en:Doctrine of signatures

Eyebright was used for eye infections, from the supposed resemblance of the flower to an eye

藥效形象說迪奥科里斯盖伦時代興盛,認為長得像身體部分的草藥可以用於治療那些部位的疾病。威廉·科林斯英语William Coles (botanist)等植物學家認為此理論符合神學:上帝想讓人們看到有用的植物。



雅科伯·波默(Jakob Böhme,1575年-1624年)撰述提出神以物品形象標示其功用,傳播了藥效形象說。[2] Plants bearing parts that resembled human body-parts, animals, or other objects were thought to have useful relevance to those parts, animals or objects. The "signature" could sometimes also be identified in the environments or specific sites in which plants grew. Böhme's 1621 book The Signature of All Things gave its name to the doctrine.[1] The English physician-philosopher Sir Thomas Browne in his discourse The Garden of Cyrus英语The Garden of Cyrus (1658) uses the Quincunx pattern as an archetype of the 'doctrine of signatures' pervading the design of gardens and orchards, botany and the Macrocosm at large.

The botanist William Coles英语William Coles (botanist) (1626–1662) 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.'[1] Coles's The Art of Simpling and Adam in Eden, stated that walnuts英语walnuts were good for curing head ailments because in his opinion, "they Have the perfect Signatures of the Head". Regarding Hypericum, he wrote, "The little holes whereof the leaves of Saint Johns wort are full, doe resemble all the pores of the skin and therefore it is profitable for all hurts and wounds that can happen thereunto."[2]

A theological justification was made for this philosophy: "It was reasoned that the Almighty must have set his sign upon the various means of curing disease which he provided".[3]

For the late medieval viewer, the natural world was vibrant with images of the Deity: 'as above, so below,' a Hermetic principle expressed as the relationship between macrocosm and microcosm; the principle is rendered sicut in terra. Michel Foucault expressed the wider usage of the doctrine of signatures, which rendered allegory more real and more cogent than it appears to a modern eye:

Up to the end of the sixteenth century, resemblance played a constructive role in the knowledge of Western culture. It was resemblance that largely guided exegesis and the interpretation of texts; it was resemblance that organized the play of symbols, made possible knowledge of things visible and invisible, and controlled the art of representing them." (The Order of Things , p. 17)

Signatures of some plants used in herbalism编辑

Lungwort英语Pulmonaria officinalis was thought to have the signature of the lungs and was used to treat lung infections.

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:

Concepts similar to the Doctrine of Signatures may be found in folk or indigenous medicines, and in modern alternative medicines.[來源請求]

In literature编辑

The phrase "signatures of all things" appears in the beginning of episode 3 in James Joyce's novel Ulysses. The character Stephen Dedalus walking along the beach, thinking to himself "Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot." The Canadian poet Anne Szumigalski英语Anne Szumigalski, 1922-1999, entitled her third full-length collection "Doctrine of Signatures."

Scientific skepticism编辑

The signatures are described as post hoc attributions and mnemonics,[8] of value only in creating a system for remembering actions attributed to medical herbs. There is no scientific evidence that plant shapes and colors help in the discovery of medical uses of plants.[8]

See also编辑



  1. ^ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Doctrine of Signatures. Science Museum. [February 8, 2014]. 
  2. ^ 2.0 2.1 Pearce, J.M.S. The Doctrine of Signatures (PDF). European Neurology ( May 16, 2008, 60 (1): 51–52 [August 31, 2008]. PMID 18520149. doi:10.1159/000131714. 
  3. ^ White (1896),第38頁.
  4. ^ McDougal, Kevin. Hedge Woundwort. 2013 [February 8, 2014]. 
  5. ^ Stern (1991),第338頁.
  6. ^ The Tudors (PDF). Birmingham Botanical Gardens. [11 November 2014]. 
  7. ^ Irvine, Alexander. The Phytologist: A Botanical Journal, Volume 4. William Pamplin. 1860: 308. As late as 1657 we find William Coles, who was a herbarist ... speaking of Spleenwort, or Miltwort, tells us that the learned Crollius, amongst the signatures of parts, doth set down Ceterach to have the signature of the spleen, and that therefore it is profitable for all diseases thereof; 
  8. ^ 8.0 8.1 Bennett, Bradley C. Doctrine of Signatures: An Explanation of Medicinal Plant Discovery or Dissemination of Knowledge?. Economic Botany. 2007, 61 (3): 246–255 [2008-08-31]. ISSN 0013-0001. doi:10.1663/0013-0001(2007)61[246:DOSAEO]2.0.CO;2. 


Further reading编辑

  • Boehme, Jakob (1651) Signatura Rerum (The Signature of All Things). Gyles Calvert.
--- Translation by J. Ellistone.
  • Buchanan, Scott Milross (1938) The doctrine of signatures: a defense of theory in medicine.
  • Cole, W. (1657) Adam in Eden or Nature's Paradise. J Streater for Nathanial Brooke.
  • Conrad, L.I.; M Neve, V Nutton and R Porter (1995). The Western Medical Tradition, 800 BC – 1800 AD. Cambridge University Press.
  • Porter, Roy (1997) The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present. HarperCollins.