In the ancient days knowledge was passed on by word of mouth and
hence the evolution of the doctrine as a practical way of
properties of medicinal plants from their habitat, form, flowers
and aspects of the physical structures in a time when books were
not available and knowledge was passed down by word of mouth.
This was evident in the ancient Aztec Indians and the Indians of
North America. The herbs of healing were held sacred by the peoples
of the Earth Mother and were often given the names of their gods.
In a way, this was a spiritual practice as it was thought that God
marked whatever he created with a sign. This sign was a clear
indicator of the item's true purpose as intended by God.
This practice was
followed in the West with names like St Johns wort, Marigold and
Jacob Boehme was
a shoemaker from a poor family just outside Goerlitz, In 1600, he
was visited by a sudden illumination of the mind in which was made
clear the doctrine published in his book Signatura Rerum; The
Signature of all Things" he got into trouble with the church
and left his village.
Paracelsus, considered by modern scholars to be the father of
modern chemistry did much in his lifetime to popularize the
Doctrine of Signatures in its medical application.
He was a believer
in the astrological signature system, which referred to the
influence of the stars on the plant, and the part of the body
affected by that astrological influence… Gerard and Culpeper
borrowed plentifully from that era.
One could imagine
that if apprenticed to a healer that the plant signature is a
wonderful way of remembering the healing properties, especially
when you have no manual.
Therefore, through symbols the
apprentice could connect with the plant properties. Therefore,
unlike the western tradition, memorizing of herbal properties was
unnecessary and a field trip would connect with the healing nature
of the plant.
Hollow stemmed herbs indicated
as cleanser of the hollow tubes in the body--blood, intestines,
and respiratory systems.
Plants with thorns indicate helping with sharp pains.
Bitter herbs indicate---bitter
to the taste, sweet to the stomach--sweet to the taste, bitter to
Groups of plants sharing the same signature would hint at having
similar healing properties or healing similar parts of the body.
This is such a wonderful
system because you have to apply your powers of observation to the
world of nature.
Our common names often reflect this doctrine for e.g.--knit bone,
lungwort, eyebright, heartsease pansy, pilewort etc.
The Indians had a different
way of doing it--they labeled different parts of the plant or the
plant according to use, taste, and origin
E.g. head medicine, arm
medicine or bitter root, swamp root so you may get a plant labeled
with its attributes and prefixed with the part of the plant used.
Often a group of plants was given the same name since they had the