Bach’s Rescue Remedy is an unusual alternative medicine and in some ways a controversial one.
It’s widely used around the world, yet reviews of scientific studies have found that it’s no better than a placebo (more on that in the evidence section further in the article).
Despite the lack of research evidence, it’s produced on a commercial level and even sold in supermarkets alongside established medicines.
Since I’m always on the lookout for new sleep and anxiety products to test, I was particularly interested in the version created to help you sleep – Rescue Night Liquid Melts.
As with previous over the counter sleep aids I’ve tried over the years, I decided to test it for a week and see what effect it had.
Following that, I then tried out the traditional Rescue Remedy during the day to see if it would help my stress levels.
I also researched how it works to see if I could demystify it. So if you’re thinking of trying it yourself, you’ll find out what you need to know in this review.
What is Rescue Remedy?
Rescue Remedy is the most famous of many remedies sold under the brand of Bach Flower. They were developed by Edward Bach, an English homeopath, in the 1930s.
According to their website, Rescue Remedy isn’t technically a remedy, but a blend of 5 different remedies. The idea is that it’s a one-size-fits-all solution when you’re in need of some help with stress or anxiety.
And that’s where I think the name ‘Rescue Remedy’ itself is genius. It’s interesting to read customer reviews on places like Amazon or the mumsnet.com forums. You’ll find people admitting they were attracted to the name or the tagline of ‘comfort and reassurance’.
Whether you’re doing something stressful like your driving test or exams, or just in need of a little help with the stresses of daily life, Rescue Remedy is on hand to help you get through it.
The traditional Rescue Remedy contains the following ingredients:
- Star of Bethlehem
- Cherry Plum
- Rock Rose
- 27% grape-based brandy
If you look at one of the several websites which use the brand name ‘Bach remedies’, you’ll find information about how the individual ingredients are supposed to help.
I haven’t included a link, but if you search online, you’ll find more than one that looks like an official Bach website. To be honest, it’s so confusing, I’m not even sure if there is one official website, or several!
Looking around, I’ve found some of the explanations to be very esoteric. And they left me wondering exactly how they did what they are meant to do, such as this excerpt for Cherry Plum on bachflower.com:
For those who fear losing control of their thoughts and actions and doing things they know are bad for them or which they consider wrong. Teaches trust in one’s spontaneous wisdom and the courage to follow one’s path.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little cynical at times, but I try my best to keep an open mind to counteract it. Still, this explanation left me wondering exactly how it would ‘teach me to trust in my own wisdom’.
How does it work?
After reading about the individual ingredients, I needed to know more. And that same website offers an interesting account:
The Bach Flower Remedies…gently restore the balance between mind and body by casting out negative emotions such as fear, worry, hatred and indecision which interfere with the equilibrium of the being as a whole. The Bach Flower Remedies allow peace and happiness to return to the sufferer so that the body is free to heal itself.
And that’s it. In the FAQ section, this is the full explanation for how Rescue Remedy works its wonders.
How Bach himself worked
To find out more, I turned to the Wikipedia entry and several other websites with articles about the origins of Bach’s flower remedies and how they work.
Here’s a curious quote explaining how Bach himself actually worked:
Rather than using research based on scientific methods, Bach derived his flower remedies intuitively and based on his perceived psychic connections to the plants. If Bach felt a negative emotion, he would hold his hand over different plants, and if one alleviated the emotion, he would ascribe the power to heal that emotional problem to that plant.
So the bottom line, apparently, is that Rescue Remedy works by transmitting the flower’s energy or vibrational nature to you. This positive energy can then help heal conditions which involve negative energy, such as anxiety or stress.
It was around the time of reading this that I got a bit lost, so I’m not going to go into more detail about the energy concept. If you’d like to find out more about the process and background, the Wikipedia entry is a good place to start.
My experience trying Rescue Remedy
I’d love to be able to report that the Rescue Remedy had a miraculous effect, but it just wasn’t the case for me.
I took a Rescue Night Liquid Melt every night for a week to see if it would help with both my sleep and general stress levels.
I don’t have any specific measure of how effective a sleep aid is other than my personal feeling and judgment. When strong pharmaceutical sleep aids work, it’s clear because they simply knock me out.
But the more subtle sleep aids based on natural remedies can be harder to evaluate. I certainly didn’t experience any knockout, nor any fuzziness the next day after taking the remedy.
I believe I slept reasonably well on a few nights that week, which is standard for me. But I can’t say I slept noticeably better than in the week previous to taking it.
So the reality is that I can’t say either way whether it helped or not. I slept in pretty much the same way as I had done the week before, which had been with no sleep aid.
Following that, I then decided to try
No scientific evidence that Rescue Remedy is better than a placebo
In 2010, British researchers published a research paper reviewing clinical trials of Bach Flower Remedies. They analyzed 6 placebo-controlled studies, and found no support that it works, concluding:
It is concluded that the most reliable clinical trials do not show any differences between flower remedies and placebos.
And in 2009, researchers in Austria came to a similar conclusion, saying:
Most of the available evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of BFRs (Bach Flower Remedies) has a high risk of bias… 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.Thaler et. al.
On a final note about evidence, if you’re considering taking Rescue Remedy while undergoing cancer treatment, I highly recommend reading the article about essence therapy at cancerresearch.org.
They point out that although essence therapy is safe to use, “There is no scientific evidence that it can treat cancer or its symptoms”.
Having been through cancer myself, I’m very aware of the many alternative treatments out there. And while I think it’s a good idea to find additional ways to help you through the journey, I also think it’s important to pay attention to what the experts say.
Why do so many people say it helps them?
With a lack of peer-reviewed conclusive evidence that Rescue Remedy works, why is that so many people say it helps them?
If you take a look on Amazon, for example, you’ll find hundreds of reviews from customers saying they found it helped. But you’ll also find a large number saying it didn’t do anything.
And since I first published this article, many readers have shared both positive and negative experiences in the comments below.
Some interesting positive comments are from people who found it helps their dogs. If a dog doesn’t know it’s getting a medicine, how can it be the placebo effect?
I spoke to a dog trainer to get his opinion about this. His view is that it’s likely the owner is transmitting their own placebo effect – the dog is likely to feel calmer when the owner is too.
Just a placebo?
Personally, I’m a believer in the power of the placebo effect. I know from personal experience that chamomile tea relaxes me, despite only limited evidence that it has strong sedative properties.
I think in that case it’s partly the relaxing ritual which goes with it. Simply taking time out helps me relax before going to bed. Could it be that a similar thing happens with Rescue Remedy?
Perhaps by planting the idea in your mind that you’re going to be ‘rescued’ and receive a feeling of ‘comfort and reassurance’, your mind and body do the work to get you there.
Ultimately, I think it boils down to personal belief and choice. The universe is a mysterious place, so I don’t think there’s any harm in trying Rescue Remedy yourself. Even if the placebo effect works for you, that can be helpful in itself.
I’d love to hear your opinion about Rescue Remedy. Have you tried it before? Did it have any effect? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts about it.