Photo by Adobe Stock/astrosystem
I was missing the sun in the sky and my son in my heart as I crouched down next to Dawn Combs’ beehive, which hummed at a contented, low-pitched frequency; it sounded like a calming breeze. I put my ear to the hive, closed my eyes, and began to slow down, relax my muscles, and feel secure for the first time since beginning my weekend workshop at Combs’ Mockingbird Meadows homestead in Marysville, Ohio. With flowers blooming around me, I could hear the sound of honey being made on a cloudy Saturday in May.
Combs explained that, unlike an unbalanced, unhappy beehive, which makes a high-pitched, angry-sounding frequency, the buzzing of these bees was calm, therefore changing my own frequency to resonate with its natural and happy tone. It was a source of gratitude, creativity, and healing. By coaxing us to experience this vibrational frequency, Combs was prepping our small class for a lesson in plant communication and flower essences. As a beekeeper, herbalist, and ethnobotanist, Combs believes that in the 100 million years bees have existed, they’ve held a longstanding agreement with flowering plants and humans. Bees take care of us, as long as we care for them in return. Indeed, the bees’ soft hum was already soothing me. That weekend, I learned that the same gratitude resonates with flowers, each of them with a special emotional gift to give.
Until I’d put my ear to the hive, I’d been grappling with a lingering seasonal depression that began with a snowy Kansas winter that immediately dovetailed into a relentless spring downpour. By May, the sun had barely shown its face for six months, and it hadn’t come out in Ohio either. I was filled with guilt and sorrow from leaving my 21-month-old son for the first time. I hadn’t realized how hollow my heart would be, how tense my muscles would become, or how lost I’d feel during the trip. But, this workshop would be just what my heart needed.
A Friendly Yellow Fellow
After my experience with Combs’ soothing hives, she explained how to receive healing wisdom from plants, known in the herbalism world as “plant communication.” I’d liken it to receiving the healing frequency of the beehive, but with more intention required. To receive a flower’s unique emotional offerings, you must first offer something to the plant, whether it be a kind thought, such as “you’re beautiful”; a physical object; or even a song. One of Combs’ former students once sang sections of an opera to her roses. Each of your emotions carries a particular vibrational frequency, and before you receive plant wisdom, you must ground yourself and set an intention of gratitude to grasp a flower’s vibes. Combs instructed us to find a plant that practically shouted, “Pick me!” We then sat with the plant to discover what it seemed to “say,” or, more practically, how it seemed to help us explore our emotions in the moment. If we weren’t receiving anything, Combs suggested simply sketching the plant and waiting for inspiration.
Butterweed. Photo by Blair Gordon
Full of emotion and curiosity, I meandered around Mockingbird Meadows with a notebook, waiting for a plant to beckon me. At first, I considered a willow, but I didn’t feel fully invited in by the tree. Eventually, a thick stem capped with a cluster of completely yellow, daisy-shaped flowers happily greeted me, as if it had been waiting for a friend. I stared at the buds, amused by their novelty; I’d never seen such flowers before. I sat down next to them, and expressed my admiration for the lovely yellow fellows. Pinched, rounded buds shot off the stem in all directions, waiting to burst open. Perhaps the tight buds just required a smidge more sunshine for their expansion, much as I did. As I sat with the flowers, time seemed to slow down considerably, and, finally, I stopped moving, thinking, and worrying for what felt like the first time since my son’s birth. And then, the guilt and heartache subsided, and what flowed out was poetry:
Tendrils of appreciation,
Will give you space to feel
Plant yourself deep in the earth,
On a 100-mile journey into self,
And beyond understanding, heal.
Renewed and fortified, I felt proud that I’d trusted my inner knowing to lead me on this journey, which had ultimately reintegrated the wisest parts of myself and reopened a poetic channel. I was able to face the intensity of my feelings and simultaneously feel the solution. I was incredibly grateful that I’d made the trip, knowing I never would’ve taken the time to sit quietly with a flower at home. Later, when I researched the flower, I discovered it was a butterweed (Packera glabella), which is sometimes used in flower essences to support spiritual growth and to help people trust their intuition. This so-called weed had so much wisdom to impart.
Healing with Flower Essences
To take plant communication a step further, you can collect a flower’s essence in water and ingest drops of the prepared essence for further healing. This phenomenon was part of Combs’ lesson for our class. The lesson made even more sense as I sipped on a “Purple Rain” — one of her violet- and lilac-infused soda creations. The flower infusion (and the incredible taste of lilac) likely assisted in my heightened feelings of giddy, unburdened lightness and unreserved self-acceptance.
Photo by Adobe Stock/mayatnik
We learned that British doctor Edward Bach discovered the homeopathic healing power of flower essences in the 1930s. He began by collecting dew from flower petals and offering it to sullen patients after heart surgery. Combs attested to Bach’s findings by way of her relatives’ own heart surgeries. Most patients feel an incredible sadness after such an invasive rearranging of the heart and blood. “They stop your heart,” Combs says. “All your blood leaves your body; it goes into a heart-lung machine while they’re doing the surgery. My father’s heart surgeon even said, ‘The blood knows something strange has happened.’ After my grandfather’s surgery, he just sat around and cried.” So when Combs’ father had heart surgery, she prepared a mixture of flower essences to help him cope with the chaos of emotion following the event.
Dr. Bach’s patients felt so uplifted after ingesting his flower remedies that he gave up his practice to further his research on the effects of 38 native European flowers, culminating in what are now known and sold as Bach Original Flower Remedies. For instance, an essence of elm may help a person shoulder an overwhelming task with joy, while essence of aspen is meant to ease a sense of foreboding. A detailed reference guide to all 38 original European flower remedies can be found on the Bach Centre website. More recently, the Flower Essence Society has added North American flower species to that original list to create even more remedies.
A Change of Heart
According to Combs, flower essences hold a special place in herbalism. “You can give somebody all the herbs you want,” she says, “but if they’re too angry, or they’re too ripped apart and hurt, true wellness will never be achieved because they’re still emotionally hobbled, which will eventually manifest as sickness in the physical body.” Flower essences can help direct your attention as you work through a specific emotional issue. And, because they don’t contain phytochemicals, there are no contraindications for most medications. “Anybody can use them,” Combs says, “because they’re not interacting with medication. You can use them for infants, or for an incredibly aged person. They’re appropriate for anybody to ingest.” These remedies simply change your energetic resonance by conveying a flower’s energetic imprint to you. It’s similar to the energetic shift you may feel when you receive a bouquet, or hear a beautiful piece of music.
Photo by Getty Images/OlgaMiltsova
There’s a flower essence to help you work through nearly every specific emotional issue. During the workshop, Combs encouraged each of us to select two or three remedies by intuition, or by referring to an extensive index of emotional dysfunctions and the flower essences indicated for them. Each of us combined our selections in a dropper bottle for daily use. I worked intuitively, the same way I found my flower the first day. Without looking at the bottles, I held many of them in my hands and trusted my intuition. My selections turned out to be exactly what I needed for healing, and, interestingly, two parts of my remedy came from more bright-yellow flowers.
I selected essences of rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), for those feeling overwhelmed by details; St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), which helps sensitive people work through depression, especially from lack of light; and tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium), to temper aggressive feelings with an attitude of cooperation. That night, I felt incredibly soothed after taking a dropperful of my combined essences and drifted easily off to sleep. The next day, my lack of worry and gratitude for my experience followed me all the way home to Kansas.
St. John's wort. Photo by Adobe Stock/Lilli Bähr
Usually, I’m nervous about everything surrounding air travel. However, when the faulty airport outlets failed to charge my phone and I couldn’t access my digital boarding pass that day, I wasn’t anxious. Instead, I slowly savored a slice of pizza and quietly observed the passengers at my gate board the plane from a distance. I wasn’t even worried I’d miss the flight. I simply requested a physical boarding pass from the ticket attendant when it was my turn to board, and I flew home serenely. The best part was that when I returned home on Mother’s Day evening, my cranky, runny-nosed toddler fell asleep in my arms after I gave him a few drops of the flower essence remedy I’d created. I’ll never look at a flower the same way again.
How to Make Your Own Flower Essences
Though companies sell preformulated, prepared flower essences, you can also easily make your own essences with fresh flowers you love. At Dawn Combs’ workshop, she recounted how, during a yoga class, a friend of hers spotted a tree outside the window that made her giggle so much that she fell out of her pose. The tree practically begged her to come outside, and she eventually left the class to give it a visit. Combs suggested that her friend make a flower essence from the tree’s buds, and her friend fell in love with the process. If you feel a flower or plant pulling you in, this simple project will preserve its energetics so you can enjoy them anytime. This project works best on a sunny day with fresh blooms. It also helps to practice plant communication — that is, sitting and meditating with the flower first. You’ll first make a “stock bottle” of concentrated essence, and then dilute that essence into a “dosage bottle” for regular use. If you use brandy or vodka for your preservative, your stock bottle will last indefinitely. Apple cider vinegar will preserve it for a shorter amount of time.
Photo by Getty Images/svehlik
Tools and Materials
- Clear glass or crystal bowl
- 4 to 6 ounces spring or well water
- Fresh flowers of your choice
- Scissors or garden shears
- 2-ounce dropper bottles (2)
- 2 ounces plus 2 tablespoons brandy, vodka, or apple cider vinegar for preservative
- Fill your bowl with spring or well water.
- Without touching the flower heads, use scissors or garden shears to snip the heads of flowers with which you feel a connection, letting them fall directly into the bowl.
- Leave the blossoms in the bowl, undisturbed, for 3 to 4 hours in sunlight to create the “mother essence.”
- To make a stock bottle, fill a dropper bottle with your preservative of choice. Use the dropper to add 2 to 7 drops of the mother essence into the bottle. This stock bottle can be used to make multiple dosage bottles.
- Fill a second dropper bottle almost completely with spring water, and add 2 drops of liquid from your stock bottle. This is your dosage bottle, which further dilutes your flower essence for easier absorption into the body. If you have multiple stock bottles of different flower essences, you can mix 2 drops of each from up to 7 stock bottles in spring water for customized blends.
- Take 4 drops from your dosage bottle as needed, up to 4 times a day. You can also infuse your drinking water, adding 16 drops to your water bottle and drinking throughout the day.
Suggested Flower Essence Remedies
These are just a few of the many flower remedies that collectively help address a wide variety of emotional issues. For a full list of the 38 Bach Original Flower Remedies native to Europe, visit the Bach Centre website, and read more about the healing properties of additional North American flower remedies on the Flower Society website.
Bach Rescue Remedy: Dr. Bach originally called this remedy his “crisis formula.” The combined flower essences of rock rose (Helianthemum nummularium), Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), and evergreen clematis (Clematis vitalba) have traditionally worked well together to help those in crisis situations when the nervous system is overwhelmed and there isn’t time to assess which flower essences are best to use. Rescue Remedy is wonderful to keep on hand for sudden, unexpected events that can cause extreme stress.
Mimulus (Mimulus guttatus): Mimulus flower essences are known to help those with identifiable phobias, such as public speaking and arachnophobia, and for those who experience general timidity or shyness. Dr. Bach noticed it was helpful for those who “secretly bear their dread.”
White chestnut. Photo by Adobe Stock/Cimermane
White chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum): White chestnut (also called “horse chestnut”) flower essences helped Dr. Bach’s clients deal with the undesirable, ruminating thoughts they couldn’t get rid of, which caused them “mental torture.”
English walnut (Juglans regia): Walnut flower essences often help those who are experiencing major life changes, such as going to school for the first time, getting married, or retiring. Dr. Bach found that walnut assists those who are easily persuaded off their chosen path, and that it also offers “protection from outside influences.”
Crab apple (Malus pumila): Essence of crab apple flowers has been found to help people “accept imperfections” they find in themselves.
Nasturtium. Photo by Getty Images/vnlit
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus): This essence has been known to assist those who are depleted of physical or mental vitality because of lifestyles that require a great deal from them.
Quince. Photo by Getty Images/corridor91
Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa): Quince helps those who are having trouble balancing their strong and sensitive sides, such as parents who find strength as disciplinarians, but lack more nurturing qualities.
Sage. Photo by Getty Images/ElenaNoeva
Sage (Salvia officinalis): True to its name, sage has been noted to help those seeking wisdom or perspective on their lives to find a deeper purpose.
Blair Gordon is a Mother Earth Living editor with a background in creative writing and a burgeoning interest in herbal remedies. She plans to grow her first meditation garden this spring, flush with flowers and medicinal plants.