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A. Nelson & Co. Ltd. Business Information, Profile, and History

Broadheath House
83 Parkside
London SW19 5LP
United Kingdom

Company Perspectives:

Nelsons Philosophy: Nelsons believes passionately in the importance o f holistic healthcare and the increasing role that complementary medi cine can play in an integrated healthcare system. Our goal is to help people and other living beings enjoy healthier and happier lives thr ough our range of natural products.

History of A. Nelson & Co. Ltd.

A. Nelson & Co. Ltd., doing business as Nelsons, is the United Ki ngdom's oldest producer and distributor of homeopathic medicines, and is also a leading producer and distributor of a variety of herbal an d alternative medicines and preparations. The Wimbledon-based company markets a full range of homeopathic medicines under the Nelson brand name. These are sold under three main categories: Creams, including topical applications ranging from Calendula to Tea Tree and Rhus Tox, as well as spray-on forms, including the company's Pyrethrum spray; the Nelsons Formulated range, ready-made remedies targeted at specifi c illnesses and marketed under names such as Candida, Coldenz, Rheuma tic, Sootha, Travella, and Teetha; and the Clikpak range, which prese nts the company's formulations in the form of small tablets and pills . A major segment of A. Nelson & Co. is its production of Bach's Flower Remedies, a system of tinctures created by Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s, which treated emotional conditions as a cause of illness. A. Nelson also markets a number of other natural preparations, such a s Spatone, acquired by the company in 2004. In addition to its produc tion of homeopathic and alternative medicines, Nelsons continues to o perate its original pharmacy in London. A. Nelson & Co. is a priv ately held company controlled by the Wilson family.

U.K. Homeopathic Pioneer in the 19th Century

Homeopathic medicine was developed in the late 18th century by Dr. Sa muel Hahnemann of Germany. Appalled by the standard medical practices of the day, which included leeching, blood letting, dangerous purgat ives, and toxic "medicines," among other treatments, Hahnemann sought an alternative method for treating patients. A botanist and chemist who also had trained as a physician, Hahnemann eventually left medica l practice, and began working as a translator instead. It was while t ranslating medical documents that Hahnemann first found mention that quinine, an effective malaria treatment, was capable of producing sim ilar symptoms in uninfected people.

This information came in large part from Dr. Edward Cullen, of Scotla nd, who argued that quinine's effectiveness against the disease, and its side-effects in healthy people, were due to its astringent proper ties. Hahnemann disagreed, pointing out that other substances also ha d astringent properties, but had no effect on the disease nor caused similar symptoms to develop in the uninfected. Hahnemann instead dedu ced that quinine's ability to provoke the same symptoms was related t o its effectiveness as a cure.

Hahnemann decided to test his theory on himself, taking large doses o f quinine, and indeed developed symptoms similar to malaria (although without the associated fever). From this and subsequent tests, calle d "proving," of the effects of other substances on himself and others , Hahneman developed the notion of "like cures like" that formed the basis of a new medical discipline, homeopathy (from the Greek homeo, or "similar," and pathy, or "suffering"). Hahnemann's idea was not ne cessarily new. Indeed, mention of related ideas had been found in tex t dating back thousands of years. Yet Hahnemann, who already enjoyed a certain standing for his work as a chemist, brought a different cre dibility to the "like cures like" idea.

Hahnemann set out developing a compendium of substances and the sympt oms they provoked. As most of these substances were by nature poisono us (innocuous substances did not tend to exhibit quite the same abili ty to provoke physical symptoms), however, Hahnemann was forced to fi nd ways of diluting the substances. Eventually, he invented a dilutio n method that involved dissolving substances in water or crushing the m into powder, then mixing them in alcohol, and finally diluting the mixture to an extreme, to the point at which the original substance w as no longer actually present in the solution. Faced with this conund rum, Hahneman proposed the second basic concept of homeopathy, that t he more a substance is diluted, the greater its effectiveness.

Hahnemann, who later moved to Paris, devoted himself to the promulgat ion of his ideas, writing extensively, both for the medical community and, of importance, for the general public as well. Hahnemann also t ook in a great many students, whether these were trained medical prac titioners or not, who then joined in the effort (some called them dis ciples) to promote the new medical treatment. The fact that many of H ahnemann's ideas had long been in existence, in one form or another, and even were part of traditional culture, provided an undercurrent o f respectability to the new discipline. Hahnemann's stature, and that of his medical ideas, were further enhanced as he developed a client ele including many notable figures of the day.

Meanwhile, Hahnemann continued to develop the basic principles of hom eopathy. The third and final of these was based on the concept of "ps ora," literally a suppressed itch, which Hahnemann felt to exist at t he root of all disease. Homeopathic medicine, Hahnemann reasoned, mus t, therefore, target the patient's psora. As these were said to vary from patient to patient, individualized treatment became a necessary part of homeopathic medicine. Because of the highly spiritual element underlying the concept of psora, this principle was less widely acce pted among the growing body of homeopathic practitioners, even in Hah nemann's day. Nonetheless, a "holistic" and individualized approach b ecame a consistent part of homeopathic therapies. The idea of a metap hysical component to disease also would play a role in the work of Ed ward Bach and others.

Given the rather barbaric status of "mainstream" medical practice of the day, homeopathic medicine caught on widely in Europe in the early 19th century, and quickly spread to the United States as well. The l ack of knowledge in many now basic areas of biology and chemistry, su ch as the role of bacteria and viruses in the cause of disease (an ex ample of which was the palludium virus, carried by mosquitoes, in the case of malaria), allowed a certain plausibility to homeopathy. By t he middle of the 19th century, homeopathy had been introduced in the United Kingdom, which at the time played a central role in the rapid development of modern science.

Efforts were made to ban the practice of homeopathy into the mid-19th century, as its basic principles were called into question. Yet home opathy's "gentler" nature, since a homeopathic treatment in substance consisted of little more than drinking water, contrasted sharply wit h the far harsher medicines then available. The appeal of nonpainful treatments, coupled with the decidedly spiritual aspects of homeopath y and its apparent ability to effectuate spontaneous healing, proved irresistible to the British public as well.

Hahnemann died in 1843 at the age of 88. By then, homeopathic medicin e had taken on a life of its own, developing its own body of literatu re and professional associations. By the mid-19th century, the first schools of homeopathic medicine also had begun to appear. Hahnemann h imself had been responsible for training a large number of students i n homeopathy as well, and many others embraced Hahnemann as their spi ritual teacher. Among the many students of homeopathy was Ernst Louis Ambrecht, who set up shop as a homeopathic pharmacist in London in 1 860. The role of the pharmacist had been disputed by Hahnemann himsel f, who declared that homeopathic medicines should only be prepared by the treating physician. Yet by the middle of the century, the prepar ation of homeopathic medicines had become, in large part, the provinc e of pharmacists such as Ambrecht.

Bach Association in the 1930s

Ambrecht later brought his son, Nelson, into the business. Under the younger Ambrecht, the pharmacy became known as A. Nelson & Co. By the early 20th century, the company had become one of the leading pr oducers of homeopathic medicines. By then, however, the practice of h omeopathy had lost much of its following; by the 1930s, some were eve n willing to declare the "death" of homeopathy. The development of mo dern scientific methods, the greater understanding of what are now co nsidered basic medical principles, the creation of new types of more effective and less painful drugs, and other advancements, had cast a large shadow over homeopathy. A large part of homeopathy's decline at the time was also political. As the modern medical community develop ed in strength and, especially, in empirical proof, efforts were made to negate and discredit other medical methods, which were now consid ered as "alternative" treatments.

Homeopathy had long inspired the development of other alternative med icines and treatments. Among these was a system of so-called "flower remedies" developed by Dr. Edward Bach in the late 1920s and early 19 30s. Born in 1886, Bach had been trained as a physician at the Univer sity College Hospital in London, and had begun working in the field o f immunology. This led Bach to an interest in homeopathy, and in 1919 , he began working at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.

Bach soon developed his own system based on homeopathic thought. In w hat seems to be a derivation of Hahnemann's identification of psoras, Bach determined that physical health conditions were manifestations of emotional imbalance, and that by treating a patient's negative sta te of mind, one might influence his or her physical health. By the la te 1920s, Bach had completed the first part of his work, that of the creation of a system of "nosodes," that is, groupings of emotional pr oblems, such as uncertainty, over-sensitivity, loneliness, lassitude, and the like. Bach initially developed homeopathic treatments for th e nosodes.

According to Bach, patients with similar emotional difficulties, whil e manifesting quite different physical symptoms, were all treatable b y using the treatments from within the same nosode. Yet Bach, brought up in the Birmingham countryside, soon began seeking to develop his own class of treatments based on flowers or, more specifically, based on morning dew collected from the petals of flowers. Bach began his work in 1928, and in 1930 moved to the Oxford countryside in order to devote himself to the development of his "flower remedies."

By 1935, Bach had completed a system of 38 flower remedies, noting th e precise location and variety of flowers from the gathered dew. Bach also tested his remedies on himself, considering a substance effecti ve if it produced one of the emotional conditions described by the no sodes. Meanwhile, Bach also developed his own preparation method. Bac h ultimately hit on an extremely simple method in large part because, like Hahnemann, he intended for his remedies to be individually prep ared by the physician for each patient. Dew collected from flowers wa s either allowed to dry in the sun, or boiled. The remaining "tinctur e" (called the Mother Tincture by the later Bach society) was then mi xed into brandy or alcohol and "sucussed" (that is, shaken) a specifi c number of times. As with homeopathic medicines, the tincture was th en extremely diluted.

The dilution process, as in the case of homeopathic medicine in gener al, presented a specific advantage: Very small quantities of raw mate rial were required to produce extremely large quantities of final pro duct. By weight, therefore, homeopathic medicines were among the most valuable substances in the history of mankind. This fact made them i deal candidates for becoming consumer products. Bach himself seemed t o recognize this, creating one of the most enduring Bach "remedies," the Rescue Remedy, which contained a mixture of flower essences to be taken in the case of emotional emergency.

Despite the ease of preparation for Bach's Flower Remedies, as they c ame to be called, Bach, who began promoting his ideas and remedies th rough a series of writings, recognized that many practitioners and th eir customers would be interested in purchasing the remedies ready-ma de. Already by 1933, Bach had reached an agreement with two London-ba sed pharmacists to produce quantities of the remedies. A. Nelson &amp ; Co. was to become the most enduring partner for the company. Bach h imself died at the age of 50 in 1936; the Bach Centre, in Mount Verno n, however, carried on his work, and remained the source of the "Moth er Tinctures."

Alternative Interest in the New Century

The late 20th century saw an upsurge in interest in alternative medic ines, which coupled a distrust in modern medicine's symptom-specific approach with the rising interest in so-called "new age" religion and philosophies. Homeopathic medicine enjoyed a renewed respectability in the United Kingdom, in part because of the government's acceptance of homeopathic preparations as medicines, which were then introduced as part of the National Health System.

This in turn led to a greater acceptance of other alternative therapi es, including Bach's Flower Remedies. By the early 1990s, demand for Bach's Flower Remedies had begun to outpace the Bach Centre's ability to produce, bottle, and distribute the remedies. In 1991, the Bach C entre turned to longtime partner A. Nelson & Co. for help. A part nership was reached in which Nelson took over bottling, distribution, and marketing of the products, while the Bach Centre remained respon sible for the Mother Tincture. By 1993, however, the partnership expa nded into an outright acquisition by Nelson of the Bach Centre. The n ew remedy-producing company then took on the new name of Nelsonbach. Meanwhile, Nelson continued its production of homeopathic medicines a s well.

In the late 1990s, Nelsonbach faced an effort to break its attempt to control the Bach's Flower Remedies trademark. The attempt proved suc cessful, and in 1999, the British House of Lords affirmed the court's ruling that neither the Bach name nor the term Bach's Flower Remedie s could be considered a brand name.

The Bach remedies represented just a small portion of Nelsonbach's re venues, however. The group's homeopathic medicine business continued to grow strongly. The company developed an extended line of homeopath ic products and delivery methods, adding cream-based products and tar geted formulations, combining several "active" substances, as well as the company's new "Clikpak" packaging.

The Wilson family was now the force behind privately held A. Nelson. In 2005, the family extended its position within its Bach subsidiary as well, when Patrick Wilson, along with a longtime member of the Nel son Co., Peter Warren, were placed in charge of preparation of the Mo ther Tinctures. As a result, in September 2005, the company changed t he subsidiary's name to Nelsons. A. Nelson & Co. remained the Uni ted Kingdom's most prominent producer of homeopathic and related trea tments into the new century.

Principal Subsidiaries: Bach's Flower Remedies; Nelsons Homeop athic Pharmacy.

Principal Competitors: GNC Corporation; Healing Herbs; Nature' s Sunshine Products, Inc.; NBTY, Inc. (NTY).


  • Key Dates:
  • 1860: Ernst Louis Ambrecht founds a pharmacy in London and beg ins producing homeopathic medicines; he is later joined by his son, N elson, who changes the company name to A. Nelson & Co.
  • 1933: Nelson becomes one of only two distributors of Bach's Fl ower Remedies.
  • 1991: Nelson reaches agreement to bottle and distribute Bach's Flower Remedies.
  • 1993: Nelson acquires Bach Centre, which becomes Nelsonbach.
  • 1999: Nelson loses the trademark right to the Bach name.
  • 2005: Nelsonbach becomes Nelsons.

Additional topics

Company HistoryPharmaceuticals

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