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Alexis Smart is sitting in the warmly lit breakfast nook of her Echo Park bungalow, attempting to explain what flower essences are.
“I guess flower essences are the closest to homeopathy,” she says between sips of twig tea as the sun sets through the window behind her.
Smart, an ethereally beautiful actress/model turned flower-essence practitioner, has been studying and prescribing flower-essence remedies for about three years. Now, after preparing customized remedies for her friends — and the indispensable friends of friends — she has decided to take the plunge and try to go pro. Accepting the fact that she spends the majority of her days and nights doing consultations for her ever-expanding, ever-returning client list, she’s ordered business cards and agreed to set up shop and see walk-ins once a week at the store Healing Waters, just east of the Beverly Center.
Healing Waters, owned by Jennifer Otto — whose husband, David Otto, started the raw-foodie magnet around the corner, the Beverly Hills Juice Club — is where Smart first learned about flower essences. She kept coming back after being prescribed a remedy for panic attacks by Otto, who went on to become something of a mentor.
This is often the way New Age careers are forged. Smart, who has appeared in so many commercials (Pepsi, IBM, Doritos) that some casting directors use the phrase “We are looking for an Alexis Smart type,” joins many other successful urbanites who are now giving up careers in one field to dedicate themselves to practicing alternative-healing arts, usually one they themselves found a sense of peace from.
The flower essences that Smart uses were created by England’s Dr. Edward Bach, a naturopathics pioneer who died in 1936 but is still being praised by celebrities and others who fight stage fright and stress-related maladies with Rescue Remedy, his best-known blend of essences. Made from five Bach remedies, the blend treats emotional and physical trauma in the moment, and therefore has become a staple in many city dwellers’ glove compartments, handbags and desk drawers.
But the rest of Bach’s work — 38 essences in all, which can be prescribed in unlimited combinations — remains a seemingly esoteric art, even to those who are knowledgeable about other branches of alternative medicine. The irony is that Bach originally envisioned the remedies as an inexpensive staple for bathroom medicine cabinets, applicable to all maladies and disturbances in an individual, including anxiety, depression, addiction and feelings of inadequacy. He believed that disease can be triggered when there is an imbalance between the mental and spiritual aspects of the soul, or rather the soul and the personality. And so his remedies treat the mood of the person, clearing the internal environment so that the soul is revealed to the individuals themselves, allowing well-being to become intuitive.
As Smart, who holds back her normally deadpan sense of humor when sincerity is called for, explains it: “The flowers stimulate consciousness.”
Recently, for example, she prescribed Bach’s Pine Remedy for a person who seemed to be experiencing guilt. Afterward, her client, who is the type who doesn’t give much thought to the remedies he is taking — he just takes them — called to chat and inadvertently revealed that changes were happening. “He said he had been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately,” she says, her voice rising in an excited lilt, “most specifically forgiving himself. In his meditation, he kept getting, ‘you are forgiven, you are forgiven,’ and he also said he was feeling really ‘unburdened.’ He was really learning the lesson of the pine.”
Smart looks thoughtfully at the teacup before her and continues: “You talk about positives and negatives. Pine is given for guilt, but the positive state is not lack of guilt. It’s not just removed. It’s like suddenly this consciousness of guilt and self-forgiveness is stimulated in you. You are able to process it, you learn something about yourself.”
Smart has treated all sorts of conditions in all sorts of people, and even animals: the cat of an apartment dweller who drives its roommate crazy with its incessant meowing and neediness; a reality-show contestant hoping to win (okay, it was Project Runway’s Jeffrey Sebelia, who did just win the show); a jealous girlfriend who obsessively checks the MySpace profile of her boyfriend’s ex; a woman who seemed forever locked in an existential crisis; as well as grieving fathers, sufferers of eating disorders and all types of depressives and apathetic types.
A few weeks ago, Smart prescribed Chestnut Bud to a client who was feeling as if she were perpetually making the same mistakes, namely with men. The other night, Smart says she received an encouraging call from the client, which she took to indicate that the flowers had taken effect.
“She was saying, ‘I was gonna call “Jason” and see if he wanted to go out, and then suddenly I thought, “Why would I call that guy and have him reject me, and then spend a whole month feeling bad about myself, and have to start all over again, when I can just avoid all that now?”?’ She could suddenly see the entire story unfold,” Smart explains. “She could say, ‘I don’t need to do that. I see where it’s going.’ She was actually learning the lesson in the moment, rather than repeating her mistakes.”
Chestnut Bud people, as Smart calls them, often don’t learn lessons from their experiences. But with the help of the remedy, she insists, “suddenly they have access to wisdom in the moment.”
The phone rings. Smart answers. It’s a client.
“Hi. How are you? Really? Do you want to just come by and I can make you a new one? Okay, good.”
At this moment, it looks like Smart was wise to go pro.