Flower Essence Clinical Research Methods
By Richard Katz
Flower Essence Society
The following is a summary of various methods of flower essence clinical research:
- Practitioner feedback and surveys: Flower essences are used extensively by many health practitioners whose clinical experiences with the essences are a mostly untapped resource. Individual reports from practitioners are the foundation of flower essence research. FES provides a simple reporting form (online at www.flowersociety.org/reporting.htm) for individual feedback.
For more comprehensive study, written surveys, and more effectively, interviews with practitioners using flower essences can be sources of data about which essences are used and with what results. Surveys can focus on particular health modalities, such as acupuncture or body work or with particular issues, such as terminal illness, substance abuse or domestic violence.
- Clinical outcome studies: One or two quantitative measures are added to the clinical reports from practitioners, allowing for statistical analysis of results and comparison with other studies. For example, the Depression Study led by Dr. Jeffrey Cram (Calix, volume 1, 2004, pp. 89-106) utilized the Beck and Hamilton depression inventories administered periodically by the practitioner. Other than administering the test, the practitioners continued their normal method of practice.
- Short-term double blind placebo study of a pre-mixed formula: This type of study involves short-term use of a quick-acting flower essence formula that addresses a condition that is triggered by a situation, such as a stress-reaction or environmental sensitivity. This avoids having to pre-screen test subjects for the condition being tested. Rather, a situation is created which engenders the (temporary) condition in the test subjects. Physiological measures can be effectively used for such a study.
This method was used in Dr. Cram’s studies using Five-Flower Formula and the Yarrow Special Formula (aka Yarrow Environmental Solution). See Cram, J. R., “A psychological and metaphysical study of Dr. Edward Bach’s flower essence stress formula.” Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal, Volume 11, No. 1 and Cram, J. R., “Effects of two flower essences on high intensity environmental stimulation and EMF.” Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal, Volume 12, No. 3., also available at www.flowersociety.org/scientific.htm.
In the Cram studies, physiological measures (EMG and EEG) were used to indicate effects of the flower essences. The essence combinations chosen are noted for their short-term responses in situations of stress and environmental stimulus, so they were appropriate for tests of several minutes duration. The conditions that these formulas address (stress and environmental sensitivity) have discernible physical correlations, so that the physiological tests were able to detect significant responses. Finally, these conditions are universal, and can be generated by the situational context, so that the test group did not need to be pre-selected for that condition.
Further short-term studies could also utilize psychological inventories and possibly other flower essence formulas that are known to be fast-acting. Other physiological tests that could be used include the heart-rate variability measures developed by the HeartMath Institute, www.heartmath.org.
- Medium-term double blind placebo study of a pre-mixed formula: This kind of study involves a formula that addresses a specific condition, such as grief or anxiety. Test subjects need to be screened for that condition. Psychological measures such as questionnaires are necessary, although they can be supplemented by physiological measures when available. The test duration should be at least several months in order to observe results. The advantage of such a study is the simplicity of administering a pre-determined formula. The disadvantage is that the results may not be as good as using an individually selected formula.
- Medium or long-term double blind placebo study of individually selected formulas: The most effective way to administer flower essences for long-term conditions is to individually select flower essence formulas. Although the use of a standardized treatment is the most common form of the double-blind study, FES has developed a protocol for a controlled study using individualized selection. This method was used in a small pilot study conducted by Dr. Cram in conjunction with the Depression study. The method is described as follows:
The practitioner meets with each test subject and does an interview to determine an individualized flower essence selection, as is normally done in clinical practice. The person’s name and essence selection is given to the essence preparer (in this case FES), and using a random number table, FES prepares a flower essence combination or a placebo according to the next number in the random number table (even numbers or odd numbers). Each essence combination and placebo is prepared to look exactly alike, with brandy and water, and a label listing the subject’s name and essence selection. The essences and placebos are then given to the subjects by the practitioner or test administrator. A chart listing each subject and whether they got essences or placebos (with the list of essences) is kept by the essence dispenser, unknown to the practitioner/test administrator and subjects (double blind) until the conclusion of the test period, which may involve several months and possibly a change of flower essences. (Those who originally got flower essences continue to get flower essences, and those with placebos continue to get placebos.) Test subjects are given psychological inventories (in this case Beck and Hamilton), as in the clinical outcomes study. At the conclusion of the test, the results from the placebo and essence groups can be compared.
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- Cross-over studies: Many practitioners have difficulty with the concept of giving placebos to people who are suffering. One response to this is to use the cross-over study approach in combination with the double-blind placebo study. There are two phases to this study. The first phase is described above, when approximately half the subject group receives placebos and the other half flower essence combinations, with everyone following the same protocols of individual consultations, selections, and taking of the flower essence combination or placebo. At the second phase, it is revealed who received the placebos and those subjects continue the study for a similar period of time, now receiving real flower essences. A comparison can be made of the progress of the placebo cross-over group between the first period (placebo) and second period (flower essences). The blind quality is lost in the second comparison, but you have the advantage of comparing the responses of the same people to placebo and flower essences and also satisfy ethical concerns about not treating the placebos group.
- Animal studies: Any of the above methods can also be applied to animal studies. Instead of questionnaires or inventories, the animal’s behavior is noted and quantified. For example, a dog who barked excessively during thunderstorms was given flower essences for fear, and his barking episodes were charted for frequency and duration.
- Plant studies: Since flower essences stimulate the life force and address such conditions as stress and trauma, valuable studies can be done using flower essences for plants. For example, flower essences can be given for plants recovering from transplant shock, for enhancing the speed of germination and initial growth, for recovery from disease or infestation. Quantitative measures can include growth rates, percentage of plants recovering, etc. If a number of plants have the same initial condition, half the plants can be in a control group not receiving the flower essences, but only brandy and water (placebo).