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The Doctrine of Signatures

The Doctrine of Signatures is an ancient philosophy which refers to herbs which mirror different body parts to help with their healing. It is believed that God (higher power, Mother Nature etc.) crafted plants in a way that made them look like the organ they were specifically designed to help heal. Thus giving them a unique “signature”. Signature: sign from nature.

The doctrine of signatures was an important aspect of folk medicine from the Middle Ages until the early modern period. Paracelsus was one of the first noted to begin developing and writing about the concept in the early 1500’s. Then followed by Giambattista della Porta in his work Phytognomonica in 1588.

Nature is constantly speaking to us and sending us signs.

A plant displays signs in varying ways and deciphering what the plant is good for can be seen through sight, touch, smell, shape, colour etc. For example, plants with a deep rich red colour like beetroot and tomatoes are related to building the blood.

Then there’s the shape of the plant, for example celery resembles human bones and is one of the best foods for strengthening the bones. Walnuts look exactly like a human brain. Turns out they are high in omega-3 fatty acids which improve cognitive function.

The texture of a plant is another signature. A furry textured plant is often used to help treat organics that are covered with hair-like cilia, such as the lungs and intestines. For example Mullein leaves are covered with soft fur, and this plant is used to heal the lungs. Comfrey leaves are covered with microscopic hairs and cells which resemble the human skin, and the plant is one of the best skin healers.

Certain herbs contain a high concentration of essential oils, and that smell can tell us a lot about its benefits. Consider the cooling scent of Peppermint which reflects its cooling effect on the body. Or the powerful opening smell of Eucalyptus which works to clear the passageways, promoting openness and an easy breathing experience.

Plants which taste bitter like dandelion and arugula benefit the liver and help clear parasites from the body. The sour taste of plants like lemons and other citrus fruit represent their high Vitamin C content which is great for strengthening the immune system. While sweet tasting herbs are building and nourishing.

Even the sound a plant makes can be a sign of its healing properties. The rattling of Black Cohosh seedpods relates to its healing properties of a snake bite. The native Americans knew that if a plant attracted a certain animal, then the plant possessed the antivenin of this animal.

Plants are natures gift to us to assist in cleansing our mind, body and spirit.

The Doctrine of Signatures is natures way of making it easy for us to understand her abundant medicines so we can heal, prevent disease and stay healthy. We don’t need to pick apart the plants and study it. We don’t need to be naturopaths, doctors, or biochemists to understand what’s good for us. We just need to strengthen our connection with Mother Nature. The Doctrine of Signatures is an intuitive approach to knowledge.



Avocados are called the ‘fruit of the womb’ because it resembles the uterus and has a big seed which represents the foetus. Avocados help balance hormones, shed unwanted birth weight, and prevent cervical cancer. They aid in health of the womb and development of the baby. It is also rich in folic acid which decreases the risk of uterine dysplasia (a precancerous condition). It takes exactly nine months for an avocado to grow from a blossom to a ripened fruit.


A tomato has four chambers and is red just like the human heart. It is loaded with lycopene which is pure heart and blood food. Tomatoes also contain beta-carotene, folate, potassium, Vitamin C and E, and flavonoids which work synergistically to protect lipoproteins and vascular cells from oxidation. These nutrients also enhance cardiovascular health by reducing LDL cholesterol, homocysteine, platelet aggregation, and blood pressure.


When you slice a carrot it looks like a human eye. Carrots enhance blood flow to the eyes and is rich in Vitamin A which protect the surface area of the eye and is essential for good vision. Carrots contain lutein, an important antioxidant which increase the density of pigment in the macula. As pigment density increases, the retina is protected and the risk for macular degeneration decreases.


Walnuts look like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper and lower brain and cerebellum. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the cortex of our brain. Walnuts improve memory and brain function while the antioxidants may help counteract cognitive decline and reduce neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.


Grapes look similar to the ‘branches’ which compose the human lungs. A diet rich in grapes allow oxygen to pass from the lungs to the blood stream more efficiently and help reduce the risk of lung cancer. Grape seeds also contain a chemical called proanthocyanidin which is effective for helping asthma as they make the lungs moist while opening bronchial tubes making it easier to breathe. Drinking grape juice helps to open up airways improving lung function.

The Doctrine of Signatures is a magnificent gift from the divine which you can use as a tool to deepen your connection with nature, tap into your intuitive powers and take your healing and health to the next level.

Olivia xo

Reference: The Language of Plants by Julia Graves

This blog, its content and any linked material are presented for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or prescribing. Nothing contained in or accessible from this post should be considered to be medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or prescribing, or a promise of benefits, claim of cure, legal warranty, or guarantee of results to be achieved. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog or in any linked material. Olivia Budgen is not a medical doctor. Consult with a licensed healthcare professional before altering or discontinuing any current medications, treatment or care, or starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, or if you have or suspect you might have a health condition that requires medical attention.

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