Alternative Medicine

The Healing Powers of Flowers

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Alternative medical practitioners have long used flowers for their medicinal properties. Countless varieties of blossoms can eaten, applied topically, or made into teas and ointments to treat a vast number of ailments.

Calendula is practically a cure-all flower. It’s primarily known as a fast healer of wounds: it has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. It’s so widely used that even the National Institutes of Health maintains a web listing on the flower. Natural health products like diaper creams, wound ointments, lip balms and rashes often contain calendula. The blossoms can be made into tea, which not only can be drunk, but also used as a topical solution for yeast infections, conjunctivitis, canker sores, acne and athlete’s foot. Taking calendula orally may even help to regulate menstrual periods.

Passionflower can help relieve anxiety and panic, and has been used since the Aztecs were around. It doesn’t have a sedative effect, and therefore some people prefer it over traditional anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines. It’s not safe to use during pregnancy, however, as alkaloids in the flower can stimulate the uterus and potentially cause contractions.

Meadowsweet is a natural alternative to aspirin. It relieves pain without irritating the stomach lining – in fact, it’s often used to treat diarrhea and indigestion. It contains salicin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Scientists first developed aspirin after experimenting with the pain-relieving properties of this flower.

Bach flower essences were developed by Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s. Dr. Bach, who held a traditional medical diploma, became interested in flower remedies and homeopathy, and developed 38 flower-based remedies that are still widely sold today. He applied holistic homeopathic theories to these essences, saying they could treat physical, mental and emotional symptoms. For example, he prescribed gentian for people who were easily discouraged, and heather for those who craved company and were afraid to be alone. Rock rose could help heal patients even after serious accidents, he said.

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Interestingly, Bach even developed remedies for people whose “ailments” seemed not to bother them – water violet was good for aloof people who enjoyed being alone and who projected a general aura of peace and calm. Perhaps it’s indicative of the state of English society in Bach’s day that these qualities were considered ailments that needed to be remedied.