So what is in a bottle of flower essence? The answer is both simple and subtle. Chemically speaking the only ingredients are water and alcohol – usually brandy, although we use organic French cognac. And this leads to some confusion, insofar as some people thing that flower essences are not prepared in the manner of homeopathic products. Homeopathic products involve multiple levels of both dilution and ‘secussion’. Seccusion is the vigorous shaking of the diluted liquid, and without this vital step one simply does not have a homeopathic preparation, since the secussion is the means of creating the potency of the product.
Flower essences are not seccussed, and never need to be. They have just two levels of dilution from the ‘mother tincture’, and no more. The first level of dilution is called ‘stock’, and within the industry the second level of dilution is referred to as ‘dosage’. In each of these states the liquid becomes progressively weaker as the dilution takes place. The opposite happens with homeopathic products. Homeopathy famously treats according to the principle of ‘like cures like’ – and hence it’s name. Flower essences are not used in this way, with Dr. Bach himself declaring that his remedies treated illness on utterly different principles from homeopathy – a discipline with which he was deeply familiar.
What’s in the bottle?
So what is the active ingredient of a flower essence? It has variously been described as the etheric energy of the plant, or its Ch’i, or more plainly a bioelectric quality of the flower. Just as our bodies have a bio-electric structure, so too do plants. And in making the mother tincture with a flowering plant, an essence-maker intends to impart into the waiting water something of this bio-electric quality from the blooms. I say ‘something’ because we at present have no means of measuring the ‘amount’ of Ch’i which is imparted to the bowl of water, or indeed is imparted after one level of dilution (via a few drops of mother tincture) to the stock bottle. Of one thing though we can be certain: from the perspective of our everyday experience of electricity, the ‘something’ will be a very minute quantity indeed. When it should happen that measuring apparatus becomes sensitive enough to detect the bio-electric component of a flower essence, we will probably be referring to units of picowatts or the like.
So how can essences work?
A skeptical aquaintance once said to me that he couldn’t give any credence to flower essences, as he could not imagine how such a miniscule charge of bio-electricity stored in the liquid could possible have any effect on us. I finally realised after many months of pondering his statement that my most useful reply to this comments would be ‘Then just how much electricity do you think it takes for us to think a thought?’
The point of course is that our brains and nervous system clearly operate at the same level of subtlety as that found within the plant kingdom. It can hardly be otherwise, given the nature of our evolutionary co-creation. Photosynthesizing cellular life can be traced back to the fossil record about 3 billion years ago; complex multicellular life dates back slightly more than 1 billion years. Animals (as distinct from plants) only began appearing between 500 and 600 million years ago. It is generally reckoned that humans and chimpanzees emerged from a common ancestor between 5 and 7 million years ago.
Just how the animal kingdom emerged from a common ancestor with the plant kingdom is not for me to explore here, but the point is that before the two kingdoms divided, they had already developed the basic energy source and energy-utilization process (glycolysis & ATP) that is used by nearly all the living things today. This process in itself has a bio-electric component, whether in a single-cell prokaryote or a rose bush or a human being. And so whatever unit of measure and description which is appropriate to the one organism, will be applicable to the rest, Given that the average power consumption of a human cell is just one picowatt it makes a great deal of sense that a few picowatts of bio-electricity from a flower is able to have an effect on us.
The mystery which is water
The next questions is, how is it possible for this bio-electric charge to be imparted to water? The answer is quite bluntly, we just don’t know. Water is one of the most mysterious liquids we know of – and this is the view of the scientific community, not simply a New-Age notion. But within the flower essence community water is nearly universally regarded as the best medium into which we can impart the energy of a flower. Humanity has long tradition of using water in similar has a long tradition of using water in similar ways: think of Holy Water used in churches for example. In any case, a liquid is needed to hold the bio-electric energy, and long before Dr. Bach came on the scene in the 1930’s announcing his remedies there have been people in various countries using water to make essences.