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Monday, August 24, 2015

Doctrine of Signatures - Early Medicine

Susan F. Craft

        The doctrine of signatures refers to the concept that “nature marks each growth according to its curative benefit.” In other words, herbs and plants that resemble various parts of the body can be used to treat ailments of those parts of the body.
        The concept was developed in the early 1500s by Paracelsus and was followed throughout centuries and around the world until the late 1700s when scholars realized that there was no scientific evidence that plant shapes and colors helped in the discovery of medical uses of plants.
        There was a theological justification for the doctrine, as stated by botanists like William Coles who lived until the late 1600s. He said that God would have wanted to show men what plants would be useful for them. He supposed that God had made “herbes for the use of men, and hath given them particular Signatures, whereby a man may read ... the use of them.” Coles's The Art of Simpling and Adam in Eden, stated that walnuts were good for curing head ailments because in his opinion, "they Have the perfect Signatures of the Head." He also wrote, "The little holes whereof the leaves of Saint Johns wort are full, do resemble all the pores of the skin and therefore it is profitable for all hurts and wounds that can happen thereunto."
        Many colonial women who created their own “medicine kits” to care for their families and friends brought the idea of the doctrine of signatures with them when they travelled from Europe to the colonies.
        The concept of signatures is reflected in the common names of some plants whose shapes and colors reminded herbalists of the parts of the body where they were thought to do good, as for instance:

Eyebright used for eye infections










Lungwort for pulmonary infections











Toothwort for dental problems










Carrots for the eyes










Mushrooms for the ears










Walnuts for the brain










Beans for the kidneys


       







        Lilyan, the main character in my The Xanthakos Family Trilogy, is not only a portrait and mural artist she is a healer who cares for her family and friends with medicines from her kit that she has assembled over the years.

        For a chance to win a copy of Cassia, the third book in the trilogy, can you guess what the tomato was used for according to the doctrine of signatures? I will select a winner from among the people responding to this question.



Susan F. Craft is the author of the historical romantic suspense series, The Xanthakos Family Trilogy. Cassia, the last book in this series, will be released September 14, 2015.

14 comments:

  1. I'm guessing the Heart because of the 4 valves often found when you slice the tomato. Would make sense to me :-)

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    1. Thanks for your answer, Trixi. I'll announce the correct answer this evening after a few more people have commented.

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  2. I'm with Trixi, for both the color and four sections.

    Very interesting post, Susan. We're finding out that many herbs do have curative properties.

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    1. Thanks for your answer, Janet. I'll announce the correct answer this evening after a few more people have commented.

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  3. Susan, this is very interesting.
    I will have to agree with Trixi and Janet,the heart and add good for the blood too.
    Blessings, Tina

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    1. Thanks for your answer, Tina. I'll announce the correct answer this evening after a few more people have commented.

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  4. I am going to guess it was used for the heart. Thanks for the giveaway! Have a great day. :)

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    1. Hi, Debra, thanks for the comment. I'm about an hour away from announcing the correct answer and the winner of Cassia.

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  5. Hey Susan! I would have to guess for liver problems and for skunk attacks. LOL
    Only enter me if this is for the paperback, please. I want a signed pb to go along with the first two books. :-)

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    1. Skunk attacks! Ha! This is for a paperback, so I'll put your name in the running.

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  6. Heart is the correct answer. A tomato has four chambers and is red like the heart. A tomato is loaded with Lycopine that is pure heart and blood food. Trixi, you're the winner of a copy of my new book, Cassia. If you email me at sfc58@sc.rr.com and give me your address, I'll mail you a copy when I receive my copies around the release date, September 14. Thanks to all who participated.

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    1. Hey, Chappy, you'll have chances to win a copy of Cassia if you attend the CQ Tea Party September 4 and the Launch Party for Cassia on September 14.

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  8. Ahh, glad to know my guess what right! It made sense to me, both the color and the "valves" you find inside. The seeds almost look like white blood cells too :-)
    Thank you Susan!! This will be my first book by you, looking forward to it! Emailing you now!

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