Research: HYLAND and others,

Listed in Issue 140


HYLAND and others, School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, PL4 8AA Plymouth, UK, have studied the outcomes of treatment with Bach flower essences with unexpected results.


The aim of this study was to determine whether absorption and spirituality predict the placebo response independently of expectancy.


This was an open study of self-treatment with self-selected Bach flower essences. Participants’ expectancy of the effect of flower essences, attitudes to complementary medicine, holistic health beliefs, absorption, and spirituality were measured prior to treatment. One month after the start of treatment, participants responded to an e-mail enquiry about symptom change using a single seven-point change scale.


116 participants (97 university undergraduates and 19 staff) completed all assessments. Spirituality and absorption together predicted additional variance compared with a cluster of expectancy measures comprising expectancy, attitude to complementary medicine, and holistic beliefs (increment in R(2)=.042, p=.032), and spirituality alone (but not absorption alone) predicted more additional variance than did the expectancy cluster (increment in R(2)=.043, p=.014).


These findings are inconsistent with conventional explanations for the placebo effect. The mechanism underlying the placebo response is not fully understood.


Hyland ME, Geraghty AW, Joy OE, Turner SI. .Spirituality predicts outcome independently of expectancy following flower essence self-treatment. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 60 (1): 53-58, Jan 2006.


What an interesting research study! The authors were attempting to tease out the effects of absorption, spirituality, as well as a variety of expectancy cluster of factors. I certainly await further research from this group or others attempting to replicate these results.

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