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PTSD, Shock and Trauma - The Role of Flower Essences

by Clare G Harvey(more info)

listed in flower essences, originally published in issue 234 - November 2016

Post-traumatic Stress disorder, is by its very nature insidious and is usually the result of the after effects of shock and stress, traumatic  which can if left unchecked have a devastating effect on the body’s energy system on all levels and lead to ill health. Each person’s whole energy system - aura, subtle bodies, chakras and meridians - form a sort of personal ‘blueprint’ or ‘body map’. We are all born with this energetic blueprint which is like a unique thumbprint. It is said that this energetic pattern holds within it characteristics that endow us with the potential to be as perfect - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually - as we can possibly be.

Clare Harvey Subtle Anatomy

Anatomy of the Subtle Energy System
from The Encyclopedia of Flower Remedies Singing Dragon. 2015.

When all the elements of the energy system are in balance we experience a deep sense of contentment and well being and the abundant physical vitality that goes hand in hand with a clear, focused mind. However, the stresses and strains of ordinary life can conspire to prevent us from growing to fulfil our potential to be perfect. In childhood it does not matter too much if our energy systems are thrown off-balance, for there is an abundance of energy or chi which can be used to override any disturbance or misalignment often referred to as ancestral Qi in Chinese medicine. But there comes a point in time when this energy reserve is exhausted and the imbalance begins to become ingrained in the system.

Typical signs of an energy imbalance are tiredness, feelings of anxiety, irritability and depression, as well as a susceptibility to colds and other infections. If an imbalance is not corrected, it may become firmly entrenched in the energy system with the resulting symptoms worsening with time. Before looking more closely at how flower essences work their benefits, let us first look at ways in which our energy systems can be thrown out of balance.

Shock and stress in their many guises have a devastating effect on the subtle energy system.  Sudden shock may be likened to a pebble being thrown into a tranquil pond, sending ripples or shock waves reverberating through the water or, in this case, the subtle anatomy. This ‘pebble’, then, can be seen as the root cause of any upset, while the ripples are the physical repercussions of shock. When shock makes an impact on our subtle energy systems the disruptive effects linger, unless action is taken to bring everything back into balance. As a consequence of shock the subtle anatomy is thrown out of kilter leading to feelings of anxiety, frustration, unknown fears, loss of confidence and an inability to make clear-cut decisions. Any misalignment in the subtle anatomy ultimately filters down to the physical body, which can trigger a range of symptoms depending on which part of the body is affected and where there is a weak point.

Shock can be divided into two categories: traumatic and long, slow shock.

Shattered Wine Glass Will Wilson

from Shock and Trauma by Will Wilson
originally published in Positive Health PH Online issue 15 - October 1996

Traumatic Shock

This is the more identifiable form of shock. We live in a world full of horrific events that are distressing even to think about. Natural disasters, unpredictable violence and the death of a loved one are age-old. But others, such as car accidents and bomb blasts which can maim and kill, are relatively recent phenomena. At some point in our lives we are all likely to experience personally the shock of some traumatic event. The worst kinds are the sudden and unexpected because they catch us unawares, and are not part of our ordinary life, as we are totally unprepared for them and they can shake us to the very core. The medical profession has begun to appreciate the impact of such shock on our physical and psychological wellbeing. It has now come to recognize that such trauma can give rise to a range of symptoms resembling those experienced by shell-shocked war veterans. Symptoms can last a lifetime unless steps are taken to redress their far-reaching effects.

The so-called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is now used to describe the aftermath of shock. The repercussions clearly permeate every level of our being; those suffering experience a severe, persistent emotional reaction to the trauma, reliving the event with flashbacks, a heightened awareness of danger leaving them feel physically exhausted and drained of energy. In time the tiredness may lift, but it invariably gives way to all kinds of minor ailments such as stomach upsets, stiff necks and so forth, and can appear a time later, even a year or two after the event, often seeming to have no apparent cause. It is little wonder that those suffering from PTSD are often thought of as hypochondriacs. Others respond more immediately, developing an acute stress disorder, symptoms of PTSD occurring within 2 days to 4 weeks after the traumatic event.

Shock has a particularly potent influence on the mind. Concentration becomes difficult, thoughts blurred and small everyday decisions can pose problems. Volatile emotions range from anger and irritability to depression and despair. Often hypersensitive, sufferers over-react to events that would not have normally upset them, and therefore steer clear of extra pressure. They may suffer from panic attacks, dwindling confidence and self-esteem, making them less inclined to tackle the challenge of new projects which previously would have been relished. Spiritually, many feel compelled to reassess their life; in worst case scenarios, doubts arise about whether life is really worth living. As far as the medical profession is concerned, the long-term impact of a traumatic event is uncertain. It is thought PTSD may cause physical changes in the brain, and in some cases the disorder can last a lifetime.

Long Slow Shock

This is a more insidious form of shock than traumatic shock, for we are often unaware of its existence; it becomes an integral part of our lives. Long, slow shock can start to take its toll even before we are born. Although safe inside the womb, the developing foetus will detect and react to its mother’s stresses. Anxieties about her relationship with her partner and her fears and apprehension about motherhood can all be sensed by her unborn child. In childhood we may experience stress when deprived of the right kind of love, attention and emotional nourishment. Ironically, it can be equally stressful to be swamped by too much love (in the form of overprotectiveness or possessive-ness). Parents that are controlling by threatening to withhold their love unless they are obeyed also create a stressful environment for their children. Also, children growing up with parents who are always quarrelling can suffer the effects of long, slow shock, as will those whose mother or father has a drinking problem or an incapacitating illness. This kind of stress usually goes unnoticed as it’s often present for prolonged periods of time and becomes so familiar that it appears to be the norm. We usually fail even to identify it as shock.

The effects of long, slow shock are cumulative; by the time adulthood is reached it has produced the same disruptive effect on the subtle energy system as sudden trauma. Shock and stress sets up an abrasive vibration which is at odds with the natural rhythm of the cells and forces them to ‘dance to a different tune’. This ultimately affects the smooth and efficient functioning of all the organs and tissues. If left untreated, such distortion in the energy system ultimately manifests itself as a disease of the mind, body and spirit.

The medical profession now agrees that stress can indeed make us more susceptible to illness. Which is why, we often tend to catch cold or infection from being overly stressed at home or work, or as a result of stressful emotional events. Some forward-thinking physicians believe that negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger, frustration and irritability play crucial roles in undermining the body’s resistance to disease. Researchers working in the relatively new field of psychoneuroimmunology (or PNI) are attempting to fathom the link between such negative emotions and various disease states. They suggest that psychological and emotional stress states undermine our resistance in the way that they interact with our nervous, endocrine and immune systems. Stress is now being recognized as a medical condition; scientists at Harvard Medical School /University[1] researching into the effect of stress on the body and say they have discovered shared interactive chemicals and links between the mind and the body, specially in relation to the nervous system, immune and endocrine system as well as the skin, in particular the release of steroid hormones and the stress hormone cortisol as a fight-or-flight  response to trauma or even a proposed threat of any trauma.

Energetic and Emotional Aspects of Shock

The result of shock throwing the emotional and mental levels out of alignment creates such stress on the body’s energetic defence mechanism that it can no longer hold its boundaries and from an energetic perspective perform its job of defending the physical body from disturbance in the subtle anatomy. As the nervous and immune systems share the same chemicals, one can begin to see how mental and emotional disturbances act as immunosuppressants, weakening the body’s natural defences and resistance to illness.

In cases of severe shock or trauma such as a bereavement or being violently attacked or wounded, when the whole energy system is suddenly and dramatically thrown out of alignment, it is said by some of those who have the ability it see the bodies energy field i.e. Barbara Ann Brennan an American author, physicist, spiritual healer in her book Hands of Light explores bio energetic healing and the aura suggests that it ruptures or creates breaks and holes in the aura appear. These gaps are potentially dangerous as the physical body is no longer fully protected and becomes vulnerable. It is essential to clear the effects of shock out of the system, for if the subtle bodies are misaligned, the chi or life force that sustains us cannot filter through and replenish our physical body.

Years ahead of his time, Dr Edward Bach (creator of the Bach Flower Remedies), realized that psychological upsets can be a root cause of disease. Bach was also aware that shock and stress provoke emotional or mental distress by heightening imbalances in the personality. Someone who normally has a tendency towards impatience for instance, will become increasingly irritable, prone to outbursts of temper and nervous tension as a result of shock or stress or trauma. Bach came to the conclusion that stress and shock, at what ever level, was the causative factor and believed that peace of mind and physical well being go hand in hand.

In his book Heal Thyself, Bach wrote:

“We must steadfastly practise peace, imaging our minds as a lake ever to be kept calm, without waves or even ripples, to disturb its tranquillity and gradually develop this state of peace until no event, no circumstance, no other personality is able under any condition to ruffle the surface of that lake or raise within us any feelings of irritability, depression or doubt.”

Cover Flower Remedies

In the Practitioner’s Encyclopedia of Flower Remedies, the Ailment Chart provides essences helpful for almost every permutation of shock and stress, including excellent first-aid combinations to have to hand in case of sudden shocks and emergencies. In my Harley street practice almost the first remedy I need to prescribe is one for shock as I’ve found over the years unless one clears shock and stress at the root whatever level it manifests, the body’s self healing mechanism is impaired, and won’t be able to kick in order to activate the body’s chemistry to self-heal. The concept of flower remedies are potent, but that of gentle healers is not new; the knowledge that the flowers of plants hold potent energetic healing qualities is something that the ancient peoples were acutely aware of and utilized to the full as their unique system of medicine. In contrast to essential oils, flower essences are an infusion of the energetic imprint of the flowering part of the plant, what's known as its unique signature, basically its quality of vibrational healing potential that is suspended in a water and alcohol solution. The art of encapsulating flowers’ potent healing qualities in water is an ancient practice discovered by the indigenous peoples throughout the world when they noticed that the morning dew on flower petals which had been potentized by the first rays of the sun not only lifted their spirits but also had a profound healing effect on all levels, which made them continue to explore these effects to a greater depth. A plant's way of guaranteed continued growth and survival is to attract to itself the insect life needed for pollinating and seeding elsewhere. Then the highest concentration of the plants vitality needs to be focused in the blossoms in the form of the vibrant display of bright and colourful petals and sweet aromas.

Flower essence as a healing therapy is also not new; both medically and historically many ancient cultures possessed the knowledge of the therapeutic healing qualities of flowers. Documented evidence of their effective use was discovered dating back to the time of the Egyptian civilization, some 7520 years ago. South American, Far Eastern and African civilizations are some of the cultures that recognized and used essences of flowers to treat their emotional states. In Crete, the Minoans in their spiritual ceremonies floated specially chosen flowers in water during their ceremonial rites, sipping the flower water to cleanse themselves of the negative thoughts and feelings, moving them through out their systems so they are left refreshed, renewed and transformed.

Sturt Desrt Pea - Flowers of Australia

Sturt Desrt Pea - Flowers of Australia

The Aboriginals Ancient Healing System

Throughout the age much of therapeutic knowledge of flowers healing qualities was all but lost and only preserved and maintained by a few such as the secret brotherhood as the Essenes in Sinai. The Aboriginals of Australia were one of the first original peoples to lay claim to this unique system of natural medicine, keeping safe the knowledge of the healing power of flowers. The Aboriginals considered themselves custodians of the most spectacular and abundant variety of constantly blooming wildflowers that survived despite the challenging environment. Australian is now a land that has an amazing variety with the greatest number of ancient flowering species of plant anywhere in the world. In order to gain the healing qualities of the flowers essences as well as its nutritive benefits, these peoples ate the whole flowers that were drenched in morning dew. If the flowers weren't edible they were able to absorb their healing vibrations by sitting quietly amongst them.

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

Flower Remedies Today

Dr Edward Bach, who was a Harley Street Physician in the 1920s revived this art through his own dissatisfaction with the then modern medicine of his time, which were treating symptoms and not the cause. He rediscovered flower remedies through searching for a simple system of medicine that treated the underlying root of illness, coupled with insight and observation gained through his clinical consultancy. Bach explored nature and intuitively found his answer in the flowers and blossoming tree that grew in abundance at that time. He used himself as a form of human experiential laboratory creating intense negative mental or emotional states, and then intuitively allowing himself to be drawn to a particular flower which gave him the opposite positive emotions. From this, Bach developed a repertoire of 38 remedies which are now a widely used, complete system specifically designed to address different personality types and their responses to stressful events.

After his death his close companion Nora Weeks (a close friend of my grandmothers) kept his work alive; she in turn entrusted the Bach Centre to Nickie Murray for many years. Since then it has changed hands again. Julian Barnard, a medical herbalist, also prepared a range of remedies according to the dictates of Dr Bach. He feels it is important to follow Dr Bach’s instructions to the word, so he adheres scrupulously to Bach's original methods, making the remedies with full-strength brandy. His remedies are strongly endorsed by Nickie Murray, and the Healing Herbs Bach remedies have earned a reputation for integrity and quality. Julian now runs a flourishing education programme, and lectures throughout the world.

Having been taught by my grandmother who in turn was taught by Edward Bach, honouring his original methods is important in preserving the overall vibrational quality and integrity of the essences he discovered. I use Healing Herbs essences in my clinic and particularly the rescue remedy blend: Five Flower Remedy.

The Five Flower Rescue Remedy is the only blend that Bach created and he did so in response to his deep understanding of the need to counteract the sometimes devastating effects of Shock and stress on the human being, he was also very aware that beyond his time the stress we would be facing would be far greater than in his day!

Five Flower Remedy (The rescue combination): A blend of Cherry Plum for loss of control, Clematis for unconscious-ness, Impatiens for stress, Rock Rose for panic/terror, and Star of Bethlehem for shock:

  • Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum unbellatum) For all forms of shock: sudden and traumatic, long and slow over a period of time, delayed from the past, the shock of birth. Clears shock from the system bringing a sense of being centred, soothed and comforted. Restores the body’s self-healing mechanisms;
  • Cherry Plum (Prunus Cerasifera) For desperation, fear of being unable to control negative thoughts, feelings and impulses of losing control, suicidal feelings, obsessive fear, delusions, nervous breakdown. Enables us to feel strong and safe enough to deal sanely with issues that scare us;
  • Rock Rose (Helianthenum nummularium) For fear, panic, feeling paralysed by terror, and the hysteria due to emergencies, sudden illness or accidents. Symptoms include coldness, trembling and loss of control; nightmares. Brings calm so you can respond adequately and appropriately to problems;
  • Impatiens (Impatiens Glandulifera) For impatient, impulsive people who dislike restraint and are driven by urgency and hastiness, who like working at their own speed, act quickly and are critical of others. For those prone to nervous tension, overexertion and accidents, temper outbursts, irritability, sudden pains and cramps, indigestion. Releases pent-up tension and encourages the patience to enjoy being as well as doing. Brings sensitivity to situations and relationships;
  • Clematis (Clematis Vitalba) For dreamers who are absent-minded, lacking concentration and vitality; for quiet people preferring dreams and fantasy to reality, who are romantic and imaginative but unrealistic, prone to drowsiness, excessive sleep, sensitivity to noise and faintness. Helps transform ideas and visions into actuality, developing talents and creating a life that is interesting and fulfilling.

Bach’s tried and tested formulae has proved to be invaluable and had stood the test of time.

Proving the Essences Work

Some people argue that flower essences act as placebos; in other words that they make us feel better simply because we believe they are doing us good. This does not explain, however, the numerous incidences in which flower essences have brought benefits to animals, babies and young children, who obviously do not know that what they are being given is ‘supposed to’ bring relief. To test the placebo argument scientifically, Michael Weisglas PhD conducted a double-blind test on the Bach Flower Remedies in 1979. Neither he nor his subjects (who were suffering from depression) knew beforehand who had received and taken the remedies and who took the placebos. Results showed that those who were given the remedy mix reported experiencing a feeling of well being, growth and self-understanding and acceptance, a better sense of humour and increased creativity, while those who took the placebo reported no significant change. Dr Weisglas concluded that the effect of the remedies does not depend on the belief or faith of the user.

Research: Bach Flower Remedies for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

More recently in 2015 there was a small Pilot study conducted, exploring the effectiveness of the external use of Bach Flower remedy on Carpel Tunnel Syndrome where Healing Herbs Five Flower Pain blend combination was used.[2]

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by compression of one of the nerves that controls sensation and movement in the hands (median nerve).The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in your wrist made up of small bones and a tough band of tissue that acts as a pulley for the tendons that bend the fingers. In most cases it is not known why the median nerve becomes compressed, although certain things are thought to increase the risk of CTS developing, such as: family history of CTS, pregnancy - up to about 50% of pregnant women develop it, injuries to the wrist or more commonly strenuous, repetitive work with the hands, causing pain in the hand, unpleasant tingling, numbness and pain in the distal distribution of the median nerve thumb, index, and middle finger, and the radial side of the ring finger),and a reduction of the strength of grip and function.

As mentioned, Bach Flower remedy (BFR) used in the current study were provided by Healing Herbs Ltd and prepared in the Homeopathic Pharmacy (Santa Clara, Villa Clara, Cuba), based on solid petrolatum. The pharmacy created a code to identify creams in order to blind both participants and researchers; the code was revealed to researchers once the project was over. Five BFR, Elm (Ulmus procera [pain relief], Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum [recovering after trauma], Vervain (Verbena officinalis [reduce inflammation]), Clematis (Clematis vitalba [reduce numbness and tingling], and Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus [strength recovery]) were combined into a single formula (100 ml of each remedy from the stock bottle per 100 ml of pure petrolatum) and pure petrolatum was used as the placebo control. Each cream was numbered with containers identical in shape, colour & size and its content was unknown to physicians or patients, except for the nonblinded BFR group. Those patients allocated to the blinded groups were told that they would receive either BFR or placebo during their ‘‘waitlist’’ period, whereas those patients allocated to the nonblinded group were told that the will receive a BFR cream. All were asked to apply the cream on the affected area morning and night, for over 21 days.


Significant differences were reported in respect of pain, dull or aching discomfort, in the hand, forearm, or upper arm; numbness; and weakness of hand and fingers. Numbness showed a more positive improvement among participants included in the BFR groups than those in the placebo group. On the other hand, those included in the blinded groups reported more pain, reported as dull or aching discomfort, in the hand, forearm, or upper arm and weakness than those included in the nonblinded group. With pain, night pain, and tingling symptoms a large number of individuals from BFR groups were reported as recovered significantly over the placebo group Finally, fewer patients needed surgery in the BFR groups (blinded and nonblinded) when compared with the placebo group

The current research, performed with the aim of evaluating the effectiveness of a BFR cream on symptoms and signs of CTS showed interesting results that, although encouraging, should be treated with caution. That the therapeutic outcome was more favourable in the BFR groups over placebo group in reducing signs, symptom severity, and pain as well as fewer patients who needed surgery, provides evidence and suggests that topical use of BFR, might be an effective complementary treatment for CTS.


The current results also support the idea that BFR may exert some biological effects, specifically on numbness, independent of whether a group was blinded or not. The controversial effects of high dilution could be clarified with the understanding of nanoparticles. Its characteristics and the biological effect are found in the field of homeopathy. It is fairly well established that there are certain differences between those complementary and alternative medicine modalities. Some researchers make reference to the existence of nanoparticles derived from the biological synthesis of metallic nanoparticles in plant extracts, bacteria, algae, and fungus, and the process of rapid sunlight-induced biogenic synthesis of nanoparticles could be due to the effect of the ‘sun method’  preparation process of BFR. It might mean that the assumption of nonexistent particles in BFR may be just a misconception. To conclude, the BFR cream could be an effective intervention in the management of mild and moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, reducing the severity symptoms and providing pain relief.

Looking Toward the Future

It is clear that more in-depth research would be welcomed and prove beneficial in establishing the efficacy of flower essence in both the scientific and complementary fields.

Since the 'rediscovery' of Dr Bach's essences, over the last 25 years the Flower Essences field has developed profoundly. The scope and availability of essences for a wide range of health issues has gone from strength to strength, and not only in the areas of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

A quiet revolution has occurred with many highly tuned people responding to the need in this increasing stressful life that we all lead, by investigating the healing qualities of other flowers especially those used traditionally indigenous to their country and making them readily available for today’s needs.


1.  Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. 1/30/2013.

Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 1-7 The Author(s) 2015 Reprints and permission:

2.  Kind permission of Julian Barnard Healing Herbs Ltd.

Medical University ‘‘Serafı´n Ruı´z de Za´rate Ruı´z’’ of Villa Clara, Santa Clara, Cuba.
University Hospital ‘‘Arnaldo Milia´n Castro,’’ Santa Clara, Cuba.
Central University ‘‘Marta Abreu’’ of Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba

Corresponding Author:
Saira R. Rivas-Sua´rez, MD, Medical University ‘‘Serafı´n Ruı´z de Za´rate Ruı´z’’ of Villa Clara, Road of Aqueduct and Beltway, Santa Clara 50100, Cuba.


Acknowledgement Citation

A revised form of this article was previousl published in International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy Vol 4 Issue 4 Spring 2016.


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About Clare G Harvey

Clare G Harvey  Dip Shen Tao is an internationally recognized Harley Street Consultant, formulator, inventor, and author in the field of complementary and integrative medicine.  She is a world expert on Flower Remedies, a third generation healer who learnt from her grandmother who was herself taught Flower Remedies by Dr Edward Bach. She is the author of several books on Flower Remedies, including The Encyclopedia of Flower Remedies, The Healing Spirit of Plants and the Principles of Vibrational Healing. Clare has been a flower essences consultant for 30 years, formerly at The Hale Clinic, The Centre for Complementary and Integrated Medicine in Upper Harley Street and now consults at her Flower Essence Clinic 103-105 Harley St. She is the Executive Director of International Science and Nutrition Society - ISNS. Her distribution businesses Flowersense and Quantum Blooms supply major health food chains and the public with remedies. Clare also has her own range of essences especially designed for women. For Private Consultations with Clare please Tel: 01963 250750 / 07778 059660;

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