ASTROLOGY AND THERAPY
Picking Your Remedies by the Stars
In Greek Medicine, all the medicines and remedies used in treatment have their own inherent nature and temperament in terms of the Four Basic Qualities and other qualities and attributes. They also have, through the qualities and virtues they possess, astrological affinities with certain planets and signs of the zodiac.
So, when it comes to prescribing or recommending herbs, medicines and remedies, the astrological therapist can use either the astrological indications or the traditional indications, which involve qualities, humor and temperament. And so, Medical Astrologers differ greatly in the extent to which they astrologize treatment and therapy.
There are two basic approaches to treatment for the Medical Astrologer: either they can astrologize everything, both assessment and treatment, or they can assess what's going on astrologically through the natal horoscope, and then use their traditional knowledge of herbal medicine or whatever other treatment methods they may be using to administer treatment. I personally prefer the latter approach, although the two aren't mutually exclusive.
Nicholas Culpeper and Astrotherapy
The most famous astrologizer of herbal medicines and remedies was the English astrologer-physician Nicholas Culpeper. His approach to astrology and treatment was incredibly sophisticated and complex.
In his famous herbal, he assigns to every common herb of his native England a certain planet, and usually a certain sign of the zodiac as well. Then, through an elaborate system of planetary sympathies and antipathies, he used these astrological correspondences to formulate his remedies and treatments.
For example, Culpeper uses the herbs of Mercury to treat the diseases of Jupiter, and vice-versa, because these planets classically rule opposing signs of the zodiac. The same goes with the herbs of Venus and those of Mars.
I have gone through Culpeper's herbal and noted the planetary correspondences of various common herbs. I have also noted the rationales for these correspondences:
Sun: Golden yellow herbs that are solar in appearance: Camomile, Celandine, St. John's Wort. Cardiotonics or cordials that strengthen the heart, which is ruled by the Sun: Angelica, Mistletoe, Saffron, Lovage. Heating herbs that restore the vital forces and resist poison: Angelica, Juniper, Rue. Evergreen herbs, whose expression of the Life Force is steady and constant, like the Sun: Bay Laurel, Juniper, Mistletoe, Pine, Rosemary. Herbs that clear the vision and improve the eyesight, since the Sun is the giver of light, by which things are seen: Eyebright.
Moon: Moistening, emollient herbs: Chickweed, Water Lily. Sedating, cooling febrifugal or antiinflammatory herbs: Clary Sage, Lettuce, Willow. Diuretics that powerfully cleanse the lymphatic system: Cleaver's. Herbs that grow in or around Water, the Moon's element: Water Lily.
Mercury: Carminative herbs that work through Mercury's Virgo aspect to smoothe the flow of the Natural Force through the digestive tract and reduce gas, distension, colic or bloating: Caraway, Dill, Fennel, Marjoram, Lavender, Savory, Southernwood. Herbs to balance and soothe the nervous system and its Psychic Force: Lavender, Valerian. Herbs to balance and smooth the flow of the Vital Force through the lungs, chest and respiratory tract, easing the respiratory function and relieving hoarseness and spasmodic coughing: Elecampane, Horehound, Licorice and Mulberry. Herbs to balance out kidney function and the adrenal glands: Germander, Lily of the Valley, Parsely. Many Mercurial herbs are fine, delicate, frilly Umbelliferous plants that express through their appearance the light, subtle nature of Mercury.
Venus: Many Venusian herbs are aromatic, and have a sweet fragrance, like Catnip, Coltsfoot, Cowslip, Feverfew, Groundsel, Mints, Pennyroyal, Meadowsweet, Roses, Thyme and Yarrow. Many are also spices used in cooking, to make food taste more pleasant. Others, like Feverfew, Ladies' Mantle, Motherwort, Mugwort, Parsnips, Roses, Vervain and Yarrow are tonics for the female reproductive system, and help with the menstrual cycle. Still others, like Artichoke, Burdock, Figwort, Foxglove, Goldenrod, Groundsel and Yarrow, treat the kidneys and various urinary conditions.
Mars: Many herbs ruled by the God of War are armed with sharp barbs and thorns; these include Hawthorn, Stinging Nettles, and Restharrow, as well as all kinds of Thistles. Others are strong stimulants, being intensely hot and Choleric in temperament: Garlic, Onions, Horseradish and Mustard. Still others are aperitifs, or bitter tonics, as well as cholagogues, and improve the flow of bile: Barberry, Blessed Thistle, Gentian, Hops and Wormwood. Many of these bitter tonics also have blood cleansing, sedative and febrifugal effects; they work contrary to the stimulants, in that instead of provoking heat and choler, they sedate or relieve it. All red colored plants, like Madder root, have an affinity for Mars, and for the blood. Still others, like Plantain, are vulneraries that speed up the healing of wounds received in battle.
Jupiter: Since Jupiter rules the liver, many Jupiter herbs are hepatics, or liver tonics that improve liver metabolism in its generation of the blood and other humors: Agrimony, Chicory and Dandelion. Others, in keeping with the Sanguine nature of Jupiter, are nutritive tonics that improve the nutritional status and constitutional robustness of the organism: Bilberry, Borage, Chicory, Couchgrass, Dandelion root and Figs. Because Jupiter is Yang and warming, still other Jupiter herbs, like Cinquefoil, Hyssop, Lemon Balm and Sage, gently stimulate and warm the digestive organs and Natural Faculty while dispersing and drying up cold, damp, turbid Phlegmatic humors.
Saturn: In keeping with the Melancholic nature of Saturn, some Saturn herbs, like Comfrey and Horsetail, provide special nutritional support and reinforcement for the bones, joints and connective tissue, which are ruled by Saturn. Others, like Mullein, Poplar and Shepherd's Purse, are astringents that strengthen the Retentive Virtue. Some Saturn herbs, like Fumitory, are intensely cooling and bitter; Fumitory also happens to be a great purgative for excesses of morbid black bile. Analgesics that deaden the nerves or narcotics, like Nightshade, Opium and Wintergreen, are Saturnian in nature. Others, like Comfrey and Solomon's Seal, are heavy and sinking in nature, embodying the density and gravity of the Earth element.
Astrology and the Doctrine of Signatures
A rather quaint and interesting concept of herbal properties and indications from classical and medieval times is the Doctrine of Signatures. It states that a benevolent and merciful God, when He created the plants and herbs that would heal men's ills, created in them certain manifest signs and clues as to which types of ailments and conditions they were to be used for. These could involve an herb's color, appearance, taste, smell, growing habits, or just about any other distinctive trait or attribute.
We just saw in Culpeper's planetary correspondences of common herbs many examples of the Doctrine of Signatures. Many of these signatures have an obvious astrological basis; others do not:
Appearance: The golden yellow, solar appearance of Sun-ruled herbs. Sharp barbs and thorns for Martian herbs. Frilly, delicate Umbelliferous herbs for Mercury.
Taste & Energetics: Hot, spicy stimulants for Choleric Mars. Heavy, astringent or bitter herbs for Saturn. Fragrant, aromatic, sweet-smelling herbs for Venus.
Color: Yellow herbs to move the bile (Mars). Red herbs to move and cleanse the blood (Mars).
Growing Habits: Evergreen herbs for the Sun. Herbs that grow in or around Water for the Moon.
Although there may be no scientific proof for the Doctrine of Signatures in terms of physical cause and effect, still, it's amazing how often it works.
Astrological Classification of Therapeutic Actions
One more generalized way of relating astrology to therapeutics is the affinities between certain planetary principles or functions and the therapeutic actions of herbs and medicines that embody them. It isn't as tedious, arbitrary, rigid or dogmatic as the correspondences we've seen, but yet they're very valid and useful. According to this classification system, an herb or medicine can belong to more than one category, depending on the way it's being used:
Sun: Restoring the energy, vitality and immunity of the organism: stimulant tonics and adaptogens. Cordials or cardiotonics that strengthen the heart, the core organ of the Vital Faculty. Herbs that improve eyesight and clear the vision, which pertains to the solar light. Antirheumatics: dispelling cold, damp rheumatic and Phlegmatic humors from the lungs and respiratory tract, head, muscles and limbs, genitourinary tract. Herbs that resist poison and aid in the recuperation of the vital forces. Anodynes that relieve pain by their relaxing warmth.
Moon: Moistening emollients and demulcents that strengthen the Expulsive Virtue and relieve dryness. Herbs that restore or replenish the vital fluids of the body. Nutritive Tonics that restore the Radical Moisture. Nervines and sedatives that strengthen the vegetative functions and parasympathetic nervous system and promote sound, restful sleep. Galactogogues that improve lactation in nursing mothers.
Mercury: Works through balance and homeostasis. Smooths and balances the flow of the vital energies: the Psychic Force, Natural Force and Vital Force. Carminatives, smoothing the flow of the Natural Force through the digestive tract (Virgo). Nervous restoratives, soothing the nerves and smoothing and balancing the flow of the Psychic Force (Gemini). Pectorals and antitussives, improving the flow of the Vital Force throiugh the lungs, chest and respiratory tract and relieving nervous or spasmodic coughing (Gemini). Genitourinary and adrenal tonics, improving and balancing the vitality and functioning of these organ systems. The therapeutic method of regulating the energy; even though you can't see it, the energy is there, and can be worked with.
Venus: Works through balancing, mediating, harmonizing, soothing, pacifying, smoothing, and easing of tensions. The sweet taste. Sweet, fragrant aromas. Aromatic stomachics, antiinflammatories, anticatarrhals, antihistamines, anticongestives to the respiratory, digestive and genitourinary mucosa. Antispasmodics and anticonvulsants, which relax or relieve spasms, tensions and discord in the nervous and muscular systems, as the antidote to Mars. Tonics and restoratives to the female reproductive system, relieving menstrual cramps, dysmenorrhea. Condiments - sweet or aromatic herbs that improve the bitter or disagreeable taste of certain herbs and medicines.
Mars: Stimulants of an intensely heating, drying, Choleric nature, which increase metabolic Fire. Rubefacients, vesicants and counterirritants, which produce blisters and pustules to draw out pus and hot, Choleric toxins through the skin. Choleretics and cholagogues, which stimulate the production and flow of bile. Bitter tonics, or aperitifs, many of which are also cholagogues, antiinflammatories, alteratives or blood cleansers. Many bitter tonics also stimulate the appetite and digestion and improve phagocytosis and the immune response, all of which are Martian functions. Blood tonics, especially those rich in iron. Blood thinners and blood activators, which disperse congealed, clotted or extravasated blood and so speed healing. Vulneraries, or herbs that speed the healing of wounds.
Jupiter: Liver tonics, also called hepatics or hepatoprotectors, which protect and regenrate the liver and improve its metabolism and the generation of blood and the other humors. Roborants and nutritive tonics, which improve the nutritional status and constitutional robustness of the organism. Analeptics, which improve recovery from emaciating and debilitating disease. Warming, stimulating digestive tonics which give added vigor and vitality to the digestion and disperse cold, damp, turbid Phlegmatic humors.
Saturn: Astringents to firm, bind and tone the physical structure of the organs and tissues and aid the Retentive Virtue by restraining or checking undue sweating, urination, defecation, bleeding, leucorrhea or other excessive fluxes or discharges. Special tonics to the bones, joints and connective tissue. The deadening of pain or sensation: analgesics, anaesthetics and narcotics; much heavier and more extreme in their action than milder nervines and sedatives, they can drain the nervous system and/or create dependency with excessive or prolonged use. Bitter purgatives to evacuate morbid black bile.
Conclusion: Finding Your Way of Astrotherapy
Many healers have become astrologers, and many astrologers have become healers. I was a healer, an herbalist, before I became an astrologer. Some Medical Astrologers are herbalists, some nutritionists, some homeopathists, bodyworkers, or whatever.
There are no hard and fast rules on exactly how to integrate astrology into your holistic healing practice. It's all based on your own experience and observations of what's true and valid, and what works for you and your clients. You use your own insight, ingenuity and resourcefulness to arrive at a working system.
Perhaps noone said it better than the Eclectic physician H. L. Cornell. On page 502 of his monumental reference work, The Encyclopedia of Medical Astrology, he writes:
"In my years as a physician, I have, by the use of Astrology, been able to very quickly locate the seat of the disease, the cause of the trouble, the time when the patient began to feel uncomfortable, as based on the birth data of the patient, and this without even touching or examining the patient... When once you have discovered the cause of the disease, and understand its philosophy and the relation of the patient to the great Scheme of Nature, the matter of treatment I leave to you, and according to the System and Methods you may be using."