In 1997, Marion Leigh of Findhorn Flower Essences invited essence practitioners and producers from across the world to gather at Findhorn for the first ever International Flower Essence Conference.  The meeting especially highlighted the need to form a professional essence body in the UK.   While Rose Titchiner and others planned a Conference at Leiston Abbey for that purpose, Sue Lilly sought the opinions and advice of those in Britain known to have an interest in essences. On Sunday, 3rd May 1998, the British Flower and Vibrational Essence Association was formed, with the word ‘Essence’ later changed to ‘Essences’ for numerological reasons.

Forming the BFVEA

Sue Lilly chaired the Leiston meeting and explained the requirements for creating a professional association.  After much discussion, it was agreed that the BFVEA would be a practitioner group.  Aims were produced and a Constitution plus Code of Ethics and Conduct, similar to that held by the British Complementary Medicine Association, was adopted.  Plans were also made to create a practitioner list, course guidelines, a members’ insurance scheme and a quarterly magazine called “ESSENCE” , to be published, on the equinoxes and solstices.

There was a very positive desire for inclusivity in the attendees, so two tiers of membership were agreed – Associate Membership (a non-voting category for anyone interested in essences); and Practitioner Membership (a voting category for qualified or highly experienced essence therapists willing to abide by the Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics and Constitution).  Essence Producers wishing to have voting status needed to enter as Practitioner Members.

In 1999, the BFVEA Gathering was held at Crossmead, Exeter.   Here, agreement was reached on a core curriculum for essence courses.  In the same year, however, proposals for an EU Traditional Herbal Medicines Directive raised issues about the legality of essence production and the future of the therapy.  In the 1970’s, Norah Weeks at the Bach Centre had registered all the Nelson-Bach Remedies as medicines. The Medicine Control Agency (MCA), formed in 1989, decided that this was not an acceptable description for the products. However, they granted each Bach Remedy a medicinal ‘Licence of Right’ in recognition of their long existence and use.  In practice, the Licences mainly aimed at offering the Bach Centre some leeway in their advertising.  For example, it allowed a Bach essence to continue to be called a ‘remedy’ – a medicinal term.  Bach Remedies treating ‘fear’ could, additionally, say this in their descriptions, whereas other essence producers could only refer to ‘the effects of fright’.  In practice it also allowed greater potential for sales abroad than other essences.

The creation of BAFEP

This situation left something of a void for regulations surrounding the increasing number of new essences that had been developing since the ‘sixties.  The BFVEA Members decided that, to keep these safe, a re-consideration of the nature of essences and how non-Bach products might be classified was required.  It was agreed that the best action was for the producer members to form an autonomous group which would engage in the murky waters of government regulations without tainting or stressing the practitioner side of the essence community.  Thus, on the 28th September 2000, BAFEP was born.

At this stage a significant faction of the BFVEA were pushing for it to be a general group with open and equal Membership for anyone interested in essences.  Jan Stewart sought advice on the possibilities which confirmed that such a group was legally impossible, and we could and should only exist as a professional group.   She did, however, suggest a Membership compromise.  To that date, only essence therapists trained and insured to use several essence ranges could become BFVEA Members.  Jan proposed allowing any essence practitioner, carrying insurance-to-practice, Membership. Those meeting some of the set standards, e.g. qualification in a single essence range, would be offered Practitioner Membership with opportunities for further training; and those fully meeting the Association’s requirements offered Advanced Practitioner Membership. The title ‘Member’ for non-practising people who were simply interested in essences had to be removed for legal reasons and the suggestion was that they be called ‘Friends’.  It was also agreed that the BFVEA would require its producer members to belong to BAFEP and the latter would similarly insist that its practitioner Members should belonged to the BFVEA.  The BFVEA also agreed to only recognise and advertise essence products made in the UK, known to meet BAFEP requirements.  These changes were accepted and still remain in place.

BAFEP began as a representative for UK essence producers, but it now supports essence producers on all five continents. It holds information and advises on the standards of production, labelling and advertising in accordance with the guidelines as laid down in law by various UK governmental agencies, which often reflect those held by other countries.

Classifying essences

In 2003 the MCA was replaced by The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).  They use many criteria in deciding whether a product is medicinal including what it contains, what it is advertised or used for, the way it is used, the intended targets of the marketing information and the contents of the promotional literature.  They recommended that non-Bach and non-Nelson-Bach essences would be best placed in their ‘food’ category.  This created limitations on naming and advertising but created the interesting situation that BFVEA Members could treat animals without a vet’s permission (agreed with The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2008) while Bach Centre practitioners could only do so if the used non-Nelson versions of the Bach system.

In July 2013, the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) contacted Nelsons to advise them that all their Product Licenses of Right were being cancelled and medicinal terms and references should not be used after 28 January 2014.  All essences are, therefore, now classified as foods.

CAM Regulation

BAFEP formation allowed the BFVEA to operate just as an organisation which supports and serves essence practitioners and the wider essence therapy community. At the turn of the century, however, the government was looking at the best ways of regulating CAM and decided that the way forward was for Voluntary Self-Regulation (VSR).  For this, each discipline would have a lead body which, in turn, would have an overarching independent regulator.

In 2005 the Department of Health then asked The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health (FIH) to facilitate the development of a single federal ‘umbrella regulator’ for all the lead bodies. Twelve therapy disciplines formed lead bodies and participated in the process to develop a national federal regulatory body for practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine. The process split in 2007 with the majority of lead bodies favouring a standard regulatory structure over the radical ‘lay-only’ structure proposed by the Prince’ Foundation.  The lead bodies for the largest disciplines went on to form the General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies (GRCCT) which became operational in September 2007.  The bodies remaining formed the lay-only Complementary and National Health Council (CNHC) which became functional in 2009. 

In 2012 the government finally decided that the regulation of CAM practitioners should be monitored by the same body which monitors the function of statutory healthcare regulators, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE). The CHRE was re-named the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) and launched in February 2013.  To date, the only CAM practitioners it regulates are chiropractors and osteopaths.

The formation of COREP

In 2009 the BFVEA decided to opt for voluntary self-regulation.  The reasons why this and also forming  a  lead body (COREP)  was required, can be read here.

Jan Stewart and Stefan Ball are currently the co-Chairs of COREP.  Both groups keep their independence, but common standards of course content and professional behaviour for practitioners have been agreed for the greater good. Meanwhile, the BFVEA continue to provide information on essences, practitioners, courses, and offer a variety of events, both for Members and the public.