Dr Edward Bach and the first modern Flower Essences
Dr Edward Bach made the first modern flower essences in the 1930’s in England. A physician and homeopath, he constantly researched less toxic and invasive and more nature-based methods of healing. His training in homeopathy led him to experiment with highly diluted tinctures of flowers, his essences are now known worldwide for their quality and effectiveness in healing a broad range of mental and emotional difficulties. His intensive observation of his patients and their mental states and outlooks led him to realize that healing of the body could only take place when the mind and spirit were in a place of peace.
“Health depends on being in harmony with our souls.” Dr Edward Bach
The Process of Making a Flower Essence
While there are many possible ways to make a flower essence, to create the Flora of Asia Flower Essences I follow as closely as possible the method Dr Bach developed, as taught to me by my teacher Jane Bell.
The method of making a flower essence is deceptively simple. There are just a few physical components – the bowl, the water, the flowers.
People often ask what is in a flower essence. This can be a hard question to answer because on the material level, the answer is absolutely nothing. Flower essences are extremely dilute, so a test on a chromatograph would find nothing more than water and the brandy that serves to preserve the water. So, what is in a flower essence? An essence is the energetic imprint of the flower in a water base. There is no chemical component, therefore no potential for harmful interaction with any medication or therapy. The brandy is there as a traditional and natural preservative, and when essences are taken as directed, the alcohol ingestion is negligible.
I see the essence as a connection to the intelligence of the plant, and taking it is asking the plant to help you heal. The liquid is a medium through which the energy and intention transfer to you.
The process of making a flower essence requires a deep connection to the plant. I will often spend time with a plant on several occasions, even over the course of years, before the plant is ready and the time is right to make the essence. Essences are made as a co-creation of the person and the plant – both as equal partners in the process.
When the plant communicates it is willing to work with me to make an essence, I must find a day when the circumstances are just right for the process. First, the plant must be in full bloom and growing in a protected place away from disturbance or pollution. The plant itself is vibrantly healthy and mature, offering an abundance of flowers. An essence should never be made at the expense of the health of the plant or in a way that could significantly damage its ability to set fruit or seed.
The day itself must be clear, and the bowl is to be set in the sun where it will not be covered in shadow or disturbed by people or animals.
To prepare an essence, I gather my materials. My clear and undecorated glass bowl is used only for making essences; it has been sterilized by boiling and wrapped in a clean towel for travel. An amber glass bottle, also sterilized, prefilled halfway with brandy. A sterilized stainless steel funnel to transfer the water, and chopsticks for selecting the flower. Pure water, ideally from a nearby spring or well, to fill the bowl.
When I arrive, I observe the plant carefully, and confirm that the plant is in peak bloom and all other factors are favorable. I start to attune to the plant, intentionally opening to helpful spirits and energies. I call in the Spirit of Nature, the deva of the garden, the plant, and flower essences, the Angel of Healing, the elemental forces of earth, air, fire, water and love. I ask to connect to the spirit of the plant, and explain my intention to co-create with it a flower essence. I ask if it wishes to make an essence with me, and if so, if today is to be the day. It is not unusual to receive a no, or a not right now – connecting to Nature requires a releasing of expectations and letting go of your ego.
When the plant indicates its readiness, I unwrap my bowl and pour pure water in the bowl up to the rim. From now on, I am careful to avoid having my shadow cast over the bowl. I gather my chopsticks and allow my gaze to soften to see which flowers on the plant will catch my attention. I am selecting flowers that are fresh and vibrant, and I intuitively check to see which particular flower(s) are right for making the essence. I will pick the flower without touching it, and similarly transfer it to the bowl and float it in the water. Some flowers are easier to pick by first picking a leaf of the same plant and using it to shield your fingers from touching the flower while picking. I continue selecting and floating flowers until the surface of the water is covered.
Once the bowl is prepared, I place it on the ground in the sun where it will not be disturbed. I prefer to keep the bowl as close as possible to the plant, in the growing field of the plant.
The process of solarization, or putting the bowl in the sunlight, usually takes 3-4 hours. I sit with the bowl at least the first and last hour of the process, and often for the entire time. Even if I am not sitting with the bowl, I never leave the garden, and maintain a level of connection with the process. During the essence making process, I attend closely to everything that is happening, both in the environment and within my mind and body. Everything that happens during this process is part of the making and can help me understand the essence better. I may find myself having atypical thoughts or feelings, odd energetic sensations in my body, or unusual interactions with others who may show up in the area. I write down everything in my notebook, and am regularly surprised by the way it all starts to make sense and come together in the healing qualities of the flower.
When I sit with the plant I focus my attention on my heart area, and ask the plant for information on how the essence can be used. I sit quietly, notebook ready, and wait for information to come. After I have made the essence, I return regularly to attune further with the plant, and develop a fuller picture of the qualities over time.
As the essence solarizes, I watch the flowers in the bowl. Dr Bach’s guideline was to watch for the flowers to start wilting to know when the essence was ready to bottle. I find this will depend on both the type of flower, and the temperature and intensity of the sun. Some flowers have very thick petals and won’t wilt at all in the time frame of normal essence making. I watch the flowers and the water in the bowl. When the process is nearing completion, the water will become very clear and sparkling. I always ask the spirit of the plant, and the other energies I have called in to check to see when the essence is ready to be closed and bottled.
When the solarization is complete, I use the chopsticks to remove the flowers from the bowl, being careful to avoid touching with my hands. If I am working with a flower that has dropped pollen or other flower parts in the water, I remove them as best possible, or layer an unbleached coffee filter into the funnel to filter out any impurities. As I prepare to add the solarized water to the brandy in the glass bottle (via the funnel), I give intent to close out the essence making process, asking that the essence be preserved at the highest possible vibration for the healing of the greatest number of beings.
After I have filled and closed my bottle, I take the remaining water in the bowl and take a sip, giving thanks for the privilege of making this essence and connecting with the healing forces of Nature. I may take a drop or two and place on my heart and forehead, then gratefully return the water to the base of the plant, thanking it for the gift of the essence.
As I close out the essence making session, I verbally close my connections to the spirits and elemental forces who have been working with me, and give thanks for all the information and healing I have received.
This process is termed making the mother essence. From this mother essence, two drops are added to a neutral solution (50% water, 50% brandy) to make a stock essence. This is the level of dilution typically sold in stores. From this level, another dilution is made to create a dosage level solution – 2 drops of stock are added to neutral solution (less brandy is needed as this is not intended for long term storage) to create a dosage bottle for daily use. As you can see, by the time the essence is diluted into stock or dosage level, there is nothing left in the liquid but the pure energy signature of the plant. Hence the term “flower essence”.