Other than the fact they are both anchored on a holistic and energetic view of health and well-being, the two don't seem to have a lot in common at first glance, do they?
But as I dive deeper, a lot owing to Dr Pablo Noriega’s book Bach Flower Essences and Chinese Medicine, and my personal experience with these two modalities, I become convinced that the two systems can actually work synergistically in anyone’s health journey.
Elaborate or definitive symptomatic treatment was never the original intention of Dr Bach. But on many occasions, he did use the flowers essences to alleviate physical pains and sufferings, like taking Cherry Plum himself to soothe his immense sinus pains. As time goes on, many experienced Bach Flowers practitioners have begun to see correspondences between the mental and emotional imbalances they are specifically treating and the physical disturbances manifested in the same patient over time.
The psychosomatic mechanism through which an emotion leads to a physical symptom remains a mystery. Further complicating this is the fact that everyone is unique and different. Individuality means we all have our own constitutional makeups, our own goals in life, our own views, our own experiences, our own emotional journeys, our own stresses and levels of resilience. There is no one explanation that easily fits and predicts for all. This is where the Bach Flowers system comes in. It offers a useful and reliable template which
helps us to ease up the knotted emotions, conscious or unconscious, before they turn to the physical realm and manifest as symptoms and illnesses.
It is also in this area that Oriental Medicine (or Traditional Chinese Medicine) offers a splendid perspective. Oriental Medicine sees symptoms and diseases as imbalances in the energetic network that sustains the condition of our internal organs. I am referring here to concepts like yin, yang, qi (energy), blood and moisture (fluids), the 5 elements, the 5 organs and their viscera, the 5 phases, heat, cold, dry, damp, wind, phlegm, movement, stagnation, excess, deficiency and so on, which you may have heard of.
Among these intricate concepts, less frequently discussed is the notion of psyches. Each organ houses a psyche, which is linked to certain emotions and virtues:
Liver (Wood) - Hun (ethereal soul) - Anger - Benevolence, Kindness
Heart (Fire) - Shen (spirit/consciousness) - Joy - Correctness, Propriety
Spleen (Earth) - Yi (intellect/thought) - Worry, Nostalgia - Confidence, Faith
Lung (Metal) - Po (corporeal soul) - Sadness, Grief - Rectitude, Justice
Kidney (Water) - Zhi (will) - Fear, Fright, Terror - Wisdom, Intelligence
An example: excessive joy and exhilaration leads to a loss of serenity and this will affect the psyche Shen and eventually the Heart; or when Zhi lacks strength, there is a weakness of will. Fears and dreads will appear and drain the Kidneys.
Now those who are familiar with the Bach Flower remedies would already have spotted the connection. Take an example again. Longstanding anger, a sentiment connected with Holly, injuries the liver and thus we can potentially use Holly for symptoms arising from a weakness in Hun, like internal heat, stiffness of neck, inflammation and irritability. The failure to assimilate and learn life's lessons calls for Chestnut Bud. This incapacity to transform leads to accumulations, upsets Yi and we may see energy stagnation and Spleen- or Stomach-related disturbances. Gorse, a remedy indicated for a loss of hope and abandonment of life, will help strengthen Po which maintains our will to live and gives us the ability to adapt and flow with change.
According to Oriental Medicine, living our "celestial mandate” is primal in acquiring a meaning to our lives and the necessary energy to thrive. The cultivation of virtues will further strengthen our psyches and organs. An ability to remain flexible and ease is essential as kinked up energy at any level creates stagnation and diminishes vitality.
Here we can see some definite parallels in Dr Bach’s ideas:
“So we come down into this world, knowing what picture we have to paint,” … a ”Divine mission”…[and] “if we allow them, the difficulties of life may interfere with this success and happiness and health, and deter us from our purpose.”…“Disease, therefore, is the result of interference, interfering with someone else or allowing ourselves to be interfered with.” Free Thyself
“The action of these remedies is to raise our vibrations and open up our channels for the reception of our Spiritual Self, to flood our natures with the particular virtue we need, and wash out from us the fault which is causing harm.” Ye Suffer from Yourselves
Certainly an understanding of Oriental Medicine is not necessary for the selection and prescription of Bach Flower remedies as Dr Bach's system is complete in itself. It is his intention for every one to be able to use it for self-care. However, we should also keep in mind that the mind is always a minefield. After all, we always compensate, over-compensate and de-compensate. We like to project the aspects we admire and deny those we disdain. This means that sometimes the last remedy we think we would need can well be the one we desperately need! While the mind can lie, the body does not. This is when we may find that insights from Oriental Medicine can offer us precious pointers and direct us to select the needed and beneficial remedies.
Image: Honeysuckle (Lonicera Caprifolium)
Bach Flower Essences: treats pathological nostalgia, being trapped in a cycle of melancholic memories, homesickness, sadness, mourning, addictions
TCM: dispels heat and wind, counteracts toxins, relieves swelling, inflammation and thirst, dispels pus, lowers fever, blood pressure and cholesterol
Photo credit: Henry Perks @ unsplash