Bach Flower Remedies

Recently we adopted my neighbor's Blue Heeler. We named her Tyche (tie-kee) after the Greek goddess of luck and prosperity since she's now the luckiest dog alive. The neighbors just called her Baby Girl, they never really named her.

To make a long story short, she was left outside 24/7/365 in the rain/heat/freezing cold, to be neglected and lonely. She's the sweetest dog, so loving and smart. The neighbors had her for a year outside, so she's 2 now and has never been housetrained. She's had to fight for every scrap of food. So she's a bit of a handful.

For the past couple of months, she had been escaping her chain and visiting in the mornings. I would go outside and play with her with my other two dogs. They all got along very well. I have  a chocolate lab mix (Koku) and a Siberian Husky (Stazi). Stazi is a very dominant alpha dog. When Tyche came over, she was submissive and my dogs played very well with her.

So here's what's so interesting. When the boy said I could finally have Tyche, he just let her loose. I had no leash so I coaxed her to our yard. And instantly she was ferocious, and so was Stazi! How did they know that she was suddenly part of the family?

Now, she's not fixed (we're going to have that taken care of in a couple of weeks), so that might be part of the problem. But it's been very stressful. We're working on potty training. But Tyche's aggressiveness with Stazi is a real issue. Stazi didn't really fight back at first, and ended up with a big scratch on her ear. The last time Tyche got in Stazi's face, Stazi fought back and it was pretty scary.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I made a comment about Stazi's scratched ear on Facebook and I was told by someone to get Bach Flower Pet Rescue Remedy to fix the problem completely. Apparently it had been a "lifesaver" to this person with her 3 cats during a cross-country move.

This got my hackles up because I have a "no woo" policy on Facebook (and in person). But I know the woman meant well so I thanked her for the advice and said I'd rather have a science-based solution to my problem. I did not try to change her mind, I simply said thanks and I might look into it, but that I wasn't interested if it wasn't science-based.

She and her boyfriend then gave me a hard time. This is what their argument boiled down to:

  •  Herbs were the only medicine until people started making synthetic ones (Appeal to Tradition, I think*)

  • Some vets in the American Veterinary Medical Assoc. apparently recommend Rescue Remedy (Appeal to Authority, probably a small minority who never read the actual studies)

  • I can complain to a shrink if I won't take BFRs (Bach Flower Remedies) and they can give me something to calm me - science based (as if that's evil or I should be ashamed of a chemical imbalance in my brain!?) 

  • For thousands of years before clinical trials and double blinding we used herbs effectively (Appeal to Tradition, among others)

  • BFR has flowers in it, which are herbs, so they really work (no, that's not true)

  • The evil drug companies own the companies that regulate them so you shouldn't put so much stock in regulated medicine (as opposed to how vitamins and "remedies" are completely ungregulated). (Slippery Slope - just because there's one bad apple doesn't mean the whole apple cart is completely evil and out to get you. Conspiracy Mongering)

  • The remedies are grown in the dirt and it's harder to overdose on them, and it doesn't matter if you don't get a standardized dose.

  • Science-based anti-depressants apparently permanently change your brain chemistry, but taking 5-HTP is completely natural and won't rewire your brain. (Naturalistic Fallacy)

  • Anecdotal evidence of the BFR calming their cats. (Anecdotal Evidence)

  • But she still happily takes ibuprofen and birth control (Hypocrisy)

  • Science-based medicine for depression, etc is "brain-frying" (Ad Hominem, Strawman)

  • Proclaimed to "restore the balance between mind and body by casting out negative emotions ... which interfere with the equilibrium of the being as a whole". They "allow peace and happiness to return to the sufferer so that the body is free to heal itself." (Weasel words that say nothing)

In the end we agreed to disagree and it worked out fine, but I did some research to refresh my memory on what BFRs really are.

      • Flower "essences" - a trace amount of flower material in water

      • 27% brandy

      • a "vibrational" medicine - the water supposedly retains the memory of the flowers energy (but magically does not retain the energy from all of the fish/human/animal bladders it has been through)

      • Not homeopathic because it does not follow the supposed law of similars, they aren't repeatedly diluted and they aren't succussed (shaken and pounded), but they claim to be homeopathic on their main site.

      • Small doses of 4 drops 4 times a day.

      • It's supposedly safe for everyone, including pregnant and nursing women, children, babies and pets. (although the site says for pregnant women to take a doctor's direction)

      • If you take the wrong remedy, nothing happens (of course)

      • You can't overdose (since it's pretty much just water and some brandy)

      • "They can never do harm to anyone" (or do anything to anyone except drain their wallet)

      • "Health depends on being in harmony with our souls" "Dr." Edward Bach

      • A 2002 database review of randomized trials concluded: "The hypothesis that flower remedies are associated with
        effects beyond a placebo response is not supported by data from rigorous clinical trials

      • All randomized double-blind studies, whether finding for or against the remedies, have suffered from small cohort sizes but the studies using the best methodology were the ones that found no effect over placebo. The most likely means of action for flower remedies is as placebos, enhanced by introspection on the patient's emotional state, or simply being listened to by the practitioner. The act of selecting and taking a remedy may act as a calming ritual.

      • A systematic study review in 2009 concluded: "Most of the available evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of BFRs has a high risk of bias. We conclude that, based on the reported adverse events in these six trials, BFRs are probably safe. Few controlled prospective trials of BFRs for psychological problems and pain exist. Our analysis of the four controlled trials of BFRs for examination anxiety and ADHD indicates that there is no evidence of benefit compared with a placebo intervention."

      • Rescue Pet Remedy costs $9.00-$15.00 for 10 ml. It contains glycerin instead of brandy as a preservative.

      • Rescue Remedy for everyone (with 27% brandy) is $14.00 or more for 20 ml.

If you read the reviews on Amazon for the Pet Rescue, there are 25 five star ratings out of 47. For the Rescue Remedy value pack ($18 for 20 ml), 25 reviewers gave it 5 stars, another 15 gave it 4 stars, out of 56 reviews.

Many (but not all) people seem to think it's awesome.

The favored reviewer says that the "inactive" ingredient is alcohol, but that's the only real thing in the bottle!

Funny, I noticed two people gave the "remedy" a generous 2 stars each, even though they both said they "weren't sure" it worked, or that they "didn't notice a difference".

There are 2 other reviewers who actually get it. One called it "watered down booze". Exactly!

The placebo effect is powerful indeed, isn't it? As I'm sure you know, the placebo effect can be observed with children and animals, so this is no surprise.

So be skeptical, my friends. Water doesn't have a memory.

There's nothing wrong with liking or even preferring natural things to synthetic. But natural things are not always good for you, or automatically better than man-made things. That's called the Naturalistic Fallacy.

For example, malaria, streptococcus and crude oil are all natural. And if you drink enough all natural, pure water, it will kill you.

If you suffer from mild depression and you go see a qualified physician who says you can manage your mood with 5-HTP, that's great. But you're probably going to go out and buy that 5-HTP from the store, so it's going to come from a company that manufactures it. They aren't regulated, they don't have to make sure you get a consistent dose every time. They don't have to standardize or make sure you are getting something pure.

Also, I looked into 5-HTP a long time ago. If I recall it deals with serotonin. Which means it does exactly the same thing as some anti-depressants. That means if there are permanent changes that take place in the brain (which can be extremely positive, by the way), then 5-HTP would cause the same changes as long as you were actually getting the same doses (not guaranteed).

Regarding brain changes, I also recall that a study was done some time ago that found that chronically depressed women had smaller and more shriveled hypothalami, but those on long-term anti-depressants had less shriveled, more normal hypothalami.

Also, if you are taking prescription anti-depressants and you take an herbal supplement that has the same action (like 5-HTP or SAM-e)  you can really damage yourself. You see, they are real chemicals too, just more of an unknown factor because they are not regulated.

But let's say you suffer from chronic depression that is more severe. 5-HTP has not been shown effective. Evidence-based medicine helps millions and millions of people with crushing depression live normal lives. It's regulated (in this country), standardized to exact doses, and it's guaranteed to be exactly what you are paying for.

Are there problems with the FDA? Do people make mistakes? Are drug companies profit-driven? Yes. But overall the system works and people lead better lives for it. I can personally attest to that!

Or instead of depression, what about cholesterol medication? I have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol. Careful dieting and fish oil supplements did not help me at all. In fact, fish oil made my cholesterol go up! My husband, on the other hand, was told to take fish oil and niacin for his slightly elevated cholesterol. He and our doctor manage his quite well with supplements. This is the proper use of them. (Fish oil and niacin have been shown promise for mildly high cholesterol for some people). Self-medicating based on hunches and anecdotal advice from your mother or friend can be quite dangerous.

So for cholesterol I have to take a statin. It's made by a drug company. Do they make a profit on it even though it's a generic? Sure. But is it helping me prevent a heart attack and possibly an early death? Yes. And I for one, want my pill to be effective. I want to make sure I take something that will actually do what the label says, every time.

When you buy wheat grass, noni juice or acai supplements, they can't even make a claim that it will do anything for you because there are zero well done clinical trials providing reliable, repeatable evidence of efficacy of any sort. I highly recommend the following beautiful infographic to see what supplements are effective, or at least promising: Snake Oil Supplements

One other thing. If you use something like homeopathy, Rescue Remedy, acupuncture, or any other treatment that is not based on at least promising evidence, then you do yourself a great disservice by turning away from actual, evidence-based treatments that are proven.

For example, there are homeopathics who say that you can take their magic water to prevent AIDs and malaria, and even cure cancer.

Does it do you any harm? Well, it's just water and sugar, so in once sense, no. But it does waste your money, first of all. Most importantly, it prevents you from responsible action that could actually save your life or the lives of those you love. There have been cases of people dying tragic deaths because they (or in the case of innocent children, their parents) insisted on quack snake oil medicine that kept real treatments at bay.

So there you go. That's the "essence" of Bach Flower Remedies. Watery booze.

*I'm sort of winging it on naming the Fallacies here. Please be skeptical of my labels and feel free to courteously correct me!


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