspapers and TV. It also will help process the sad unhealed memories that many of us carry, particularly if Willow (for any feeling of ‘It’s not fair’ or ‘Why me/them?’) is added.

In fact most people also benefit from a course of Holly and Willow, not because they harbour hatred or resentment – the keywords applying to the negative sides of those remedies – but for the positive transformational qualities of unconditional love and optimism in adversity that taking these two brings.

Many people work hard these days and are helped by Vervain and Rock Water Vervain to calm the busy mind when it won’t switch off and Rock Water because although they achieve high standards, come 9 pm they still give themselves a hard time about the things they haven’t done.

Another valuable remedy we should all take for 4 weeks is Pine – this helps us process guilt and self-reproach – most of us have had many years of ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ imposed on us by family friends and society at large. The ‘shoulds’ of life weigh heavily on the shoulders!

Last summer I took Larch, and found myself swimming enthusiastically for the first time in my life since learning age 9 in a cold pool at an emotionally vulnerable period of my life.

Dr Edward Bach’s rediscovery of an ancient system of therapy, mentioned by Paracelsus and used down the ages by Aboriginals and other native tribes was such an important and momentous advance that it is entirely fitting that the original set of 38 remedies that he developed from Mother Nature should always carry his name as a mark of respect.

Dr Bach intended and wrote that he wished his 38 remedies to be used inexpensively by the layman at home just as much as by the professional physician – though he himself was harshly treated by the General Medical Council of the 1930s who failed to recognise him for the innovator, healer and spiritual sensitive that he was and sought to persecute him for using unqualified helpers. He also made known in his 12 Healers and 4 Helpers (CW Daniel 1933) the method of preparation so that any folk, lay or professional might prepare the remedies to which he was proud to put his name. The 38 original remedies are now made according to the original Bach method not only in Dr Bach’s own locations by the Bach Centre at Mount Vernon but from identical plants in various locations by a number of producers in Britain and overseas.

The Bach remedies were developed in the 1930s and deal mainly with the basic emotional issues we all face, although there is actually tremendous depth to each of his remedies. In the last 25 years many new issues have been developed to deal with other issues and aspects of personality. Change is inevitable in life, and it would be unrealistic to expect the new essences of the 70s and 80s to be the only ones in common use in another twenty years. This reflects the increased pace of life, the ease of communication and travel, and increased awareness of not just the emotional issues of life but the spiritual and metaphysical ones as well.

Flower remedies are an important part of Integrated Medicine, dealing as they do with the emotions painlessly rapidly and inexpensively. They are truly part of Medicine for the Millennium, truly powerful tools to Transform your Self.

• The above article is an edited extract from Dr Andrew Tresidder’s forthcoming book to be published later in 1998, entitled The Dustbin of Life – A Lazy Man’s Guide to Emotional Healing.

Further reading:

•    Flower Remedies for Women by Christine Wildwood,
•    Bach Flower Therapy by Mechthild Scheffer and Encyclopaedia of Flower Remedies by Clare G Harvey and Amanda Cochrane both published by Thorsons.
•    The Flowers of Life Golden Ray Publications, Waveney Lodge, Hoxne Suffolk IP21 4AS
•    Heal Thyself Edward Bach, The Twelve Healers Edward Bach and Bach Flower Remedies for Women Judy Howard all by C W Daniel
•    The Healing Herbs of Edward Bach J & M Barnard
•    The Work of Dr Edward Bach Wigmore
•    New Vibrational Essences of Britain and Ireland Waterlily Books, The Duke, Chediston Green, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 0BB
•    Findhorn Flower Essences by Marion Leigh pub Findhorn Press.

• Photographs by Julian Barnard of Healing Herbs Ltd.

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About Dr Andrew Tressider

Andrew Tresidder trained in medicine at Guy’s Hospital and has  practised as a GP in Somerset since 1989. He is one of the country’s leading authorities on Transforming Yourself with Flower Remedies. Dr Andrew Tresidder, Springmead Surgery, Summerfields Road, Chard, Somerset TA20 2HB.

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