Bloomin' Health: courses in flower therapy

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

Ben Goldacre's Bad Science weblog is usually good for a quick dose of entertainment, but I have to limit my consumption; there's only so much I can take before it begins to depress me instead. On Sunday, a friend showed me his new copy of the Bad Science book. I didn't have the time to look through it properly, but it did inspire me to notice an article in the newspaper today that I might otherwise have missed.

The piece, written by Chetna Dua, is titled "Bloom in health", and it appears in the Metro Plus supplement to The Hindu in Delhi on November 23, 2009, sandwiched between Rahul Verma's occasionally entertaining food column and R. V. Smith's frequently annoying "Down Memory Lane". It's about the great healing powers of flowers, as employed in treatment since 1990 by the good Doctor Malti Khaitan of Delhi.

The flowers are plucked early morning in a special way so that their nectar is retained and then energised by the powers of the sun and proper meditation in Gangajal procured from Rishikesh. That is why they have great healing powers, she believes.

How could flowers plucked in a special way (by ELVES!) fail to have therapeutic value? I can't imagine they were happy about being forced to meditate in water from the Ganges, though, even if it was collected from Rishikesh (where the river enters the plains, and is not yet as polluted as it becomes further downstream) and the power of the sun was energising them at the same time.

But, Doctor, (one imagines the journalist asking, breathlessly) how do these flower remedies differ from other forms of medicine?

On how these concoctions differ from other forms of medicine, this PhD from the Indian Board of Alternative Medicines in Kolkata says, While most forms of medicine focus only on the physical element of a person, my remedies work to achieve a balance of the body, mind and soul in a human being, thus offering a complete healing of the person from within. The flower essences help to melt the tension in different chakras and subtle bodies of a person.

I wonder—does one have to eat the energised flowers, or is sniffing them enough to initiate complete healing from within?

The Indian Board of Alternative Medicine has a web site which serves up only a blank page. I presume the PhD is actually from the allied Indian Institute of Alternative Medicine, which has a frighteningly long list of alternative therapies, including "Pyramid Healing", "Holotropic Breathwork", and "Gem Therapy". Its "about us" page has photographs of its Founder and Principal with the last two Presidents of India, the current Prime Minister, and a smattering of other smiling dignitaries. Clearly an excellent place to learn about how to melt tension in chakras and subtle bodies.

Having helped people suffering from all kinds of illness like headaches, cold, asthma, depression, etc., she notes that the results vary from person to person. Somebody might get cured in two months while for another it could even take six months. She adds, However, I don't stop the allopathic medicine of a patient. This is an alternative therapy which has no side affects and can be taken by a patient along with any other form of medication.

This reminds me of a favourite "Wizard of Id" strip, where the King admires the Wizard for his tenacity: He'll get that tide to turn, even if it takes him twelve hours to do it! (Aside: the strip should be somewhere in this archive, but I have not been able to find it. If someone knows where it lives, I would very much appreciate a link.)

But we learn that the good Doctor is not content merely with curing people without side affects (sic):

After having put down the remedial powers of flowers in her book Flowers That Heal, Khaitan now wants to spread her knowledge and skill to more and more people so that it continues to live after her. Keeping this in mind, she has launched a series of courses in flower therapy at her studio in Lajpat Nagar.

In a country where Homoeopathy is not only wildly popular, but officially recognised as legitimate medicine, I'm sure her courses will do very well.