Aug 28, 2008

Ancient Theory - The Doctrine of Signatures

I received an interesting email about the history of an ancient theory called the "Doctrine of Signatures". Immediately I thought of a post I did a while back showing images of foods and their corresponding body organ or body "part". Little did I know at the time that I did that post that it was based on this theory.

Here is part one of what I hope will be a series of articles on the
History of The Doctrine of Signatures.

The theory that nature provides clues as to the beneficial uses of plants is known as The Doctrine Of Signatures. The earliest known references to this theory are the writings of Galen (131-200 AD). Some 1,400 years later The Doctrine Of Signatures was expanded upon by several authors of note:

Paracelsus (1493-1541 AD) was born Phillip von Hohenheim, who later took up the names Philippus Theophrastus Aureolus, Bombastus von Hohenheim, and finally taking the title Paracelsus. He is regarded as the father of modern chemistry. The writings of Paracelsus are regarded as the earliest formal account of The Doctrine Of Signatures and had a significant influence in bringing the concept into the medicinal realm.

Jakob Boehme (1575-1624 AD) offered two books which further expanded upon The Doctrine Of Signatures from both physical and spiritual aspects. His books Signatura Rerum (The Signature Of All Things) and Aurora were published in the early 17th Century.

William Coles (1626-1662 AD) was a 17th century botanist, herbalist and physician. He authored a book titled The Art Of Simpling which reflected a contemporary belief that the appearance of a plant provides a clue, or signature, which indicates its beneficial medicinal use.

Surprisingly, little has been written on the topic since the 17th century. But now that modern day researchers are focusing more resources on the study of whole foods, the concept is once again coming into focus. The latest scientific research offers a good bit of anecdotal evidence suggesting that The Doctrine Of Signatures does hold true in many cases, including signatures that appear at a microscopic level – here is our first example.

All our lives we've been told to eat our carrots, they help improve your eyesight. Maybe you've wondered - what exactly is it about the carrot that is good for my eyes? That would be the beta-carotene. In addition to giving the carrot its name and orange color, it also converts to vitamin A in the body which helps improve vision. The vitamin A forms a purple pigment called rhodopsin the eye needs to see in dim light. Rhodopsin production is spurred by vitamin A, raising the effectiveness of the light-sensitive area of the retina.

You can find carrots along with their health imparting properties in some of your favorite Wholefood Farmacy foods such as Veggielicious and Veggielicious Spice.

Updated 2/10/16


  1. I had heard that foods often resembled the body parts they benefit. Did not know there was an actual theory and that it was actually recognized as early as Galen. I am trying to eat more healthfully. Can't wait to read more about this topic. Thanks, Claudia!

  2. Melodieann,

    Actually I had not heard of it myself until receiving this article. I am always learning something new, and love to pass along information like this that I find.

    Thanks for your comment, and have a great week!

    Claudia, the Happy Nutritionist