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The Historic Plants Behind a Few of the Bach Flower Essences

Posted by admin on May 14, 2011

©2011 by Sophia Mandelson

honeysuckle-a2dThe idea that flowers correspond to human characteristics has been around for a very long time. Think about how often parents name their children after flower names: Rose, Poppy and Jasmine are just a few examples.

Flowers are also talked about in literature. Known as the most important writer in the English language, William Shakespeare brought up flowers in plays such as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. For instance, in Hamlet, Ophelia talks about violets, fennels, columbines and rue.[1] In Romeo and Juliet, sweet Juliet wonders if a rose would look different if it had another name.[2] In both cases, you can see that the reference to flowers is a poetic way to talk about human emotions.

In the twentieth-century, Dr Edward Bach developed a complex system in which he related 37 different flower essences (and a 38th essence, derived from water) to a wide variety of human feelings and states of mind.[3] Let’s consider a few of them.


This lovely plant loves sunshine and has flowers in a vast array of colours. It attracts butterflies and a variety of birds including delicate hummingbirds. Because the scent is so appealing, it’s frequently used in products for cleaning and personal hygiene.[4]


In addition to its place in Dr Bach’s system of flower essences (in which it is associated with possessive love and selfishness[5]), chicory comes in three distinct types. Sugarloaf chicory looks a bit like lettuce; red chicory (also called raddichio) is popular for bringing colour to salads; and forcing chicory is grown in artificial conditions, starved of light to create little white outgrowths (known as chicons), which can be eaten.[6] Chicory has also been used as a substitute for coffee and is still blended into some coffees to this day.[7]


The hornbeam didn’t only interest Dr Bach (who associated it with a lethargic response to thought of exertion[8]). The plant itself is noted for its capacity to withstand the weather conditions of northern Europe. Often compared with the green beech, it survives well in wet and frosty conditions. In the autumn time the fruit of the hornbeam become winged, and, as they fall, they provide a wealth of food for animals in woodlands, parks and gardens.[9]


Mustard is intriguingly associated with pessimism in Dr Bach’s system.[10] It’s been used in cooking for centuries and today it can be bought as a sauce. Together with tomato sauce and mayonnaise, mustard sauce is one of the most popular in the United States. Americans are known for loving mustard on meat, burgers, hotdogs and even on their chips! It’s very common to see people using mustard sauce on their food at sports events, an image that is now deeply associated with American culture. So much so that recently pundits wondered if British Prime Minister David Cameron had damaged his image in the United States by refusing mustard on his hotdog.[11]

The Full list of 38 essences

mustard2-a2dThe 38 Bach flower essences are: Agrimony, Vine, Beech, Vervain, Walnut, Oak, Olive, Aspen, Hornbeam, Impatiens, Honeysuckle, Larch, Chicory, Mimulus, Mustard, Clematis, Pine, Elm, Crab Apple, Gentian, Heather, Red Chestnut, Holly, Rock Rose, Cherry Plum, Cerato, Rock Water, Centaury, Sweet Chestnut, Gorse, Wild Oat, Water Violet, Chestnut Bud, Scleranthus, Willow, Wild Rose, Star Of Bethlehem and White Chestnut.[12] Most of them have a history of popular uses and legends similar to the ones considered in this article.

About the Author: Sophia Mandelson works in internet marketing and public relations with a focus on health and wellbeing products, and has written content on a number of different health related topics.

  • [1] William Shakespeare (circa 1601). Hamlet. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/full.html
  • [2] William Shakespeare (circa 1591). Romeo and Juliet. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/romeo_juliet/full.html
  • [3] Sharon Callahan (2011). A Brief History of Flower Essences. http://www.anaflora.com/articles/fe-gen-art/b-his-ess.html
  • [4] The Garden Helper (Article last updated in 2011). Planting, Growing and Caring for Honeysuckle plants. http://www.thegardenhelper.com/honeysucklecare.html
  • [5] The Bach Centre (2011). Guide to the remedies. http://www.bachcentre.com/centre/remedies.htm
  • [6] BBC Gardening Guides (2011). Growing Chicory. http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/growfruitandveg_growingchicory1.shtml
  • [7] Café du Monde (2011). Coffee. http://www.cafedumonde.com/coffee.html
  • [8] The Bach Centre (2011). Guide to the remedies. http://www.bachcentre.com/centre/remedies.htm
  • [9] Buckingham Nurseries’ On-line Catalogue (2011). Hornbeam. http://www.hedging.co.uk/acatalog/product_10215.html
  • [10] The Bach Centre (2011). Guide to the remedies. http://www.bachcentre.com/centre/remedies.htm
  • [11] James Ramsden (2010). Is Cameron Sniffy About Mustard? http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/jul/23/david-cameron-hot-dog-mustard
  • [12] The Bach Centre (2011). Guide to the remedies. http://www.bachcentre.com/centre/remedies.htm


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