May’s Blog Party: Flower Essences

This month’s UK Herbarium blog party is hosted by Sarah Head of the Tales of a Kitchen Herbwife blog, a wonderfully inspiring and beautiful blog that I highly recommend you all to visit. She has chosen the topic of flower essences, and writes,

What are they? How do you make them? What do they mean to you? The aim of this set of posts is to discover how you relate or don’t relate to flower essences. How do you learn the energetic property of the plant? Do you read a book, discover an internet article or ask the plant to tell you? How do you use the finished essence? Do you use the original infusion or do you use a homeopathic dilution? Have you noticed any difference? What do you use flower essences for? What are your stories? Can you share them with us, no matter how strange or bizarre.

So, I shall set off in trying to answer her questions, sharing a little of my own experiences and understanding of this fantastic realm of spirit medicine that our modern culture is in such dire need of.

What are they?

Most of us are quite familiar with the concept of using plants on a physical realm. We take an herb because we are hoping to elicit an effect on our physical body.  Sometimes we select a plant-based upon biochemical actions – we might choose chamomile tea, for instance, for an upset belly because we know that its essential oils, mucilage and flavonoids have a relaxing, soothing and anti-inflammatory impact on the membranes lining our digestive tract.  Or we might draw on more ancient understandings and draw upon the energetic effects, using a plant based on its moistening, warming, drying or cooling properties. But either way, we refer to the plant’s effects upon the physical plane.

But we are not just physical beings, we are also emotional and spiritual – and so often it is disharmony on these deeper, more subtle levels that gives rise to imbalance and disease on the physical realm. This is where flower essences come in to play, those mysterious vibrational remedies that are said to work on the subtle plane of spirit and emotion, breaking us free of the emotional patterns that can block true healing and hinder spiritual development.

The ability of flowers to impact emotional states and nourish the spirit has been noted as far back as Ancient Greece, but it was Dr. Bach, an English physician of the early 20th century,  that brought them to our attention. He devoted his life to studying the effects of the flowers that grew around him in a quest to discover a more holistic form of healing that could address the spirit. He soon discovered that these flowers offered remedies for all the negative emotional states that caused suffering and lead to disease and ill-health. As he said, flower essences

“raise our vibrations and open up our channels for the reception of our spiritual self. They are able, like beautiful music or any gloriously uplifting thing which give us inspiration, to raise our very natures and bring us nearer to ourselves and by that very act to bring us peace and relieve our suffering.

We know that negative emotions can close us off  and shut us down – they block our ability to open to the world and to experience the true joy of our existence, the true essence of spirit. Each flower targets a specific negative emotional state or pattern – anger, fear, jealousy, insecurity, etc – and gently opens the path for us to move beyond the emotion and reconnect with the joyful, healing nature of our greater self.

How do you make them?

Flower essences were traditionally made by gathering the dew from a flower in the morning sunshine. The warmth of the sun was said to extract the essence of the flower into the dew drops. While quite a lovely idea, this isn’t as practical for the pace of our modern lives – and fortunately for us  Dr. Bach discovered that the same effect could be created by placing flowers in a clear bowl of water in the morning sun. The sun extracts the vibrational essence of the flowers into the water, and the water is then preserved for future use.

Essences should be made in the morning, when the sun has an ascending energy which helps the emotional vibrations of the body to rise.  You simply fill a clear bowl with fresh spring water, and very carefully (using a leaf or tweezers to grasp the flowers so that you do not affect the remedy with your own energy) place the most vital, perfectly bloomed flowers you can find in the bowl until the water is completely covered with flowers (though if you have only 1 bloom available and can’t completely cover the water, I have found that the remedies still do work well.)

After the flowers have infused for 3 hours, remove them from the water with a stick (never your fingers), and filter the water through muslin into a dark glass jar to remove any debris or bugs that have found their way into the essence. Add an equal measure of brandy to the volume of essence you have to preserve. This is the mother tincture.

To use medicinally, place 3 drops from the mother bottle into a 30 ml bottle filled 1/4 with brandy, and 3/4 with spring water. Take 2-3 drops frequently throughout the day in a little water.

Lucinda at Whispering Earth has written a wonderful article on making flower essence that you can also read here.

How do you discover the energetic properties of the plant?:

I usually employ a variety of methods, though I think listening to the flowers themselves is the most important part of understanding the remedy. The flowers are very commutative if one quiets their mind enough to hear them speak, and will almost always send you a message of some kind in a way that is easiest for you to understand. I typically sit with the flowers for a time while my essence is infusing, and see what sorts of emotions, images or memories come up for me.  This allows one to truly experience and understand how the flower is to be used, and I find, is deeply healing of itself.

I usually then check my understanding with that of other herbalists – either through books, speaking directly, reading blog entries, etc. I find this often broadens or clarifies the message that the plant gave me, though wonderfully enough, rarely contradicts it. I always find it completely extraordinary that people across the board will come up with such similar uses in a method that is completely irrational and entirely intuitive.

A personal story: My journey with dandelion

The dandelions are starting to bloom here, and the fields are turning that brilliant blazing yellow which is always one of the most cheerful sites. I have been very drawn to dandelion lately, and have been curious to try her as a remedy for chronic muscular tension and back pain derived from over-work.  I had read several herbalist’s accounts that dandelion flower essence was very useful for those who store tension and stress in the physical level because of an inability to relax and from pushing oneself too hard.

The sun hasn’t been very prolific here of late, so I decided to try making my remedy on a bright but cloudy morning – the only one scheduled for no rain. Sun is ideal, but I thought it might be an interesting experiment to try making a “cloud” remedy, and if the sun does ever come out again, a “sun” remedy, and compare them.

The sun seemed like it was trying to oblige me – it really looked as though it was trying very hard to peek out of the clouds for me.

I prepared the essence, and sat down next to it, closing my eyes and letting my thoughts drift away. Soon the world fell away, and I felt that my body was part of the earth. I could feel my body breathing in unison with the earth, and with the day and night – each breath in brought daylight, each breath out brought night. Seasons came and went. The cycles of the earth felt like seconds and minutes – passing easily before me. Inhale, exhale. Expand, contract. Yang and yin, moving gracefully within the simple alternations of breath, day and night, season, and year.

Soon I felt myself becoming the dandelion, and as I breathed in, my energy moved upward and the flower at my head blossomed fully to the sun; as I exhaled, my energy fell into my roots, where the earth felt cool and snug around me. I continued this cycle of expansion and contraction for many moments, feeling both rooted and supported by the earth, and warmed and connected by the heavens and sun – able to move from flower to root with ease, loving each moment, seeing the existence as a constant cycle and transition between two extremes.

What occurred to me from my vision was that dandelion was demonstrating the graceful transitioning of activity to inactivity, yang to yin, as a unified cycle. Dandelion flowers open and close in a reliable rhythm that has earned them the name of “clock flower”, and the flowers only reach as high as the roots dig deep into the earth. They close their flowers and rest when the day turns rainy, and open again in response to the sun. Dandelion teaches us to move with our own rhythms rather than to strive to rise above them. My meditation allowed me to experience that blooming and reaching towards the sun – (expanding, activity, yang energy ) and going inwards to my the rest and security of my roots (contracting, rest, yin)  we’re equal parts of my existence. I could move between them with perfect ease, understanding that they we’re both equal parts of my whole, opposite aspects of my being that must be balanced to create harmony and health.

Based on this, dandelion seems to be for those who have difficulty flowing with the natural rhythm of life  – of transitioning from activity to rest. They  spend a great deal of energy resisting this natural transition, which creates tension in their minds and physical bodies, as the person literally tenses themselves in attempts to resist the natural  inertia of their body and mind to move from yang to yin, action to rest. These people often place great value on productivity as they have many ideas, great enthusiasm and zest, and the fear that they will not be able to accomplish what they want unless they constantly work and strive. They often feel guilty for resting, and won’t allow themselves time to rest and nourish themselves for fear they will fall into a state of unproductiveness, which inevitably they are forced to do by exhaustion.  Once they do rest, they may find difficulty in moving back into an active state again, feeling unable to cope with their former level of activity.

They continue flopping between the two extremes in this way, moving between extreme tension and anxiety to stay productive, to complete exhaustion and inability to handle their work load any longer.  The disruption in this natural cycle so vital to health makes it difficult to withstand other seasonal transitions as well, and they often find themselves quite imbalanced when the seasons change.

Dandelion restores the natural flow between activity and rest, allowing the person to move easily with the rhythm of their body and of life, finding balance and joy in both doing and being, seeing each part as an equally important expression of themselves.  It is through the balance of root and flower energy that dandelion releases it’s ghost-like seeds upon the wind, a metaphor I think, for freeing our spirit by finding equal footings in heaven and earth. It allows one to let go of the resistance to move with the body’s rhythms, freeing the body from tension as one learns to  flow naturally and effortlessly between action and rest.  Balance is restored, and one finds a healthy balance between productivity and rest, inspiration and reflection, being able to engage in both with joy and full presence and experience their truest self.

You can read the rest of the blog party entires at Tales of  a Kitchen Herbwife on Monday, when she will be posting them all.