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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunshine Health Club - February 2013

February 2013

With the start of 2013 celebrated and school back in session, the year 2013 is well underway. This month we have a great article about how herbs have been identified in ancient times and a reminder about checking our website for the latest articles and information. Have a great month.
Doctrine of Signatures

In ancient times, long before reference books could be consulted, a method of herbal identification came about based on the belief that various physical features of a plant were directly linked to the plant's therapeutic effect in the human body. It is referred to as the Doctrine of Signatures, and in a time when knowledge of medicinal plants was passed on by word of mouth, it proved a practical way of remembering a plant's properties. This practice was in part a spiritual one as it was believed that God marked his creations with a clear indication or 'signature' of its purpose. Groups of plants sharing the same signature were thought to have similar healing properties or have a healing effect on similar parts of the body.

Paracelsus (1493-1541), considered the father of modern chemistry, did much to popularise the Doctrine of Signatures and its applications. He believed that plants grow where they are most needed, for example dock leaves were used to treat the sting from a nettle plant, and these two plants were often found growing close together.  

Aspects of the plant which were thought to give indications to its use include:

  • Habitat of the plant
  • Colour – of flower, fruit, root or stem
  • Shape
  • Texture
  • Odour

Some of the most reputed examples of the doctrine of signatures from that time include lungwort whose spotted leaves were believed to resemble a diseased lung, walnuts which were considered to be shaped like the human brain, and ginseng root which was used to assist male sexual vitality due to its resemblance to male reproductive anatomy.  

Modern herbalism has confirmed some of these earlier observations, for example lungwort is an expectorant herb used to help clear mucus from the lungs and walnuts with their omega 3 content are considered beneficial for brain health.

Some examples of the doctrine of signatures:




Wet lowlands, swamps

Associated with diseases of wetness; rheumatic disorders, feverish colds and coughs

Mints, Verbena, Elder

Banks of clear ponds and rivers

Associated with diuretics - helping to cleanse the urinary system

Horsetail, Mints





Yellow flowers/fruits

Disorders of the liver, gall bladder, spleen

Dandelion, Tansy, Lemon

Reddish flowers/fruits

Blood purifier, alterative, cardiovascular system

Red clover, Hawthorn





Tube-like bronchial apparatus


Coughs, throat infections


Green tops of Garlic and Onion

Flowers resembling eyes


Diseases of the eyes

Eyebright, Chamomile





Sharp thorns, prickles

Acute sharp pain - some of these herbs are not pain relievers but are efficient in acting at the causes of the pain.

Strammonium, Thistle

Exudations - resinous and balsamic

Heals most cuts, lesions and ulcers of the skin

Aloe vera





Strong smelling

Drive away evil spirits

Rue, Frankincense

Pleasant smelling

Deodorisers for body odour

Rosemary, Sage Thyme

Today we are fortunate enough to have a multitude of reference books to guide us on the traditional applications for many plants as well as emerging scientific evidence to clarify the actions and therapeutic benefits of herbs. Whilst it would no longer be regarded as practical or safe to prescribe herbs based on their physical features alone, they may give us clues to identifying their full spectrum of uses.

Written by Aimee Wilkins   BHSc. (Nat.), N.D., Dip. Nut.
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With information about all of Nature's Sunshine Products, health articles, a well-being blog and naturopathic advice the Nature's Sunshine website is an invaluable resource that you can access anytime. Check back often to view  the latest articles and information.
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Karen Herrmann-Doolan, NSP District Manager 
Nature's Sunshine Herb Specialist 
Natural Health Educator
C: (817) 225-8392
H: (704) 458-5475
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Skype: karen.herrmann.doolan
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