If you're unclear what exactly flower essences are, check out my post What Is the Difference Between Herbal Body Oils, Essential Oils, and Flower Essences?
The evolution of my understanding of the medicine of flower essences is, I have learned, similar to that of many other herbalists.
Step One: Be slightly cautious of them. You want science on your side, and science can't measure vibrational medicine. You want your friends, family, and clients to know that herbs have real, measurable medicinal constituents. The subtle medicine of flower essences might undermine that.
Step Two: Start feeling called to use and/or make flower essences. Be blown away by how healing this practice is, and how effectively they work.
Step Three: Realize that essences are the perfect embodiment of Story Medicine, and that this is a vital component of the healing they offer.
Story Medicine is the idea that healing comes through meaning, that we all have our own personal mythology that we're living out/creating, and that the narratives we tell about our ailment and/or our healing process have a profound effect on our health.
One of the reasons I was skeptical of flower essences for so long was that I visited a giant flower essence making company early in my study of herbalism. It was very impressive, but left me feeling cold and disconnected from their medicines. Okay so this essence "assists one in healing their innermost child..." and that essence "helps one to reclaim their vitality" etc etc.
But how did they know? Oh they did a plant meditation? Okay but what exactly did they see, what happened? What's the story!? No matter how many people I heard swoon over flower essences, I just couldn't bring myself to buy this company's products (this was back when the internet wasn't what it is today and I didn't know any smaller herbalists or companies that were making their own; just knew about those available at health food stores).
I also didn't know who these people were making these essences. What's their story? Not everyone is gonna share the whole story behind each essence like I do below, but just knowing and liking and feeling a kinship with the person who made your medicine can strongly alter its influence on you.
I didn't realize that the story was the missing element until I started making my own essences this year. And by making I mean was shouted at by the plants to do so. This is something else I have heard from many other medicine makers: when it comes to essences, it's the flowers themselves who are calling the shots- entering the herbalist's consciousness, taking up residence there, and not leaving until the essence has been made.
It started with the violets. When we first looked at this property last summer I noticed the leaves near the house. WE HAVE TO BUY THIS PLACE. THERE ARE VIOLETS HERE. Then early this spring, there were the flowers. I jumped for joy. I went out and sat with them every day. I didn't (middle) name my oldest daughter after these tiny purple beauties for nothing.
As they continued to bloom all around me, I was also watching my girl bloom. Adolescence was just beginning, and I was keenly aware of how strong, innocent, self-assured, childlike, beautiful, and grown-up she was all at once. I remembered what a tender time this had been for me. I remembered getting my period at the age she was just about to turn, how horrified I was. Embarrassed to tell my mom, super embarrassed when she told my dad.
And then I remembered a vision I had years ago. I basically only have such experiences when doing guided meditations, and this was one such moment. In it, I was sitting alone on a giant tree trunk in the middle of an ancient forest when a female adolescent woolly mammoth approached me. Her energy was just as I described my daughter above- strong, innocent, self-assured, childlike, beautiful, and grown-up all at once. Her visit was a blessing. There was a chunk of amber on the tree trunk next to me. As the vision faded, a supernova of wildflowers exploded into my awareness.
The violets had been calling to me to make them into an essence, but I had been ignoring it, though I had been associating their energetic presence with my daughter's own blossoming for many weeks. The recollection of this vision made it all snap suddenly into place- I needed to make an essence of violet flower, an essence of mammoth tusk (from a beautiful mammoth tusk bead a dear friend had given me), and an essence of amber and then combine the three. It would celebrate coming-of-age and all the other rites of passage that go unmarked and uncelebrated in our culture, the matrilineal ties between women in the same family (woolly mammoths were, as elephants are today, matriarchal), and the wisdom of deep time that million-year-old amber resin holds.
In my years of herbal medicine making, I had never had a formula come so easily and intuitively. I wanted the medicine to bear the color and the taste of violets, and so decided to add a violet liqueur to the formula.
I called the medicine Unto Herself and y'all, I have never created a product that people vibe with so strongly. I had no idea this would be the reaction. On the day it was released I shared the story of its creation with my email subscribers, and watched the orders pour in.
And I realized: Oh, they're attracted to this because they resonate with the story.
Flower essences are story medicine. They are often referred to as vibrational medicine, since the preparation is so subtle and the dilution so strong that zero of the plant's measurable medicinal constituents make it into the final medicine. They are vibrational medicine. And they are story medicine too. And those two probably have more overlap than we could ever know.
The person creating the essence brings their own personal mythology and the medicine they walk the earth with into the creation process, and in the end those things inform their understanding of what story the essence holds. And then if others feel in tune with this medicine story, they will imbibe that every time they put a few drops on their tongue.
They will consume the story, meld it with their own story, and heal at the intersection between the two.
The whole process is an act of creative imagination, and creative imagination is the most powerful force in the human body.
This is why the placebo effect- better understood as an event or belief that triggers the body's innate healing capacities- is so strong. The imaginal realm carries meaning far deeper than that contained in ordinary reality, and when we tap into that mythic space we bypass many of the unconscious beliefs and forces that cause our pain/illness or block our healing/progress.
This is also why we can be attracted to one herbalist's teachings or products and not to another, even if they are very similar. We are drawn toward those people or medicines whose story reflects elements of our own.
And when we make them part of our life, we awaken to what Hippocrates conceived of as the body's role as its own healer. You are the most powerful healer available to you. You already carry within you the medicine you need the most. Flower essences can help you remember that.