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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Bach Flower Remedies for psychological problems and pain: a systematic review

Kylie Thaler1*, Angela Kaminski1, Andrea Chapman1, Tessa Langley2 and Gerald Gartlehner1

Author Affiliations

1 Department for Evidence-based Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Danube University, Krems, A-3500, Austria

2 Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Health Technology Assessment, Garnisongasse 7/20, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2009, 9:16  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-16

Published: 26 May 2009

Abstract

Background

Bach Flower Remedies are thought to help balance emotional state and are commonly recommended by practitioners for psychological problems and pain. We assessed whether Bach Flower Remedies (BFRs) are safe and efficacious for these indications by performing a systematic review of the literature.

Methods

We searched MEDLINE®, Embase, AMED, and the Cochrane Library from inception until June 2008 and performed a hand-search of references from relevant key articles. For efficacy, we included all prospective studies with a control group. For safety, we also included retrospective, observational studies with more than 30 subjects. Two authors abstracted data and determined risk of bias using a recognised rating system of trial quality.

Results

Four randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and two additional retrospective, observational studies were identified and included in the review. Three RCTs of BFRs for students with examination anxiety, and one RCT of BFRs for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) showed no overall benefit in comparison to placebo. Due to the number and quality of the studies the strength of the evidence is low or very low. We did not find any controlled prospective studies regarding the efficacy of BFRs for pain. Only four of the six studies included for safety explicitly reported adverse events.

Conclusion

Most of the available evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of BFRs has a high risk of bias. We conclude that, based on the reported adverse events in these six trials, BFRs are probably safe. Few controlled prospective trials of BFRs for psychological problems and pain exist. 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.