I took Rescue Remedy Night liquid melts every night for a week to see if they would help me sleep better. I also took the standard Rescue Remedy for a week during the daytime to see what effect that version would have.
Bach’s Rescue Remedy is an unusual alternative medicine that’s widely used around the world. However, 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.
In this article, I’ll be describing my experience of taking the two versions of Rescue Reemedy, and also when I came back to it seven years later.
After that, I’ll look at what the research evidence says about Bach Flower Remedies, and how it’s supposed to work exactly.
Small capsules with no smell or taste
The first thing to note is that the Rescue Remedy Night capsules are tiny, as you can see in the photo. They are quite fiddly to keep in your fingers, so people with finger sensitivity issues might find them a bit awkward.
The capsules have no discernible smell or taste. Compared to over the counter sleep aids containing smelly valerian, such as Sominex Herbal, this was very welcome. I also prefer the bland taste to gummy sleep aids, like ZzzQuil Pure Zzzs, which tend to have too much sugar for my liking.
I like the fact that they dissolve on your tongue, which will appeal to people who don’t like swallowing pills. Compared to some of the larger sleep aids, such as the oversized Physician’s Choice capsules, this makes them very easy to take.
Other than the small size then, the Rescue Remedy Night capsules are very convenient to take in comparison to many other sleep aids I’ve tried.
How I judge the effectiveness of sleep aids
I’ll be the first to admit that there is a lot of subjectivity in testing and writing about sleep aids. I can’t take them into a sleep clinic to get hooked up to all their gold standard testing gear, so I’m left to my own observations, along with the data from my wearable sleep tracker.
I always keep a manual sleep diary, which I write notes in when I wake up. And for this particular test, I also used my Fitbit Versa’s sleep tracking to get an idea of how I slept.
At the end of the day though, it can be very difficult to determine whether a sleep aid actually works, whether the placebo effect played a part, or whether it worked better than you think but you just didn’t notice the subtle effects.
Long story short – take my experience with a pinch of salt, because it’s just one person’s observations.
How I slept when taking Rescue Remedy Night
I would have loved to be able to say that the Rescue Remedy Night had a positive effect on my sleep, but I didn’t notice a significant improvement compared to how I was sleeping in the days leading up to trying it.
When I take a new sleep aid, I like to lie in bed reading for a good chunk of time (40 to 60 minutes) to see if I notice any drowsiness or other new sensations.
I didn’t feel particularly drowsy after taking the Rescue Remedy Night, and it certainly didn’t knock me out in the same way a strong pharmaceutical sleep aid would.
Having said that, I believe I slept reasonably well on four of the seven nights the week I took it, which made it a fairly normal week for me. It’s not the case that I slept well every night though, or that I fell asleep quickly after taking the Rescue Remedy Night.
As for my sleep tracker data, it showed the same results. Four nights were reasonably good, and the other three were slightly down on my nightly average over a longer period of time. And it didn’t appear to show that I was falling asleep any faster than normal, or any faster than the previous week in which I didn’t take any sleep aids.
So the reality is that I can’t say either way whether it helped or not. I got the same amount of sleep as the week before, with no noticeable improvements that I could observe, and no change in my sleep tracker data that would suggest I was sleeping any better.
No side effects
One good point about the Rescue Remedy Night capsules is that I had no noticeable side effects. I often get side effects from antihistamine sleep aids, such as a fuzzy head in the morning, dry mouth, headache or vivid dreams.
I was pleased to find that I had absolutely no side effects from Rescue Remedy, as it’s always a nuisance when you feel groggy in the morning after taking a sleep aid.
I can’t say I felt any less stressed in the first week I took the Rescue Remedy. No sense of untouchable calm descended upon me, and I continued to find the main factors in my life that had been stressing me out equally stressful.
Normal Rescue Remedy
After the first week, I decided to try
Once again, I can’t say that I noticed anything different though, either to my sleep or how stressed I felt.
Seven years later – a repeat test
I first wrote this article in 2015, and seven years later in 2022 I decided to buy another pack of Rescue Night to see if it would be any different.
Sadly not. Once again, they didn’t appear to make me feel sleepy, and didn’t help me feel any less stressed – not as far as I could tell anyway. Maybe I’ve just immune to the placebo effect…
Rescue Remedy appears to do nothing for me personally. I’ve tried the standard Rescue Remedy and Rescue Night – twice, seven years apart – and had no results that suggest it was worth spending my money on (I bought them and didn’t receive them for free to review).
That said, the fact that they are so easy to take and didn’t give me any side effects raises one interesting point: if you are the kind of person who is susceptible to the placebo effect to the extent that you’ll sleep better after taking something you believe will help, then you could arguably do a lot worse than the comparatively gentle ingredients contained in the tiny Rescue Remedy capsules.
I almost wish I were that kind of person, as I could do with a stand-by sleep aid that doesn’t leave me feeling groggy the next day!
Many people do say it helps them, and that’s great. Sites like Amazon have many customer reviews saying it helps, there are plenty of comments at the end of this article from people saying it helps, and I have a couple of friends who have tried to convince me I’m a cynical skeptic and that it does work!
So I’ll leave you to make your own mind up about Rescue Remedy, but stand by my personal opinion that there are more effective options out there for me.
What evidence is there that Rescue Remedy works?
In 2010, British researchers published a research paper reviewing clinical trials of Bach Flower Remedies. They analyzed six placebo-controlled studies and found no support that it works, saying in their paper:
All placebo-controlled trials failed to demonstrate efficacy. It is concluded that the most reliable clinical trials do not show any differences between flower remedies and placebos.
Furthermore, researchers in Austria came to a similar conclusion in their 2009 study, 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.
The same researchers also go on to conclude that the current evidence suggests Bach Flower Remedies are no more effective for psychological issues than a placebo, but are probably safe.
However, they caution that even this conclusion is made with “a high level of uncertainty” due to the lack of methodologically sound trials.
No evidence it helps with cancer
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, “Essences do not prevent, control, or cure cancer or any other physical condition.”
Having been through cancer myself, I’m very aware of the many alternative treatments out there. 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 it that so many people say it helps them?
At the time of writing, there are 8,153 customer ratings on Amazon.com for the standard Rescue Remedy dropper, scoring an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. 77% are five star ratings, and just 4% are one star. Some clearly love it, calling it “Absolutely amazing”, whereas others are distinctly less impressed, calling it “Snake oil”.
Interestingly, Rescue Night scores slightly less, with 4.2 out of 5 stars from 4,470 customer ratings. 8% gave it one star this time, so I wonder if people have higher expectations when it comes to their sleep rather than daytime use?
Since I first published this article, many readers have shared both positive and negative experiences in the comments below (thank you – please keep them coming!). 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.
The ingredients of the Rescue Night version that I described in my experience above are:
- Prunus cerasifera HPUS (Crab Apple)
- Clematis vitalba HPUS (Clematis)
- Impatiens glandulifera HPUS (Impatiens)
- Helianthemum nummularium HPUS (Rock Rose)
- Ornithogalum umbellatum HPUS (Star of Bethlehem)
- Aesculus hippocastanum HPUS (White Chestnut)
- Carnauba wax
- Coconut oil
- Gelatin (fish)
- Grapeseed oil
- Orange oil
- Natural vanilla flavor
The standard Rescue Remedy, which I took after my first week’s test of the Night version, contains the following ingredients:
- Impatiens glandulifera HPUS (Impatiens)
- Ornithogalum umbellatum HPUS (Star of Bethlehem)
- Prunus Cerasifera (Cherry Plum)
- Helianthemum nummularium HPUS (Rock Rose)
- Clematis vitalba HPUS (Clematis)
- 27% grape-based brandy
Note that Rescue Remedy contains alcohol, but Rescue Night does not. Rescue Plus is another version that doesn’t contain alcohol.
Possible side effects
When I bought mine, there was no information included about possible side effects to expect. My view then is that if you feel unwell after taking Rescue Remedy, you should stop taking it and seek medical advice immediately.
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, thinking of giving it to a child, or taking any other medication, I always think it’s wise to consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any sleep aid.
What is Rescue Remedy?
Rescue Remedy is the most famous of many remedies sold under the brand Bach Flower Remedies. They were developed by Edward Bach, an English homeopath, in the 1930s.
According to information on the website Rescueremedy.com (not a sponsored link – none are in this article), Rescue Remedy isn’t technically a remedy, but a blend of five 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 discussions about it on sites like the mumsnet.com forums. You’ll find people admitting they were attracted to the name or the tagline of ‘comfort and reassurance’.
Whether you have an important event, like your driving test or a key exam, or are just in need of a little help with the stresses of daily life, Rescue Remedy is on hand to help you get through it.
When 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.
If you search online, you’ll find more than one website that looks like it could be the official Bach Remedies 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. I consider myself to be fairly open-minded person, but I find some explanations lack a bit of substance, 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 a Rescue Remedy capsule would ‘teach me to trust in my own wisdom’.
Explanations like that feel more like unused segments of the Matrix movie script than an explanation for how a health product bought in a supermarket would help me.
How exactly does Rescue Remedy 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.
How Bach Remedies are made
One of the most useful sources of information I’ve found about Bach Flower Remedies is the official Bach Center in Mount Vernon, England. The center still exists in the place where the remedies used to be made in the past by Dr. Bach.
They explain how they used to make the Rescue Remedy at the center where they grow the plants, but demand outgrew capacity and they partnered with a company called Nelsons, which is now responsible for bottling. That’s also why some of the Bach websites selling the remedies online are run by Nelsons.
The Bach Center now focuses on education instead, and they have some interesting explanations for how Bach Remedies are made on the Bach Center website. They explain how there are two methods: the sun method and the boiling method.
Both involve transferring the plants’ energy to water using heat. The energised water is filtered to create a mother tincture, which is in turn diluted further to create the product that ends up in the customer’s hands.
If you’d like to learn more about the Remedies, I recommend taking a look at their website. They have information about all 38 Bach Flower Remedies discovered by Dr. Bach. If you’re in the UK, you can even visit the center if you book in advance.
My personal experience means I’m not totally convinced by Rescue Remedy, but I can see why it appeals to many people. There’s a very simple reason why major supermarkets keep stocking it: people keep buying it.
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. 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 will meet you half way.
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. And if the placebo effect works for you, with no side effects and minimal expense, then who am I to convince you not to try it.
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.