Around every flower is the sweet fragrance of scented air. This field of fragrance is the flower’s soul. The soul is not just inside the flower. The flower lives inside the soul. As we do.” Tom Cowan – Yearning for the Wind.
How is it that flowers can be such powerful healers? What is in the plant and the flower that creates bio-chemical and vibrational substances that affect all of nature, all of us?
For years I used the Bach Flower remedies for emotional healing. I often gave them to my children during emotional imbalance. When they were teenagers they questioned whether these flower remedies did anything at all. As a parent I did not research how it worked I just told them I knew it worked because I was brought back to balance after ingesting a flower essence. My children were highly suspect of my “whooy whooy” beliefs. They wanted evidence that the flower had such power to heal. I wish now that I would have accommodated them. I wish that I had done the science. They were learning discernment and that is a good thing. I dedicate this blog entry to my three beautiful daughters. Without them I would not have been compelled to ask the deeper questions about plants, nature and the human connection to all things. 20 years ago there was not access to all the research and ideas that are available now. Now I do the deep search.
So I venture. What I am finding is amazing and essential for all of us to know if we are going to heal ourselves and the planet.
Observation: The smell of the flowers stimulates the parts of the brain that produces emotions. How does that happen?
For instance- Citrus helps alleviate depression. Smelling a wild rose causes me to feel more stable and clear-thinking. How does this happen? My inquiry has led me to many wonderful teachers in the last few weeks. Some long gone such as Bach and Meeuse. Some plant teachers I contacted are very much alive and teaching thousands of people to reconnect with the healing ability of the flowers and the plants.
Let us begin…
”Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. An extremely yang solution to a peculiar problem which they faced.” Terrance McKenna (an ethnopharmacologist)
According to Bastian Meeuse, 25 million years ago flowers appeared, they had just emerged from the oceans and had somehow trained primitive fleas and beetles to transport pollen from flower to flower. The insects and other pollinators craved the nectar and other food produced by the plants. And (this is very important) the plants and pollinators EVOLVED together. We humans also EVOLVED with the plants. And these plants including the flower have become our food, our medicine and our evolutionary neurotransmitters.
As the plants evolved and survived many challenges, so did humans. For thousands of years human healing involved bringing awareness to our bodies, to its unique reactions and processes, and to its symptoms and strengths. This awareness brought us to growthful insight and we pursued this healing in partnership with plants. In describing this ability to heal, I am describing a human who is at the peak of performance in body, mind and spirit and wellbeing. This ability to be healthy has always been influenced by plant-based food and medicine.
It has been only in the last 100 years that we humans in the Western world have moved in mass away from a plant based diet and plant based medicine. During the great purge of Europe in the 1500’s and beyond, millions of healers were killed for what they knew about plant healing. That mentality was brought to the Americas and is flourishing today in Western medicine. It is with great effort that the First People’s have kept flower and plant healing alive in the U.S. Our brothers and sisters to the south in the other America’s have developed great societies of plant healers. The healing power of the flower is just now being explored by the West through a growing number of herbalists. More and more people in the US and Europe are exploring plant based nutrition and healing.
How can a flower influence healing? Western Science has just now begun to ask the important questions about how plants heal humans and why the healing mechanism cannot be synthesized into chemical compounds. These questions have been asked and answered in the healing modalities of the East and far-east. Western science has been dissecting the process of how plants heal humans by constructing studies based on the scientific method.
FLAVONOIDS A WESTERN STUDY
One such study looked at flavonoids found primarily as the pigments responsible for the autumnal burst of hues and the many shades of yellow, orange, and red in flowers and food. These flavonids are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, stems, flowers, as well as tea and wine. Over 4000 structurally unique flavonoids have been identified in plants. Eastern cultures have used these plants high in flavonoids for healing for thousands of years. According to the study, a resurgence of interest in traditional Eastern medicine during the past two decades, together with an expanded effort in pharmacognosy, has rekindled interest in the flavonoids and the need to understand their interaction with mammalian cells and tissues. (Middleton, Kandaswami, and Theoharides 2000).
In general these flavonoids must be ingested from plant tissue and then they interact with the bacteria in the gut to affect change in the body. But some flowers also affect flavonoid changes through aroma and biochemistry. So, merely smelling a flower may cause chemical changes in the body.
Other studies have found that a diet rich in fruits and flowers also cause the brain to develop differently, increase its size, provide high levels of DHA and demonstrate powerful endocrine altering properties such as hormones. This diet may be responsible for the evolutionary changes in brain capacity over millions of years. A move away from this diet in the last 200 years is beginning to produce a human brain that is shrinking. Human evolution in the tropical forest may have strongly affected the development of the human brain (Gynn and Wright 2008).
St John’s Wort is a plant whose flower is coveted for its healing abilities. The St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum; Clusiaceae) has been used in traditional and modern medicine for a long time due to its high content of biologically active phenolics. Hypericum perforatum L. (St. John’s wort) is a representative of the Clusiaceae family with confirmed therapeutic effects on burns, bruises, swelling, anxiety, mild to moderate depression, antidepressant, antiviral, wound healing, analgesic, hepatoprotective, antioxidant and antimicrobial activity.
At first western scientists disputed the ability for this flower to heal. However recent studies have found that the plant extract contains Naphtodianthrones. Naphthodianthrones such as hypericin and pseudohypericin are predominant components in St. John’s wort extracts, and most St. John’s Wort phytomedicines are currently standardized according to their hypericin content. These chemicals are localized in dark glandular structures mainly located on the margins of St. John’s wort leaves and flower petals and appear to serve in the defense against insect herbivory. Although there is some evidence that biosynthesis of St. John’s wort naphthodianthrones involves the polyketide pathway, the production of napthodianthrones in St. John’s wort can be influenced by environmental factors such as light and soil mineral nutrients (Briskin 2000).
FLOWER PHYSIOLOGY AND HEALING BIO-CHEMICAL PIGMENTS
The floral meristem cells such as those found in flowers can be described as tiny cellulose boxes on the inside and a thin layer of protein plasma that surround the large central vacuoles. The structure holds a mass of water that holds in solution a whole array of chemical compounds such as sugars, plant acids, salts and often pigments. The pigments are very healing to the human body. Here are three pigments found in flowers that promote health.
- Anthocyanins – (flower + blue) are water-soluble vacuolar pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue depending on the pH. Eaten in large
amounts by primitive humans, anthocyanins are antioxidant flavonoids that protect many body systems. They have some of the strongest physiological effects of any plant compounds, and they are also things of beauty: anthocyanins provide pigment for pansies, petunias, and plums. Anthocyanins are the active component in several herbal folk medicines such as bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), which was used in the 12th century to induce menstruation and during World War II to improve British pilots’ night vision. Scientists are now discovering how such anthocyanins work and are beginning to appreciate their health benefits.
- Anthoxantins – are water-soluble pigments which range in color from white or colorless to a creamy to yellow, often on petals of flowers. These pigments are generally whiter in an acid medium and yellowed in an alkaline medium. They are very susceptible to color changes with minerals and metal ions, similar to anthocyanins. As with all flavonoids, they exhibit antioxidant properties, and are important in nutrition. Anthoxanthins may contain allicin which is good for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Betacyanins- Betalains are a class of red and yellow indole-derived pigments found in plants of the Caryophyllales, where they replace anthocyanin pigments. Betalains also occur in some higher order fungi. They are most often noticeable in the petals of flowers, but may color the fruits, leaves, stems, and roots of plants that contain them. They include powerful antioxidant pigments such as those found in beets.
NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF FLOWERS
Flowers have many nutritional benefits for humans and pollinators. They have nectar, nutritious tissues (yes you can eat many flowers), volatile oils, waxes, resins and perfumes.
Pollen is a highly nutritious well-balanced food and medicinal substance found in flowers. Pollen contains a sizable amount of protein, starch, sugars, fat or oil, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins such as thiamin. It is also rich in free amino acids. Some flowers have food hairs that contain protein and fat.
Nectar- a solutions of readily digested sugars that also contains amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Most nectar contains glucose, fructose and sucrose in a base of minerals and oil. Pollinators are highly attracted to nectar and for most this is their main food source. Also there are whole groups of yeasts that thrive in nectar. Some yeasts produce a enzyme, invertase or sucrase, which splits sucrose. Honey-bees also possess this enzyme and consequently honey contains no sucrose. Now this yeast is very healing to the human gut and is also is the primary substance in the making of Mead.
MEAD- From the bonny bells of heather, They brewed a drink long-syne, Was sweeter far than honey, Was stronger far than wine. They brewed it and they drank it, And lay in blessed swound For days and days together In their dwellings underground.
- R.L. Stevenson Heather Ale
Mead is a alcoholic drink long loved by humanity. The drink is made from honey that has been allowed to ferment. The addition of natural pollens in the drink has long been known to acclimate humans to their local environment. Hence fewer allergies.
Nectar is collected by honey bees and is digested. The bees add enzymes, and transfer the nectar to a honey stomach from which it is regurgitated into cells in the comb when they return to the colony. Additional enzymes are added, the cells are hermetically sealed, and the honey is then permitted to “ripen,” meaning that the enzymatic activity occurs which gives the honey its final sugar blend.
Since ancient times, the antibiotic effects of honey have been recognized by the medical community. – In 1937 Dold and others measured and documented the effect, and called it “inbibine”. 25 years later, Dr. Jonathan White and others isolated the exact cause of the anti-bacterial effect: the glucose oxidase in the honey produces hydrogen peroxide as it acts on glucose to produce gluconolactone (gluconic acid). This enzyme is heat sensitive, and concentration varies with floral type. Mead and honey also add to healthy human gut flora if brewed correctly. Some flowers offer fatty oils (glycerides) instead of sugary nectars to visiting bees. One such flower is the Vanilla Orchid.
VANILLA PLANIFOLIA – A FLOWER OF THE GODS
Vanilla planifolia is a species of vanilla orchid. It is native to Mexico, and is one of the primary sources for vanilla flavoring, due to its high vanillin content. The oil found in the Vanilla flower is a powerful healer to humans. It is an antioxidant, aphrodisiac (This oil stimulates secretion of certain hormones like testosterone, estrogen etc.), febrifuge: The vanilla oil can effectively reduce fever by fighting infections due to presence of components like Eugenol and Vanillin Hydroxybenzaldehyde in it. Being a sedative, it also reduces inflammation due to fever (Anti Phlogistic would be the right word for it) and this also contributes to reducing fever. It is a known antidepressant, tranquilizer and equalizer for your emotions.
Aromatherapy uses the olfactory and skin of the human body to transmit the aroma of a flower. Each essential oil when administered takes into consideration ones physiological state and physical state, healing both simultaneously. The path of healing is mostly thought to be biochemical.
THE ESSENCE OF FLOWERS
Now this is all good knowledge of flower healing but what about flower essences? How do they work?
This one is harder to answer, but because of the work of many healers, the science of quantum physics humanity is getting closer to answering that question. But we must start with the master of flower essences in the west – Edward Bach
EDWARD BACH AND THE BACH FLOWER REMEDIES
Edward Bach lived from September 24, 1886 – November 27, 1936. He was a British physician, homeopath and spiritual writer, best known for developing a range of remedies called the Bach flower remedies, a form of alternative medicine inspired by classical homeopathic traditions.
“Rather than being based on medical research, using the scientific method, Bach’s flower remedies were intuitively derived and based on his perceived psychic connections to the plants. If he 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 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 water and allow the sun’s rays to pass through them. He observed that certain flower essences affected emotional healing- that is he could reverse strongly negative emotions by prescribing a certain flower essence. Bach thought of illness as the result of a conflict between the purposes of the soul and the personality’s actions and outlooks. This internal war, according to Bach, leads to negative moods and energy blocking, which causes a lack of “harmony,” thus leading to physical diseases. (Larimore 2004, Robson 2007). “
FLOWER CRYSTALINE PATTERNS – THEY KEY TO ESSENCES
Just exactly how do the flower essences work?
Edward Bach wondered if the health properties of various herbal remedies might be due more to their radiant energy than to their chemical properties. This led Edward Bach to look closer at the energetic properties of plants and flowers and ultimately led the development of the flower essences and his flower remedies which are homeopathic in nature. The base of homeopathy is that the essence of the flower, or root, or bark, is transferred to the water or alcohol it is dissolved in. That is to say, the radiant frequency is transferred.
We already know that water can be made to radiate and this property is not lost even at the million to one dilutions of the homeopathic pharmacy. Specifically, the effect of the plant infusion must mimic the symptoms of the patient.
RADIANT WAVE LENGTHS
Of great interest to me is the findings of Andre Simonton, that foods radiate at certain wave lengths depending upon a number of factors, one being the freshness of the food, another being the vitality of the food. Understanding that every particle down to a photon of light has a specific wave length and that these minute wave lengths can be measured by modern methods lets us qualify foods in real time. Fresh milk measures at 6,500 angstroms but loses 40% of its radiation at the end of 12 hours and 90% at the end of 24. Pasteurization killed the radiation completely. The same is true of fruit juices and garlic juice, when pasteurized, coagulates like blood and has no radiation. Frozen foods retain their radiation when thawed, foods in the refrigerator tend to acquire more radiation as they mature and dehydrated foods are re-vitalized when rehydrated. Water has the same property. Some water, as that at Lourdes, radiate at 156.000 angstroms and, taken away in a bottle, eight years later still measures 78.000 angstroms. Some vegetables have higher radiation when raw but some, like potatoes, are higher when cooked.
Next I contacted Herbalists that I know and asked them to explain the flower essence healing capacity to me. Are flower essences active healers because they possess volatile oils of the flower that affect neural pathways in the brain that in turn affect emotional centers found in the brain?
No, I found flower essences act very differently.
According to several different herbalists they act on a energetic level, on the quantum physical level affecting chemical structures found in our bodies. According to Steven Horne a Herbalist with www.treelite.com. ( I am currently studying with Steven and find his months-long online class on “Botany for Herbalist” to be incredibly helpful to my botanical journey).
Steven says: “Flower essences are homeopathic-like. It is believed that homeopathic remedies work because water forms crystalline patterns (has a crystalline structure) which can hold the “frequency” of a substance. The body reacts to the frequency of the remedy, which alters the body’s own water structure patterns. It is a physical thing, but not a chemical thing.”
The human body is composed of many crystalline substances—the bones, blood, brain and DNA are crystalline in structure; even on a molecular level, our cells contain the same molecular silica as is found in natural quartz crystal. In effect, the human body and the plant body have much the same molecular structure because we evolved, and survived together. The healing of our bodies is dependent on connecting on the most molecular, energetic level in order to thrive and continue to evolve. The plants are a tuning fork for our own crystalline structures. A flower essence is the song the tuning fork plays.
AYURVEDIC MEDICINE AND PLANT EXTRACTS
Next, I contacted Nicole Telkes lead instructor at the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine. Nicole reports that the Ayurvedic philosophy of healing can also explain how the flower essences work. She reports that the Indian medical system of Ayurveda is based on the belief that plants have many medicinal properties. Many medicines are made by combining the extracts of plants to cure many ailments.
Nicole writes: “How the flower essences work…as a vitalist, that is a hard concept to show on paper. It is experiential. How they work depends on your philosophy of healing. Essences are an entirely different ball game than herbal medicine–except in concepts in of vitalism. Strictly speaking, you could say that the plant’s aromatics, mucilage and other constituents create response in the body but many of us believe it is much more than that, especially with essences which use no measurable amount of plant material.
Nicole goes on to explain, “Western Herbalism does have energetics, it just became lost and masked in terminology as herbalism was somewhat absorbed into allopathy. It’s the entire medical system in the U.S. that lost the energetic classification system and humoral system. You can look thru Greek medicine and folks healing throughout the U.S. and the energetic system is still there–you just have to look harder.”
Nicole offered this description of Yurvedic healing: “Yurvedic Concepts: everything in the world is ultimately composed of five Bhutas (elements) – prithvi (earth), apa (water), teja (fire), vayu (air) and akash (ether). Ayurveda strictly adheres to this concept called the Panchbhuta theory. The five parts of plants in Ayurveda show how plant structure is related to five elements. The root corresponds to earth, as the densest and the lowest part, connected to the earth. The stem and branches correspond to water, as they convey the water or sap of the plant. The flowers correspond to fire, which manifest life and color. The leaves correspond to air, since through them the plant breathes and the wind moves the plant. The fruit correspond to ether, the subtle essence of the plant. The seed contain all five elements, containing the entire potential plant within itself.”
In his book “Radical Healing”, Rudolph Ballentine, MD. describes his experiments with the flower essences. He is a graduate of Harvard, a psychiatrist and he studied medicine in India. He has prescribed flower essences and other herbal remedies to his allopathic MD friends and gives detailed accounts of the results plus a great many other detailed accounts on herbs in his book. Dr Ballentine reports that flower essences work on the principle of vibrational medicine and they convey complex informational patterns directly from nature that can be used by the human system to reprogram the body and the mind.
We can’t really ignore the fact that living matter is filled with information. It’s an incredible storage medium for information. In fact, I’m told that researchers in the area of computers, the forward-looking people in Silicon Valley, are really looking toward abandoning silicon as a storage medium for computer microprocessors, and are thinking of moving toward living protoplasm – bacterial cultures and so forth, because they can hold such an incredibly larger amount of information.
You see, all living matter is an infinite library of information about life and how to live on this planet. And we’ve barely entertained the possibility of how to harness this information. Natural medicinals have been doing it for a long time but it wasn’t referred to in these terms. Now we’re beginning to realize how sophisticated these ancient techniques are. They’re not just superstition. They’re really quite elegant and quite advanced. I leave you with a beautiful video about Edward Bach created by the Bach remedies Foundation:
The Bach Flower Remedies- The Journey to Simple Healing Part 1
The Bach Flower Remedies- The Journey to Simple Healing Part 2
- Ballentine, Rudolph (1999) Radical Healing: Integrating the World’s Great Therapeutic Traditions to Create a New Transformative Medicine, Three Rivers Press, New York, NY
- Bach, Edward (1931) Heal Thyself, The Explanation of the real cause and cure of disease. CW Daniels, London – Republished electronically in 2003 by the Bach Flower Research Program at http://bachtherapy.org/Books/Heal%20Thyself%201931.pdf
- Briskin, Donald (2000) Medicinal Plants and Phytomedicines. Linking Plant Biochemistry and Physiology to Human Health, Plant Physiology October 2000 vol. 124 no. 2 507-514
- Dold, From Crane, E., Honey, A comprehensive Survey, Heinemann, London, 1979.
- Ernst, E. December 30, 2002. “Flower remedies”: a systematic review of the clinical evidence”. Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift 114 (23-24): 963-966. Flower essence repertory – P Kaminski – http://www.flowersociety.org/repertory/repertory.pdf
- Gynn, Graham and Wright, Tony (2008) foreward by Dr. Dennis McKenna – Left in the Dark-Tropical forest biochemistry, the driving force in human evolution. Ingrams and Baker & Taylor publisher, London, UK
- Horne, Steven interview on via email on 6/13/2012 Steven H. Horne, RH(AHG) www.stevenhorne.com www.treelite.com www.modernherbalmedicine.com
- Larimore, Walt; O’Mathuna, Donal (2007). Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, Updated and Expanded (Christian Handbook). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. pp. 293. ISBN 0-310-26999-7.
- Meeuse, Bastiaan and Morris, Sean ( 1984) The Sex Life of Flowers – Facts on File Publication, Rainbird Publishing Group, London, England
- Middleton,Elliott Jr. Kandaswam, Chithan and Theoharides, Theoharis C.(2000) The Effects of Plant Flavonoids on Mammalian Cells: Implications for Inflammation, Heart Disease, and Cancer, Pharmacological Reviews December 1, 2000 vol. 52 no. 4 673-751 http://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/52/4/673.long viewed on the internet 6-10-2012
- Pintov S., Hochman M., Livne A., Heyman E., Lahat E. 2005. “Bach flower remedies used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children – a prospective double blind controlled study”. European Journal of Paediatric Neurology 9 (6): 395-398.
- Robson, Terry (2004). An Introduction to Complementary Medicine. Allen & Unwin Academic. pp. 184–185. ISBN 1-74114-054-4.
- Telkes, Nicole – Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine – http://www.wildflowerherbschool.com/
- Walach H., Rilling C., Engelke U. July 2001. “Efficacy of Bach-flower remedies in test anxiety: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial with partial crossover”. Journal of Anxiety Disorders 15 (4): 359-366. White, J.W.Jr.,et al., Composition of American Honeys, USDA Technical Bulletin #1261, 1962.
- White, J.W.Jr., Honey, Adv Food Res., 24:287-374, 1978.