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Case Study: Bach Flower Remedies for Pain Relief

by Manuela Malaguti Boyle(more info)

listed in flower essences, originally published in issue 153 - December 2008

A Critical Analysis investigating therapeutic value beyond the placebo effect of Bach Flower Remedies as a pain relief method. The purpose of the study on possible therapeutic and psychological value of Bach flower remedies in pain relief was conducted at the Bach Centre, Mount Vernon, Sotwell, Oxon, United Kingdom between 1 January 2000 and 31 October 2005.

The case studies include 398 studies of which 384 were given consent to be examined. The subjects that formed the case studies were divided into two groups: those presenting physical symptoms, and those presenting emotional or psychological need for treatment. About 78% of the case studies presented with mental, psychological or emotional problems, whilst only 23% showed a physical condition as their primary concern. Only half of this group was experiencing physical pain. Of these, most revealed emotional or psychological issues. The conclusion is that almost all of the subjects with pain have emotional distress.

The results are clinically significant, as of the 384 cases studied, 88% felt better emotionally.

The experience of pain is unique, subjective and reliant on the individual's perception of their own pain. Melzack and Wall's (1982) definition of pain perception means that pain involves more than just the physical effect, but also psychological and social factors. This perception varies greatly amongst patients. In adhering to naturopathic principles, the patient as a whole needs to be treated. Physical signs and symptoms also need to be addressed. By supporting the body and not only the mind, a far more effective treatment can be given for painful conditions. Support on an emotional level may need to extend to counseling or psychotherapy. A clinical psychologist is usually the best choice of therapist for helping the patient carry out an adequate cognitive assessment (Rao, 1990).

It is a fact that a positive relationship between a therapist and the patient inspires, motivates and leads to increased self-esteem, self-management and involvement in pain management. A client-centered practice is characterized by partnership and cooperation that respects the patient's pain (Wall, 1999).

Although the mind-body therapy is effective, and the changes and improvements in a patient's condition can be remarkable, there was no information, however, regarding the limitations of the Bach remedies. Moreover, claims for efficacy of Bach flower treatment beyond the placebo effect are unsupported by scientific and clinical studies. While advocates point to results reported in high-impact journals as evidence for its efficacy, the number of such high-quality studies is small, the conclusions are not definitive, and duplication of the results, a key test of scientific validity, has proven problematic at best.

According to Walsh and Radcliffe, psychological pain management programme, delivered within a multidisciplinary team, results in significant benefits. Relaxation and distraction are part of such programmes. Directing attention away from pain by concentrating on the environment, mental problem-solving or other internally generated images, increase feelings of control over pain. Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis can assist in implementing this method. A large population survey conducted on middle-aged pain sufferers (Rajala et al., 1994) had found that depression was more common amongst the depressed than the non-depressed population. Pain intensity significantly influences perception and life control.   

There is evidence that effective treatment of depression may also slow the progress of pain in these patients, as a reduction in the symptoms of depression was accompanied by a reduction in levels of interferon gamma (Tyrer et al. 1989).

The Bach remedies were identified by Dr Edward Bach, a physician and homeopath. The sun method involves floating flower heads in a clear glass bowl filled with natural spring water. This is left in bright sunlight for three hours, then the flower heads are removed and the energized water is mixed half and half with brandy. The boiling method involves putting flowering twigs into a pan of spring water and boiling them for half-an-hour. The pan is then left to cool, the plant matter removed, and again the water is mixed half and half with brandy. In both cases the resulting mix is known as mother tincture. This is diluted at the rate of two drops per 30mls of brandy to make the stock bottles sold in the shops.

Bach stated that the mode of action of the remedies then is to integrate the person to become a whole being, the body, mind and soul working as one to fulfil the destiny for which the person was created. Bach flower remedies consist of 38 remedies that are designed as a system of motional healing. Remedies are dispensed in homeopathic dosages, are safe and do not appear to interfere with any other medication. The study does not mention that the Bach Centre by its own admission has never set up experiments, and that there is no documentation available.

Therapists at the Bach Centre in Oxon do not see it as their role to 'prove' that the remedies work; instead they simply demonstrate how to use them and let people prove the effect on themselves.

To this day, there is no available literature referring to Bach flower remedies and pain management. In order to address the therapeutic efficacy of Bach flower remedies, and by their own admission, researchers in the field need to examine more quantitative comparative placebo-controlled analysis.


Rajala U, Uusimaki A et al. Prevalence of Depression in a 55 year old Finnish population. Journal of Society of Psychiatry Epidemiology. 29: 126-130. 1994.
Rao SM and Cognitive Function Study Group. A Manual for the Brief Repeatable Battery of Neuropsychological Tests in Multiple Sclerosis. New York. National MS Society. 1990.
Robson T. An introduction to Complementary Medicine Sydney. Allen & Unwin. 2003.
Snow-Turek AL, Norris MP et al. Active and Passive Strategies in chronic pain patients. The Journal of Pain. American Pain Society. 64: 455-462. Elsevier. 1996.
Tyrer S. Psychosomatic Pain. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 188: 91-93. 2006.
Wall P. Pain: The Science of Suffering. London. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 1999.
Walsh DA and Radcliffe JC. Pain beliefs and perceived physical disability of patients with chronic back pain. The Journal of Pain. American Pain Society. 97: 23-31. Elsevier. 2002.
Van Haselen RA, Reiber U, Nickel I, Jakob A and Fisher PA. Providing Complementary and Alternative Medicine in primary care: the primary care workers' perspective. 2001.
Bach Centre. The Original Writings of Edward Bach compiled by John Ramsell and Judy Howard. A journey through Dr Bach's life in his own words, much of it reproduced from the original manuscripts and printed editions, with illustrations and photographs. 2007.
Dawes M, Davies P, Gray et al. Evidence-based practice: A primer for health care professionals. 2nd Edition. Churchill Livingstone. London. 2005.


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About Manuela Malaguti Boyle

Manuela Malaguti Boyle ND BA BHSc(Comp Med) Grad Dip Nut Adv Dip Nat GCRN BNA (UK) ATMS NHAA (Australia) IFM (US) is a Naturopathic Physician and Clinical Nutritionist, trained in Australia and United Kingdom. Her area of expertise is nutritional therapy as a viable treatment for mental illness. She continuously researches how nutrition impacts the nervous system function and brain cognition. Manuela firmly believes that 'junk food gives rise to junk thoughts' and she seeks to help patients improve their state of mind and coping abilities. Nutritional interventions safely complement standard drug treatments. Manuela's articles have appeared in several publications both in United Kingdom and Australia. She is currently consulting at the Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Centre, 19 Tanglin Road Singapore. Manuela may be contacted via

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