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Managing Moods with Flower Essences

This article was written by Gretchen Lawlor
posted under Herbalism

Flowers delight us with their colors and scents. They evoke memories and lift us out of blue moods. They convey passion, sympathy, or celebration to those we love; they can also heal.

There are a number of healing systems that use the power of flowers to affect moods and heal. Public gardens not only delight the senses, but are architecturally designed to soothe frazzled nerves and allow for pause between commerce or commute, providing an immediate experience of the healing power of nature. Aromatherapy makes use of the essential oils of aromatic plants to enhance the body’s immune system, and to restore balance between body, mind, and spirit. Flower essences, which are taken orally in dilute amounts, can affect our attitudes and re-balance emotions. Essences are often used to treat depression and anxiety.

Since ancient times, flower essence theory has been based upon the belief that all health conditions stem from emotional or energetic upset, and to avert a physical crisis or deterioration through sensitive awareness of unbalanced states, balance must be restored. Flower essences are used for many conditions, including physical problems. However, their primary action is upon the emotional nature. Flower essences applied to the body’s energy centers help to harmonize the flowing in and out of energy, bringing our energy centers into balance.

Flower essences work particularly well to enhance emotional balance. Medicines made from flower essences are regaining popularity worldwide as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. These gentler remedies are effective tools for altering our moods, without the frustrating and often debilitating side effects of more powerful medications.

Unlike conventional pharmaceuticals or herbs whose influence is primarily upon the physical body, flower remedies focus their effect upon emotional well-being. Even though many flower essences are made from plants that are also used in herbal medicine, such as comfrey and chamomile, they are very different in their influence. Unlike tinctures or extracts that can be toxic if taken by the wrong person or at the wrong time, flower essence remedies are self-adjusting in that if the remedy is incorrect it simply has no effect. As well, there are no harmful side effects.

Flower essences are medicines made by extracting the chemical—the plant’s life force—from flower petals. This can be accomplished by exposing the freshly-picked flowers to sunlight as they lay in a container of spring water. Exposure generally takes several hours, after which the flowers are removed and the liquid, now charged with the flower’s energy, is preserved and diluted with alcohol to prevent the essence from spoiling. This parallels to some extent the preparation of homeopathic medications, especially in that both systems use minute amounts of a highly dilute form of the original natural substance to effect healing.

Usually ingested as a liquid, prescribed flower essence treatments can be taken every few minutes for an acute trauma or emergency, or for less acute situations a tonic every four hours or less is frequently recommended. In a crisis, a shift may be experienced within moments, or may take several hours of frequent use to stabilize the emotions. A remedy may be taken for weeks as a tonic to promote slow improvement of a long-standing condition.

Flower essences are safe for everyone. Animals also respond well to them. They can be taken internally or rubbed onto the skin. In hospital settings they can be gently dropped onto the lips, safe even for pre-operative or postoperative patients unable to take anything internally. They can be applied externally in baths, or on compresses, or sipped from a glass of water or juice.

Flower essences work synergistically with other medications, gently supporting the positive effect and assisting in any emotional side effects. They do not antidote any medications, though some flower essence practitioners feel they are of less use when used in conjunction with steroid therapy or the more potent antidepressants. My own experience is that they do work well in conjunction with most antidepressants, with more of a tonic or restorative effect, and are less sedating.

Although flower essences have been used successfully for years by licensed health professionals, no one can explain definitively how they work. The rishis of India (a community of sages who lived in the Himalayas 2–3000 years ago) developed a profound universal theory of unity, which accounted for the universe, the consciousness, the mind and its activities, and the body’s energies used flower essences to balance the chakras. Today, Dr. Herbert Fill, M.D., a psychiatrist and former New York City Commissioner for Public Health, uses flower essences almost exclusively over tranquilizers and psychotropic drugs. He believes the essences may act upon the neurotransmitters of the brain. Energetic medicine practitioners feel that the essences work upon dysfunctional patterns within the subtle energetic and physiological mechanisms of the body.

Acupuncture has identified electrical and energetic pathways in the body that seem to act as an interface between the higher frequency energy bodies and the physical body. Many flower essence practitioners actually use their remedies upon acupuncture meridians to quickly impact emotional disturbances.


Essences for Support During Times of Change

Life is a process of continual change, but some periods are more abrupt and traumatic that others. The flower essence Walnut is recommended for the emotional turmoil that is often experience when you are transitioning through any of these major stresses (even though it may be quite a positive change):

  • Change of job
  • Change of home
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • New baby
  • Illness
  • Retirement
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Teething
  • Puberty
  • Midlife

The flower essence Walnut is the largest selling single flower essence in the United States. Used specifically for assistance in times of transition, Walnut breaks links with the past in a gentle way, allowing one to move forward with ease, restoring comfort and equilibrium when shaken by changes. In times of profound change, it also provides protection from outside influences, cocooning one in a safe, protective energy field.

Other flower essences that might be supportive in times of major metamorphosis are: Angel’s Trumpet, a remedy to assist in the dying process; Morning Glory, for freeing one from destructive habit patterns; Cayenne, for overcoming inertia; and Scleranthus, to move beyond wavering between alternative paths.


Flowers for Anxiety

Aspen: remedy for fear of the unknown.
Mimulus: remedy for fear related to ordinary events.
Larch: remedy for fear of failure or feeling one is not good enough.
Cerato: remedy for fear of failure remedy, but in this case the afflicted person will lean excessively upon others for support and advice as to how to succeed.


Flowers for Anger and Aggressiveness

Black-eyed Susan: remedy for suppressed anger which needs to be brought to awareness.
Holly: remedy for anger when love is thwarted or denied.
Impatiens: remedy for anger that is quick to flare up.
Snapdragon: aids expression of anger due to verbal abuse for the most minor infraction.
Willow: aids in release of deeply held anger leading to bitterness and resentment.

Flowers for a Broken Heart

Bleeding Heart: remedy for dealing with the ending of love affair, to bring emotional detachment and acceptance.
Borage: brings cheerfulness and an upbeat attitude when the heart feels heavy with grief.
California Wild Rose: helps with painful feelings one is inclined to avoid.
Forget-Me-Not: opens the heart to spiritual realm in order to transcend personal grief for one who has died. It can provide a link to the deceased, like a soul bridge, in those first days to complete unfinished business and allow both parties to move on.

Flowers for Depression and Despair

Baby Blue Eyes: restores trust that stems from a lack of emotional support during childhood. Baby Blue Eyes restores the soul’s original innocence and helps one to become more accepting, positive, and open in interactions.
Gentian: for doubt and discouragement from a setback.
Gorse: restores optimism when there is despair with a sense of hopelessness and expectations of ongoing suffering.
Milkweed: for use when alcohol or other mind-and-spirit numbing substances are used to obliterate consciousness of daily problems.
Sagebrush: helps when one has reached rock bottom in an experience of personal devastation. It gives an ability to endure and accept a necessary stage of emptiness.


Flowers in Adolescence

Calla Lily: helps when puberty is delayed, stemming from mixed feelings about sexuality.
Goldenrod: is useful for the middle-school ages of the early teens when peer pressure obscures one’s ability to be true to oneself.
Holly: helps sibling rivalry and feelings of envy or jealousy about others' circumstances.
Willow: clears resentment and bitterness, when the prevailing complaint is that life is not fair, and blame is placed upon parents, authority figures, or society in general.


Flowers for Confidence

Elm: for overwhelm, despair about one’s ability to fulfill expectations and responsibilities.
Buttercup: an excellent remedy for people whose gifts are not easily appreciated. It brings a sense of self-worth.
Sunflower: encourages radiant self expression and a positive, balanced ago development.
Mountain Pride:  brings a warrior-like courage to challenge or confront adversity. 



The therapeutic action of volatile oils is the basis of aromatherapy. Essential oils can be taken into the body in a variety of ways. Inhaling the aromas of essential oils can change a stress into contentment, focus, calm, and clarity. They can simply be taken as aromatic herbs in foods or drinks, which many of us do every day. Diluted essential oils can be rubbed onto the skin or inhaled through the nose.

The essential oils of chamomile, clary sage, lavender, lemon balm, and melissa are helpful to treat anxiety. For depression, use geranium, jasmine, rose or thyme essential oils. For general calming, use lavender or chamomile. For heartbreak use sweet marjoram. Hyssop, clary sage, and pine are great stress tonics.

Flowers have always been endowed with magical or divine powers, possessing their own unique natures and temperaments. Each flower seems  to have an indwelling spirit or soul which determines its shape or form, habits of growth, and purpose in the world. One has only to look upon a flower in all its exquisite simple beauty and experience its healing presence.

From Llewellyn's 2001 Moon Sign Book. For current-year Llewellyn calendars and almanacs, click here.


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