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Flower Power! How Flower Essences Complement Massage
By Karen Menehan, Editor

Flower essences have been used for thousands of years - but, like so many other natural therapies being rediscovered, they are just now making inroads into Western healing practices. Although still on the far fringes of allopathic medicine, flower essences - water infused with the vibration of specific types of flowers, which effects healing on the emotional, or energetic, level - are being increasingly utilized by massage and energy-work therapists to aid clients' whole-body health. Some therapists are training to become flower-essence practitioners, and offering complete essence consultations as an adjunct to massage. Others apply essences by misting, or by blending them into massage lotion. Another option is to offer pre-made flower-essence tinctures and kits for client use at home.

It isn't surprising that spas are leading the way in the use of flower essences, as the spa industry often pioneers the use of natural therapies that promote body/mind/spirit healing. Massage therapists find the therapy fun, productive and profitable, and clients rave about the effects of flower essences combined with massage. Flower-essence experts say that adding this treatment to your menu of services - whether you're in private practice or at a spa - is sure to result in both improved session outcomes and increased bookings.

Aromatherapy...not!
Mention the term "flower essence," and people are likely to think you're talking about aromatherapy. Callililly essential oil.Both therapies are based on the healing properties of plants - but there the similarity stops. The essential oils used in aromatherapy are made from cold-pressing or distilling plant material, including the roots, stem, bark, seeds, fruit and flower. In contrast, flower essences are created by placing the head of a flower in water and exposing this mixture to strong sunlight. The particular energetic vibration (essence) of the flower is thus captured in the water. The flower itself is discarded, and the mixture of flower essence and water is then preserved, usually with alcohol, and sold as a tincture. Oftentimes two or more types of essences are blended to address specific client issues.

"Flower essences are a subtle energy medicine made exclusively from the solar infusion of flowering plants," says Patricia Kaminski, executive director of the Flower Essence Society in Nevada City, California, and author of Flower Essence Repertory and Flowers That Heal - How to Use Flower Essences. "The essences are made in such a way that all four elements - earth, air, fire and water - come together to create an exquisite archetypal medicine from the plant.

"The flower essences have the unique ability to work in the interface between body and mind," Kaminski continues. "They are chosen not by diagnosing physical symptoms, but by determining the basic emotions and mental attitudes that are affecting the overall health of the individual."

Aromatherapy oils are usually applied through inhalation or in a lotion during massage. Flower-essence tinctures are dropped under the tongue or added to water and drunk by the client; they can also be sprayed over the client's body or blended into lotion. And unlike aromatherapy, which effects healing through the olfactory system, flower essences have no aroma. Instead, say flower-essence experts, they work on the level of the human energy system. The simplified explanation is that the vibratory qualities of the flowers interact with our own vibrations to effect healing.

Proving Essences' Effects
The skeptics among you might think the concept of vibratory healing sounds far-fetched; however, according to those deeply entrenched in the world of flower essences - both practitioners and recipients - there's no question that they work. Exactly how, though, has yet to be discovered. Although clinical studies on aromatherapy have scientifically proven its benefits, flower essences have yet to undergo rigorous testing. According to essence experts, this is simply a matter of contemporary science catching up to physics.

"Modern physics has known for nearly a century that matter and consciousness are intertwined," Kaminski says. "However, medical science still generally works with a 19th-century model of the human being as a mechanism in a world of machines.

"We expect that in the coming century medical science will develop ways of studying the impact of consciousness on health, and we will learn more about the ways in which flower essences work," she continues. "Meanwhile, empirical research, which consists of the collection of case studies and practitioner reports, will remain the primary source of knowledge about how flower essences work."

Bach flower-essence practitioner Alicia Sirkin, of Miami, Florida, offers this analogy: "We believe that flower essences carry the energetic blueprint, or life-force energy, from the flower from which it's prepared. If you think of your car battery, [it] carries an electrical charge in the water that helps the car go. In much the same way, the flower-essence liquid holds energy that restores energy to our emotions when we've lost it through sadness, through anger, through impatience."

It might help skeptics to know that the current interest in flower essences was pioneered by the work of a conventionally trained physician whose ideas were, perhaps, simply ahead of his time.

Edward Bach, Medical Pioneer
Although flower essences were first used in indigenous healing practices, it was English physician Edward Bach, M.D., (1886-1936) who established the system of flower-essence therapy most in use throughout the world today.

According to several sources, Bach displayed a degree of insight uncommon to early-20th-century Western medicine. Early in his career as a physician, Bach noticed that each patient's personality and emotional reactions affected the efficacy of treatment received. Bach developed an increasing distrust of conventional medicine, noting that the treatment was oftentimes more painful than the condition itself. In 1919 he took a position at a homeopathic hospital and began to create homeopathic remedies, taking into account patients' personalities and emotional states when prescribing. His experiments led him to discover that certain remedies had energetic polarities that are opposite those of certain diseases, and as such, were effective treatments. In the 1930s Bach found that heat, in the form of sunlight, applied to the dew of flower petals strengthened the dew's healing power.

"The earth to nurture the plant, the air from which it feeds, the sun or fire to enable it to impart its power, and water to collect and be enriched with its beneficent magnetic healing," Bach wrote of this process.

Bach believed that when the emotions were made healthy, the body would naturally correct itself. With his years of knowledge based on patient observation, medical treatment and homeopathy, he went on to create his 38 Bach Flower Essences, to be used alone or in combination, to address those emotions that he identified as problematic: fear, worry, indecision, uncertainty, indifference, apathy, discouragement, over-caring, loneliness, impatience, doubt, over-enthusiasm, pride and aloofness.

"Bach essences work by helping people to manage their negative emotions," says Judy Ramsell Howard, managing director of the Bach Centre in Oxon, England. "They help to dispel emotions such as fear, worry, despondency, irritation and guilt - all the things that stand in our way of living a happy, carefree life.

"They are also the things that, if left unchecked, can grow and 'eat away' at us, and eventually manifest in ill health," she continues. "Bach's philosophy was to treat the person rather than the disease, the cause rather than the effect."

Beyond Bach
Bach purists - those who have trained in the use of the essence recipes created by Bach - believe that the "Bach 38," taken alone or in combination, are all that are needed to address any possible type of emotional condition, by anyone, anywhere in the world.

However, many people involved in the creation and distribution of flower essences say that since each type of flower has its own distinct vibration, the healing potential of essences shouldn't be limited to just 38 types of essences. Today there are countless types of flower essences gathered from every continent. One touch-therapist and flower-essence consultant says she draws from a personal pharmacy of "thousands" of essences gathered from more than 75 flower-essence companies worldwide. Branded blends include those from Australia, Alaska, California, Europe, and various forests throughout the world.

One thing everyone involved in flower essences agrees upon is that this therapy effects positive change on the energetic and emotional levels, opening the client up to engage in deeper healing through hands-on work.

"The flower essences give me a way to deepen the work I do by helping clients access the emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns that are always associated with physical symptoms," says John Stowe, a massage therapist in Decatur, Georgia. "I use them throughout the session, where they seem to smooth the way, help the client to go deeper, and be able to integrate the healing process. The essences are especially helpful when the physical work brings up emotional issues that have been carried within the body."

Reiki master teacher Cheryl Stroup, of Sanger, California, says, "Adding flower essences to a reiki session is like blending heaven (reiki) with earth (flower essences). Many people believe that spirit is separate from matter, so it can be challenging to recognize the material world as a sacred, holy creation. Because flower essences are born from nature, they provide easily assimilated reminders that spirit and matter are inseparable."

Flower Essences In Action
Exactly how flower essences are applied in session varies from one practitioner to another. Daisy flower in bowl.Flower-essence consultants, those who have completed training and offer stand-alone flower-essence sessions, will have the client describe what she is experiencing in her emotional life, and then suggest specific essences, or blends of up to seven essences, delivered in a tincture. The client chooses a blend, then uses an eyedropper to squeeze four drops of the tincture under her tongue or into a glass of water, four times a day.

The only contraindications to flower essences, say experts, is client sensitivity to alcohol (used to preserve the tinctures) and client use of Antabuse, an alcohol-recovery drug.

"Because flower essences are vibrational substances, they can be used easily by people of all ages, the elderly, pregnant women, children and even our pets," says flower-essence practitioner Maggie Smith, of Felton, California. "What is good about them is that they are not chemicals. They contain no physical substance that will conflict with any other medications or cause allergic reactions."

Flower-essence consultants stress that they do not diagnose nor treat clients, but rather that they educate people so they can make their own decisions about using essences.

Sirkin says that during a consultation she asks the client to go inside to see where she feels stuck or negative. "We have an intuitive part inside of us that just knows what's wrong," Sirkin explains. "What I do is I just pick out my client's own words that happen to be the keywords for those essences that will rebalance the emotional state.

"It's about self-empowerment," she continues. "I'm empowering my client with the education they need to self-prescribe the essences they need."

Spray bottle of essential oil.Massage therapists who have not trained as flower-essence consultants but who use essences in session usually apply a flower-essence tincture to their massage lotion or to the palms of their hands prior to beginning the massage. Some therapists put a tincture in a spray bottle and mist the client's body before and during massage. Still others spray their session rooms before and/or after the client arrives, as a way of neutralizing the previous client's energy and preparing the room.

"I encourage therapists to spray their work rooms before and after clients with appropriate essence sprays - perhaps a calming and relaxing spray before the session and a space-clearing spray afterwards," says Rhonda Marando, a massage therapist and flower-essence consultant in Portland, Oregon. "Because these sprays can be created with no scenting, they can be used without creating objections from odor-sensitive clients. They can also, of course, be added to oils and lotions and applied to the client’s skin."

Sirkin cautions that for flower essences to take effect in a short one-hour massage session, it is necessary to dose frequently. "The customary, bare-minimum dose in order to get results is four doses per day," she says. "Therefore, in session, essences should be applied often. Every three to five minutes is not too much."

At Spa St. Charles in St. Charles, Missouri, flower essences are a key element included in the spa's signature treatment, Rainbow Massage, which also includes aromatherapy and polarity therapy.

"During the Rainbow Massage, most clients enter a trance or dream state," says Maggie Fenimore, a massage therapist and Bach flower practitioner at the spa. "Clients who have experienced this ask for this massage service repeatedly, although it is the most expensive treatment on our menu."

The Massage Connection
As with any therapy, results of flower essences vary from one client to another. In general, though, massage- and touch-therapists who use flower essences in session say that the result is a "deeper" massage; a session in which the client connects to his or her emotional state more completely, relaxes more, and thereby allows the massage to work more effectively. Beyond each session, regular use of essences by clients results in overall stress reduction and relaxation, therapists say.

"So many of today's health problems are caused by emotional and mental stress," explains Fenimore. "Flower essences go directly to the source of the problem to help alleviate the cause. When the root of the problem has been remedied, it is much easier to correct the physical situation."

Flower essences can be used for many purposes during a massage session, according to Peter Archer, a flower-essence practitioner and manufacturer in Christchurch, New Zealand. "There are essences that are specifically for helping muscles relax; there are also essences that are specifically for helping the body release emotional energy, for balancing the energy of the body [or] of the energy anatomy, and so on - and any of these when added to the massage oil will greatly enhance a massage session," he says.

Eric Love, Ph.D., who has practiced both massage therapy and Bach flower-essence consultations for 34 years, believes that the two therapies should always be used hand-in-hand.

"I would never, never, never give massage without Bach [flower essences]," he says. "With massage you don't want to just treat 'something,' you want to treat the whole person - the emotions, the spirit. If you believe in holistic medicine, you must search out the emotional component, the spiritual component. Learn to take care of the emotional and spiritual components first, then learn new (hands-on) techniques."

Here's an example of how one specific flower essence - in this case, dandelion - can work in unison with massage: "Dandelion essence allows someone to access their zest for life and connect to their flow of effortless energy, and is indicated when someone has become overly tense and hard-driving," explains flower-essence practitioner and reiki master Cathy Kinnaird, of Sandy, Oregon.

"The [dandelion] essence teaches an individual how to listen to their body’s needs and honor the inner needs of their soul. As [clients] are able to attune with their inner needs, it becomes possible to elegantly balance outside demands with their inner world. The body relaxes and a graceful flow of energy returns," she continues. "It is powerful to have this benefit at the energetic level of the body as a massage therapist is addressing the muscles directly in the massage."

Massage and flower-essence client Gillian Page, who is a practicing veterinary nurse in West Lothian, Scotland, has received flower-essence treatments for four years. Anxiety and panic attacks are what led her to seek out the therapy - although she had to first overcome her own skepticism.

"Coming from a science background, I was extremely skeptical about flower essences," Page explains. "[But] in 1999, I felt my quality of life was very poor with panic attacks, and I felt desperate. My husband and [a] friend suggested flower essences. I felt upset that they thought something like 'flower drops' could help my situation. I didn't think they knew just how bad I was feeling.

"I decided to give them a try at my husband's and friend's insistence, and could not believe the results in three days," she continues. "I feel now no fear of [panic] attacks. I have something that helps, without doubt. I never question my quality of life now and have total confidence in myself. I can only say to people that if they have helped me, they can help anyone. I cannot imagine being without these flower friends."

Blooming Business
Flower-essence practitioners charge anywhere from $20 to $75 per hour-long session, which includes consultation and at least one tincture. Adding flower essences to a massage, in the form of lotion or spray, can boost the price of a session by at least $10.

Retail is another area where flower essences can help your business. Spas, especially, are big on selling retail products to clients, and most massage therapists in private practice can do so, as well—however, because laws regulating massage-therapy practice vary from place to place, therapists should check their local and state regulations before offering a new therapy or products for sale.

"Clients who go away with a bottle of essences made up for a particular need always comment on how this has helped them," says Dace Praulins, a massage therapist in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Many clients love making flower essences a part of their lives, says Janet Fernandez, a massage therapist at 5 Elements Spa in Barcelona, Spain. "We normally make a blend for the client to take home - and the effect is lasting because they are not just receiving the benefits at the moment of the session but for many weeks afterward.

"Flower essences benefit a spa's business by creating a loyal following," Fernandez continues. "They are the key, in my opinion, to creating an atmosphere of relaxation and acceptance. We want our clients to feel cared for and loved, and we provide flower essences because they express this without the need for words."

A Flowery Future
Training in flower essences can be as involved as a two-year certification course, or as easy as purchasing a ready-made kit containing flower-essence tinctures already formulated to address specific emotions, along with instructions on blending tinctures.

Several experts recommend apprenticing with a practicing flower-essence consultant to learn about essences in-depth. Almost all said that the very best way of learning about the benefits of flower essences is to use them yourself.

"One of the most important ways therapists can pursue the use of essences is to consistently use them in their personal lives," Marando says. "When we are personally clear, stable and balanced, our work with our clients is much more profound."

In-depth information about flower-essence training programs and education is available through the Flower Essence Society, Bach International Education Programme and the Bach Centre. For additional resources, click here.

With flower essences' growing popularity, therapists are sure to see a surge in clients inquiring about this therapy. And those who believe in flower essences' healing ability are nothing but enthusiastic about the future of their field.

"Among the latest generation of flower essences - the new ones that are being produced right now, for the 21st century - there are many that are specifically for helping with physical health," says Archer. "Over the next few years, some really amazing things will emerge in regard to many forms of natural therapies, and flower essences will be right there at the forefront of this exciting new era."

In the meantime, today's flower essences offer an effective means of helping clients achieve whole-body healing. As Cathy Kinnaird says, "My clients' healing journeys have become much more grace-filled and gentle. They still must make the journey, but now they have a powerful support that smoothes the path a bit."


Karen Menahan is the editor at MASSAGE Magazine since 1994.


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