Dear Majella Mason

If flower remedies work it's probably because they've got a drug in them.

A drug is something you take that has an active ingredient. It has a chemical that acts in your body in one way or another to do something, to change something.

If flower remedies work it must be because they have an active ingredient. The trouble is we don't know what drug it is or how much of it you are getting...or what the drug does. And probably no one has done any studies on the flower remedies to know what effects they have and whether they work or don't work.

Now lots of flowers and herbs have all kinds of active ingredients in them. It may be that the active ingredients in them sometimes help. For instance, the tobacco herb has about 139 different substances in the average leaf. These substances have a huge number of different effects...and some of those are good and some of them are bad. (The ancient Egyptians used tobacco for lots of medical purposes. But they didn't know you could smoke it.)

So the trouble with flower remedies is that we don't really know what you're getting and we don't know what the evidence is.

An awful lot of illnesses get better on their own or they have a very fluctuating course so it doesn't matter what you take, you've got a fair chance of getting better.

And if you really believe that you're going to get better you're more likely to get better quickly anyway. That's called the placebo response. In many illnesses the placebo response rate can be as high as 30%, even up to 50%. So you've got that much chance of getting better if you took a sugar pill.

So then of course, if these people take the flower medication they say, 'Aha, it worked.'

(Someone could make joke and say, 'I'll take two sugar pills. Then I'm guaranteed to get better.')

That's why doctors spend a lot of time organising scientific trials.

So medicine is based on science.

Flower remedies may very well have active ingredients in them but the problem is that you don't know exactly what you're getting and whether or not you're getting harmful things or things that work opposite to each other or even something harmful.

Yours sincerely 

Virginia R. Claire

read the question in the original letter