The Doctrine of Signatures

doctrine of signaturesThe Doctrine of Signatures is a very old notion. Simply put it states that the physical form and characteristics of a plant will give clues to the healing properties and purposes of that plant. Before we had the science to analyze everything so completely, people would carefully observe the plants growing around them. They would assess all the different factors that make the plant uniquely what it was and use things like the form, size and texture of the leaves, stems, roots of a plant, where it grew, how and when it flowered, what the flowers looked like, their colour and shape, the plant and flower’s aroma, what the plant tasted like etc. All of these variables gave them clues as to what could be considered the “essence” of the plant and by knowing these they could use this information to match it up with conditions that ailed man.

Some Basics used in the Doctrine of Signatures:
The roots of the plant have their influence on the brains of a human being; plants with impressive roots are good to ground airy people.
The stem and leaves represent the middle part in a human being; think of the breast, heart and lungs. Further the stem is analogous to our skeleton.
The flowers mostly work on the lower belly and the genitals.
Upward growing plants fully open up to the force of the sun, and therefore bring optimism and enthusiasm.
Downward pointing plants with hanging flowers harmonize people who feel down or depressed; so here Like-cures-like.
Horizontally growing plants symbolize contact and exchange and therewith promote the circulation of blood and lungs.
A round stem is associated with femininity, harmony and softness.
A square stem points at the masculine qualities of immunity and strength.
A hollow stem reveals that the plant may relief complaints with the hollow organs in a human being, like the lungs or the gullet.
A hairy stem and leaves show action on the skin, hair and mucous membranes.
Thorns and stings show that the plant promotes regeneration and immunity.
Small and divided leaves show a contracting force in the plant, but have a relaxing effect on a human being.
Large leaves on the other hand have contracting power in a human being and may help stop profuse bleedings or increase muscle contractions.
Dark-green leaves work calming and vitalizing.
Yellow-green leaves promote the metabolism.
Dark yellow flowers stimulate the life force and the liver
Light yellow flowers are good for internal cleansing of the body.
Red flowers work on the heart, blood circulation, energy and vitality.
Orange flowers work on the solar plexus and bring enthusiasm.
Pink flowers work softening and harmonizing.
Blue flowers cool down heat complaints like fever, inflammations or an irritable character.
Purple flowers relax the nervous system and make a person more introvert.
White flowers work soothing in inflammations and have their special working area on the female organs.
The color brown brings inner calm and strength, especially in case of exhaustion.
Sun-plants have long strong stems and upward flowers in the colors white, yellow or orange.
Moon-plants are watery and have large leaves.
Mercury-plants grow horizontally and easily move along with the wind.
Venus-plants are soft-colored and smell deliciously.
Mars-plants have thorns and stings.
Jupiter-plants are big and grow abundant, like in the jungle.
Saturn-plants are the strong ones that survive scarce conditions, like cactus.
Uranus-plants are the radio-active ones.
Neptune-plants are poisonous in the bad case, or have purple flowers and bring relaxation to the mind in the positive case.
The plants of Pluto are the toad-stools and mushrooms.

To modern science the Doctrine of Signatures may appear to be very unscientific and based on pure superstition however it is very interesting to note how often research seems to confirm rather than disprove the theory that we have been provided with a guide from the Divine if we would just open up our eyes and hearts to see it. In order to draw information from the Doctrine of Signatures we need an open mind, imagination and intuition.

Why would be consider using this when choosing essential oils for our synergies? Well understanding the Doctrine of Signatures for individual plants may well give us a tool to help us decide which oil is best for the individual in question. For instance a lot of people in today’s modern world are coping with stress. Stress is a condition for which we have a lot of essential oils to choose from for including: Bergamot, Chamomile, Clary Sage, Cypress, Geranium, Juniper, Lavender, Marjoram, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Rose, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang. How do we decide on which oil/s are most appropriate for the specific client? The Doctrine of Signatures might actually give us some clues here. If we understand the energy patterns of the plant from which the oil is derived we can compare this with the energy patterns we observe in the individual for whom we are blending. Choosing oils this way can sometimes bring about profound shifts.


Wood, Matthew, The Book of Herbal Wisdom, North Atlantic Books, 1997

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