by Mary O'Malley

Australia has one of the highest number of flowering plants in the world. Yet rarely appreciated is the vast natural pharmacy that lies among the tangled trees and shrubs of our mysterious bush. The Aboriginal people, as with many ancient cultures, understood the simple power of flowers. Flower essence, often in the form of a dew made potent by the sun, was used to treat everything from tired eyes to flagging spirits. But it was not until this century, with the pioneering work of England's Dr Edward Bach, that the Western world took notice of these subtle healing agents. Our native flower essences have been readily accessible only in the past 20 years or so through companies such as Australian Bush Flower Essences and Living Essences. Now they are in demand world-wide. 'In fact, there's more interest in the essences overseas than there is in Australia,' says Ian White, creator of the Australian Bush Flower range and author of 'Australian Bush Flower Essences' and 'Australian Bush Flower Healing' (Bantam Books).

How do they work? Bach's respected work demonstrated that flowers have a great ability to correct the negative emotions that lead to physical breakdown. Precisely how this happens is largely unproved by science, although much research continues to be conducted into flower essences. Their mechanism, explains Ian White, is similar to the way radio waves strike a crystal so it resonates with high frequencies, absorbing them and transforming them into audio frequencies which can be heard by the human ear. Essences enter the bloodstream and travel through what the Chinese call meridiens, the energy pathways used by such systems as acupuncture to correct blockages to the life force or "qi". From there, the force of the essence is amplified through the chakras, or main energy centres, out to what healers would call the subtle energy body. From there, it bounces back to reach imbalances in the physical body.

How they are used?
An essence is made by placing flowers gently in a bowl of water, leaving it in the sun for several hours, and then preserving the essence with a tiny measure of alcohol. From this concentrate (stock) or dilute (dosage) bottles are made. Flower essences are usually ingested-seven drops taken under the tongue or in water morning and evening-but they also can be used in creams and salves or in bath water. They are used by medical practitioners, naturopaths, pharmacists and lay people with no known side-effects. Flower essences are best taken singly or in combination if the essences address the same theme. In emergency, up to seven remedies can be taken, though more than four at one time is not recommended.

Expert opinion
Flower essence practitioners stress that essences, while effective on a range of physical and emotional conditions, should never replace the services of a qualified practitioner. One of the simplest ways of working with essences is to choose from one of the 12 combination essences available for common emotional issues-for example, Relationship Essence or Sexual Essence for matters of the heart; Confid Essence for self-esteem; Abund Essence for reaping the riches of life. Otherwise, it's necessary to consult a naturopath, homoeopath or herbalist experienced with flower essences. Or trust your instinct and consult a repertory of physical and emotional conditions for each flower. Opt for the most appropriate for your problem and take the essence for a maximum of two weeks. Ian White says it's common for people to believe they need every essence-instantly! To pinpoint the important issue, he suggests asking yourself, "What do I most want in my life?" Here's a brief A-Z rundown on some of the Bush Flower essences. Many of those featured here are included in Combination Essences, available from health food shops and some pharmacies.

A good one for those who meditate-and therefore included in the Meditation Essence--Angelsword helps amplify one's sense of inner knowing instead of blindly trusting the guidance of "gurus". It is also given to help cut the cords that tie us to people detrimental to our lives. Because of its protective qualities, it is prescribed for the after-effects of anaesthesia or severe shock, times when we are vulnerable to negative influences.

From the Native Bluebell found in the Olgas, a remedy for opening the heart in people who are cut off from their feelings. Ian White says it has been noted on cardiac wards that it's the men who cry and release their feelings who recover faster from heart surgery and maintain good health afterwards. It also works on fear of lack, greed and rigidity, enabling a sense of abundance and willingness to share. Related physical ailments include back, circulatory and artery problems, high-blood pressure and arteriosclerosis.

Boab works on clearing the emotional baggage we pick up from family-the limiting, dysfunctional patterns and beliefs passed on from generation to generation. It is one of the ingredients in the Relationship Essence for its ability to break family conditioning which affect our current adult partnerships. Many practitioners also prescribe it for illnesses which are genetic in nature.

Commonly prescribed for the world's worry warts, Crowea engenders a feeling of peace and calm and helps overcome that sickening sense that disaster looms. Known as an excellent remedy for stomach ulcers and ailments, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it also acts on nausea, insomnia, dizziness and muscle pain.

Dagger Hakea
A prickly plant from the Proteacea family, recommended for those with similar natures. It is said to foster forgiveness, allowing feelings of deep bitterness and resentment to be resolved. It is therefore included in the combination Relationship Essence. Naturopaths sometimes use to treat gallstones, which they say can result from blocked emotion.

Five Corners
One of the ingredients in Confid Essence, it addresses issues of self-esteem and self-acceptance. It encourages love and acceptance, especially of the physical body. "No other essence has the capacity for releasing so many negative beliefs," says Ian White, who finds it very useful for people with skin problems such as acne.

Grey Spider Flower
From a species of Grevillea, this essence promotes faith, calmness and courage in people who experience great terror, whether that be witnessing some dreadful event or even the after effects of a nightmare. Adrenaline-pumping fear stops us in our tracks so it's no surprise that paralysis is one of the physical conditions it works on.

Workshop junkies who fanatically acquire information may benefit from this one. It acts on addiction to acquiring knowledge and feelings of superiority to bring about a balance of mental and emotional aspects.

This flower features in the combination Cognis Essence for its ability to improve memory and retrieve forgotten skills. It's also recommended for people who don't learn from past mistakes, and for those who need to dominate and control others. Amnesia, memory failure, stiffness and snoring are some of its physical applications.

For changeable scatterbrains who take on a host of projects but finish only half of them. Even their illnesses are those in which symptoms change a lot-skin and teeth problems and nervousness, for example. This essence encourages clear, quick and decisive thinking.

Kangaroo Paw
Austin Powers needs an intravenous drip-feed of this one. It's for social bumblers who need to encourage qualities of kindness, sensitivity and savoir-faire.

Little Flannel Flower
A joyful remedy to promotes carefree, playful feelings in the staidly sensible. Spontaneity is often lacking in people with physical stiffness, such as arthritis, and this help them to loosen up.

Mint Bush
A tonic for those wondering whether to stay in a relationship, leave a job or where their life is going. Bringing clarity, calmness and the ability to cope, it is for those periods when you feel you are being tested to the limit.

Old Man Banksia
People who suffer from low thyroid activity which produces sluggishness, heaviness and obesity often use this one. These are the reliable, dependable souls upon whom others look to for support and guidance. It's meant to instill fresh enjoyment and enthusiasm for life.

Paw Paw
When trying to make an important decision, many people feel overwhelmed. This, says Ian, is one of the fastest-acting remedies for those situations. It's also said to be good for students facing exam-overload, working on associated physical symptoms such as headaches, diarrhea and indigestion.

Red Grevillea
For feeling stuck, oversensitive to criticism and too reliant on others. Such people often stay in jobs or relationships they don't like out of fear of moving on. It promotes independence, boldness and the strength to leave unpleasant situations.

She Oak
Hormonal imbalance, conception and fertility are the positive attributes of this remedy. It may clear the emotional blocks that prevent conception. It is often given naturopathically to rehydrate the uterus, clear mucous blocks of the Fallopian tubes and regulate the production of reproductive hormones.

Turkey Bush
If that award-winning novel remains locked inside you, along with the screenplay that never gets written, consider this remedy for creative block. It inspires artistic expression, focus and confidence. Uterine problems can also stem from an inability to create, and Ian says Turkey Bush has resolved many such conditions.

Wild Potato Bush
This is often taken by women towards the end of pregnancy when they feel weighed down and restricted in movement. It promotes freedom, vitality and the ability to move on in life and is used by overweight and those with illnesses that restrict the body.

Yellow Cowslip Orchid
Possibly an excellent workplace remedy for its ability to overcome critical, nit-picking, bureaucratic behaviour. Ian says it is used to great effect to regulate problems of the pituitary gland, which reacts to excessive judgement and criticism.


Supplied by: Australian Bush Flower Essences (Bush Biotherapies)