“Since the olden times, people have discovered that flowers have healing properties,” declares Arica Sen, senior beauty trainer for South Korean skincare and makeup label Mamonde. The brand, part of the Amorepacific beauty conglomerate, is notable for its extensive use of flowers in every formulation. “Not only can a bouquet of flowers tell a story, but just the act of receiving flowers can immediately brighten up your day.”
Sen is not wrong. In a 2005 study done by research psychologists at Rutgers University titled “An Environmental Approach to Positive Emotion: Flowers”, results revealed that women who received flowers as presents react with much higher perceived happiness, and reported improved mood for up to three days later, compared to women who received other kinds of gifts. The paper goes on to posit that flowers have “immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females”.
It’s no surprise then, that flower arrangement and floristry have long been recommended as suitable activities for occupational therapy. In Japan, the certified therapist and master of ikebana Eiko Hamasaki offers ikebana therapy, based on traditional Japanese flower arranging, to clients seeking to relax or to practice mindfulness. “Thanks to flower arrangement, I’ve learned to see individual flowers from many different angles, and to have more flexible thinking,” says Hamasaki. “You can’t do ikebana without looking at each flower from a variety of angles, and when your perception of a flower changes, at that moment your own point of view changes.”
On a less metaphysical note, flowers also form the foundation of the Bach flower remedy system, a homeopathic practice using dilutions of flower materials suspended in tinctures. Founded by English doctor and naturopath Edward Bach in the 1930s, the system operates on the belief that the remedies contain the “energy” of the flower used, and that it can be transmitted to the user via oral consumption of the tinctures. Flowers include cherry plum, wild rose and clematis.
“The system focuses on personality imbalances and negative emotions,” says Deki Soh, a registered practitioner and teacher of the Bach Foundation with 10 years of experience using the remedies. “The body is very much like a mirror, reflecting our emotional states, be it good or bad, and our physical health is thus influenced by our emotions and personalities.”
Soh had discovered the Bach system while she was looking for ways to expand her skillset as a tertiary school counsellor. Trained in the U.K., Soh is the first Bach Centre certified teacher in Southeast Asia and has shared her expertise in Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and Bhutan with doctors, nurses, psychologists and fellow counsellors. Today, Soh runs Inner Voice with a partner, offering courses and personal consultation for individuals interested in the Bach remedies.
“There are 38 remedies in total, and each remedy is associated with a basic human emotion. In a nutshell, the remedies can help with any problem that relates to emotions or personalities,” explains Soh. “You can mix up to seven of the 38 individual remedies, giving nearly 293 million possible combinations, hence they are able to help with every possible state of mind.”
Some of the problems include daily work stress, anxiety stemming from major life transitions such as marriage, pregnancy, divorce or grief, unresolved trauma from past events, and even undesirable personality traits like impatience. “The remedies work by encouraging the corresponding positive quality that lies dormant within us,” says Soh. “It’s a gentle process and the usual outcome is awareness of the reduction of the negativity. If the person is already on a positive state, the remedy does nothing more as there is no re-balancing needed.”
Soh adds that there is no risk of wrong use as there will simply not be any effect for a wrong selection, nor will anyone overdose on the remedies as taking more than the required dosage simply yields the same result. “It’s safe, natural and not habit forming, and everyone can take the remedies, including babies, plants and animals,” she explains. “The pivotal aspect of the system is the ability for self-healing and becoming our own healer.”
Unfortunately, in the case of uncooperative skin, healing will need to come from external sources. “At the Amorepacific headquarters in Seoul, we have a botanical space we call the Mamonde Garden,” Sen tells me as she enthusiastically directs me to sniff at samples of dried blossoms on display at the brand’s flagship boutique in Takashimaya. “There, researchers grow all sorts of flowers in order to study them and find out how they can best harness the benefits of each flower.”
My skin itself had been unduly stressed by an allergic reaction, and I had endured a week of constantly-erupting blemishes that have established a constellation across my visage. Sen promises that her “prescription” of gentle flower-based products can help address the irritation and restore my complexion to its former clarity.
First up is a set of cleansing products formulated with lotus flower. “In the past, before air purifiers, Koreans would buy fresh lotuses and place them in their homes because the flowers are known for their ability to filter away impurities in the air and water,” says Sen. In that same vein, she continues, the lotus extract in the brand’s Micro Cleansing line of facial foam and makeup removers would help detoxify and remove dirt, pollutants and irritants from the skin’s surface.
Next up is a trio of watery lotions and a cream: the firmness-boosting First Energy Essence, made from fermented honeysuckle vinegar; the soothing Rose Water Toner; the hibiscus-based Moisture Ceramide Skin Softener, which has a viscous texture akin to a light serum; and the matching Moisture Ceramide
“The First Energy Essence works by ‘waking up’ your skin cells, so that they work better and receive the benefits of the subsequent skincare,” explains Sen when I protest over the excess of layering that many products at once. “The Rose Water Toner then hydrates and calms the skin — it’s so versatile, you can also use it all over your body as a light, non-sticky moisturiser, and even on your hair to scent it and tame frizz. And the Moisture Ceramide line strengthens the skin moisture barrier, which is something your compromised skin really needs right now.”
Sen rounds off my lengthy prescription with a series of sheet masks for nightly use, as well as the jelly-like Calming Hydro Sleeping Mask, made with ground-up calendula petals to keep the skin well-moisturised all night and to reduce redness from sensitive skin.
While I was initially resistant to expand on my typically minimalist three-step skincare routine, I have since found that Sen’s Mamonde routine did not slow me down significantly. The textures of every product are lightweight and fast-absorbing, and my angry skin calmed down considerably within the first three days of use, with the blemishes healing and fading so quickly that my scars are nearly imperceptible.
However, more than just the physical changes affected on my complexion, I have begun to find myself looking forward to my twice-daily skincare routine. Like a bunch of fresh blooms, my own bouquet of bottled and jarred flowers does seem to improve my mood, whether it’s from the light and unobtrusive floral scents, or simply from touching my smoother, clearer skin. I might not be creating sublime works of flower arrangements, or imbibing tinctures of rare botanicals, but I suppose the act of self-care
with petal-infused lotions and creams can still be considered floral therapy.
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