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Organoleptic Sense of Drugs :: Reunderstanding

Homeopathic Journal :: Volume: 3, Issue: 9, July, 2010 (New Papers)   -   from Homeorizon.com
Author : Dr. Krishnendu Maity, BHMS, MD (Home. Repertory)
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Article Updated: Jul 17, 2010

Introduction :- [ Synonym - Doctrine of Signature]

In the older times, while human suffered from various maladies, they experimented with plant cure. They developed the concept of plant 'signature'. The religious people taught that the God provided visual cues, because plants were placed on the Earth for the betterment of the mankind. The key to human use of plants was hidden in the forms of the plant itself (signature) - so 'close observation helps to recognize the utility of the plants, the hidden treasures of the Almighty, for the benefit of life'.

Definition :-

Doctrine of Signature / Organoleptic Sense is the relation between the external physical characters of drug-substances and the sign-symptoms of the medicines produced during 'pathogenetic trial on healthy human being'. It is one of the sources of our Materia Medica.

The Oxford Dictionary defines 'Doctrine' as "what is taught; a body of instruction"; "a set of principles". It is another term for the "Hermetic Law of Correspondence". In the essay 'Power of Small Doses' in Hufeland's Journal, Master Hahnemann described the Knowledge of Materia medica, which a physician requires as "What organs a drug deranges functionally, what it modifies in other ways, what nerves it particularly benumbs or excites, what alterations it effects in the circulation and digestive operations, what influence it exerts over secretions, what modifications the muscular fibre receives from it, how long its action lasts, and what means it is rendered powerless, etc. ....".

History :-

Signature plants were probably first recognized in ancient China. They classified and correlated plant features to human organs - as -----

  • Black and Salty -> Lungs.
  • Green and Sour -> Liver.
  • Red and Bitter -> Heart.
  • Yellow and Sweet -> Spleen.

In the Chinese medicine, the Primitive Male ( Yang) was associated with strongly acting plants - ailments of the upper ½ of the body were treated with upper parts of plants. The Primitive Female ( Yin) was associated with plants having moderate acting plants and those with bitter, sour, salty & sweet tastes - ailments of lower ½ of the body were treated with below-ground parts of the plant.

In Western Cultures, the concept of doctrine of signature emerged in medical science during the Middle Ages - when people believed that human destiny was determined by stars (i.e. Astrology) and everything upon the earth was erected for the sake of mankind. Each plant had magic power, either to benefit or to destroy.

This philosophy shared by herbalists from the time of Dioscurides and Galen that is still reflected in the common names of some plants whose coincidental shapes and colors reminded us of their seats of actions.

The most famous advocate of plants' signature was Philippus Aüreolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim - who later adopted the Latin name and well-known as Paracelsus (1493 - 1541). During the 1 ST half of the 16 TH Century, Paracelsus published his experiences of the medicinal plants & characters after traveling throughout the Europe, the Levant & Egypt and treating many people.

The doctrine of signatures was further spread by Jakob Böhme (1575 - 1624), a shoe-maker of Görlitz, Germany, suggested that God marked objects with a sign (signature), for their purpose. He wrote Signatura Rerum [i.e. Signature of All Things] in 1621; and stated that the spiritual doctrine was applied even to the medicinal uses that plants' form.

The Christian European Metaphysics expanded the philosophy of Doctrine of Signature in theology. According to the Christian version, the Creator had so set his marks upon the Creation, that by careful observation, one could find all right doctrine represented and even learn the uses of a plant from some aspects of its form or place of growing.


In the 17 TH Century, the Botanists & herbalists, William Edward Cöles (1626 - 1662), the author of The Art of Simpling and Adam in Eden, stated that "Walnut were good for curing head ailments because they have the perfect Signatures for the Head". Regarding Hypericum he wrote "The little holes where of the leaves of Saint John's Wort are full, deo resemble all the pores of the skin and therefore, it is profitable for all hurts and wounds that can happen thereunto".

The Organoleptic Sense was highly developed during the European Renaissance. Many vernacular names of temperate plants tell us how plants were once used for human ailments. Such uses are fueled by fertile imagination. Generally, long-lived plants were used to lengthen the life; and plants with rough steams & leaves were believed effective for rough, cracked skin or loss of smoothness of skin. Plants with yellow sap were for jaundice; and roots with jointed appearance were to antidote scorpion bites. Flowers shaped like a butterfly became cures for insect bites.

The doctrine of signature was expounded in the medical texts into the 19 TH Century. Some evidence of the existence of Doctrine has been found in the folk medicine of Israel. The research reported 14 plants with folk medicinal uses - based on the Doctrine of Signature; e.g.

  1. Similarity of the plant or plant-organ to the damaged human organ
    • Camel thorn ® Alhagi maurorum.
    • Milk-vetch ® Astragalus macrocarpus.
    • Blue hound's tongue ® Cynoglossum creticum.
  2. Similarity to animal shape or behaviour
    • European tumsole ® Heliotropium europæum.
    • Star-wort ® Astericus spinosus.
    • Large quaking grass ® Briza maxima.
  3. Similarity to plant colour to the colour of the disease's symptom or the medical phenomenon
    • Italian buckthorn ® Rhamnus alaternus.
    • Bitter gourd ® Citrullus colocynthis.
    • Squiriting cucumber ® Echallium elaterium.
  4. Similarity of plant habitat or characteristic to human features
    • Wall pellitory ® Parietaria judaica.
    • African rue ® Ruta chatepensis.

The Doctrine of Signature has been used by many stalwarts in search of the drug-substances. Basically, it is one of the sources of Materia Medica. Even to-day, it has been given much importance in Homœopathy. Here, are some examples ---

  • Adder's tongue - Cure for wounds and inflammation from snakebite.
  • Black-eye root - Remove bruise discolouration.
  • Bloodroot - Cure blood disorders; induce vomiting; laxative.
  • Ginseng - "Man essence" - used as a general human panacea.
  • Gravel-wort - Dissolve stones in the urinary tract.
  • Hedge woundwort [Dark red flowers] - has antiseptic qualities.
  • Liverwort -> Marchantiophyta - Thought to be useful in treating the liver.
  • Lousewort -> Pedicularis - Thought to be useful in repelling lice.
  • Lungwort - Thought to be useful in treating pulmonary infections.
  • Maidenhair fern - Cure for baldness.
  • Mandrake - Promote sexual passion in females.
  • Pilewort - Cure hæmorrhoids.
  • Snakeroot - Antidote for snake venom.
  • Spleenwort -> Asplenium - Thought to be useful in treating the spleen.
  • Toothwort -> Dentaria - Thought to be useful in treating tooth ailments.
  • Wormwood - Expels intestinal parasites.

The Doctrine of Signature can be observed from the general therapeutic study of a drug. E.g. ---

  • The drug prepared from the plant, flowering in the summer season - produces aggravation in the summer.
  • Drug prepared from the yellow flowers of Gelsemium - acts well in jaundice.
  • Tarantula Hispania is prepared from the Spanish spider, that is sensitive to drum beats - similarly, the patient is over-sensitive to music or music <.
  • Bryonia alba is prepared from the root. The roots are fleshy, bitter in taste with nauseating smell, very rough, acidic and yellowish-white in colour. Similarly, the Bryonia patient is somewhat fleshy, with bitter taste in mouth, yellow-white coated tongue and all the discharges are acrid.
  • Belladonna plant grows in calcium-rich soil. Belladonna is the acute and complementary to Calcarea (Calcium) carbonate.
  • Lachesis mutus is prepared from the deadly poison of Surukuku snake of South America. It remains curled in the winter and wakes up in the spring. It passes very offensive, black stool. It always protrudes its bifurcated tongue - which trembles. On holding at its tongue, it moves upwards and cannot make a knot of living snake - it slips. Similarly, Lachesis patients cannot tolerate tight bandaging / clothing; protrudes tongue all the time - with a bifurcated black streak in the middle; symptoms go from below-upwards; stool hard, black & foul smelling.

The external characteristics of a substance served to indicate possible therapeutic effects. Fancied or real resemblances between some part of a plant or some particular organ or fluid of the body pointed to therapeutic relationship.

Thus, according to this doctrine, " Digitalis must be used in blood dyscrasia - because its flowers are adorned with blood-coloured dots. Euphrasia was famous, from ancient time, as a medicine for the eyes - because it had a black spot in its corolla - which looked like a pupil ". - Dr. von Grauvogl .

" The lungs of a fox must be specific against asthma - because this animal has a very vigorous respiration. Hypericum, having red juice, ought, therefore, to be use in hæmorrhage. Euphorbia, having a milky juice, must be good for increasing the flow of milk. Sticta, having some likeness to the lungs, was called pulmonaria (Lung-wort) - and esteemed as a remedy for pulmonary complaints ". - Dr. Wm Bœricke .

"The soul does not perceive the external or internal physical construction of herbs and roots, but it intuitively perceives their powers & virtue and recognizes at once their 'signature'. This signature is a certain organic vital activity giving each natural object (in contra-distinction to artificially made objects) a certain similarity with a certain condition produced by disease, and through which health may be restored in specific diseases in the diseased part. This signature is often expressed, even in the exterior form of things, and by observing that form we may learn something in regard to their interior qualities, even without using our interior sight. We see that the internal character of a man is often expressed in his exterior appearance, even in the manner of his walking, and in the sound of his voice. Likewise the hidden character of things is to a certain extent expressed in their outward forms. As long as man required in a normal state, he recognized the 'signature' of things and Knew their true character; but the more he diverged from the path of nature and the more his mind became captivated by illusive external appearance, the more this power became lost". - Dr. Paracelsus.

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826: "Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es" [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are]. In an essay Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism, 1863-64, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach wrote: "Der Mensch ist, was er ißt" That translates into English as 'man is what he eats'. Neither Brillat-Savarin nor Feuerbach meant their quotations to be taken literally. They were stating that that the food one eats has a bearing on what one's state of mind and health.

"Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat". Foods and their correspondences are ----

CARROTS : A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye; and science now shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

GRAPES : Many grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows that grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

TOMATOES : A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four chambers. All of the research shows tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food. [Many people do not realise that, along with potatoes, aubergine (eggplant) and chillies, tomatoes are part of the nightshade family. Tibetan Doctors advise against eating anything from the nightshade family ].

WALNUTS : A Walnut looks like a little Brain, a Left & Right Hemisphere, Upper Cerebrums & Lower Cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds are on the nut just like the Neo-cortex. We now know that walnuts help develop over 3 dozen neuro-transmitters for brain function.

KIDNEY BEANS : Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the Human kidneys.

CELERY : Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% Sodium. If we do not have enough Na + in your diet the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

SWEET POTATOES : Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycæmic index of diabetics.

ONIONS : Onions look like body cells. Today's research shows that onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes.

CITRUS FRUITS : Grapes, Oranges and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

PEANUTS : Peanuts have a profound effect on the testicles and sexual libido. Peanuts were banned as a food for males by the church during the middle ages. Most people do not realize that Arginine, the main component of Viagra, comes from peanuts.

Bananas, Cucumber, Zucchini and more target the size and strength of the male sexual organ.

OLIVES : Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries.

'Cosmic' / 'Planetary' Doctrine of Signature :-

The fundamental framework of the 03 disciplines [viz. Herbalist, Alchemist & Astrologer] is anchored in the 07 Hermetic Universal Laws, one of which is the " Law of Correspondence" - i.e. the law that was plainly visible to those with a Spiritual eye.

In order to understand the Doctrine of Signature, it is essential to examine some of the basic principles and the way in which they manifest in the different realms of existence. They are -----

The Sun represents the life-force in everything. It symbolizes the principles of strength, righteousness, virtue and honor. It rules the domain of logical understanding (left brain) & clarity, consciousness, self-awareness and pride, health, integrity, vigor and creative energy per se. In the world of metals and minerals these qualities found their resonance in the metal Gold, and in diamonds the purest, hardest and most precious metals and stones of them all. In the animal kingdom it was the eagle and the lion and other noble creatures that most appropriately expressed the regal power of the Sun. The solar principle draws plants up towards the light and manifests as straight, upright stems and radiating flowers with a color range from white to golden orange. Their tastes are often aromatic and their healing properties are tonic, purifying and strengthening. All like to grow in sunny places and they often respond to the rhythms of the Sun, turning their heads towards the God of light as he travels across the sky. Solar Herbs include Sunflowers, Marigolds and St. Johnswort. In the human physiology the Sun rules the heart, blood, brain and the eyes. Traditionally, right eye in men, left eye in women. The Sun symbolizes vitality in general as well as the powers of recuperation and resistance to disease in general.
The Moon represents the yin principle, receptivity, sensitivity and yielding. It has an affinity with water, and rules the domain of the night, the unconscious mind, the world of dreams, fantasies and imagination (right brain). Its expression is through empathy, intuition and nurturing. The corresponding metal is the reflective Silver. It rules those that reflect faint shimmers of light or are of an iridescent quality. Animals governed by the Moon are night creatures such as owls or those that embody the nurturing principle. Cows with their docile nature, which not only provide us with milk but even carry a symbolic Moon in the shape of their horns on their heads, are a perfect representation of the lunar archetype. Other animals associated with the Moon are those that live in or near water and are affected by the tides, such as all manner of fish and crabs. In the realm of plants the Moons signature manifests along the same guidelines. Luna rules all sprouting and germination processes. She also governs the roots of all plants which represent the mouths in the vegetable kingdom. The Moons signature is found in fleshy, watery leaves and fruits like Pumpkins and Cucumbers, and in plants that flower at night or grow in or near water and in marshy environments. A milky juice (latex) is also a signature of the Moon. Lunar Herbs are often soothing, pain - killing, tranquilizing and sometimes even hypnotic or narcotic. The flower coloration varies from pastel colors of all shades to lilac and purple. In the human body the Moon rules the womb, fertility and the child-bearing functions, along with the breasts, stomach and body fluids. She also governs the astral or dream body and the subconscious mind.
Mercury signifies the qualities of rapid change, transmutation, learning and growing. By the virtue of his adaptable and changeable character he is capable of traveling in-between the worlds. In the realm of animals he rules swift and clever creatures. Monkeys and Dogs have frequently been associated with Mercury. In the realm of plants Mercury signifies the rapid growth process in the metamorphic development of young plants. He rules fast growing or winding plants such as Morning Glory, as well as other climbers, creepers and vines. The stems are rarely upright but rather flexible and bendy - they hardly ever become solidified in a woody form. Flower coloration is non-specific and encompasses all shades of the rainbow-spectrum though the flowers tend to be rather small. His signature is also present in feathery leaves and in seeds with wings. The healing properties associated with mercurial plants are equally divers and difficult to pin down. They are often demulcent and have a somewhat slimy quality. They may be purgative or alterative, aid digestion (especially in the passing of winds), act as demulcents for the respiratory system or have a stimulating or balancing effect on the nervous system and the mind. Mercurial Herbs include Lavender, Fennel, Speedwell, Valerian and Elecampane. In human physiology, Mercury rules the intellectual faculties of the mind, nervous system and intestines.
Venus symbolizes the pleasure principle. All things bright and beautiful are under her domain. Peacefulness, harmony and balance are her characteristics. Her metal is copper and her stones are generally either green as are Malachite and Emerald or pink ones, such as Rose-Quartz. Her sacred animals are of a peaceful nature. E.g. the Dove has become a universal symbol of peace. Deer, antelopes, swans, cats, rabbits and other graceful animals are all under her domain. In the realm of plants Venus is responsible for the soothing green colour of Mother Nature cloak. She rules the leaves & flowers of plants in general. Many healing herbs come under her domain. Their qualities are often cooling, cleansing, balancing & soothing and may have diaphoretic or diuretic properties. The colour variation of the petals ranges from green-white to pink. Most have a delicious fragrance and provide us with a sensory delight. Most fruit blossoms come under her domain (Apples, Cherries). Other plants that carry her signature are Yarrow, Geranium, Roses, Orchids and Mallows. In the human body, Venus rules the reproductive systems and kidneys - that are responsible for inner cleansing and fluid balance.
Mars signifies courage, strength ambition and drive. Without the get-up-and-go principle embodied by Mars, nothing would ever get done. But Mars does not go gently about his business, whatever it may be. His signature is rashness, defensiveness, sharpness and an aggressive drive. His metal is iron. In the animal kingdom his allies are fierce and aggressive like sharks and Hyenas. In the world of plants Mars manifests as the stamens (sexual organs) of all flowers in general. His signature can also be found in sharp thorns and the stinging quality of some plants such as Poison Ivy and Nettles. The flowers are usually red and the smell and taste are peppery and hot. Many pioneer plants are ruled by Mars as their role is to defend disturbed grounds against further intrusion. In the human body Mars rules the gallbladder, muscles, the reproductive organs and the adrenal glands.
Jupiter embodies the principle of generosity, expansiveness, justice and the process of maturation. His characteristics are grandeur, honor and wisdom. He is the philosopher and seeker of spiritual wisdom and symbolizes faith and hope as well as ethics and morals. His metal is tin. Jupiter animals are large and powerful like the bear or the elephant for example. In the world of vegetation Jupiter is responsible for the maturation process and thus governs the fruits and nuts of the harvest which represent an aspect of his generosity. Herbs under his domain are often bitter-aromatic and rich in essential oils. The colouration of the flowers tends to be either bright yellow or purple. Their healing properties are tonic, hepatic and purifying through their action on the Liver - the main organ of the human body under Jupiter rule. He is also responsible for sugar-metabolism as he governs the pancreas and for spiritual well-being by governing the pineal gland. Some of his herbs also act as anti-depressants. Some of Jupiter herbs are Blessed Thistle, Sandalwood, Sage Dandelion and Loosestrive. Many regal trees such as Oaks and Maple are also ruled by Jupiter.
Saturn embodies solidification, concentration and hardiness. He is the merciless teacher of duty and responsibility. He governs the aging and dying process and his character is inflexible, rigid, dry and cold. His metal is lead - the heaviest metal. In the animal kingdom his signature can be found amongst the cold-blooded reptilians and amongst certain insects such as the workaholic-seeming ants. In the world of vegetation Saturn governs the drying and wilting process that concludes the growing cycle of a plant. He is also responsible for the formation of seeds which in concentrated form contain all the potential growing power for the next season. His herbs are often straggly looking plants such as Horsetails, and frequently are grayish- blue in appearance or are marked by blue flowers. Their taste often is acrid, pungent and bitter. Their healing properties are styptic, astringent and sometimes even anesthetic. Saturn rules a number of deadly poisonous plants as well, which in the right dosage can be powerful healers but administered in the wrong proportions have the power to kill. Some of Saturn herbs are Chicory, Comfrey, Woad, Aconite and Belladonna. In the human body Saturn rules the skin, bones and teeth. Many of his Herbs are used to heal strains, sprains, bruises and broken bones.

Scientific Recognition : -

The doctrine of signatures is recognized by scientists as superstition. Because the links are not causal, any links are purely coincidental and can be disregarded. There is no evidence that plant signatures helped in discovery of medical uses of the plants. The signatures are described as post hoc attributions and mnemonics.

In some cases, the rational explanations for the apparent success of the doctrine of signatures in predicting the medical properties of certain plants. E.g. a thorny plant may be likely to have immune-boosting compounds as well, because both relate to the environment in which the plant grows - i.e. one in which there are many microbial and animal threats and where the plant needs both forms of protection to survive.

Some evidence of the existence of an ancient pharmacological theory - the Doctrine of Signatures - has been found in the folk medicine of Israel. The research reported 14 plants with folk medicinal uses based on the Doctrine of Signatures categories.

Conclusion : -

The planetary constitution is determined by the day and hour of birth of the person. The summarized organic affinity of the planet is -----

  • Sun - Heart and Circulatory System.
  • Moon - Brain and Endocrinal System.
  • Mars - Blood and Immune System.
  • Mercury - Lungs and Respiratory System.
  • Jupiter - Liver and Digestive System.
  • Venus - Kidneys and Uro-genital System.
  • Saturn - Spleen and Musculo-skeletal System.

At least in some isolated instances, such relationship actually verified by subsequent clinical applications. Robin Murphy, ND, in his Materia Medica (Homœopathic Remedy Guide), emphasize the 'cosmic doctrine' of the particular medicine. It is possible that an intuitively gifted race may see a relationship existing between outward forms & structures and inner uses. But for purposes of modern scientific therapeutics, it is valueless.

Sources : -

  1. Bœricke, Dr. Garth - A Compend of the Principles of Homœopathy for Students in Medicine.
  2. Murphy, Robin - Homœopathic Remedy Guide.
  3. Oxford Dictionary (illustrated, revised & updated).
  4. Patil, Dr. J. D. - Gems of Materia Medica.
  5. http://cosmiccipher.blogspot.com
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org
  7. www.b-and-t-world-seed.com
  8. www.bioone.org
  9. www.botgard.ucla.edu
  10. www.suite101.com

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Really it is a nice article.
  Comment by: Sunita, India.    on Feb 11, 2011 0 Agree  |  0 Disagree       Report Abuse

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