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Siddha, Ancient Tamil and Indian Medicine

Siddha system is one of the oldest systems of medicine in India and originated in Tamil Nadu, India.

The word Siddha means achievements and Siddhars were saintly persons who wrote about the cure for diseases on old palm leaves in the ancient script of Tamil.he script is very difficult to decipher. Eighteen Siddhars were said to have contributed towards the development of this medical system. Since the Siddha literature is in Tamil, it is practiced largely in Tamil Nadu and other Tamil speaking areas in India and abroad.Instead of giving the name of any of individual as the founder of these systems, our ancestors attributed their origin to the creator. According to the tradition it was Shiva who unfolded the knowledge of Siddha system of medicine to his concert Parvati who handed it down to Nandi Deva , who in turn gave the knowledge to the Siddhars. The Siddhars were great scientists in ancient times. The Siddha System is largely therapeutic in nature. Siddha is mainly practiced in the south and Ayurveda is more prevalent in the north.

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.

Ayurveda and Siddha are similar in the principles and doctrines,, both fundamental and applied. According to this system the human body is the replica of the universe and so are the food and drugs irrespective of their origin. Like Ayurveda, Siddha also believes that all 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 body 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 certain actions and therapeutic results..

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

The system has developed a rich and unique treasure of drug knowledge in which use of metals and minerals is very much advocated. Sulphur, which is insoluble in water, finds a crucial place in Siddha materia medica along with mercury for use in therapeutics and in maintenance of health.


The Siddha system is capable of treating all types of disease other than emergency cases. In general this system is effective in treating all types of skin problems particularly Psoriasis, STD, urinary tract infections, diseases of liver and gastro intestinal tract, general debility, postpartum anaemia, diarrhoea and general fevers in addition to arthritis and allergic disorders.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of diseases involve identifying its causes. Identification of causative factors is through the examination of pulse, urine, eyes, study of voice, colour of body, tongue and the status of the digestive system. The system has worked out details procedure of urine examination which includes study of its colour, smell, density, quantity and oil drop spreading pattern. It holistic in approach and the diagnosis involves the study of person as a whole as well as his disease.

The Siddha System of Medicine emphasises 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, physiological constitution etc. This means 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 the 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 of “Food itself is medicine” and during this 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 mothers. 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 attained 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. And also, effective treatments are 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 contains mercury, silver, arsenic, 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 reducing the highly debilitating problems that manifest themselves among patients of HIV/AIDS. More research into the efficacy of these medicines is presently in progress.

Siddha is very effective in the treatment of paralysis. I have personally seen a case of spinal injury to a 16-year old girl—a simple injury sustained at school. Since the nerve near the spine had got dislocated, the girl was unable to walk and had to literally crawl.Two surgeries were performed on her back but there were of no help to her. It was at this time that the brother, on the advice of a police official for whom he was a driver, took her Dr.James at Chennai.The doctor on seeing the girl assured that the girl would walk again after treatment for about three months. The treatment was nothing but a daily massage with an oil specially prepared by the doctor. After three months the girl was able to walk about and even started attending school. Each massage costed just Rs 100.This doctor is one of the best Siddha doctors in Chennai and a very simple man. His fees are very modest and he sources/grows all the herbs/ingredients for his oil/medicine himself. This doctor practices at Kodambakkam, Chennai. Siddha is also very effective in the treatment of celebral palsy and other spastic ailments . After regular siddha massage the symptoms are often under control.

Diabetes is a common chronic ailment for which the patient has to take insulin to maintain the blood sugar level. Siddha tackles this problem differently. It corrects the function of pancreas, stimulating it to produce insulin. In some situations, Siddha will bring about immediate effect, whereas in other cases, results start showing within 24 hours. Once the problem is solved, patient can stop the medication and he will be free from it for his lifetime.

Siddha does not react adversely with allopathy. For e.g., if the patient is on allopathic medicines for diabetes, he can continue that while taking the Siddha Medicine. As the Siddha Medicine rejuvenates his pancreas and starts secreting insulin normally, the allopathic medicine can be stopped.

Siddha can effectively heal wounds, cuts etc. Deep wounds are filled with herbs. The wound heals with regeneration of tissues, without leaving a scar. In cases of bone fractures, the patient is administered herbal extract that will make his whole bone structure spongy. A contoured bed that will support his body properly has to be prepared and the patient made to rest on it. In 24 hours, healing of the fractured site takes place as formation and union of fractured bones is faster in the spongy state. The patient can then walk away from the contoured bed.

Siddha is a boon for chronic ailments like arthritis for which allopathy does not have permanent cure.

It can help in the sex selection of children, even the complexion of the unborn child can be tailored. Preventive measures are also available. If you have a strong family history of heart attacks, you can take medicine to strengthen your heart and guard it against an attack.

At present, there are seven Siddha institutions imparting education in Siddha System of Medicine in the country. Out of the seven, one Siddha Medical College is in the State of Kerala and the rest are in Tamil Nadu. The National Institute of Siddha was recently started in Chennai and draws around 2000 people daily. Varmam, an ancient martial art is still practised in southern most district of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu . It cures ailments through applying pressure on the nerve centres called Varmam Points. It is remarkable in relieving pain.

There is good news for HIV-Positive patients from Siddha.The Lakshmi Seva Sangham in Gandhigram claims to have come with a Siddha formulation to strengthen the immune system of AIDS patients. The medicine in entirely herbal and is called CAN with C standing for Chyavanaprash, A for Amukkara tablets and N for Narasimma Lehiyam.

The main ingredient in Chyavanaprash is the Indian gooseberry called the nellikai in Tamil.It effective in controlling cough, fever and diarrhoea, some of the symptoms of HIV + patients.It prevention multiplication of the virus. Amukkara is effective in treating sterility and prevents water retention in the body. The main ingredient in Narasimma Lehiyam is said to be semecarpus anacardium also known as oriental cashew which has strong anti-viral properties. It helps enhance immunity. It is said that if AIDS patients took the three drugs in the prescribed dosage regularly, immunity is increased and the patient can lead a normal life.The total cost of the drugs comes to Rs 270 per month. Some NGOs are offering the drugs at a subsidized rate of Rs 200.

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