Search by Author
Newly Added Articles and Research  

International/National Links and Networking

Contact Us/Send Comments 

Member's Login: Password Required

  Bach Flower Remedies in Relation to Anthroposophic Medicine

<< back

By: Friedwart Husemann, M.D.

(Original title: Bachs Bluetentherapie im Verhaeltnis zur anthroposophischen Medizin. Merkurstab 1994; 47:497-506. English by A. R. Meuss, FIL, MTA.)

Bach's Medical System

Even as a boy, Edward Bach (24 September 1886 - 27 November 1936) hoped to discover the principle that could be used to cure all diseases. As a medical student he was conscious of the strong bias in school medicine. When he first came in contact with patients he felt that their psychological and personal symptoms were much more important than the physical symptoms. He trained as a bacteriologist and produced vaccines (nosodes) from the intestinal microorganisms, injecting patients with their own nosodes. He achieved remarkable results with this method, later modifying it and giving the nosodes only by mouth. He then found in Hahnemann's Organon much of what he himself had discovered in working with his nosodes.

In July, 1917 Bach had a severe pulmonary hemorrhage requiring surgery. He was in a coma for some time.

He developed his nosode therapy further at the London Homeopathic Hospital, believing that he had found the therapeutic principle to treat the condition called psora by Hahnemann. He differentiated between seven groups of bacteria, calling them 1) Proteus, 2) Dysentery, 3) Morgan, 4) Fecalis, 5) Coli mutabile, 6) Gaertner, and 7) No. 7. In clinical use, the mental symptoms and temperament of the patient became the most important indications. He thus arrived at seven clearly-defined personality types, with the seven nosodes corresponding to these. His approach was based on the bacteriologic, pharmaceutic and clinical investigations he was involved in more or less night and day. The lights would always be on in his laboratory, and the light shining from his laboratory windows was called "the light that never goes out" by the hospital staff.

The successes achieved with the nosodes failed to satisfy Bach, however. He had quite a large laboratory by then with a number of assistants and was much sought after as a London physician. Yet he suddenly gave it all up. In 1928, at the age of 42, came a turning point in his life. He was looking for plants to replace his nosodes for purer remedies. He went to the world of nature, gathering plants, potentizing them or their active principles, but found again and again that nothing equaled the power of his nosodes.

One night he was attending a dinner in a large banquet hall. He had attended somewhat unwillingly and was not really enjoying himself. To pass the time he was watching the people sitting at the table. Suddenly he realized that the whole of humanity consisted of groups of clearly definable types and that every one of the people present in the large hall belonged to one of these groups.(1) He realized that there had to be more than seven types. He perceived that it was not the case that particular diseases were characteristic of a group, but that the members of a particular group would show similar or the same reactions to various diseases. Initially he established twelve personality types, indicating twelve flowers for their treatment. One of his booklets was therefore entitled The Twelve Healers. He realized that he was on the threshold of discovering a completely new system of clinical medicine. He also had a feeling that he would find a new method of preparation that differed from existing techniques in being extremely simple. He left London at this point, burned all earlier lectures and essays, and started a migrant kind of life in Wales, where he discovered one medicinal plant after the other.

Bach's primary intuition - using the term in his sense - had been that there are twelve personality types which he distinguished according to mental and characterological aspects:

1) fear

2) terror

3) mental torture or worry

4) indecision

5) indifference, boredom

6) doubt or discouragement

7) over-concern

8) weakness

9) self-distrust

10) impatience

11) over-enthusiasm

12) pride or aloofness

Bach found a natural remedy for each of these, perceiving the connection directly when encountering the plant:

1) fear
2) terror
3) mental torture or worry
4) indecision
5) indifference, boredom
6) doubt or discouragement
7) over-concern
8) weakness
9) self-distrust
10) impatience
11) over-enthusiasm
12) pride or aloofness
Rock Rose
Autumn Gentian
Water Violet

The results achieved with these remedies, used according to the mental typology, satisfied Bach greatly. They were much better than those he had known with his nosodes. Most of the readers of this journal will be familiar with Cichorium intybus, a plant Rudolf Steiner investigated in spiritual science.(2) The story of a patient treated with Cichorium intybus by E. Bach will, therefore, be of interest. According to Bach, Chicory is indicated for people who are over-concerned and like to interfere in other people's affairs:

A lady, aged seventy, had severe indigestion with pain over the heart. She had had attacks for some years but worse of late, the cardiac pain and fluttering necessitating rest in bed for one or two weeks at a time.

She was an energetic type, over-concerned about the welfare of her family and household, continually worrying aver trifles and never happy unless her children were near her, full of self-pity if they did not come and see her frequently.

She was given Chicory regularly for two months. Improvement began at once and the trouble entirely disappeared at the end of the second month, and when last seen, one year later, she had had no return. She also became calmer and less worried about her family, giving them more freedom and so increasing not only their happiness but her own.(3)

According to Bach, the physical disease had been caused by lack of harmony between soul and spirit, personality and higher self. Disease as such is beneficial and serves us well: it is a corrective, pointing to a lesson to be learned. Essentially there are twelve faults to be recognized. The disease will be cured if we develop the virtue that balances the fault. In support, or even on its own, the appropriate flower therapy is indicated for each fault. Bach's writings thus contain lists such as the following:(4)

This establishes a kind of pastoral medical and phytotherapeutic connection.

Continuing his researches. Bach found seven more medicinal plants and published The Twelve Healers and Seven Helpers. He now had a range of 19 medicines. In the last two years of his life he discovered a another 19 medicines using a different method of research. Bach himself would develop a certain negative mental state or a physical illness, and he always knew that he would recover as soon as he found the appropriate medicine. This method of pharmacognosy through self treatment required great courage of his convictions and an unshakeable faith in his mission. The additional 19 medicines were largely taken from trees (oak, elm, larch, hornbeam, etc.) and prepared not by the sun method, which will be described below, but - with the exception of White Chestnut - by decoction. Bach mainly used this second series of remedies for patients who did not respond too well to the first series.

Bach's system of medicine thus involves 2 x 19 = 38 remedies. The famous Rescue Remedy (Bach emergency drops and ointment) is a combination of Rock Rose, Impatiens, Clematis, Star of Bethlehem and Cherry Plum.

The first book published by Bach following the discovery of his flower remedies was Heal Thyself. Physical illnesses are psychological in origin. If we deal with our psychological problems we shall be well, contented and happy. The function of the new remedies was to help patients to overcome the negative states of soul that caused the illness.

And so come out, my brothers and sisters, into the glorious sunshine of the knowledge of your Divinity, and earnestly and steadfastly set to work to join in happiness and communicating happiness ...(5)

Bach rejected poisonous plants and metals as medicinal agents. He would only use the flowers, for the flower, containing the potential seed, concentrates the vital powers of the plant.

Walking through the fields on a May morning and seeing the glittering dew drops all around. Bach thought that a dew drop must contain some of the properties of the plant on which it rested. The heat of the sun, he felt, extracted the active principles of the plant, so that the dew drop would be fully charged with its powers. He had the sensitivity to differentiate between sun-irradiated dew drops and those that were in the shade, and found that sun-irradiated dew drops were the more effective. Gathering dew being very time-consuming. Bach chose a method by which the freshly gathered flowers were placed in a dish of clear water and exposed to direct sunlight. He described his sun method in a paper published in Homeopathic World.(6)

A glass bowl, as thin-walled as possible, was filled almost to the brim with pure water, preferably from a spring. Sufficient flower heads were placed in the bowl to cover the surface completely. A cloudless day would be chosen, and the flowers were picked after they had been in the sunlight for about two hours. The bowl was then placed in the sun, changing its position from time to time so that the light of the sun was fully on the surface, with the whole bowl bathed in light. A quarter of the liquid was poured off after three, four and seven hours respectively, adding about 20 percent of pure alcohol to the drawn-off liquid, which would represent the third, fourth and seventh potencies respectively.

It is evident from the above that Bach - in the initial stages of developing the method - equated the period of exposure to the sun with different potencies. It also shows that Bach would originally pick the flowers two hours after sunrise at the earliest and that some of the tinctures were not ready until nine hours after sunrise, in the afternoon. Later (The Twelve Healers, 1933) he said the flowers should be exposed to the sun until the petals just started to fade. Ultimately the instruction was to expose to the sun for four hours, and that is the method used today. Even today, the four-hour period may well extend beyond noon.(7)

The method was, therefore, to take the place of potentization for Bach's researches had shown that this was the best way of ensuring medicinal powers. Bach wrote in 1930 that people should not reject the method on account of its simplicity; the further scientific research advanced, the greater would be recognition of the principle of simplicity in the whole of creation.(6)

In his view, the system could be used to cure all diseases:

Whatever the disease, the result of this disharmony, we may be quite sure that the cure is well within our powers of accomplishment, for our souls never ask of us more than we can very easily do.(4)

Any disease, however serious, however long-standing, will be cured by restoring to the patient happiness and desire to carry on.

Examples he gave were "arthritis, cancer, asthma, etc." and also "measles." A few weeks before his death he spoke of "all diseases normally known in this country."

There is no need to tell you of the Great Healing Properties of these Remedies, more than to say that hundreds and thousands of people have been brought back to health.

He compared his cures to the melting of snow:

They [the Bach Flowers] cure not by attacking disease but by flooding our bodies with the beautiful vibrations of our Higher Nature, in the presence of which disease melts as snow in the sunshine.(9)

He also stated that his method was very simple, requiring "no medical knowledge whatsoever."(8) "The whole principle of Healing by this method is so simple as can be understood by almost everyone."(8)

Anthroposophic Point of View

A comparison between Bach's method and anthroposophic medicine will not only throw a light on the Bach Flowers but, if we look at anthroposophic medicine in the mirror of another system, some of the principles of anthroposophic medicine emerge more clearly.

What are the origins of disease?

Bach saw the origin of physical illnesses in the human psyche. The mental symptoms were much more important to him than physical symptoms. Edward Bach (1886-1936) and Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) were of one mind regarding the psychic origin of physical illnesses. "The disease is merely an abnormality in the individual's life of feeling,"(10) said Rudolf Steiner, and Edward Bach had clearly developed the "perceptive eye for the inner life"(10) that Rudolf Steiner hoped physicians would develop. In anthroposophic medicine this concept of disease is, however, only one among many, and it is immediately reversed when it comes to "mental" diseases, the syndromes known in the field of psychiatry. Depression and mania, compulsive neuroses or delusional states have their origin in the patient's physical body. Other concepts arise, for instance, if we consider the human being from the point of view of the four aspects, its threefold nature, or the polarity between the upper and lower human being.

If a physical illness has its origin in the patient's soul life, does this permit us to give low value to physical symptoms? Let us imagine two patients who, in Bach's terms, are both over-concerned. Let us say one has a heart condition and the other a liver disease. Heart and liver are different worlds, and so it cannot be one and the same. Here we see that it really matters if we are able to distinguish between body, soul and spirit. Anthroposophy considers not only the psyche, which may affect the individual's vital processes, but also the spiritual nature of a person which is embodied and active in the organs. Seen in this light, disease is "the physical Imagination of spiritual life,"(11) and I differentiate between two different spiritual realities when making the distinction between hemolytic and hepatocellular icterus. The soul is undoubtedly more spiritual than the body, but the latter is more perfect in its kind. If we compare the marvelous structure of the heart or the brain and their finely attuned functions with the uncertainties and instability of our feelings, it is evident that the physical body, of its kind, is the most perfect aspect of the human being. Any approach to medicine must, therefore, base itself on a study of the physical body; otherwise it can have no solid foundation.

One-sided or all-round methods?

Bach used only flowers for his medicines, the only exception being Rock Water, water from medicinal springs.

Anthroposophically speaking, flowers act on the metabolic pole, i.e. the area where Bach had collected his nosodes at an earlier stage. The fact that he used plants to influence the soul is understandable from the anthroposophic point of view. Mineral medicines act on the human ego, plants on the soul (astral) body, animal substances on the life body, and human substances (e.g. blood preparations) on the physical body.(12) The flower actually has a soul aspect, showing nature's changing facial expressions in a poetic way.

Bach, therefore, had the right ideas concerning both disease and his Flower Remedies, but he made them the sole and exclusive principle to the point where there are no limits, and one loses one's bearings.

Some dietary advice given by Rudolf Steiner may demonstrate this. The metabolic/sulphur pole is dominant in fair-haired children, the nerve/sense pole in dark-haired children.(13) To correct such a bias, Steiner advised that fair-haired children should be given root vegetables, dark-haired children aromatic fruits. The effect of such a diet given to children also influences the soul,(13) and we really ought to demonstrate this empirically by conducting long-term trials. But we can understand the principle even without this. A fair-haired child, with the emphasis on metabolism, would thus be given root vegetables and a dark-haired child, with the emphasis on nerves and senses, fruit to correct the bias. Anthroposophic medical treatment is also based on the principle that human beings have an upside-down plant inside them. The Flower Remedies deal with one aspect of this. The other, polar root aspect and the third, mediating leaf aspect are missing. People using the Flower Remedies, therefore, have no clear understanding of what they are doing. For what do I really know about an effective medicine if I do not also know the medicine which acts in the opposite way?

Many mothers today give Bach Flower Remedies to their children as a form of prophylactic psychological medicine. In view of the above, one would expect the Flower Remedies to increase the bias in a fair-haired child, in whom the flowering/sulphur is already dominant, while they may be expected to have a balancing effect in dark-haired children.

Medicines free from poison?

Bach rejected poisonous plants such as Belladonna and Aconite, even in potentized form. Steiner would occasionally prescribe substances in doses that came close to the toxic range (e.g. Mercurius vivus nat., in Thuja comp.).

Here again, the physical body can teach us how to find the right way. It produces numerous toxic substances, e.g. CO2, phosphorus, iron, bilirubin, etc., all of which are also detoxified. Classic exogenous toxins such as morphine and strophanthin have been known for years to be endogenous as well, with small amounts produced in the body. Everything normal and healthy in one organ is unhealthy or a toxin for the next organ. Consider the way the brain floats calmly in the cerebrospinal fluid, like an iceberg; in the heart the same macroscopic calm would signify cardiac arrest and, therefore, death. The inner life, which proved of such interest to Bach, can only exist in the body by slightly poisoning it all the time; the state of unconsciousness we enter in sleep will then correct this again. If a disease develops in which vegetative, regenerative, sleep-like metabolic forces dominate, e.g. a febrile inflammation, toxic substances are indicated that will strengthen the waking- up pole, which has become too weak, and thus counteract the overweening metabolic, going-to-sleep pole. Belladonna 3x or 4x may be indicated in such a case, not as a homeopathic simile, but for the above reasons. Belladonna 30x would be contraindicated, for if the origin is perceived to be in the metabolic pole, we have to intervene there, and this is successfully done by using low, material potencies.

To be able to cope with the widest possible range of situations - and Edward Bach clearly wanted this - we have to understand that it is "a nonsense to dream of non-poisonous medicine".(14)

Self-treatment or self-education?

One of Bach's most important social impulses is that of self-treatment. Apart from the simplicity of his method, this is probably one of the main reasons why the system is so widespread, having become highly popular in recent years.

As already mentioned. Bach's first publication was Heal Thyself. Steiner asked young doctors to make it part of their medical ethics not to treat themselves and not to lay claim to the benefits of the medicines for themselves.(15) This was clearly said with reference to medical treatment.

In terms of general hygiene it is, of course, justifiable and indeed highly necessary to strive for health. "Striving for health" is the first condition for entering on the spiritual path (Knowledge of the Higher Worlds). Tried and proven aids are eurythmy(16) and the exercises connected with the lectures on Overcoming Nervousness and Practical Training in Thought.(17) At this psychological level, self-treatment - if we may call it such - is far from simple, requiring a great deal of effort and will power. It is, in fact, a matter of self-education. The "heal yourself" impulse should not take the place of self-education. We are well on the way to this, however, when we read in the prospectuses of the Bach Center in England that Bach Flower therapy is "preventive medicine for the psyche", serving to "build character" and that the long-term goal of Bach Flower therapy is to achieve "purity of soul and, therefore, maximum personal development and stability".

Under the pretext of treatment something entirely different is offered here: the self-education impulse is obscured. Purity of soul is a goal that in anthroposophic terms can only be achieved through numerous incarnations and, in Christian terms, only on the Day of Judgment. In selling their products the manufacturers of Bach Flower Remedies want to provide something to be acquired passively which, in fact, can never be provided from outside: self- knowledge, self-education, character improvement, purity of soul.

As far as I can see, this impulse was not of primary concern to Bach himself; he truly wanted to heal physical diseases by treating the soul. Bach was convinced that his system would cure every disease.

Sun method or powers of morning and evening?

Rudolf Steiner introduced new, complicated manufacturing methods for a whole range of anthroposophic medicines. Examples are the machine used to produce mistletoe preparations and the method of producing Kalium acet. comp. c. Stibio. His suggestions were based on certain insights, e.g. that mistletoe as it occurs in nature, is a "decadent process"(18) It is often necessary to complete the work of nature, using the art of pharmacy.

Edward Bach's main concern, on the other hand, was to find a simple method on which human beings have minimum influence. His sun method exposes the medicinal substances to direct sunlight, and initially he would start two hours after sunrise at the earliest, with exposure times of three to seven hours, depending on the "potency" required. The method was developed further, and today a standard exposure time of four hours is used, often until noon or later. Originally, noontide was always part of the process.

Steiner, on the other hand, advised against using the noon or midnight powers of the sun, recommending utilization of the powers of morning and evening, with direct sunlight playing no role in this, the aim being, among other things, to avoid the use of alcohol as a preservative. Bach was unable to manage without alcohol for his remedies. Steiner spoke of the different nature of the powers of noon and midnight, predicting their future effects in the East and West.(19) A time will come when "those who have knowledge in the cosmos will fight one another.(19) It will be an American secret how the powers of noon can be made to serve the ahrimanic double,(19) to paralyze the powers of morning and evening. And the powers of midnight will be used in Eastern occultism to bypass the Christ impulse.

Readers may judge for themselves if Bach's sun method may be seen in connection with the above-mentioned American secret or not. The fact is that Edward Bach, coming after Samuel Hahnemann and after Rudolf Steiner, discovered a method of preparing medicines that uses the noontide powers of direct sunlight.

Questions we have to ask in relation to that method are: what happens when the flowers are thus exposed to the sun? Which physical substances and non-physical creative powers are transferred to the water? Is this the equivalent of potentization, as Bach believed it to be?

Should we use medicines for which the principle of action is unknown?

Twelve and seven

Bach discovered 7 nosodes, 12 human types, 12 healers and 7 helpers, and then another 12 + 7 = 19 remedies, after which he declared the system to be complete. He himself never spoke of the meaning of those figures. Without going into speculation, let us recall, however, that the major turning point in Edward Bach's life came when he realized that the whole of humanity is made up of 12 types. In Anthroposophy we speak of the individual human being, and initially only of the physical body which consists of 12 senses or has embryologically evolved through the forces that come from the 12 regions of the zodiac. The individual human being, and initially only the life (ether) body, differentiates into 7 stages of life, a 7-fold metal or planetary process. Numerous further differentiations and aspects make the individual person a being of body, soul and spirit, a marvelous, artistically metamorphosed, highly complex mirror of the cosmos. We feel growing admiration and profound reverence as we learn to perceive this human being. For Edward Bach, it seems, the whole of humanity was simply and easily divided into 12 types, his system being so simple that even 38 types are easy to understand. This has resulted in a simple, practical method that requires "no medical knowledge whatever" and "can be understood by almost everyone."(8)

Simple or Complex?

In Nora Week's book the terms "simple" and "simplicity" are used dozens of times.

The keynote of Edward Bach's life was simplicity and it was also the keynote of his final work - the new system of herbal medicine.(1)

Tempting words - "the genius of simplicity" - but there is also a certain arrogance which should not be overlooked.

Since Edward Bach's days, a vast number of harmful effects on the environment have become known, among them thalidomide, the Chenobyl disaster, the natural catastrophe of the Aral Sea, the plague of toads in Australia, the ozone hole in the stratosphere, ozone pollution near ground level, the hothouse effect, mad cow disease (BSE) due to meat being fed to herbivores, etc. All of these were caused by human beings, sometimes on expert advice. The common denominator is a biased, simplistic approach, and failure to think of all possible consequences. Simplicity of thinking is the banner headline when we consider the causes of today's natural disasters. The longing for simple ways of thinking arises from the desire to avoid effort. Life, the world and the human being are many-layered and complex, and in using methods that are too simple and one-sided we destroy them.

Bach's Flower therapy is as one-sided as it is simple. The original claims for universality have no doubt been found to be relative in practice. Bach's successors now want to offer "inner development in the form of drops", and the tremendous spread of Bach's Flower Remedies is a product of our age, a product of avoidance of effort.

Friedwart Husemann, MD Maria-Eich-Str. 57A D-82166 Graefelfing bei Muenchen, Germany


1 Weeks N. The Medical Discoveries of Edward each, Physician. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd 1940.

2 Steiner R. Spiritual Science and Medicine (GA 312). Lecture of 30 Mar 1920. Tr. not known. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1975.

3 WeeksN.Loc.dt. p. 73.

4 Bach E. Free Thyself. In The Original Writings of Edward Bach by J. Howard and J. Ramsell. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd 1990.

5 Bach E. Heal Thyself. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd 1933.

6 Bach E. New Remedies and New Uses. Homeopathic World 1930.

7 Information kindly given to J. B. Williamson, Graefelfing, Germany, who telephoned John Ramsell at the Bach Center of 13 June 1994.

8 Bach E. Masonic Lecture 1936. In The Original Writings of Edward Bach by J. Howard and J. Ramsell. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd 1990.

9 Bach E. Ye Suffer from Yourselves. Address given at Southport, Feb 1931. In The Original Writings of Edward Bach by J. Howard and J. Ramsell. Saffron Walden: C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd 1990.

10 Steiner R. Eight Lectures to Doctors (in GA 316). Domach, 3 Jan 1924. Tr. not known. MS translation R % at Rudolf Steiner House Library, London.

11 Ibid. 8 Jan 1924.

12 Steiner R. An Outline ofAnthroposophical Medical Research (in GA 319). Lecture given in London on 28 August 1924. Tr. not known. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1939.

13 Steiner R. Curative Education (GA 317). Lecture of 30 Jun 1924. Tr. M. Adams. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1972.

14 Steiner R. Fundamentals of Anthroposophical Medicine (in GA 314). Stuttgart, 28 Oct 1922. Tr. A. Wulsin. Spring Valley MY: Mercury 1986.

15 Steiner R. Eight Lectures to Doctors. 7 & 8 Jan 1924.

16 Steiner R. Curative Eurythmy (GA 315). Tr. K. Krohn. Lecture of 16 Apr 1921. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1983.

17 Steiner R. Overcoming Nervousness (in GA 143). Lecture given in Munich on January 1912. Tr. R. Querido & G. Church. New York: Anthroposophic Press 1973; Practical Training in Thought (in GA 108). Lecture given in Karlsruhe on

18 January 1909. Tr. H. Monges, rev. G. Church. New York: Anthroposophic Press 1974. 18 Steiner R. Anthr. Therapy, Lectures to Doctors (in GA 319). London, 3 Sept. 1923. Tr. R. Mansell. Long Beach, CA.: Rudolf Steiner Research Foundation 1984.

19 Steiner R. The Wrong and Right Use of Esoteric Knowledge (in GA 178). Lecture of 25 November 1923. Tr. D. Davy. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1966. On the subject of the ahrimanic double see also Steiner R. Geographic Medicine and the Mystery of the Double (in GA 178). Lecture of 16 November 1917. Tr. A. Wulsin. Spring Valley: Mercury Press 1986.

<< back

Dynamic Content Management by ContentTrakker