Monday, 14 January 2013

Cosmetics Contemplations: My Bach Flowers Experiment

I'd like to believe that I'm quite open-minded when it comes to alternative remedies. I've taken herbal diet pills, which I felt really helped to keep my hunger pangs down while dieting, and homeopathy has also really helped my father (possibly the most cynical, least happy-clappy guy alive) with his allergies. I can frequently be seen in Holland and Barrett during my visits to the UK, and cure-alls such as arnica and tea tree oil are permanent mainstays in my home. So perhaps it wasn't a great surprise when I said yes to my aunt, who required case studies as part of her training to become an official Bach Flowers practitioner.

You may have heard of Bach Flowers - but beyond Dr Bach's most famous Rescue Remedy, what else do you know about them? 

Dr Bach was an English bacteriologist and homeopath who rose to prominence in the 1930s thanks to his herbal remedies. He believed that plants' healing properties could be harnessed to not only treat physical conditions but also emotional and spiritual problems. The Rescue Remedy itself is famed for its ability to calm people who are struggling to deal with a stressful situation, and it contains a combination of five flowers: impatiens, rock rose, star of Bethlehem, cherry plum, and clematis. However, a patient's individual treatment may contain up to seven flowers, chosen from a list of 38. This is decided by a qualified Bach Flowers practitioner after consultation with the patient. This consultation almost takes the form of a counselling section, whereby the patient tells the practitioner what problems or worries they are currently experiencing, whether these are physical or mental. Patients are normally reassessed after six weeks, with a 1.5-hour consultation session setting you back around £50.

Patients take their seven flowers in the form of a tincture (in which the flowers are diluted with water and brandy), which can be consumed neat or mixed with a drink of their choosing. The Rescue Remedy itself is available as a tincture and as tablets. A Bach Flower cream and lip balm also exist, which are based on the Rescue Remedy, with the addition of crab apple for extra healing, and these can be used all over the body from face to feet.

I'm not going to go into all my worldly woes on here. But suffice it to say that after my free consultation it was recommended that I try a tincture consisting of the following:
  • mimulus (for known fears, including driving - this one I specify as it's relevant later)
  • impatiens (to encourage calm)
  • holly (to act against envy)
  • crab apple (for my acneic skin)
  • white chestnut (for persistent thoughts that prevent sleep)
  • larch (to boost confidence)
  • olive (for feelings of tiredness and exhaustion)
This tincture was given to me for free (but would normally cost about £5; some practitioners include this in the consultation cost, so check before booking). It was, however, also recommended that I use the Bach cream for my face and Rescue Remedy pastilles (again, for the driving issue). The Bach cream was given to me as a gift from my mother, but normally of course I would have to pay for this myself. As for the pastilles, I purchased these myself online (they retail at £5 a tin, but are often on 3-for-2 at Boots).

During the first 24 hours of my using the tincture, I noticed two obvious effects. One: a marked increase in my energy levels. Secondly, the best night's sleep I'd had in months. You could joke and say that this was down to the brandy that is also present in the tincture, but seeing as you take so little (16 drops a day - and bear in mind that the tincture also includes the flowers and water), I doubt that such a small amount of alcohol would make you sleep so well. Both of these aspects have continued to improve even though I now no longer use the tincture. It would be a lie to say that I never get exhausted or never sleep badly anymore, but there has without doubt been an improvement in the two-and-a-half months since my consultation.

I also noticed a reduction in envy while using the tincture, although there has been a small resurgence of this since stopping. I have coped well at work, with and without the tincture, managing my tasks with minimal stress in spite of a significant increase in workload. 

In addition, my skin condition has also improved slightly, although I think that this is thanks more to the cream than to the tincture - to the extent of drawing a couple of compliments. The cream itself is pleasant to use: it smells pleasantly of flowers without being a heavy scent and it also doesn't bog skin down in terms of texture. It's very light, and is slightly watery without being runny, absorbing quickly without greasiness. While not the most luxurious cream I've ever used, you could argue that it has made a small difference. One tube lasts 10-12 weeks and costs about £6.50.

The one area in which I saw no change, however, was my confidence in driving. I have been taking lessons since September and find that I become extremely nervous and panicky during them, even to the point of crying in the car, in spite of previous driving experience. This was not ameliorated by the pastilles or the tincture and so probably amounts to something that needs to be treated by a doctor.

I'm well aware that Bach Flower remedies have not had a very good clinical record, with the word 'placebo' having been thrown around a lot. However, I do think that placebos themselves have their own value, and that if these help someone to the degree that they do not then need to treat their ailments with further medicine or therapy, then they are ultimately positive. I also like the idea that in this way a person is able to self-medicate naturally. Nonetheless, there are clearly some things that people suffer with that cannot be 'cured' through Bach Flower remedies. Practitioners tend to advise that this may be the case and that anyone considering Bach Flower remedies should go through qualified herbalists, taking advice from doctors alongside and/or subsequently. In any case, I would be willing to continue with Bach Flower remedies in some of the forms that they take, as well as recommending this to friends and family, as I have to a degree found it to be effective. Now to send my bottle back for a refill...

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