The remedies contain a very small amount of flower material in a 50:50 solution of brandy and water. Because the remedies are extremely diluted they do not have a characteristic scent or taste of the plant. It is claimed that the remedies contain "Energy (esotericism)|energetic" or "vibrational" nature of the flower and that this can be transmitted to the user.* Bach flower remedies are considered vibrational medicines, and rely on a concept of water memory. They are often labeled as homeopathic because they are extremely diluted in water, but are not true homeopathy as they do not follow other homeopathic precepts such as the Homeopathy#Law of similars|law of similars or the belief that curative powers are enhanced by shaking and repeated diluting ("succussion").
Systematic reviews of clinical trials of Bach flower remedies found no efficacy beyond a placebo.*
UseEach remedy is used alone or in conjunction with other remedies, and each flower is believed by advocates to impart specific qualities to the remedy. Bach flower remedies are also used on pets and domestic animals. Remedies are usually taken orally.
Remedies may be recommended by a naturopath or by a trained Bach flower practitioner after an interview. An individual may also choose the combination they feel best suits their situation. Some vendors recommend dowsing to select a remedy.
The best known flower remedy is the Rescue Remedy combination,* which contains an equal amount each of Rock Rose, Impatiens, Clematis, Ornithogalum|Star of Bethlehem and Cherry Plum remedies. The product is aimed at treating stress, anxiety, and panic attacks, especially in emergencies. Rescue Remedy is a trademark and other companies produce the same formula under other names, such as Five Flower Remedy.*Rescue Cream contains the same remedies in a cream form, with the addition of Crab Apple, a remedy Bach associated with feelings of contamination and unsightliness. It is applied externally in response to minor skin problems such as itches, cuts, stings, pimples and burns.
PhilosophyBach thought of illness as the result of a conflict between the purposes of the soul and the personality's actions and outlook. This internal war, according to Bach, leads to negative moods and to energy blocking, which causes a lack of "harmony", thus leading to physical diseases.*:9–10
Rather than using research based on scientific methods, Bach derived his flower remedies intuition (knowledge)|intuitively* and based on his perceived psychic connections to the plants.*p. 185 If Bach felt a negative emotion, he would hold his hand over different plants, and if one alleviated the emotion, he would ascribe the power to heal that emotional problem to that plant. He believed that early-morning sunlight passing through dew-drops on flower petals transferred the healing power of the flower onto the water,* so he would collect the dew drops from the plants and preserve the dew with an equal amount of brandy to produce a homeopathy|mother tincture which would be further diluted before use.* Later, he found that the amount of dew he could collect was not sufficient, so he would suspend flowers in spring (hydrosphere)|spring water and allow the sun's rays to pass through them.*
EffectivenessIn a 2002 database review of randomized trials Edzard Ernst concluded:
The hypothesis that flower remedies are associated with effects beyond a placebo response is not supported by data from rigorous clinical trials.*All randomized double-blind studies, whether finding for or against the remedies, have suffered from small cohort (statistics)|cohort sizes but the studies using the best methodology were the ones that found no effect over placebo.* The most likely means of action for flower remedies is as placebos, enhanced by introspection on the patient's emotional state, or simply being listened to by the practitioner. The act of selecting and taking a remedy may act as a calming ritual.*
A systematic review in 2009 concluded:
Most of the available evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of BFRs has a high risk of bias. We conclude that, based on the reported adverse events in these six trials, BFRs are probably safe. Few controlled prospective trials of BFRs for psychological problems and pain exist. Our analysis of the four controlled trials of BFRs for examination anxiety and ADHD indicates that there is no evidence of benefit compared with a placebo intervention.*A newer systematic review published in 2010 by Ernst concluded
All placebo-controlled trials failed to demonstrate efficacy. It is concluded that the most reliable clinical trials do not show any differences between flower remedies and placebos.*
ProductionEdward Bach thought that dew collected from the flowers of plants contains some of the properties of the plant, and that it was more potent on flowers grown in the sun. As it was impractical to collect dew in quantity, he decided to pick flowers and steep them in a bowl of water under sunlight. If this was impractical due to lack of sunlight or other reasons, he decided the flowers may be boiled.
The result of this process Bach termed the "mother tincture", which is then further diluted before sale or use.
Bach was satisfied with the method, because of its simplicity, and because it involved a process of combination of the Classical element|four elements:
Bach flower remedies are not dependent on the theory of successive dilutions, and are not based on the Law of Similars of Homeopathy. The Bach remedies, unlike homeopathic remedies, are all derived from non-toxic substances, with the idea that a "positive energy" can redirect or neutralize "negative energy."