What is Siddha Medicine? 8 Amazing facts
Since time immemorial the Siddha system of medicine has contributed to mankind through its extensive therapeutic and restorative formulations. The major part of the Siddha medicine system is the inscription of its literatures in the palm leaf manuscripts, stones, etc., which has run through generations and even protected by public institutions like mutts, temples and palace libraries found in Tamil Nadu, India. Thus, the Siddha system has a long history of use that is as old as the Tamil - the first language in the world.
Siddha Medicine is a traditional medical system providing - preventive, promotive, curative, rejuvenate and rehabilitative health care by adopting scientific and holistic approach. The word ‘Siddha’ is derived from the root Tamil word ‘Citti’ meaning attainment of perfection, eternal bliss and accomplishment. Siddha medicine has strong roots reflecting the culture, tradition and heritage of India.
The uniqueness of Siddha medicine lies in its holistic approach -- the physical, mental, social and emotional well-being are fostered and by adopting appropriate lifestyle practices, dietary regimens, safe and effective drugs sourced from the surroundings and therapies specific to this system.
This Article about Siddha medicine by Tamil Desiyam is a collective work of Siddha experts, that will guide the readers an overview of the important aspects of Siddha system and its contemporary relevance. The topics cover the origin and development, the fundamental principles, diagnostic methods, holistic health management, special therapeutic approaches, drugs, research and development, education, practice, etc.
This article will serve as a standard IEC reference material for the general public, inter-disciplinary professionals, stakeholders as well as the upcoming student community of Siddha medicine system.
Tamil Desiyam is well aware of the fact that abundant literature of therapeutics, literary works on philosophy, yogic practices, astrology, etc. does exist and all that reference has been brought into this article.
Evolution of Siddha Medicine
The Siddha system is believed to have evolved from 4000 BC. The Siddha system has evolved into a well-documented medical stream from the ancient medical practices by Siddhars and by way of keen observations and experimentations. In Indian subcontinent, Siddha Medicine has its strong roots reflecting India’s culture, tradition and heritage. With its Tamil origin, Siddha system serves mostly the people living in Southern India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and some of the South-East Asian countries.
The various branches of Siddha medicines are Siddha Pharmacology, Siddha Toxicology, Siddha Pathology, General Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Siddha Paediatrics, Surgery, Dermatology, Ear Nose Throat, Ophthalmology, Psychiatry, Pressure Manipulation Therapy, External Therapy, Geriatrics, Yogam and Rejuvenation.
Siddha medicine formulations are based on food ingredients, spices and medicinal plants have been proven safe. Further many of the inorganic substances such as coral, pearl oyster, conch shell, cowrie shells, mercury, arsenic, gold, copper, zinc, etc. are also used. These inorganics subjected to calcination process are safe in the micro particulate state and in the prescribed dose level.
Concepts Of Siddha Medicine
The Siddha system is comprised essentially of philosophical concepts and also the following four components:
3. Yogic Practices
Concept of Basic Principles - 96 Tattuvam
According to Siddha system human being is constituted by basic principles / tools called as Tattuvam and they are 96 in number. They are considered as a science that deals with basic functions of the human body. These 96 principles include the physical, functional, psychological and intellectual components.
Among the 96 tools, the five elements namely Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space are the fundamental units of everything in the human body and the cosmos. Individually they are subtle components and collectively they perform. These subtle components combine in various proportions to form gross substances. This manifestation is explained as ‘fivefold combination’.
Therefore, from these subtle elements, gross structures like bone, muscle, fat etc. i.e., the physical constituents of human beings develop.
All substances of the Universe including human beings are composed of the five primordial elements, namely Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. There is a balanced condensation / rarefaction / transformation of these elements in different proportions as different structure and function of the human body.
These five elements are responsible for the formation of living and non-living things and they may exist in gross or subtle state. These five elements are individually in subtle state; they manifest into gross state and become visible.
This significant process of manifestation of the five elements from the subtle state to the gross state is called Mutual Intra Inclusion i.e., fusion of five elements in different and appropriate proportions.
These elements act always with mutual co-ordination and never act independently. The physical and functional constituents of human beings are also constituted by these five elements.
According to Siddha medicine, every substance is understood by five characters, which depends upon the elements present in them. They are taste, property, potency, post digestive transformation and unique biological activity or specific pharmacological action.
Three vital life factors and seven physical constituents are also formed by the combination of five elements.
The human body has seven physical constituents. The tissues of the body are the structural where humours are physiological entities derived from different combination of the five elements. The physiological and pathological features of these seven physical constituents have been detailed in Siddha literature.
The seven Physical Constituents are:
1. Nourishing fluid
4. Adipose tissue
6. Nervous system
7. Sperm / Ovum
Three vital life factors
The three vital life factors or functional constituents are formed by the appropriate combination of the five elements even from intra-uterine life. They are three components i.e., vatham, Pittam and Kapam.
vatham - Responsible for movements, respiratory, cardiac and neurologic functions
Pittam - Functions of digestion, blood cell production, maintenance of body temperature, intellect and vision, lustre to the skin. (Sustaining force)
Kapam - Gives strength and stability to the body structures, supports the functions of respiration, appreciation of taste, cooling of eyes, function of digestion, lubricating joints. (Destructive/ Eliminating force)
Siddha system diagnostic method is about identifying the diseases and their causes. The diagnosis made by observing and the methods of diagnosis is divided into three as follows:
1. Examination through the physicians’ sense organs.
2. Examining the patients’ sensory functions.
3. Examination by interrogation.
In Siddha system of Medicine, there are classified eight types of Examination methods which are said to be tools or armamentarium of the Siddha physicians. They are based on both physical and lab diagnosis. They are listed as follows:
1. Siddha way of Pulse examination
2. Touch and palpation
3. Tongue examination
4. Colour, complexion, discolouration etc.
5. Voice examination
6. Eyes examination
7. Stools examination
8. Urine examination
Holistic approach is the highlight of Siddha treatment. Treatment procedures in Siddha help in normalizing the altered vital life factors.
Therapeutic purgation normalizes
Therapeutic emesis normalizes
Therapeutic (instillation of) nasal drops and collyrium normalizes the Aiyam.
There are three types of treatment strategies:
i. Synergistic method
ii. Antagonistic method
iii. Mixed method
To be followed
1. Drink warm water after boiling.
2. Take food twice a day.
3. Take diluted buttermilk and melted clarified butter oil.
4. Take sufficient quantity of Cow’s milk.
5. Always have food to the level of hunger.
6. Always consume well-fermented curd.
7. Practice short walking after food.
8. Have therapeutic emesis once in six months.
9. Have therapeutic purgation once in four months.
10. Instil nasal drops once in 45 days.
11. Take oil bath (applying oil all over the body and scalp and taking bath) once in every four days.
12. Use warm water while taking oil bath.
13. Apply collyrium (medicated eye-liner) once in three days.
14. Lie in the left lateral position while sleeping.
15. Stay away from water splashing from hairs and nails.
16. Worship God, ancestors and teachers (Kuru).
To be avoided
1. Avoid eating root tubers except yam – Typhonium trilobatum.
2. Never consume food that was prepared the previous day i.e., stale food.
3. Don’t drink water during the course of a meal.
4. Never suppress any of the 14 natural urges -- urination, defaecation, etc.
5. Avoid sleep during day time.
6. Avoid excessive sexual indulgence.
7. Avoid sex after consumption of heavy food.
8. Never smell fragrant flowers during midnight.
9. Never lie close to articles emitting dust.
10. Never sleep under a tree or near a burning lamp in the night.
The above instructions when followed judiciously promote longevity.
Mother and Child Healthcare
Maternal and child healthcare are inseparable. Siddha medicine emphasises the care even from the adolescent phase of a girl to have a quality reproductive phase.
During the adolescent period whole grain, black gram, traditional rice varieties are specifically mentioned for women’s health, moong dal porridges, sesame seed recipes and seasonal fruits need to be added to their regular food plan to strengthen the reproductive system.
Customized Siddha dietary schedule is recommended based on the body constitution, season and place of living.
Siddhars like Akattiyar, Teraiyar and Tirumular have significantly contributed to women and child health care in Siddha system. Several Siddha literatures like ‘Akastiyar 2000’, ‘Akattiyar Kunavakadam’ describe the aetiology, pathology, signs and symptoms and management of various gynaecological disorders.
The texts like Atma Iratcamirtam and Jiva Iratcamirtam deal mainly with the diseases of the children and their management.
Siddhars have classified paediatric diseases occurred during intra uterine period and neo natal period. They have mentioned detailed remedial measures also.
Urai Mattirai, a Siddha formulation is an effective immune-booster for children. Special therapies i.e. Varmam, Tokkanam and Yokam are useful in the treatment of neurological diseases like infantile hemiplegia, cerebral palsy and muscular diseases like muscular dystrophy etc.
Siddha Medicine Origin
The classical text Tirumantiram defines medicine is the one that cures physical and mental ailments, prevents diseases and the one that ensures longevity.
Source materials for the preparation of Siddha medicines are obtained from plants, minerals and products of animal origin. ‘Akattiyar Kunavakatam’ and ‘Patartta Kunacintamani’ are the important Siddha texts dealing with the properties of the crude drugs used in single and compound formulations.
The compound drugs consist of polyherbal, herbomineral and mineral preparations. Siddhars were the pioneers in using minerals as therapeutic agents.
In search of medicines that could prevent the body from perishing, Siddhars were naturally attracted by the materials which themselves will not perish.
They evolved the medicine that would postpone the decay of the body and chose minerals and developed inorganic compounds, called Parpam (Calx), Centuram (Calcined red oxide) etc., which were minute particles facilitating easy absorption and assimilation of the drug.
Property of a Siddha Medicine
Kunam means property of a drug. Vayu possesses the properties such as spreading, dryness, mobility and subtleness. Warmth, subtleness, fluidity, swiftness and mobility are the properties of drugs having the element Fire in them.
Coldness, solidity, tenacity and viscosity are the properties of drugs having the Water element.
Potency is the classification of the siddha medicine as Veppam (Hot) and Tatpam (Cold) based on the presence of Fire or Water element in them.
Siddha medicine of Herbal Origin
Among the 6000 species of medicinal plants documented and published in medical and ethno-botanical literatures in India, 750 species are commonly used in Siddha.
Raw Siddha medicine obtained from plant kingdom are used not only in herbal preparations but also in Siddha preparations involving minerals and substances of animal origin.
Siddha medicine of Mineral Origin
Siddha literatures describe 220 minerals. They are studied under the following four headings: Metals, Salts, Mercury and Arsenic compounds and other minerals.
Siddha medicine of Animal Origin
Raw Siddha medicine obtained from animal kingdom are also used in medicinal preparations in Siddha. e.g. Coral, Conch, Horn of deer, Musk, Honey, etc.
Raw medicine obtained from animal, mineral and herbal origin are subjected to purification before they are added in the preparation of medicines. Purification helps in detoxification and enhancing the bio-availability.
Certain special therapies of Varma Kalai therapy techniques such as Pressure Manipulation Therapy (Varma treatment), Physical Manipulation Therapy (Tokkanam), Bone setting (Otivu Murivu Maruthuvam) and Parenteral Administration (Kutori Maruttuvam) reveal the individuality and unique identity of this system.
The science and art of Varma Kalai is largely practised in Southern parts of India especially in Tamil Nadu and South Kerala.
Varma treatment is the pressure manipulation over prescribed Varma points with a particular force for the specified time.
This will regulate the flow of pranic energy, which is obstructed due to assault on these points (Varma points) or due to any other causes.
The basic principle is to normalize the flow of Varma energy. The methods of Varma treatment practiced today can be classified as follows:
1. Energy based treatment
2. Vital air based treatment
3. Nervous system based treatment
4. Bone based treatment
5. Muscle based treatment
6. Internal organ based treatment
The above said treatment procedures are appropriately chosen and carried out by well-trained Varmam experts by using fingers.
If a person get injured in the Varma point and becomes unconscious and if he is not revived within the stipulated time, complications may occur including fatality. Therefore, it is essential to revive (Ilakku Murai) the person with pressure manipulation therapy (Varma treatment) immediately.
Therapeutic benefits of Varma treatment
Varma treatment is mainly useful in the treatment of neuro-musculo-skeletal disorders and joint disorders like:-
1. Cervical spondylosis
2. Lumbar spondylosis
7. Peripheral neuropathy etc.
Research and Development of Siddha medicine
Central Council for Research in Siddha (CCRS)
The Central Council for Research in Siddha (CCRS) after bifurcation from Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS) is functioning since September 2010. CCRS is an autonomous body registered under societies Act in July 2010 under the Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.
The main objectives are:
To formulate the aims and patterns of research on scientific lines in Siddha.
To undertake any research or other related programmes in Siddha.
To initiate, aid, develop and coordinate scientific research in different aspects, fundamental and applied aspects of Siddha and to promote and assist institutions of research for the study of diseases, their prevention, causation and remedy.
To exchange information with other institutions, associations and societies interested in the objects similar to those of the Central Council and especially in observation and study of diseases.
To prepare, print, publish and exhibit any papers, posters, pamphlets, periodicals and books for furtherance of the objects of the Central Council and contribute to such literature.
To undertake R & D Consultancy projects and transfer of patents on drugs and process to industry.
To undertake international and inter-agency collaboration.
To constitute Management Committees consisting of eminent Scientists/Physicians to monitor the R & D activities and suggest remedial measures for the improvement of activities of all Central as well as Research institutes of the Council.
Siddha Central Research Institute, Chennai (CCRS-SCRIC):
Siddha Central Research Institute (SCRI) is identified as a potential centre of excellence for clinical research. This Institute is located in the campus of Anna Government Hospital of Indian systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy at Arumbakkam, Chennai. Central Research Institute for Siddha was established in the year 1971. It has all the facilities for preclinical and clinical studies. Pharmacognosy, phytochemistry, pharmacology, literary research, clinical research, biochemistry, clinical pathology and pharmacy are the various departments functioning under Siddha Central Research Institute. Siddha Central Research Institute is a referral hospital for Psoriasis. It has a 50-bedded research hospital for in-patients.
Siddha Regional Research Institute, Puducherry (CCRS-SRRIP):
The Regional Research Institute for Siddha in Puducherry was established on 22nd August, 1979. This Institute started functioning in its own premises at Kuyavarpalayam since 2003 with a well-maintained campus and picturesque herbal garden with more than 150 medicinal plants. This Institute has various departments like out-patient department, in-patient department, varmam clinic, dispensary, clinical pathology and Bio-Chemistry laboratories and a library. An in-patient department with 25 beds is being utilized for various clinical research projects.
Siddha Regional Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram (CCRS-SRRIT):
During the year 1986, a Clinical Research Unit (Siddha) was established by the then Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS) in a rented building in the Poojappura area of Thiruvananthapuram and functioned there till 2002. Subsequently the unit was merged with Regional Research Institute (Drug Research), Poojappura, Thiruvananthapuram. Geriatric cases are treated in the outpatient department. A new outpatient department for Varmam therapy has been started in SRRI, Thiruvananthapuram and patients suffering from various ailments are being treated by Varmam therapy.
Siddha Clinical Research Institute, New Delhi (CCRS-SCRUND)
The Siddha Clinical Research Unit is functioning since 29th February 2016 in the campus of Ayurveda & Unani Tibbia College, Karol Bagh, New Delhi, in the space provided inside by the Department of AYUSH, Govt. of NCT of Delhi. At present, Out-patient Department (General and Varmam OPD) services, Geriatric OPD and Clinical research activities are being carried out at the Unit.
The Unit is also providing OPD services in the Integrated AYUSH OPD, All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), Sarita Vihar, New Delhi on Fridays and Saturdays.
Siddha Clinical Research Institute, Bengaluru (CCRS-SCRUB)
Siddha Clinical Research Unit (SCRU) started functioning at the campus of Govt. Sri Jayachamarajendra Ayurveda Hospital, Dhanvantri Road, Bengaluru since 25th May, 2017. Specialty treatments like Varmam and Thokkanam therapies for Musculo-skeletal and neurological problems, are available for patients.
Premier Educational Institutions of Siddha medicine in Tamil Nadu are as follows
National Institute of Siddha, Tambaram Sanatorium, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
Government Siddha Medical College, Palayamkottai, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India.
Government Siddha Medical College, Anna Hospital campus, Arumbakkam, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
Ministry of AYUSH, New Delhi
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi