The Doctrine of Signatures

The Doctrine of Signatures: Nature’s Healing Language Unveiled


Have you ever heard of the Doctrine of Signatures? It’s this fascinating concept that’s been around for centuries, suggesting that nature gives us visual clues about the medicinal properties of plants. Picture this: you’re strolling through the woods, and you stumble upon a plant that looks like a heart. According to the Doctrine of Signatures, that plant might just have some magical healing powers for your heart! Sounds like something out of a fairy tale, right? Only its not, its absolutely real and it’s been around since ancient times.



Let’s take a trip back in time to the Renaissance era, where one of the most notable physicians that adhered to this doctrine was none other than Paracelsus, a 16th Century Swiss physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer and occultist.


He believed that nature wasn’t just a random mishmash of plants and animals but rather a carefully orchestrated symphony where every living thing had a purpose and a message to convey.


Paracelsus is credited as being the “father of toxicology”. He introduced the idea that chemistry was a part of medicine. He stated “In all things there is a poison, and there is nothing without a poison. It depends only upon the dose whether a poison is poison or not…” We see this concept in homeopathy with “poisons” such as snake venom (Lachesis Muta) and deadly plants (Belladonna). Homeopathy uses micro-dosing.


Paracelsus was also a huge advocate of the Doctrine of Signatures. He wrote:  “Nature marks each growth…according to its curative benefit.” The Doctrine of Signatures states that nature gives visual clues in the form of shape, color, texture etc in order to signal what organ the a particular plant treats.

How it works

So for example, if a walnut looks like a brain we would conclude that it treats the brain. A kidney bean is shaped like a kidney which would mean it treats kidneys. Paracelsus was reported to collect morning dew from flowers and give it to patients as medicine for their emotional ailments.


Other notables who used The Doctrine of Signatures

Other European notables who referenced The Doctrine of Signatures were Claudius Galenus around 130 AD. He was a Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher in the Roman Empire. Also, Pedanius Dioscorides who was (40–90 AD) was a Greek physician, pharmacologist, botanist, and author of De Materia Medica, a 5-volume Greek encyclopedia about herbal medicine and medicinal substances. This encyclopedia was widely circulated and read for more than 1,500 years.


Jakob Böhme (1575–1624) who was a German philosopher, mystic and theologian spread the doctrine of signatures. He suggested that God marked objects with a sign, or “signature”, for their purpose.

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But what about today? Does the Doctrine of Signatures still hold water in our modern, science-driven world? Well, let’s just say that while it might not be the go-to method for diagnosing ailments these days, it still has its place in the world of herbalism, alternative and complimentary medicine like flower essence therapy.



The Doctrine of Signatures and Flower Essence Therapy

Let’s think of it in terms of flower essence therapy. What do you think of when you see bleeding heart flowers? How about Dandelions?  Or let’s say, roses?



Its a little harder to identify The Doctrine of Signatures when it comes to flowers but once you crack the code, it makes total sense and you can’t unsee it.


When it comes to flowers, you have to look at the whole plant, plus how it behaves, how and where it grows, its history. You look at it holistically. Next time you are in a garden, give it a try and see if you can identify the “curative benefits”, as Paracelsus says, of the flowers.

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No doubt, there’s something undeniably poetic about the idea that nature is constantly whispering its secrets to those who care to listen.


Take a moment to appreciate nature’s subtle language. Who knows? It might just tell you something very relevant to a situation you are navigating.


The Doctrine of Signatures, where nature’s healing language is written in the leaves, petals, and roots of the plants that surround us. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the answers we seek are right in front of us, if only we have the eyes to see and the ears to listen.