Petals With Promise: Bach Flowers Prove Superior to Placebo for Obese Adults' Anxiety

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Proponents of Bach flower remedies have long touted their healing properties, but critics argue these subtle plant-based treatments lack the evidence to back such claims. New clinical trial data gives fresh perspective.  

As rates of anxiety and obesity have climbed in tandem worldwide, scientists have warned that excessive weight may significantly heighten risks for mood disorders.1 Simultaneously, interest has burgeoned in integrative approaches like phytotherapy for such conditions.2 Bach flower remedies - infusions of flower essences like Rock Rose and Cherry Plum diluted in brandy - number among the most popular plant-based therapies.3 But with few robust clinical trials assessing their efficacy, doubts have lingered about whether these treatments warrant their glowing reputation.4

A 2021 randomized placebo-controlled trial offered vital perspective.5 The study enrolled 81 overweight or obese Brazilian adults with moderate to severe anxiety. Participants were randomized to receive either a blend of 6 Bach flower essences - Impatiens, White Chestnut, Cherry Plum, Chicory, Crab Apple, and Pine - or a flower-free placebo alcohol solution indistinguishable in taste and color. All were instructed to self-administer 4 drops of their assigned tincture under the tongue 4 times daily for 4 weeks. Changes in anxiety severity served as the primary outcome, assessed via the validated State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Secondary measures included sleep quality, binge eating severity, and resting heart rate.5

If skeptics of flower power were correct that Bach remedies lack credible therapeutic action beyond placebo, both groups should have seen equivalent improvements across all measures. Instead, multivariate analysis revealed flower essence conferred significant added benefit over placebo for every treatment target - STAI-measured anxiety, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index-assessed sleep, Binge Eating Scale-evaluated binge eating, and electrocardiogram-recorded heart rate at rest were all superior for the flower remedy group.5

These clinically meaningful findings make this investigation the most persuasive controlled trial of Bach flower remedies for anxiety yet. Earlier investigations reporting positive effects lacked blinded, placebo-controlled conditions and focused on subclinical anxiety in specialized populations like students or pregnant women,6,7 limiting generalizability. Here, with rigorous controls, the flower blend improved pathological anxiety in the context of weight-related distress.

Of course, more probing around flower essence efficacy is still needed - replication studies should feature larger samples and test single essences rather than blends. Various preparations like pills could help further mask placebo/treatment differences. Nonetheless, this RCT makes an early but compelling case that Bach flower remedies confer true anxiolytic advantages and therapeutic substrate beyond placebo, warranting respect from critics and continued investigation - welcome news for proponents of natural healing! Ultimately, more research is required to cement efficacy, but this rigorously controlled trial buds promising blossoms for Bach flower therapy in managing anxiety.

To learn more about natural approaches to address anxiety, visit our database on the subject here.   


Reference

1. Gariepy G, Nitka D, Schmitz N. The association between obesity and anxiety disorders in the population: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Obes. 2010;34(3):407-419.

2. Sarris J. Herbal medicines in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: a systematic review. Phytother Res. 2007;21(8):703-716.

3. The Bach Centre. Our Remedies. https://www.bachcentre.com/centre/remedies.htm. Accessed Feb 16, 2023.

4. Thaler K, Kaminski A, Chapman A, Langley T, Gartlehner G. Bach Flower Remedies for psychological problems and pain: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009;9:16. 

5. Fusco Sde F, Pancieri AP, Amancio SC, et al. Efficacy of flower therapy for anxiety in overweight or obese adults: A randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2021;27(5):416-422. 

6. Rü hle G. Pilot study on the use of Bach flower remedies in cases of protracted labor [in German]. Erfahrungsheilkunde. 1995;44:854-860.

7. Halberstein R, DeSantis L, Sirkin A, Padron-Fajardo V, Ojeda-Vaz M. Healing with Bach® Flower Essences: Testing a Complementary Therapy. Complement Health Pract Rev. 2007;12(1):3-14.

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