Essence therapy (including Bach flower remedies) | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Essence therapy (including Bach flower remedies)

Landing page about cancer image

This page tells you about essence therapy (such as Bach flower remedies) for people with cancer. There is information about


What essences are

Essences are liquid solutions of the energetic imprint of flowers, plants, trees, crystals, or other natural sources. Essence therapists believe that they can help to increase mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. This may help people to feel better. The aim of using essences is not to prevent, control, or cure cancer or any other physical condition.

The most common and well known essences are the Bach Flower Remedies. In the 1920s and 30s a British doctor and bacteriologist called Edward Bach developed a set of 38 flower remedies. The flower remedies are highly diluted extracts from the flowers of wild plants. Bach believed that illness occurs when the mind and body aren’t in tune with each other. In other words, that our emotions strongly influence our health. He defined 38 emotional states that he felt made up the human condition. Each of the remedies was designed to help a person balance a specific mood or emotion. A combination of essences, called a rescue remedy, was created to use during emotionally difficult times.

Over the years, Bach's theories have given rise to the creation of hundreds of new essences by producers all over the world. Essences are now produced from non flowering plants, crystals, gems and many other natural elements of nature. 


Using essences

Essences are usually liquids in small dropper bottles and you drip them on to your tongue. You can also mix them with water and drink them.

Some types are also available as

  • Pills
  • Bath salts
  • Skin creams
  • Sprays

Why people with cancer use essences

Some people with cancer find that using essences can help them to feel better mentally, emotionally or spiritually. As a result, this may help some people to also feel better physically.

The aim of using essences is not to prevent, control, or cure cancer or any other physical condition.

Some people claim that flower remedies can help to boost your immune system. There is no scientific evidence to prove this. But many people report that flower remedies are helpful for reducing emotions such as fear, anxiety or depression.

You can read our general information about why people with cancer use complementary therapies.


Research into essences

There is very little research into how well essences work in helping people feel better but research seems to show that they are safe to use. Essences are never used to treat medical conditions. 

A small number of foreign producers of essences have started to make claims that their products may have physical effects. But British laws don't allow essence therapists to prescribe a treatment for or give advice on cancer. Therapists are also not allowed to use terms that may make the essences seem medicinal, such as 'boosts the immune system' or 'helps you relax'.

Early studies into essences are not seen as reliable because they tended to look at using essences for medical conditions for which they are never used. Studies since 2007 seem to show that essences can help people to feel better and improve their quality of life. They also seem to show that the effect of the essences is not just due to the placebo effect. The placebo effect is a beneficial effect that can occur due to people's expectation that a product will help them.

The British Flower and Vibrational Essences Association (BFVEA) collects scientific data using a research tool called MYMOP. MYMOP stands for Measure Your Medical Outcome Profile. The BFVEA is using it to see whether essences help to improve clients' emotional wellbeing. The information collected so far seems to show that most people report positive effects from using essence treatments. The BFVEA also carries out research into specific emotional states and are looking at whether essences can help people suffering from feeling overwhelmed.

Most of the studies have been carried out into flower remedies. You can read about studies into flower remedies on the Cochrane Library website. Type 'flower remedies' into the search box.  


What using essences involves

You can buy and use essences yourself without help from a qualified therapist. The remedies come mixed with a very small amount of alcohol. You can dilute them with water, in line with the instructions on the bottles. Or you can drop the liquid directly under your tongue without diluting them. The time taken for people to notice a benefit can vary and everyone's response is unique. Some people may feel quick results while others may find that it takes some time. 

Many people are familiar with Rescue Remedy, which is a combination of 5 flower essences. The best known brand is Nelsons. There are several other brands and names, including Five Flower Remedy by Healing Herbs and Emergency Essence by Sun Essence. People may use these to try to keep calm in stressful situations, for example, taking an exam or coping with a phobia. 

Many ranges of essences are available from the UK or abroad. You can buy some in health food shops and chemists. 

There are registered essence practitioners who can suggest the best remedies for your particular problem. They decide which ones to use by looking at your emotional state, not your illness. Your practitioner will ask you how you feel and will also consider your personality type. They may suggest a treatment containing several essences to get the most benefit.


The cost of essences

Essences from a pharmacy or health food shop usually cost about £6 for a small bottle, but can be more expensive. It depends on the manufacturer and where you buy them. If you see an essence practitioner, you will need to pay them a fee for the consultation and treatment bottle.


Using essences safely

The essences have no physical effects on the body and are safe to take for adults and children if you use them as instructed. They are safe to use alongside cancer treatments such as surgery, cancer drugs, or radiotherapy. If you are having treatment for cancer it is very important to tell your cancer doctors before using any essences.

If you need to avoid alcohol remember that many of the remedies contain very small amounts of alcohol. You can talk to your doctor if this is a worry for you. Your essence practitioner can advise you on the best way to avoid alcohol in essence treatments. 


Finding a reliable practitioner

You need to make sure that you find a reliable practitioner. Essence therapists can join several associations. It is best to 

  • Contact one of the organisations listed below and ask for a list of practitioners in your area
  • Ask the practitioner how many years of training they've had and how long they've been practicing
  • Ask them if they’ve worked with cancer patients before
  • Ask if they have indemnity insurance (in case of negligence)

The leading organisation in the UK that regulates essence therapists is the Confederation of Registered Essence Practitioners (COREP). It represents practitioners listed by the Bach Centre and the British Flower and Vibrational Essences Association. Practitioners can also register with the General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies (GRCCT). All COREP therapists are insured, follow a code of conduct and have continual professional development. 


Essence practitioner organisations

You can contact the following organisations to get information and find an essence practitioner.

The Confederation of Registered Essence practitioners (COREP)

COREP is the professional organisation for essence therapy practitioners. It confirms and maintains standards of safe, professional conduct. 

British Flower & Vibrational Essences Association

This association gives information on essences, and training to be an essence practitioner. 

The General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies (GRCCT)
Box 437. Office 6, Slington House,
Rankine Road
RG24 8PH

Phone: 0870 3144031

The GRCCT keeps a register or practitioners in complementary therapies. It promotes and enforces high standards of education, performance and conduct amongst practitioners of Complementary Medicine.

The Dr. Edward Bach Centre and Foundation
Mount Vernon Bakers Lane
Brightwell cum Sotwell
OX10 0PZ
Phone: 01491 834678

As well as having a register of therapists, this organisation can provide information about remedy use, including which remedies to take and how to take them.

Rate this page:
Submit rating


Rated 5 out of 5 based on 9 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 26 January 2015