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Siddha - An ancient Tamil Indian healing system

Updated on April 29, 2008

Siddha - An Ancient Tamil Indian healing system


Siddha - An Ancient Indian medical system

Introduction and origin

Siddha system of medicine is one of the oldest medical systems in India . It originated in the state of Tamil Nadu in India . The term Siddha means achievements and Siddhars were saintly people who achieved results in medicine . Eighteen Siddhars were said to have contributed towards the development of this medical system .


According to the ancient Tamil Texts, the original home allotted to mankind by the creator was in the temperate and fertile regions of the East and pointedly in India . It was from here that the human race began its culture and career . According to Indian history prior to Aryans migration, the Dravidians (inhabitants of South India ) were the first inhabitants of India of which the Tamilians were the most prominent . The Tamilians were not only the earliest civilized people but also those who made considerably more progress in civilization than any other early people . The languages of India were divided into two great classes , the northern with Sanskrit as the pre-pondering element and the Southern with Dravidian languages as independent bases .

The science of medicine is of fundamental importance to man's well being . The Siddha system of medicine flourished in the South of India while Ayurveda flourished in the North . It is rather pointless to determine the exact point of time to which the beginning of these systems could be traced . They are eternal , begin with man and end with him . Instead of giving the name of any individual as the founder of these systems, the ancient Indians attributed their origin to the creator . According to tradition , Lord Shiva (a Hindu God) unfolded the knowledge of Siddha system of medicine to his consort Parvati who in turn handed it down to Nandi Deva and the Siddhars . The Siddhars were great scientists in ancient times .

According to tradition, the origin of Siddha system of medicine is attributed to the great Siddha , Ayastiyar . Some of his works are still standard books of medicine and surgery in daily use among the Siddha medical practitioners .

Basic Concepts

The principles and doctrines of this system , both fundamental and applied, have a close similarity to Ayurveda , with specialization in Iatro-Chemistry . According to this the human body is the replica of the Universe and so are the food and drugs irrespective of their origin .

Like Ayurveda this system believes that all the objects in the Universe including human body are composed of five basic elements namely , earth, water, fire, air and sky . The food, which the human takes and the drugs it uses are all, made of these five elements . The proportion of the elements present in the drugs vary and their preponderance or otherwise is responsible for their actions and therapeutic results .

As in Ayurveda, this system also considers the human body as a conglomeration of three humours , seven basic tissues and the waste products of the body such as faeces, urine and sweat . This food is considered to be basic building material of human body which gets processed into humours, body tissues and waste products . The equilibrium of humours is considered as health and its disturbance or imbalance leads to disease or sickness .

This system also deals with the concept of salvation in life . The exponents of this system consider achievement of this state as possible by medicines and meditation .

Materia Medica

The system has developed a rich and unique treasure of drug knowledge in which use of metals and minerals is very much advocated . Some idea of the depth of knowledge the system possesses in the field of mineral, material medica can be formed from the detailed drug classification briefly described below :

1) There are twenty-five varieties of water-soluble inorganic compounds called ‘uppu' . These are different types of alkalies and salts .

2) There are sixty-four varieties of mineral drugs that do not dissolve in water but emit, vapours when put in fire . Thirty-two of these are natural and the remaining are artificial .

3) There are seven drugs that do not dissolve in water but emit vapour on heating

4) The system has classified separately classes of metals and alloys, which melt when , heated and solidifies on cooling . These include items like gold, silver, copper, tin lead and iron . These are incinerated by special processes and used in medicine .

5) There is a group of drugs that exhibit sublimation on heating and includes mercury and its different forms like red sulphide of mercury , mercuric chloride and red oxide of mercury etc .

6) Sulpher , which is insoluble in water, finds a crucial place in material medica along with mercury for use in therapeutics and in maintenance of health .

The above classification shows detailed knowledge and study of minerals that this system has evolved for treatment . In addition there are drugs from animal sources .

Chemistry in Siddha

In Siddha system Chemistry has been found well developed into a science auxiliary to Medicine and Alchemy . It was found useful in the preparation of medicines as well as in the transmutation of basic metals into gold . The knowledge of plants and minerals were of very high order and they were fully acquainted with almost all branches of science . The Siddhars were also aware of several alchemical operations divided into several processes such as - calcinations, sublimations, distillation, fusion, distillation conjunction or combination, congelation , cibation, fermentation , exaltation i.e. the action or process of refining gold , fixation i.e. bringing to the condition of being non-volatile i.e. to the state of resisting action of fire , purification, incineration of metals , liquefaction, extraction and so on .

Even cupellation of gold and silver which is an essential process in alchemy which is claimed to have been discovered by the Arabs was known to the Siddhars long long before .

There were even Polypharmacists and as such were involved in boiling, dissolving, precipitating and coagulating chemical substances . Some of their secret methods especially in fixing and consolidating certain volatile substances that could not resist the action of fire such as Mercury, Sulphur , Opriment , vermilion, arsenic etc . continue to be a mystery .


The Siddha system is capable of treating all type of diseases other than emergency cases . In general this system is useful in treating all type of skin problems particularly Psoriasis, STD, urinary tract infections, diseases of liver and gastrointestinal tract , general debility, postpartum anaemia , diarrhea and general fevers in addition to arthritis and allergic disorders .

Diagnosis and Treatment

The treatment of diseases involves identifying its causes . Identification of causative factors is through the examination of pulse, urine, eyes , study of voice, study of body , tongue and the study of the digestive system .

The Siddha system of medicine emphasizes that medical treatment is oriented not merely to disease but has to take into account the patient environment , the meteorological consideration , age , sex , race, habits, mental frame, habitat, diet, appetite, physical condition , psychological constitution etc. This means that the treatment has to be individualistic , which ensures that mistakes in diagnosis or treatment are minimal .

The Siddha system also deals with the problems affecting women's health and a lot of formulations are available in the Siddha classics which can counter the problems for a better living . The care for women's health starts from the first day of the girl child . The Siddha system strongly advocates breast feeding up to the first three months of the life . The Siddha system believes in the principle, "Food itself is medicine" and during the nursing period, lactating mothers are advised to take the food rich in iron , protein and fibre so as to prevent any nutritional disorders both to the child as well as the mother . Once in 15 days, the mothers are advised to take simple remedies for de-worming so that they may not land up in anaemic conditions .

For any diseases due to infection or otherwise , the treatment is individualistic on examination of that particular patient . Once the girl child attains menarche the Siddha system has got a variety of preparations which can strengthen her reproductive system so as to deliver a healthy child in future . Effective treatments are also available to take care of the menopausal syndromes especially problems related to the hormonal imbalance .

The Siddha system is effective in treating chronic cases of liver, skin diseases especially "psoriasis " , rheumatic problems, anaemia, prostate enlargement , bleeding piles and peptic ulcer . The Siddha medicines which contain Mercury , silver, arcenic , lead and sulphur have been found to be effective in treating certain infectious diseases including venereal diseases . Practitioners have claimed that Siddha medicines are effective in treating the highly debitating problems that manifest themselves in patients of HIV/AIDS. More research into the efficacy of these medicines is currently in progress .


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      Murari, Siddha Varma Practioner, India 3 years ago

      so sad that people do not have awareness about origin Siddha Medical system . it is the mother of all medical system in the world.......The Siddhars were scientists, particularly in their investigations into chemistry, astronomy, plants, human anatomy and physiology.

      They applied their extraordinary powers, developed through intensive yogic practices, to research these areas on atomic and universal levels without the use of sophisticated equipment.

      our great medical system has been over shadowed by other system of medicines..............

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      saty prakash 8 years ago

      truthfully ,tested statements to the best of my knowledge.

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      bhattathiri 9 years ago

      American Justice Dept upheld Indian Yoga and MeditationYour website is beautiful, informative and Excellent.Article by M.P. Bhattathiri, Retired Chief Technical Examiner , to The Govt. of Kerala. Humble request that it may be published in your website and magazine after editing if necessaryIn the storm of life we struggle through myriads of stimuli of pressure, stress, and muti-problems that seek for a solution and answer. We are so suppressed by the routine of this every life style that most of us seem helpless. However, if we look closely to ancient techniques we shall discover the magnificent way to understand and realize the ones around us and mostly ourselves. If only we could stop for a moment and allow this to happen…Let me bow to Indian Maharishi Patanjali with folded hands who helped in removing the impurities of the mind through his writings on Yoga, impurities of speech through his writings on grammar, and impurities of body through his writings on Ayurveda.The American justice Dept. have recently approved the power of yoga and meditation vide a recent judgement in the American court.” Man Who Slapped Wife Sentenced to Yoga, It's Anger Management, Says Judge." First there was house arrest. Now there's yoga. A judge ordered a man convicted of slapping his wife to take a yoga class as part of his one-year probation. "It's part of anger management," County Criminal Court at Law Judge Larry Standley said of the ancient Hindu philosophy of exercise and well-being. "For people who are into it, it really calms them down. " Standley, a former prosecutor, said the case of James Lee Cross was unique. Cross, a 53-year-old car salesman from Tomball, explained that his wife was struggling with a substance abuse problem and that he struck her on New Year's Eve during an argument about her drinking. "He was trying to get a hold of her because she has a problem," Standley said after the court hearing. "I thought this would help him realize that he only has control over himself." The sentence came as a surprise to Cross, who was told to enroll in a class and report back to Standley on his progress. "I'm not very familiar with it," Cross said of yoga. "From what I understand, it may help in a couple ways, not only as far as mentally settling, but maybe a little weight loss." Darla Magee, an instructor at Yoga Body Houston in River Oaks, said she would recommend that Cross take a basic yoga class emphasizing breathing and including a variety of postures -- forward bends, back bends and twists. "Yoga can help us to get rid of many emotional issues we might have," she said. "It's a spiritual cleanse." Prosecutor Lincoln Goodwin agreed to a sentence of probation without jail time because Cross had no significant criminal history which is one of the greatest Indian contribution to the world has got vast potential in all fields. In Tihar jail India Yoga is experimented among the inmates and found successful. Their criminal mentality is changed. This study aimed at investigating the effect of Vipassana Meditation (VM) on Quality of Life (QOL), Subjective Well-Being (SWB), and Criminal Propensity (CP) among inmates of Tihar Jail, Delhi. To this effect the following hypotheses were formulated. 1. There will be a significant positive effect of VM on the QOL of inmates of Tihar jail. 2. VM will have a positive and significant effect on SWB of inmates. 3. Criminal propensity (CP) of inmates will decrease significantly after attending the VM course. 4. There will be significant difference in SWB and CP of experimental (Vipassana) group and control (non-Vipassana) group. 5. Male and female inmates will differ significantly in SWB and CP, as a result of VM. In the famous "Time" magazine the importance meditation and yoga, an ancient Indian system, is high-lighted that the ancient mind- and spirit-enhancing art is becoming increasingly popular and gaining medical legitimacy. It is a multi billion dollar business in US. In many Universities it is accepted as subject and included in the Syllabus. In the latest famous book "Inspire! What Great Leaders Do" written by Mr.Lance Secretan recently published by John Wiley and sons, the benefit of meditation is elaborately described for good corporate governance. By practicing transcendental meditation, or TM, many people have got relief from back pain, neck pain, depression. The mind calms and quiets, . What thoughts you have during meditation become clearer, more focused. Anger, anxiety and worries give way to a peace. In the world exorbitant medical expenses one can definitely make use of meditation. Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Sri Ravi Sankar are popularizing this. The Iyengar Yoga institute in US is famous.In Bhagavad-Gita Gita Lord Krishna has inspired Arjuna to rise from his depression by preaching Gita in the battlefield and to rise from the depression to do his duties. In Holy Gita we can see, being hidden by the cosmic overview of any institution beset with myriad problems, not the least of which is its lack of moral probity, there is a groundswell of educated people seeking answers to deeply personal but universally asked questions. Chie Executives taking lessons from yoga, meditation and learning how to deal with human resources equations in an enlightened manner. Individuals from every walk of life can get ideas of how to be better human beings, more balanced and less stressed out.Medical studies continue to show regular meditation working magic in reducing blood pressure and stress-related illnesses, including heart disease. Brain images show that regular meditation helps calm the most active sensory-assaulted parts of the brain. The ancient Hindu sage Patanjali who had mastered the secrets of the human mind has written a book "Yogasutra".In this book we can see how super powers can be achieved by meditation. It has both cosmic relevance and cosmic resonance. In spite of its universal appeal, for most people total control of mind remains an elusive goal and daunting task. From time immemorial, there have been many attempts throughout the world to unlock the mysteries of the mind and to achieve total control over it through a variety of techniques. One of the most powerful of these techniques is meditation.Many spiritual leaders, sages, saints, and holy people such asSri. Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, Madam Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda have practiced this. One of the ways to control physiological reactions to psychological stimuli is meditation, Yoga, Zen Buddhism etc. The scientists take Transcendental Meditation (TM) as the uniform technique, and base their observations on the study of the subjects engaged in this form of meditation. In summing up the results the scientists have come to conclusion that the effect of meditation is a "wakeful, hypo-metabolic state". They have found that: 1) Yogis could slow both heart rate and rate of respiration, 2) Yogis could slow the rate of metabolism as confirmed by decreased oxygen consumption and carbon-die-oxide output. 3) Electro-Encephala-Gram (EEG - recording of brain activity) in Yogis showed changes of calmness in the form of "alpha rhythm" during both eyes closed and eyes open recordings. 4) Their skin resistance to electric stimulation was increased (indicating increased tolerance to external stimuli). Our usual 'defense-alarm' reaction to emotional and physical stress is in the form of "fright, flight, and fight" mediated through over-secretion of certain n

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      wellness5 9 years ago from Fondi, Italy

      I was very interested to learn that Siddha is very close to Ayurvedic medicine. Thanks for all this information