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"Nature, which makes nothing durable, always repeats itself so that nothing which it makes may be lost."
Have you ever thought about the natural laws that underpin our world? Governed by sacred geometry, organic patterns are the building blocks that shape our experiences. They show up again and again, begging to be recognized, understood, and utilized for the benefit of mankind.
It is an unmistakable fact: the natural world tends to repeat itself. Like the swirling pattern seen in hurricanes, sea shells, and spiral galaxies, nature has a way of creating signatures that surface repeatedly across people, places, and things.
Early physicians took notice of these natural phenomenon, and created a pharmacopoeia that centered around the concept that like affects like. Substances that look alike were considered intrinsically connected, and believed to possess similar natures. Medicines were developed based on the belief that the qualities of one would harmoniously relate to, and thereby enhance and heal the other.
This idea has stood the test of time. Originally called the Law of Similarities, the idea later become known as the Doctrine of Signatures. Credited to Renaissance physician and alchemist, Paracelsus, this doctrine contends that Earth is governed by the microcosm-macrocosm principle: as within, so without, and as above, so below.
These herbal pharmacists took visual cues from the flora. If a plant resembled a part of the body, that was an indication of healing properties for that body part. Signatures presented as similar textures, shapes, and colors, and were considered benevolent signs from the Divine that mankind could easily interpret.
Our modern approach to medicine does not allow for intuition, nor does it acknowledge the power of philosophical or spiritual beliefs in healing. Therefore, the Doctrine of Signatures has largely been left behind as "magical thinking" by the majority of today's medical professionals. But not all this foundational wisdom has been lost.
Paradigm-shifting studies on placebo effect may help expand the limited views of modern medicine regarding the power of beliefs to impact healing outcomes. Until then, there are some foods that science validates as having the power to heal the part of the body that they closely resemble. Let's examine a few of these signature foods, and learn what qualities they possess that can help keep our human systems functioning optimally.
Pomegranates are prized for possessing numerous regenerative properties, many of which bear strikingly similar signatures to the human systems they restore.
The deep red, astringently sweet juice of the pomegranate has been clinically studied to increase the health and vitality of our blood. A 2014 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found that consuming pomegranate extract 30 minutes before exercise enhanced the diameter of blood vessels and increased blood flow. The group that consumed pomegranate juice also noted delayed onset of fatigue during exercise as well as a significant increase in post-workout vitality.
Pomegranates are known worldwide as symbols of fertility, thanks in part to their resemblance to human ovaries. Amazingly, pomegranates not only look like human ovaries, they produce some of the very same hormones (e.g. estrone and testosterone) and have shown promise in the treatment of menopause.
Epithelial tissue refers to the thin layer of cells that make up the connective tissue which lines the inside and outside of the body. Flat in shape and tightly-packed together, these epithelia closely resemble the clustered red seeds inside the pomegranate.
If you have ever tried pomegranate juice, you probably noticed the clean, astringent effect it has on the inside of the mouth. This is where pomegranate's benefits for epithelial tissue are on display.
Epithelial tissue lines the inside of our mouths and throats. When you drink pomegranate juice, this same cleansing effect that you taste and feel in your mouth, is also occurring in your arteries.
The effect is clinically significant. A 3-year study on the effects of pomegranate juice consumption on atherosclerotic patients showed that within just 3 months of starting an 8-oz. daily pomegranate juice regimen, patients demonstrated a reversal of plaque build-up in the carotid arteries by 13%!
And unlike pharmaceutical interventions, the benefits of drinking pomegranate juice deepen the longer you consume it. Imagine the benefit this simple (and delicious!) intervention could impart to the millions of people on dangerous statin drugs.
Flaxseeds look very much like the epithelial tissue they heal and are mucilaginous, much like the epithelial tissues in our body which produce a slippery, protective mucus coat known as the glycocalyx.
Flax has been consumed by humans for thousands of years, and its many therapeutic uses are well-documented. Ancient Ayurvedic texts herald flax seeds and the rich, lustrous oil they produce, as healing for the skin, useful in fighting fatigue, and as a powerful anti-inflammatory, among other benefits.
Modern dieticians talk about flaxseeds' high lignan count, referring to the isolated part of the plant that has been identified as a powerful antioxidant. Ingesting flaxseed oil has been shown to speed wound healing by stimulating collagen synthesis, giving credence to its historical value for skin conditions.
Science keeps adding to the already long list of reasons to prize this wondrous plant. Studies have demonstrated the therapeutic value of flaxseed in numerous clinical trials, including the treatment and prevention of:
- bowel disease
- kidney disease
- cancers and tumors
- cardiovascular disease
It was flax's impressive resume that suggested its use in the treatment of certain cancers. Animal studies showed flaxseed inhibits the formation of colon, breast, skin, and lung tumors. It's positive effects on blood insulin highlighted a correlation to reduced risks of pancreatic and colorectal cancers.
A 2007 animal study by Chen et al, showed that a diet of 5% and 10% flaxseed for 8 weeks, inhibited tumor growth by 26% and 38%, respectively.
Flaxseed's high lignan count is believed to be a key to its success in treating cancers of the mammary and prostate. Lignans are one of the major classes of phytoestrogens, biologically similar to our own estrogens. A diet high in these protective nutrients is believed to inhibit the growth of hormone-related cancers and tumors.
Walnuts may be the most poetic of all signatures when it comes to resembling the part of the body that they nourish. It is impossible to deny the walnut's similarities to our human brain in shape, texture, and composition, down to the bihemispheric "brain" of the nut!
Rich in healthy fats, walnuts are known to have a disproportionately high amount of the specific fatty acids, EPA/DHA omega 3 alpha linolenic acid, that the brain requires for optimal health.
Studies show that walnuts support the development of more than three dozen neuron-transmitters within the brain. These neurons enhance the development of neural pathways which help to ward off age-related cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Moreover, walnuts contain well-known neuroprotective compounds, such as gallic acid, vitamin E isomers, melatonin, folate, and polyphenols. Are these brain-healthy effects mere coincidence, or is the walnut's appearance a clue so obvious, we would be nuts to overlook it?
Ancient Science for Modern Times
We learn a lot about the future by studying the past. This ancient, magical science still has a lot to teach us about good health. To properly understand the Doctrine of Signatures, one needs to look past the surface, and seek to understand the categorical nature of things.
In the words of famed herbalist, Matthew Wood: "Signatures represent configurations of energy or patterns in plants, and these correspond to similar patterns in people. We are not looking..for a superficial resemblance, but for one that operates on the level of essence."
By taking cues from the natural world, we can enter into a new, golden age of mutual validation, where ancient worlds and modern science meet to confirm each other, amplifying the awareness that natural, self-healing is the only sane path forward in health care.
Originally published: 2017-08-31
Article updated: 2019-07-30