Imagine if you could combine the rich history of Chinese Medicine with the subtle science of flower essences. What would it be like to take these two robust and beautiful medicines and combine them? It would be magical. And guess what? You can.
Floral acupuncture was introduced by Deborah Craydon and Warren Bellows. Together they developed a robust system of 5 element acupuncture and Bach Flower essences, combining them to supplement treatments for anxiety, fear, anger – any of the traditional flower essence maladies.
Floral acupuncture has grown since Craydon and Bellows published Floral Acupuncture, expanding beyond the original Bach formulas. And it might be what’s missing from your treatment plan.
Emotions are complicated
The way we talk about emotions in our culture is changing, but it’s still outdated. We talk about joy, happiness, self-confidence – “positive” emotions that people strive for. And while there has been a movement to change how we talk about depression, anger and anxiety in our society we still have immense stigma towards them.
But emotions are more than just ephemeral feelings and neurochemicals. Emotions become the lens through which we see life. They impact our experiences and the decisions we make. And over time, emotions can become physical.
Emotions in our body
I’ve talked before about how emotions begin in the heart, the seat of our consciousness, but are circulated by the liver. When liver qi stops circulating effectively we can get liver qi stagnation which can manifest as stress, anxiety or depression.
There are common physical signs for liver qi stagnation – pain in the ribs, difficulty breathing, upper back and neck and shoulder pain, jaw pain from clenched jaws – that’s just the beginning. When qi stagnates there is pain.
I used to think, “of course there is a correlation between depression and pain – I’d be depressed if I was in pain too.” But more and more research is showing that the symptoms move in the other direction. Patients with chronic depression, anxiety and other emotional disorders are developing pain.
Depression and pain
Data from the World Health Organization indicates that over 75 percent of patients with depression in primary care settings complain of pain-related symptoms, such as headache, stomach pain, neck and back pain, or diffuse unspecified pain.Human Psychopharmacology, 2004
The Psychiatry article went on, saying:
Subjects with major depression were four times more likely to report chronic pain. More than a quarter of subjects with at least one of three key depressive symptoms also had at least one chronic pain condition. The more depressive the reported symptoms were, the stronger the association between pain and depression. Patients with backaches and headaches had the highest odds of having major depression.Psychiatry, 2005
A third study, published in 2014 states:
This study demonstrates considerable associations between presence of depressive and anxiety disorders (current and remitted) and symptom severity with different pain dimensions, namely pain-related disability, pain intensity, and the location of pain symptoms (musculoskeletal, gastro-intestinal, and cardio respiratory).PLoS One, 2014
This development shows that not only can emotions cause musculoskeletal (or what we call somatoemotional) pain, but they can cause disturbances in other systems of the body supporting pattern diagnoses such as kidney heart disharmony and heart qi deficiency.
Finally, and this is the kicker, a study published in 2005 states that:
Epidemiologic studies indicate that depression is a common comorbidity accompanying chronic pain states. Longitudinal studies also suggest that depression can predict the emergence of chronic pain in selected populations.”Current Treatment Options in Neurology, 2005
What this all means
We cannot say that all issues, illnesses and disease have an emotional component. We can’t say that positive thinking, affirmations and therapy will cure all your ills. It is difficult to say, one way or another, whether a condition of yours has an emotional component until you begin to treat the possible underlying condition.
But what we can say is that it can’t hurt.
Treating the root emotion
When we treat any physical condition we start with the branch – the symptoms. If someone comes into my clinic complaining of extreme morning sickness the first thing I should do is address the nausea and vomiting. If I spend my entire treatment addressing the cause of the nausea and vomiting without focusing on the symptoms first, it will take much longer for my patient to feel better.
But once the branch has been addressed – the nausea, the delayed labor, the pain – we must address the root, and for many conditions the root is in the shen.
Addressing the shen
Shen is often defined as spirit. With this definition, it can mean all components of your spirit:
- Hun – your ethereal soul
- Po – your corporal soul
- Yi – your intellect
- Zhi – your willpower
- Shen – your mind or consciousness
This is why I prefer to translate shen as mind or consciousness – because what I am treating has everything to do with your brain and your perception of the world.
Pain is perception
When we burn our finger or stub our toe, a specific type of receptor triggers an impulse to travel to our central nervous system. For some impulses, our first reaction is actually a reflex – to pull our hand or foot away. But in this split second we have our reflex reaction we are feeling no pain.
As the area keeps stimulating these impulses our brain sorts through them: did we get burned? Was it mechanical damage? Has swelling begun?
But in order for us to feel that pain, our brain has to know what’s going on. Our brain tells us that we are in pain, how much and what to do about it. The pain doesn’t happen in your toe or finger – it happens in your mind.
This is true for all stimulation: you don’t see in your eyes, smell in your nose or taste in your mouth. This is where the sensation starts but it is interpreted in your mind. Shen is the root of all sensation.
This is why a vital part of any pain management treatment is to “calm the shen” and allow the mind to relax and more appropriately process input. Calming the shen is also integral to almost any other condition. Why? Because healing happens best when the body is relaxed.
Flower essences are a medicine of the shen
When Bach developed flower essences, his focus was on treating seven emotional imbalances:
- insufficient interest in present circumstances
- oversensitive to influences and ideas
- despair or despondency
- over care for the welfare of others
Flower essences were meant to treat disease before it manifested as a physical issue as Bach believed that disease could be predicted by a patient’s emotional state. One hundred years later, research is corroborating his claims.
This makes treatment with flower essences the perfect preventative complement to an ancient preventative medicine.
Floral Acupuncture: The Bigger Picture
In 2014 I presented on how the Ancient Europeans and Ancient Chinese came to many of the same esoteric conclusions by observing nature. They associated summer with fire, warmth and passion. They associated fall with harvest but also with letting go and releasing grief.
My conclusion states that science is the process of observing the world around us and that if we observe without bias, we should all come to the same conclusion time and time again. And that because of this there is no Eastern and Western medicine, but rather there is medicine and different traditions, cultures and approaches are focusing on smaller sections of the big picture.
We see that here: that Bach and the Ancient practitioners of Chinese medicine both saw consciousness as the root of many physical problems. Combining flower essences with acupuncture allows us to treat a physical problem’s emotional root, to treat an emotional condition more directly and to attempt to prevent issues from taking root.
Floral acupuncture is simple: a flower essence or essence blend chosen specifically for you is applied to an acupuncture point based off your individual needs. One or two gold needles (depending on the point location) are inserted once the essence has dried and you rest for the duration of the appointment. Each floral acupuncture appointment lasts about 25-45 minutes.
It’s a simple treatment and an excellent complement to many modalities. And if you suspect a current condition of yours may have an emotional component, it’s worth a shot. Floral acupuncture costs the same as my regular community acupuncture appointments – $35 a session, whether it’s your first, your fourth or your fourteenth.
So schedule online below and let’s have a chat – maybe floral acupuncture is right for you.
Disclaimer: I am an acupuncturist in the state of Minnesota, and the information falls within my scope of practice in my state. However, unless I have directed you here as your homework I am probably not your acupuncturist. The information in this post is for general purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As always, check with your own acupuncturist or primary care provider before making any lifestyle changes. This post does not create a patient-practitioner relationship and I am not liable for any losses or damages resulting or relating to the content in this post.
Resources and links
Floral Acupuncture by Deborah Craydon and Warren Bellows
Depression and Pain – Psychiatry (Edgmont), 2005
The epidemiology of pain in depression – Human Psycopharmacology, 2004
Chronic pain and comorbid depression – Current Treatment Options in Neurology, 2005
Jessica Gustafson is a licensed acupuncturist in St Paul, MN specializing in women’s health and fertility. She loves working with patients through the Health Foundations Birth Center on Grand Avenue in St Paul as well as doing home visits in the Twin Cities area. Check out the services page for more information!
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