Becoming more aware of the intrinsic connection we have with our planet, our Mother Earth, opens us to a greater sense of place and timeless, unconditional love. I love how there’s a ‘signature’ running through nature, that that does just that – nothing woowoo or over-complicated, in fact it’s quite literally ‘down to earth’.
The doctrine of signatures
Since the times of Dioscurides (the Greek physician, pharmacologist and author of the original Materia Medica), herbalists have believed in a philosophy that ‘like cures like’. The Doctrine of Signatures, developed and published by Paracelsus (1491 – 1541), states that plants are of particular healing benefit to the body part of that which they resemble. Such a belief is echoed by tribal communities the world over and it is true that there are so many herbs with an uncanny resemblance to the body parts they nurture and they are even named accordingly – the seeds of skullcap, for example, look like tiny skulls and the herb is known to be an effective treatment for brain and nervous system disorders. Isn’t it funny how the whole root of a ginger plant looks just like a person and infact is a great holistic medicine that supports the entire body.
It’s not just a herb thing
It has now been confirmed by nutritional scientific investigation that the doctrine of old was staggeringly accurate and is true of all wholefoods. In fact, there are examples of food signatures everywhere – you could probably think of some yourself now. What are carrots good for? We all know this one … and now picture what a slice of carrot looks like, with it’s iris like patterns and even a dot (pupil?) in the middle. And prunes are good for your bowels … I think that’s enough said about that though! Here are six more to get started and if you think of any others, please share them here.
Paracelsus noticed that the spine through a bulb of garlic resembles the windpipe. As it so happens, one of the major uses for garlic is for throat and bronchial problems. In Garlic:The Mighty Bulb, Natasha Edwards reveals more extraordinary health benefits of garlic. With details of how to maximise it’s therapeutic benefits she provides recipes and recommendations of which varieties to grow, how to grow them and how best to store them for their remedial properties.
When you put it on its side, doesn’t a slice of mushroom look a little like an ear? You guessed it, mushrooms aid our hearing abilities – thanks to the vitamin D which is good for our bones, in particular the three teensy ones in our ears which act as sound transmitters for our brains.
I took up foraging mushrooms last year after discovering ‘Mushrooming with Confidence’ through Cygnus Books. I’d been nervous about trying my hand at it before that book, incase I accidentally picked one of the poisonous mushrooms by mistake. I feel safe using this book though as it doesn’t include mushrooms that look anything like the dangerous sorts and it even has a checklist that, when you follow it, makes absolutely sure you’re not going to muddle them. It has some lovely recipes in there too but my favourite mushroom recipes ever are in ‘Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No. 1’.
Protected by a hard, skull like shell, the fruit of a walnut distinctly resembles a brain – with upper and lower cerebellums and left and right hemispheres and wrinkles mimicking the neo-cortex. Patrick Holford tells us that walnuts promote neurotransmitter balance and reception, which improves the signals between brain cells, allowing us to process and store information more efficiently. He also states that walnuts are one of the best food sources to ward off depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit, hyperactivity and autism.
If you want to tuck into walnuts more, you can always count on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for a good recipe. He has one in his book River Cottage Veg Everyday that he calls the ‘winter giant couscous salad, with herbs and walnuts’ and it is delicious.
The shape and flesh of lemons actually look very similar to mammary glands. Limonoids found in their peel are known to nurture the health of breasts and even to help prevent breast cancer.
Dr Penny Stanway examines the many health benefits of lemons in her well researched book The Miracle of Lemons – taking us through an A-Z of ailments that lemons can help fix, she includes inspiring recipes and advice on how to effectively grow, cultivate and store them.
There is even a Lemon Juice Diet book for weight loss, from Dr Theresa Cheung.
Medical studies show that women who have a lot of olive oil have a 30% lower risk of ovarian cancer. I don’t know how true that is but they do support the general ovarian health and functions and are shaped the same as ovaries too.
The Miracle of Olive Oil is a helpful guide to the medicinal, culinary, personal and household uses of olive oil.
Just as a heart has four chambers, so too does a tomato which of course shares the same rich red colour. Tomatoes help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides as well as helping to prevent platelet cells in the blood from clumping together – all of these things of course having an effect on the condition of the heart. And the more we discover about the phytonutrients of tomatoes, the more they are becoming increasingly regarded as one of the top heart healthy foods.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian recipe book, ‘Plenty’, drawn from his column in The Guardian’s weekend magazine, has a section dedicated to tomatoes. Yotam’s recipes always tend to reflect his Mediterranean background and the Mediterraneans really know how to make tomatoes taste great, don’t they?
Gratefully accepting our gifts
It’s not so hard to believe that our Mother has created our medicine in a way that makes it easy to identify – the resemblances being labels from nature. Contemplating this gives me a greater appreciation of Mother Earth’s nurturing and makes me want to gratefully include more fruit, veg and fresh herbs in my diet … especially those grown in my own garden. To the side and bottom of this email I’ve put the books I’ll be drawing on, to do just this, hoping you have a taste for the same.