The Doctrine of Signatures…

When you pop into my clinic and I mix you up some beautiful liquid herbs, or recommend a supplement, or change your diet… it’s not because I have a vibe or a feeling or a hunch that it would be good for you. These days it’s because enough wonderful scientists have investigated the bio active ingredients of say, Turmeric, and then studied the effects and results and can then say something like ‘9 times out of ten the person improved’ (except they make it sound a bit smarter!). Then these same lovely scientists very nicely publish this and little nerds like me read them at night on the couch because my husband is watching the Budget or something equally enthralling.

Before the double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial came about though, how did we know what to eat to make us well, keep us well, and ideally not kill us?

Originally, life was a bit of a lottery. With no books and lists of what to eat and what to avoid, your only safe deal was to eat something someone else had survived after eating and not eat the thing that had killed the guy in the next cave.

As humans progressed and started to look for reason in things, the doctrine of signatures came about. It might not have been called that, but it was essentially the same in lots of cultures on many continents.

The doctrine of signatures says that food will resemble the area of the body that it will help.

Now, before we all start to gwarf at this seemingly simplistic idea of health, think about a few things you eat and what they look like.

A cut carrot really does look like an eye and carrots are great for eyes.

A walnut really does look like a brain, and walnuts really are good for your brain.

Tomatoes are red and have four chambers and really are good for your heart and blood.

A bunch of grapes resembles the shape of a heart and they are good for your heart.

Celery is good for your bones, kidney beans are good for your kidneys, ginger is good for your digestive tract and figs are good for male fertility.

When it comes to herbs, Skullcap’s flowers look like tiny skulls and we use it for stress and the nervous system and Eyebright is said to look like an eye and is used for vision. The list goes on.

Me? I’m not going to see a mushroom and think, gee, that looks like an ear when it’s cut in half, I might just take a bite. Knowing my luck, it would be the wrong kind of mushroom and I’d be talking to my bottles of herbal liquids next time you popped in to pick something up.

No, if I want to check one of my favourite mushrooms like Reishi and the nitty gritty of how it can be used, you’ll find me on Pubmed checking out the hard work of all those wonderful scientists so that when I prescribe you something I know it’s the best possible option. 

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