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Have you noticed that when you pass a florist, you cannot help pausing for a minute or two? The blossoms splashing vivid colors are so beautiful that you are compelled to stand and stare at them. You drink in their beauty and then, spirits uplifted, go on your way. Small wonder then that we take a bunch of flowers when we visit somebody who is depressed or is in hospital. Flowers have such great powers of bringing instant cheer, that quite a few people believe that they have healing properties too. One person who studied this in great detail and developed what are called ‘mood medicines’ is Dr Edward Bach. His gentle flower remedies, though not widely accepted, are used to this day.

Bach was born in 1886 in Birmingham, England. As a boy, he had a deep love for Nature and the countryside. He wanted to study medicine and qualified as a doctor at the University College, London in 1912. For sixteen years, he worked as a pathologist, setting up his own practice and laboratory. He studied intestinal bacteria and discovered vaccines that proved effective against certain chronic illnesses. This won him fame and popularity, but somehow Bach became dissatisfied with conventional methods of treatment. He began to feel more and more that it was not so much the symptoms of illness, but the mental state of the patient that needed attention. While practicing, he had observed that the patients with the same disease did not respond in the same way to the same treatment. He began to feel strongly that illnesses were caused mainly by negative states of mind. He continued to make observations, studied them and came to the conclusion that each person is born with intuition, an inner guide to help him in his journey through life. However outside pressures from parents, teachers, peers and friends create doubt and fear. Every time a child is criticised or discouraged, he feels rejected. Emotions of anger, despair, hatred, loneliness and envy build up. If such feelings are bottled up, they result in the over-production of acids and chemicals. This affects the person physically and sooner or later results in illness. Disease therefore is really a cry for help, a sign that a person craves for joy and peace of mind. By taking out negative thoughts, one can cure and even prevent disease. Bach now gave up his practice in London and came to the countryside. He began to travel and observe his surroundings in detail. The result was the production of Bach Flower Remedies—38 potions derived from wild flowers. They had beneficial effects on mood, personality and emotional outlook. Each of the 38 remedies was designed to treat a particular emotion. Since Bach held that the underlying emotional state was the cause of a disease, the same treatment could be prescribed for illnesses as different as asthma, paralysis and headache. The medicines would work as long as the patients shared the same character traits. The medicines were made carefully. Only the best blooms of a particular species were picked. Some of the flowers used were Star-of-Bethlehem, rockrose, impatiens, cherry plum and clematis. They were immersed in pure water and left in full sunlight for a minimum of three hours. The liquid was then bottled. Only two drops of this was diluted in water or juice and then sipped slowly. Its effectiveness depended on accurate diagnosis—what the personality of the person was and whether the mood was a permanent or passing one. Bach called his flower therapy ‘the medicine of the future’. According to him, situations and technology may change, but emotions like fear, indecision, guilt and hate never change. Therefore his remedies are eternally valid. His findings were published in 1930 and attracted a lot of public interest. People travelled great distances to try them. Those who were cured were convinced by his philosophy. Medical opinion however remained skeptical. Bach died in 1936, but even today a Bach Centre in Oxfordshire, England, makes medicines exactly as Bach would have wanted. Though Bach did not succeed in revolutionising the practice of medicine, his theories, like the flowers he used, continue to have great appeal and cannot be ignored