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Bach Flower Remedies

Weary as I am of all manners of insipid new age/alternative medicine advocates, none are more tedious than the Flower Remedy crowd. I was again provoked to confront this nonsense after a chance encounter with a seemingly well meaning yet fundamentally asinine emissary of the above. She casually tossed out the cliché, "Water has a memory" as if, in this regard, it was a fact. While her demeanor was that of a knowledgeable professional, she merely, as most salespeople do, rehashed the drivel she had been told without pondering it's validity.

So I would like to throw some light on these parasite industries gnawing their way into the mainstream. Although Edward Bach (1886-1936) was a Harley Street doctor, his endeavors were something less than scholarly. Drawing some kind of symbiotic connection between the human 'soul' and the 'spirit' of each flower (or bloom), manifested through its dew, Bach charted corrective infusions for each perceived negative disturbance. The nature of the connection was lightly defined at best. Conveniently the 38 remedies, the total possible according to Bach, were all obtained from plants growing within walking distance from his house in Mount Vernon England. However, despite Bach's remedy limit, numerous 'new remedies' have sprung up over the years - fortunate indeed if you live in New Guinea or Peru instead of rural England. Not to worry though as I can find no controlled tests confirming claims made by advocates of flower remedies, nor for that matter made by Edward Bach himself. Clearly there is no science behind this baloney. In fact when he first published his ideas in 1931 he wrote of five fundamental truths all of which deal with the metaphysical not the scientific. Bach himself attests that he discovered the healing properties of the dew drops on flowers by inspiration, and not by scientific tests. He claimed to perceive the healing properties by holding each flower or tasting the dew. Furthermore all but the most extensive of controlled tests are doomed to failure due to the nature of the claims attached to these different remedies.

Here are some of the claims - Clematis helps you get a lively interest in the world around you and in life. Gorse helps you get a sense of faith and hope, despite current physical or mental problems. Rock Water helps us hold high ideals with a flexible mind. Heather helps you put your own suffering to good use by empathizing with others . . . and so on for the 38 different 'remedies'. To test these claims would require a statistical study of momentous proportions. Just the very fact that one would take Walnut to protect one against negative energy from other people is inherently a placebo effect. Much like astrology, each disorder and its redress is sufficiently vague as to open the flood gates of interpretation and self fulfilling prophecies.

Now to the phrase 'water memory', this is the proposed caveat rationalizing the gargantuan dilution ratio. The ratio is so tremendous it ensures none of the original essence is present. (Exceeding Amadeo Avogadro's number 6.022 x 1023). So flower remedy advocates subscribe to this half baked proposition, which enables the industry to churn out these little brown bottles of 'snake oil'. This absurd hypothesis was highlighted by a team headed by Jacques Benveniste in the eighties and published in 'Nature' after editor John Maddox had criticized the work in a previous issue. Maddox it seems was trying to be fair but despite later independent tests (Forman 1993) showing "no aspect of the data is consistent with Benveniste's claim.", This article seems to be the one proponent’s point to for scientific legitimacy.

What if water really did 'remember' structures or patterns immersed in it? What would be the consequence of this so called "water memory" on bottled water or for that matter tap water. Would it have the memory of every essence which it came in contact with? Would it "remember" contact with malevolent toxins, rotting animal corpses, industrial waste regardless of filtration and massive dilution? Apparently not because evidently the last essence must overwrite previous memories. If the essence in question, (dew collected from different flowers), is sufficiently potent, even after exceeding Avogadro's dilution limit, to imprint its memory over whatever was "imprinted" previously, then why wouldn't a new "memory" displace that from the inordinately greater concentrations of impurities in the bottling process, from the air, and even more so from the human body itself?

Studies such as one with climbing frog thyroxine beyond Avogadro's dilution limit by Wayne Jonas in the mid nineties fail on just about every level to even meet the criteria for a controlled test as the increased climbing rate, if he is to be believed, could surely be due to any number of things that do exist in the solution such as the alcohol medium used. As you can see, initially this was a spiritual-based hypothesis which, now, those profiting from it scramble to legitimize in a world where "aspirin," or "Aleve" actually work! As with the kings new clothes, those who have bought into it are reluctant to abandon their belief system. It seems to me that when one is despondent or disillusioned with life it certainly feels better to be proactive but I would suggest spending the $10 on a good book is a better course than buying a Gentian Bach flower remedy. - Nicky Garratt September 2002