FEP57 Bach Flowers vs. Modern Essences

Show Notes:

In this episode, Kathleen and Rochana explore the relevance of the classic Bach flower remedies in today’s increasingly complex and overwhelming world.  

How do they compare to the more modern essences available? Are people different now than they were in the 1930s? Have our needs changed?  

It’s interesting to reflect on the world events of Dr. Bach’s time and his personal evolution as a physician that led him to become the creator of these famous remedies.   

We also share our thoughts about blending the Bach flower remedies with essences and elixirs from other systems, and why gem elixirs may be an important addition for those who’ve worked with flowers for some time. 
Want to learn more about the Bach flower essences? Check out Julian Barnard’s Bach Flower Learning Program, recently released by the School for Flower Essence Studies. It’s an amazing resource, and free! 


FEP57 Bach Flowers vs. Modern Essences

In this episode, Kathleen and Rochana explore the relevance of the classic Bach flower remedies in today’s increasingly complex and overwhelming world.   How do they compare to the more modern essences available? Are people different now than they were in the 1930s?


Flower Essences discussed during the show:

  • OliveOlea europeaea
  • ElmUlmus procera
  • VervainVerbena officinalis (note the herb mentioned is Blue Vervain, Verbena hastata)
  • HoneysuckleLonicera caprifolium
  • Wild RoseRosa canina


The School for Flower Essence Studies Bach Flower Learning Program

The Flower Essence Alchemy event (replays available)

Steve Johnson and Embracing Uncertainty with the Alaskan Gem Elixirs (Q & A starting at 1:31:24)
The Healingherbs essences of Dr. Bach, created by Julian Barnard (in the US buy from FES)

Show Transcript

Rochana Felde:
[00:00:40] Welcome back to The Flower Essence Podcast, everybody. Today we are going to talk about Bach flowers and compare them to modern essences. So I’ve recently been very immersed in the Bach flowers as I’ve been working on converting a lot of the Bach Flower Learning Programme created by Julian Barnard into a course in our education platform. And we’ve had this wonderful partnership with Julian where he’s allowed us to take all that content and put it in a course that’s for free. So it’s available now on  floweressencestudies.com.

And in this process of really diving deep and immersing myself into the Bach flowers, I’m really learning a lot. There is some real fascinating information about Dr. Bach and his life and his whole process of how he came to develop the Bach flowers and sort of a chronological order, what he did, what he found, which flowers he found first, and his whole progression along that process of creating these remedies. And so it’s really interesting to think about, well, these were new things that he kind of put out into the world in the 1930s. And how do they compare with today? How do they compare with the more modern flower essences of today? And how do people compare? Are our needs the same? Are our needs different? And we get a lot of questions here on the podcast and in the school about the possibility of combining Bach flowers and can they be combined with other essences, with modern essences, with gem elixirs. And we’d also love to talk about their unique and foundational aspects that they have that are so important to our practices. So we just wanted to cover that and see where the conversation goes. So welcome. And of course, Kathleen is here with me and we’re ready to chat. So what do you think about that, this topic?

Kathleen Aspenns: [00:02:49] I was excited when you proposed the topic. I know that you’ve been just so immersed in the Bach essences over the last few months to prepare this amazing kind of– the way that you’ve created the course, it’s so logical and easy to know. It’s very orderly. You’ve got such a wonderful organizing mind, so you’ve been able to really bring all the parts together so that you can start wherever you want and you can dip back in and find what you were looking for. So I really encourage anybody listening who’s interested in learning the Bach essences to join the course. It’s totally free, always is going to be free, and just use it to the degree that serves you. We are really excited about the depth of information available and also just know that it’s a great place to learn about one particular essence that’s maybe in your formula and you wanted to learn more about it.

So I like this question of, are they still relevant because I think that I can– spoiler alert. Yes, it’s still definitely relevant. We’re not that different. Even though perhaps we look at images of the 1930s and see how much has changed, but on many, many levels we are very, very similar. And Dr. Bach’s inspiration of working with people or offering remedies to them based on their sort of personality construct or the way that they responded to life was brilliant and wonderful. And so I think we’ve still got a lot to learn from the Bach Remedies, and there’s a lot that they can do to help us. And like you said, Ro, I agree too that they are foundational to the practice of flower essence therapy.

Rochana Felde: [00:04:49] Yeah, I just want to make a note because we’ve had the comment before that we’re pronouncing it wrong, Bach. So what I’ve heard is that it’s supposed to be batch and Julian Barnard says Bach or Bock, and what he says is that in that time around the First World War, it was very unpopular to have a German-sounding name. And so that might be why the pronunciation went to Batch. But he uses the more traditional pronunciation. Of course, I don’t think I can ever change because I started saying it Bach. So however you say it, that’s who we’re talking about. We all have different accents and different ways that we enunciate it. And I think that it’s fine. So just in case you’re wondering, I think that all of the versions are correct.

Kathleen Aspenns: [00:05:52] Yeah, we’re American here. We are using the American pronunciation, kind of the standard American pronunciation. So we respect everyone else. Just we’re all talking about the same thing. It’s kind of like speaking botanical Latin. It’s like, are you understood? Okay, that’s what’s important. So thank you very much. Yeah, that’s an excellent point.

Do you want to dig into a little bit about the modern versus these kind of classic Bach essences? I would start that conversation with the 1930s of when Dr. Bach discovered these essences, developed these essences, whatever word you want to use, keep in mind his history and what was going on in the world at the time. He graduated from medical school in 1912 as a young man in his early twenties and 1914 was the beginning of World War I, 1914 to 1918. So he was a surgeon and a doctor through that entire period of World War I which was just a staggering number of deaths. I looked it up this morning and it was 15 million deaths in World War I. So he was so deeply immersed in human suffering from being a doctor, from living in England during that timeframe of World War I. And after the war, England was very economically depressed. And it became even worse in the 1930s because the US stock market crashed and things went from bad to worse. There was extraordinary poverty in England. There was extraordinary, just ongoing grief from the losses, like everyone had lost someone in World War I and they were going through this just staggeringly painful time. And the British people, it was like stiff upper lip. And yet there was so much suffering. There was so much suffering. And I have to feel like as a sensitive, I’m going to say I’m pretty sure Bach was a sensitive also to be just immersed in that for the whole of your adult life and then for things to get even harder during the Depression, during that time. And he dumped his practice and moved off to the country in 1930. And it’s just to look at that era of what he was going through. And then in the mid-thirties, he died, I think it was 36, 37 right around that time, I don’t have that date written down, but in the early 30s, there was this rise of fascism. And there was a period of appeasement of Hitler. And that was just coming down the road. World War II started in 1938. So it’s in this inter-war period that the Bach essences were created.

So just to set the framework of when these came into the world, that quality of grief, of despair, of distress from enduring one extraordinary war that they called it the Great War and millions of people died. And then to look down the barrel of the next war, which nobody wanted and yet came upon them, I don’t think you can ignore that as being part of what brought these essences into the world. And I don’t think that they can possibly be considered not relevant now because, now.

Rochana Felde: [00:10:00] Yeah, absolutely relevant. And then looking at not just what was happening in the world, but also his own trajectory as a brilliant medical doctor, he invented the Bach Nosodes. So basically this was a sort of vaccination. It started out as being a vaccination for treating like intestinal toxemia on an individual basis, which was taking like the fecal matter of somebody very chronically ill, very sick and purifying it or making it dormant and then making a solution that then got injected back into the person. And so it was a form of vaccination that was very successful. But he wanted to not treat one person at a time. He wanted to make a polyvalent treatment that could work on multiple people. And he started looking at the ways of categorizing these illnesses. And at that time too, he was very much into the homeopathy and Samuel Hahnemann, one of the creators of homeopathy and all of his methods. And so he was using that as a way to develop homeopathic nosodes because he also didn’t like the idea of injecting and creating a hole in the barrier of the body. So he was very much on these medical frontiers and he was noticing more and more in his very successful medical practice, the personalities and the emotional and spiritual struggles of the people and the patients walking into his office. And he was able to start being able to kind of categorize people by their mannerisms, by the way they acted. He kind of started to know immediately what would help them just by the way they walked into the door and talked to him. And so this is the very beginnings of basically flower essence therapy, while at the same time in the medical world, Penicillin was found. And that part of medical science really went down the path of treating bacteria with Penicillin. It’s like a physical cause only, not separating out the emotional and spiritual where he was so interested in that more holistic approach and treating this mental, emotional, spiritual part of disease, thinking that that was the key.

And so that is the time where he decided to quit his practice and went to the country. And then like the rest is history, as they say, he started finding these flowers and creating these essences. So it’s really interesting, his personal background. And amongst all that, I believe he was diagnosed with cancer in 1917. So he did eventually die from that in 37, I think. But a lot of his notes and his writings he destroyed. So there’s just a lot of conjecture, and we can only imagine what he must have personally gone through and had been going through as he treated, and we don’t know exactly how he treated his cancer, but he must have put it in remission for a good number of years while he was on this sort of mission, this is his life’s purpose of creating these essences. And as he created them, he took them and he knew how they affected him. And then he wrote about them and gave them to others to experiment with and try.

Kathleen Aspenns: [00:14:22] And that process, that healing journey that one goes through when one makes essences, when one studies them profoundly and deeply like he did, I think that you and I are really interested in exploring that in a future podcast because that’s been part of both of our processes too, of healing of spending time with the plants and creating these essences. And as you do, it changes you. Taking essences is one thing, but when you are actually able to immerse in that healing field when an essence is created, it’s something different altogether. And it’s very tiring too. It’s really intense. And you can also experience that on some level by the level of study that you’ve been doing, Ro, with this bringing these essences into this format of– this intensive study and intensive immersion in this course, I think that it’s been kind of, I wouldn’t say an eye-opener, but kind of like, whoa, okay, there’s a lot going on in here. Maybe you want to mention some of the essences that you’ve been working with because one of the pieces that we’re looking towards bringing forward with the flower essence studies is developing some groups of people to work really deeply with these essences of, a lot of us know them on a very shallow level and we’d really like to encourage that depth. So just a little bit of a promo.

Rochana Felde: [00:16:07] Yeah. And I’ll say, I’ll admit, like when I started really getting it– I mean, Bach flowers are what I started with. Of course, as probably everybody has, we find the Rescue Remedy in the store and may go further with some of the single remedies, but the minute I learned how to make a flower essence, like I just completely went in my own direction, let’s say. And I sort of discounted the Bach flowers. I thought that was from a long time ago. I really also feel it’s important to work with the flora where we live and around us. And I didn’t have a lot of experience with a good portion of the Bach plants. So they didn’t resonate with me as much. And I sort of went in my own direction and really liked the California flowers and the flowers that are made from herbs that we use in herbalism because that’s where my plant education really started.

So there’s a few that are kind of the tried and true Bach essences that seem to find their way that there isn’t really anything better, I think. And then there’s a whole lot more of modern essences that I think speak to– I think there is a difference, of course, and I think that they speak to more– I think that we have evolved and that there is more to work with, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that these foundational challenges that the Bach flowers addressed exist because they absolutely do. And sometimes they underlie all of the sort of more surface challenges that we might start working with.

And the Rescue Remedy is the one that I just absolutely– I don’t know, it was part of such a transformation in the beginning that probably saved my life, and I just have so much respect for it and so much– it’s so critical. It’s such a critical part.

But as far as other ones that I tend to use a lot right now, I think that for me personally with dealing with aspects of some chronic illness that engender chronic fatigue, the Olive is one that I really tend to rely on. And then as somebody– and that is so valid for today, I mean more than ever, I think, because there’s more chronic autoimmune illnesses than there ever were in the world. And there is so much exhaustion and just that total state, that state of just complete and total exhaustion, whether it’s transitory or everyday. And I think that Olive really brings that strength. It just helps to access your internal strength for dealing with everyday small things. So that’s a good example, I think, of something that was relevant back then, but even more so, I think, today. Do you have more examples? I know I have a few more too.

Kathleen Aspenns: [00:19:51] Oh yeah. We could do this all day. I completely agree with the Olive. I just imagine and think of the Olive tree. If you’ve ever seen a really old Olive tree, they have an extraordinary potential for longevity and the climate in which they grow, their native habitat, it’s hot and dry. And so you get this image of extraordinary longevity in a circumstance that’s not easy, right? It’s not lush and green and the living is easy. It’s not. It grows in hard, dry, hot, arid circumstances and produces something that’s a fruit and an oil that’s life-giving for the people in the area. So I always look at Olive as being this extraordinary example of resiliency, of somehow nourishing oneself in order to keep going and to keep working and to keep doing what you’re doing in a way that’s sustainable. They don’t produce Olives every single day of the year. It’s important to realize what one’s limits are. And Olive, I think, helps to teach us that.

Elm is one that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s the classic way to remember it is when you’re feeling over-elmed. It’s sort of a joke, but it also really works because there’s so much mental input and so much sort of data flying at us all the time, all these the to-do lists and on my desk, the sticky notes and the open files and like, oh my God, it’s just so much. And so the Elm really helps you to summon a level of courage of like, “Okay, that’s not that important. Okay, I’m going to focus on this and get this done.” Helps you kind of reground. And I know that quality of grounding is one that we’ve been talking about a lot together.

Rochana Felde: [00:21:59] Elm is really one of my most used Bach Flower Remedies. If Bach could only imagine what life would be like today, right, I mean the– he lived at a time where there wasn’t– I think that only rich people had electricity, there wasn’t an internet, there wasn’t a way to get news and information other than the pamphlets that people would print. And that’s literally how people would have public arguments was to print a pamphlet about something. I mean that was the way that information flowed. That’s how they dropped propaganda, they dropped pamphlets from planes. If you can just imagine the speed of information now compared to the speed of information then and the way that we have the world at our fingertips, and I think it’s easier to imagine because I was born before the internet was available. So for those who were born later, it might just be impossible to imagine. But thinking even back I mean so far ago, I mean this was almost 100 years ago and life did not have the complexity that it does now. And so Elm is an absolute brilliant, key, key, flower remedy for today, for the information age and for the age of being completely– we don’t have as much community support or family unit to share burdens. So we probably have more burdens on individuals than there used to be in the past, I would imagine.

And then along those lines, I wanted to add Vervain to the mix because Vervain was even spoken about as a very modern remedy by Nickie Murray in the ’70s. And that is one that is for the overactivity of the mind, the stress and strain that causes and the physical tension that causes in the body for people who are really like workaholics. And I get it because I get like this when I get hyper-focused on something, I just can’t stop. And I get to the point where I’m not taking care of myself. And that’s a really common thing, I think, too, just the pressures of the job, the pressures of work, the never-ending to-do list. And for some people, the way of dealing is just go, go, go, go. And some personalities really have that more than others. But I can see it as not just for a Type A personality, but really anyone who is just working too hard. And aren’t we all right now? I mean, that seems to be the way life has evolved. We don’t have leisure time like people evidently used to. I don’t what that is anymore, right? It’s so common to not have downtime, and when we do we’re on our phones so we don’t have true downtime. And then it kind of gets into this cycle of stress.

And so Vervain is a key one for me. Not just the flower essence, but the herb, and the herb has a very similar indication. If you have that tension in the neck and shoulders and you just can’t bring your shoulders down from your head and you have that kind of intense work stress, Vervain is a wonderful nervine to explore from the herbal realm. And the flower essence to me is it works in much the same way as far as not so much the physical, a direct physical, but an indirect physical by really working with that enabling a relaxation of kind of letting go from this stiff structure of the mind that’s happening.

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Kathleen Aspenns: [00:47:02] With respect and gratitude and appreciation for those who have come before. It’s one of our personal principles and our school’s founding principles that we look back to the ones who came first, came before us, and we are just carrying that forward and growing it with our own unique selves, but really thankful and grateful for the originating work from our teachers and going all the way back to Dr. Bach, and thank you, Julian Barnard for bringing this work into the modern era with such integrity and rigor. The level of work that Julian has put his entire lifetime into of doing this research and furthering the use of the Bach essences, we just have such deep appreciation. And thank you so much, Julian, for the gift of allowing us to host your Bach Flower Learning Programme on Flower Essence Studies. It’s an extraordinary honor and we really, really appreciate you and your work and want more people to know about it.

Rochana Felde: [00:48:21] Ditto to all of that. And it’s such an honor and wonderful to be able to follow in the footsteps of making this information available for free, because that’s what Dr. Bach did. He printed his books and his pamphlets and he thought it was important that this was information that anyone could have, that there were no hierarchies, there were no barriers that anyone could and should have the information about the Bach essences. And then once Julian Barnard, who worked for the Bach Center developing the Bach Flower Learning Programme initially, and then went on to individually have it and host it as he does today, he also felt that importance of the lineage that he had and passing that information along for free. And so now we’re part of the lineage moving forward and being able to bring that information to a broader audience as part of our platform and I feel really honored. I just feel so honored to be able to just be part of this lineage and to be able to make this information available to anyone who’s interested. So take a look and you can find it on floweressencestudies.com. It’s the Julian Barnard’s Bach Flower Learning Programme. And it’s there for you. So take a look.

Kathleen Aspenns: [00:50:15] On that note, thanks for being with us. We love to talk together. We love to be together in this space of talking about the plants, of bringing this knowledge into the world and sharing our experiences. Thank you so much, everyone, for listening and for spreading flower essences in the world everywhere you go because we know each and every one of you who listens shares this knowledge and information with other people, and we’re all just together holding hands sharing this information into the world and helping people feel better.

This podcast is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. We are not physicians and do not diagnose, prescribe, or treat medical conditions. Please consult with your own physician or healthcare practitioner regarding the suggestions and recommendations made by the hosts and guests of The Flower Essence Podcast.

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