NY Times: Ancient Art of Herbalism
Sometimes I wonder when major newspapers have nothing to write that day, that they don't just go to their archives and dig up. The NY Times never writes on herbalism so when they do, I take notice--hopefully others will, too. The writer speaks of the 'theory' of herbal medicine--never mind that that this 'theory' has been in practice for over five thousand years. But to us who literally live and breathe it we know it is true. We know that we are all deeply interconnected and that plants, fungi and other living things are here to help us.
Here is an excerpt with the full article attached by Amanda Fortini.
Revisiting an Ancient Theory of Herbalism
HOW, I HAVE often wondered, did people first discover the highly specific applications of particular plants and herbs? That ginseng improves energy, say, or that ginger alleviates nausea, or that horsetail, which contains silica, might help hair to grow? One theory, possibly apocryphal and certainly much maligned by modern medicine, is that the physical characteristics of plants themselves provided clues as to how they might be used. This notion, known among scholars of ethnobotany and practitioners of herbal medicine as the doctrine of signatures, holds that plants have a “signature” — color, texture, shape, scent, even the environment in which they grow — that resembles the body parts and diseases they heal. Thus bloodroot, or Sanguinaria canadensis, whose roots and rhizomes secrete a red sap when cut, was once thought to heal blood disorders and hasten wound healing. And eyebright, or euphrasia, whose flowers resemble the human eye (or rather, with its yellow dots and purple stripes, a jaundiced, bloodshot one), has for centuries been used to treat ocular ailments, like conjunctivitis. (In German, eyebright is called Augentrost, or “consolation of the eyes.”) Signatures, in other words, made it easy to divine a plant’s medicinal properties. Form reveals function; function echoes form.