Anxiety & Flower Essence Therapy


Excerpt from

The Natural Medicine Guide to Anxiety

by Stephanie Marohn

Reprinted with permission of the author and publisher

The Natural Medicine Guide to Anxiety
by Stephanie Marohn
Published by Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 2003

Other books by Stephanie Marohn that feature the use of flower essence therapy as described by Patricia Kaminski are The Natural Medicine Guide to Addiction, The Natural Medicine Guide to Depression and Natural Medicine First Aid Remedies. Read about these and other books on her website.

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Chapter 6
Energy Medicine III: Flower Essence Therapy


What Is Flower Essence Therapy?  |  The Soul Message in Anxiety
Kendra: Stopped by Fear  |  The Medication of Souls

Like homeopathy, flower essence therapy works on an energetic level to restore the equilibrium of the body, mind, and spirit. The particular specialty of flower essences is the realm of emotions and attitudes, which exert a powerful influence on health and ill health. As Edward Bach, an English physician and homeopath and the father of flower essence therapy, stated it, “Behind all disease lie our fears, our anxieties, our greed, our likes and dislikes.”163 By addressing underlying psychospiritual issues and promoting energetic shifts in the mind and emotions, flower essences promote a return to health on all levels.

Put simply, flower essences are “catalysts to mind-body wellness,” explains Patricia Kaminski, co-director of the Flower Essence Society in Nevada City, California, and a renowned innovator in the field of flower essence therapy for more than 20 years (see “What Is Flower Essence Therapy?”). Or you could say they act as a bridge between the realms of the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul.164

As homeopath Carola Lage-Roy pointed out in the previous chapter, every illness, including anxiety, contains a lesson for the person afflicted. From the viewpoint of flower essence therapy, this lesson regards a psychospiritual issue that is not being dealt with or a psychospiritual need that is not being met, says Kaminski. These neglected areas of the individual create energy imbalances that over time can manifest in illness. By helping to bring psychospiritual issues and unmet needs to light, flower essences facilitate the resolution of these issues, rebalancing of the attendant energy disturbances, and restoration of health.
A purely biochemical model fails to address the emotional, psychological, and spiritual components of anxiety. Manipulating brain chemistry, as with anti-anxiety drugs, may mask the symptoms of anxiety, but it does nothing to correct the root causes of the anxiety. If brain chemistry is skewed, what caused that to happen? According to the flower essence model, the biochemical imbalances found in anxiety are caused by the distress of the spirit, or soul, says Kaminski. Thus, a purely biochemical approach will not cure anxiety because it does not deal with the source—the soul’s crisis.

The embrace of the biochemical model in medicine reflects our cultural bias for physical development over psychospiritual development, she observes. For example, exercising the body to develop its strength or undergoing physical therapy to redevelop strength after a stroke or an injury are standard and widespread practices. But a similar emphasis on psychospiritual development in “mental disorders” is lacking. Instead, medical intervention seeks to remove the symptoms as quickly as possible. “We intervene earlier and earlier when someone is in emotional pain and distress,” states Kaminski. “We use biochemical therapies to ‘fix’ the problem at its current level of symptom manifestation, rather than encouraging further psychological development.”
This is where flower essences can be a valuable tool. “The approach of flower essence therapy is to recognize the dignity of the human soul and to recognize the capacity of the human soul to change and become stronger,” she elaborates. “The soul isn’t connected to the aging of the body, so even if you’re 70 years old, you can still be developing from the point of view of the soul. What we want to look at when somebody is facing a crisis, when they present with anxiety, with depression, with an addiction, is: what is it that the soul is really facing? . . . There’s enormous capacity in the human spirit and the human soul to acquire skills for transforming what is a problem into a gift, if the therapy goes deep enough.”

What Is Flower Essence Therapy?

The use of flower essences is often dismissed in the United States, even by some alternative medicine practitioners, as a “lightweight” therapy that may be pleasing but has little therapeutic value. One reason for the misconception may be the general lack of understanding in this country about energy medicine, which is widely accepted in Europe. As the promising results of scientific investigation into flower essence therapy and other forms of energy medicine are mounting and an increasing number of alternative medicine physicians and other health care professionals are routinely employing these modalities, the misconceptions are gradually being dispelled. More people are discovering the truth about flower essence therapy, which is that it has the capability to stimulate profound change on a deep level, Kaminski states.

To clarify another common misunderstanding, essential oils (aromatherapy) and flower essences are two different kinds of medicine. While essential oils contain the biochemical components of the plants from which they are extracted, flower essences are closer to homeopathic remedies in nature, in that they are energetic imprints of their source. Another way of saying this is that a flower essence contains the life force of the flower.
A flower essence is made by sun-infusing the blossoms of a particular plant, bush, or tree in water. (This is a simplistic summary of the process, which involves timing the picking of the flowers according to life-cycle, environmental, and other factors.) The liquid is then diluted and potentized in a method similar to the preparation of homeopathic remedies, and preserved with brandy (or a nonalcoholic substance, if need be). The result is a highly diluted, potentized substance that embodies the energetic patterns of the flower from which it is made. This means that the therapeutic effects of flower essences are vibrational or energetic.165

Despite Einstein and solid science demonstrating that matter is energy, the fact that you can contain energy in a liquid and influence human energy fields to help resolve ailments is not widely known. Yet, that is precisely what flower essence liquids do. When you take flower essences, the energy they contain affects your energy field, which in turn has an impact on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual condition, as these aspects are all energy based.

In the 1930s, Dr. Edward Bach developed 38 different flower essences to address 38 different emotional-soul or psychological types. As an example of the “profile” associated with a remedy, the flower essence Willow is indicated for someone who, when out of balance, feels resentful, bitter, and envious of others and adopts a “poor me” victim stance. Dr. Bach’s remedies are still available today—the Bach Flower Remedies seen in health food stores everywhere.

The Flower Essence Society (FES) in Nevada City, California, headed by Kaminski and her husband, Richard Katz, has expanded on the work of Dr. Bach and significantly furthered the field of flower essences. Founded in 1979 by Katz, FES is a pioneer in flower essence research, compiling and analyzing case study data from tens of thousands of practitioners around the world and conducting longitudinal studies as well as botanical field studies.
FES also funds double-blind placebo trials with specific flower essences. In two such studies, clinical and research psychologist Jeffrey Cram, Ph.D., director of the Sierra Health Institute in Nevada City, looked at the efficacy of specific flower essence formulas in alleviating stress. Physiological measures showed significantly reduced reactivity in subjects who received the flower essences versus those given a placebo.166 Currently under way is a major study on the application of flower essences in depression.167

In addition to the society’s involvement in research, Kaminski and Katz expanded on Bach’s remedies, developing a line of more than 100 flower essences derived from North American plants. They developed the line (the FES brand, also found in many health food stores) to expand the emotional repertoire of flower essences; to provide North Americans with essences derived from indigenous plants, which might better resonate with their healing issues; and to address the more complicated emotional and psychological makeup of people today.

There are many flower essence practitioners. The Flower Essence Society operates a Practitioner Referral Network, with a listing of about 3,000 flower essence therapists in the U.S. and Canada alone; contact Flower Essence Society, P.O. Box 459, Nevada City, CA 95959; tel: 530-265-9163 or 800-736-9222.

The Soul Message in Anxiety

While every person is different and the causes of anxiety are many, Patricia Kaminski has observed in her practice a common theme, or soul message, if you will. “The underlying soul predicament with anxiety is fear, and underlying that fear is a lack in the ability to meet the world, to take on the world. The virtue that is lacking is courage.”

The definition of courage that for her best describes the relationship of fear and courage in flower essence therapy comes from Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, who said during the crisis after the 9/11 attacks, “Courage is realizing you’re afraid and still acting.” In flower essence terms, the therapy does not get rid of the fear, but helps people to find the courage to move forward in their lives even though they are afraid.

This is in sharp contrast to the pharmaceutical approach, which tranquilizes the system in order to suppress the fear. “Somehow we believe that if we could just take something, then we wouldn’t have fear,” says Kaminski. “But there is always going to be fear, particularly in the culture we live in now, with bioterrorism, etc. We’re not going to get rid of fear. But what is within the capacity of the human soul to do is to meet the fear and act anyway.”
In contrast with depression, which is a kind of shutting down of the body—a lethargic condition—anxiety is a speeded-up condition, with the body going into overdrive, as typified by the heart palpitations, rapid pulse, and sweating, she explains. While in depression the emotional challenge is to contact buried feelings; in anxiety the challenge is to gain emotional objectivity and not allow certain emotions to take over.

People with anxiety disorders “need to step back from a kind of hyper-emotional reaction to life,” Kaminski states. “They need calming, but not as in shutting the doors and not going out into life. What they need to develop is courage to meet life, and to trust life on its own terms.” Flower essences can help anxious people meet life instead of shrinking from it.

From the flower essence perspective, it is important to consider any disorder as a spectrum within the possibilities of a human being, says Kaminski. This means that, while some people are on the extreme end of the anxiety spectrum, suffering from severe phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorder, for example, we all carry those conditions within us, and given the right circumstances we could develop them. “I’ve known people in prison who started to develop certain aspects of those disorders because of the enormous stress and fear of that experience. We all could be pressed into these corners of the human psyche.”
Given the level of fear in our society today, it is important for us to find healing approaches that help us deal with fear. Flower essence therapy is one of these.

Kaminski cautions against approaching flower essence therapy in a mode similar to drug treatment, merely substituting a natural product for the chemical, in the hopes that the medicine will get rid of the fear more safely. Certainly, a natural approach is preferable where possible, but to regard any substance as the “magic bullet” that will fix a disorder is to misunderstand the true nature of healing. Yes, there are flower essences that work quickly to calm a person in an emergency situation, notably Rescue Remedy (also known as Five-Flower Remedy). “But an emergency intervention formula will not work over the long haul with something like an anxiety disorder,” notes Kaminski.
Truly dealing with anxiety and other “mental” disorders through flower essence therapy involves working in layers, and it is a process, not a quick fix, says Kaminski. “It’s a whole developmental process for the soul. The developmental process involves steps—metamorphoses that have to happen. We have to work in a way to bring the consciousness up in the person. Whereas in typical medicine, we mask the consciousness, what we do with flower essences is try to stimulate the consciousness to see these pictures, these parts of the soul.”

The following case history is based on information provided by the “patient” herself, Kendra. Although she was not treated by Kaminski, she became her student. Kendra was so impressed by how flower essences were able to release her from severe anxiety and depression that she went on to complete the Flower Essence Society’s practitioner training program so she could help others discover the healing power of this therapy. Her story offers the unique perspective of the healed and the healer.

Kendra: Stopped by Fear

At 16, Kendra was put on an antidepressant due to her severe anxiety and depression. She had frequent panic attacks when she was at school, at work, or in another public place. At these times, she was filled with fear, her heart raced, she felt like she couldn’t breathe, and she wanted to get home where no one could see her. Her fear was of people looking at her and of them seeing her do something wrong. These symptoms are characteristic of social anxiety disorder.

“When I was out in public, I felt very vulnerable and I would have anxiety attacks,” she says. “Then I would go home, feel terrible about being like that, and get really depressed. That was my cycle.”

Kendra avoided the panic attacks by staying home, so consequently missed a lot of school. “I hung out by myself because I was in a dark space inside. I felt empty and stuck,” she recalls. “I wasn’t being creative. I couldn’t find any inner motivation. I was just a stuck teenager.”

On a scale of one to ten, with ten being most severe, Kendra rated her condition as at the top of the scale. She would be better at some times than others, but her panic attacks were “tens,” she recalls. There didn’t seem to be an external reason for her state, as her childhood had been a happy one and she had a “wonderful family.”

The antidepressant didn’t offer Kendra much relief. Although it lessened the depression a little, she still felt empty inside and still had the panic attacks. The drug also didn’t do anything for her feeling of being stuck. “It wasn’t moving me forward in my life,” she says. “I was frustrated. I knew there was more for me in my life, but I didn’t have any skills or tools to help me move forward.”

Kendra had a job in a store that sold flower essences. She hadn’t heard about them before that. Over time, she learned that flower essences were especially good in the emotional arena. That prompted her to go to her doctor and ask about the possibility of taking flower essences. The doctor advised her not to go off the drug. “The doctor said they wouldn’t work and that I would probably never come off antidepressants.” Not knowing any better, Kendra discarded the idea of flower essences.

Two years after she had begun taking the antidepressant, her condition was much the same. One day at work, Kendra’s boss witnessed one of her panic attacks. She could see Kendra’s tremendous anxiety, and there was nothing happening around her to prompt it, so it was clear that it arose from within. “I felt so horrible that she was witnessing it,” recalls Kendra, “but she grabbed a flower essence bottle and said, ‘Here, take this.’ It was Mimulus, which is for fear of known things. As soon as I held the Mimulus in my hand, it was like a big sigh came out of my heart. I actually physically sighed.”


Just from holding the bottle, Kendra felt a shift in her. “I haven’t had a panic attack since that day, and I haven’t taken medication since then either.” From that moment, Kendra stopped taking the antidepressant and began taking the standard flower essence dose of four drops four times a day. (Note that it is not recommended to discontinue psychiatric medications without medical supervision. A gradual tapering off of the dosage is the method generally advised in order to avoid ill effects. Kendra was fortunate in that she had no adverse reactions to her abrupt discontinuation.)

“ I stopped taking the drug immediately after I discovered the Mimulus because the flower essence gave me an inner light, inside my heart. The Mimulus flower is yellow, like the sun. Also, my anxiety was centered in my solar plexus (stomach), and the color of that chakra is yellow. The Mimulus helped my stomach not to be churning with anxiety.” She also noticed that the flower essence began to fill her with self-worth, and the feeling of emptiness subsided. The flower essence didn’t get rid of her fear, but gave her the message that the emotions she was feeling were fine and that it was possible to look at them in different ways.
“ I started moving forward, one step at a time. That was what I had needed—a catalyst.” She began to go out in the world more, started studying aromatherapy and, later, flower essences. Meanwhile, Kendra’s boss at the store taught her more about flower essences, and she began to take others as she felt she needed them.

The ones that were particularly helpful, in addition to Mimulus, were Crab Apple and Walnut. “Crab Apple helps to cleanse you of feeling unclean and impure. That was important for me, too. The emptiness inside of me made me feel gunky. There wasn’t a lot of light. The Crab Apple helped me to cleanse and move forward. Walnut is also for moving forward with courage.”

Crab Apple

Kendra, now 25, regards Mimulus as an ongoing healing and still takes it today, although not at the original dosage. “I’m continually taking flower essences,” she says. “I take a different blend every month. I still get anxious, but nothing like before. I get healthy anxiety. Sometimes I feel a little bit vulnerable when I’m putting myself out there in the world or I notice that I’m falling back into my old pattern, and I just put some Mimulus back into my blend. It’s like a best friend.”

She views Mimulus as the archetypal essence for this time in her life. “The Mimulus gives me the courage to go on with my life and not worry about the little things, like people looking at me or seeing me do something wrong. It was those little anxieties that became unhealthy and interfered with my functioning. The Mimulus gives me the courage to do what I have to do and to be myself.”

In looking back at her anxiety and depression, she thinks that they may have been an outgrowth of getting stuck in the transition from childhood to adulthood. “All teenagers go through some sort of change. They need to find where they need to go, and they need to have positive inspiration. I got stuck in that transition. I had no insight.”

Kendra found it difficult to talk to anyone about her depression and panic attacks and, like many young people, felt that nobody understood her. After the antidepressant didn’t work, she didn’t think there was anything that could help her. “I wanted to get better, I wanted to enjoy my life, but I didn’t have the tools.”
Fortunately, Kendra found a tool that worked to get her moving again. Flower essences helped summon qualities in her that she didn’t know how to bring out on her own. “The pharmaceutical drugs didn’t fill me up inside with the love and wonder and beauty of life,” she says, which is what she needed and what the flower essences did for her. “I was empty inside. I needed to come from a whole place in myself before I could go out into the world.”
Kendra echoes Kaminski’s point that true healing is not a quick fix. “To get to your core issues is a big journey that not everyone wants to take. I was willing to take responsibility for everything inside of me, and I think that’s one reason the flower essences helped me. I feel like I got to the core, and every day now I’m really light. Now the rest of my life is just unfolding, and it’s a wonderful journey.”

Kendra reports that at this point she has tried almost all of the Bach and FES remedies and has found them all helpful. They bring forth the rainbow of human qualities that are already there, but need help in coming out into the world, she says.

Flower essences are a direct path not only to connection with all aspects of being human, but also to connection with the natural world. “We’re so concerned right now with the material world. We need to connect more with nature. When we do, we connect with ourselves.” Kendra observes that the sense of beauty and wonder you get from walking through a forest or being in your garden is how she feels when she takes the flower essences. Since you can’t always be in your garden or walking in a forest, flower essences are a way to keep that sense of connection, beauty, and wonder in your everyday life, she notes, which can go a long way toward dissolving anxiety.

The Medication of Souls

“It’s not easy working with anxiety and depression in our culture, because of the tremendous emphasis on medication,” Kaminski states. “The longer somebody has been on psychiatric drugs, the more challenges we have. The sooner we can get to somebody, if they have been on the drugs for a short time, the more successful we’re going to be. That’s actually true of both flower essences and homeopathy.”

It’s not that people who have been on pharmaceuticals for a long time can’t be helped by flower essences. It just makes the case more complex, she says. The flower essence practitioner has to work then with the chemical situation that has been set up in the body as well as with the emotional layers.

Kaminski cautions that this is not to say that people should simply throw away their prescription drugs. Stopping needs to be done under the supervision of a qualified physician, and obviously if someone is suicidal or psychotic, the drugs may be saving their life.

Like Dr. Reichenberg-Ullman, Kaminski has a vision of another way that people can be helped in times of crisis. She would like to see doctors put patients whose “mental” disorders are not life-threatening on flower essences first. “That’s what’s happening in Cuba,” she states. “The flower essences have become part of the medical model there. They’ve seen the results.” The Cuban Ministry of Public Health recognizes flower essence therapy as a valid medical modality and has sponsored practitioner training in its use in ten of the country’s 15 provinces.168

Kaminski adds: “What I would like to see is a revolution in the health-care industry, that at the early stages of intervention, when somebody needs emotional help, we provide, in addition to counseling, therapeutic modalities that are much safer and much more holistic. If those don’t work, then we can consider stronger chemical options.”

Again, with somebody who’s suicidal or psychotic, immediate brain intervention in the form of medication may be necessary. “If your hand is in the fire, you can’t go right to giving a remedy for healing the hand,” says Kaminski. “The first thing you have to do is get the hand out of the fire.” It’s important to remember, however, that a tranquilizer or an antidepressant is never a cure, she cautions. Rather, it only temporarily changes behavior and enables the brain to function differently.

Unfortunately, those facts seem to have been forgotten. Kaminski points to an alarming trend in the use of pharmaceuticals. “It’s just unconscionable to me how many people are being put on psychiatric drugs at the drop of a hat.” Statistics on the huge increase in the prescription of such drugs over the past two decades demonstrate what Kaminski calls “the normalization of psychiatry.”

In other words, she says, “more and more and more of the population is being medicated. If somebody comes in suffering from lethargy, panic, anxiety, or PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], we right away medicate them. Children are being medicated. The elderly are being medicated. Prisoners are being medicated.” What medication does is rob individuals of the capacity to deal with their soul and the messages it has to communicate, she says. “Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, we’re actually developing a model that is robbing people of their developmental capacity. There is a trend, both in psychiatry and in medicine, to medicate away problems.”

The use of psychiatric drugs is behavior modification to help people adjust to their lives the way they are, according to Kaminski. “It isn’t a transformative model of a human being. It’s a behavioral adaptive model.” She sees the results of this in people who come to her who have been on psychiatric drugs for a while—there is no movement in their lives.

The psychiatric drug model also seems to be promoting the idea that “we’re supposed to somehow have the smiley face all the time,” she observes. “The truth of the matter is, life hurts. There are failures and disappointments.”

Kaminski envisions the development of a different model of human potential, one that doesn’t only seek to fix, but asks why the breakdown happened. “What’s standing in the way of that person being able to move on, to be a more loving and more productive person in human society? That for me is the goal of flower essence therapy—to wake people up, even if it’s painful. When we open our heart to take risks, then our lives are more healthy, they’re more whole.”


Related article of interest: “Panic Attacks: Treating the Soul - Not the Symptoms” by Dr. Marina Angeli


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