Siddha medicine

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Against allopathy
Alternative medicine
Clinically unproven

Siddha medicine is a form of traditional medicine originating in South India, chiefly in Tamil Nadu. It is one of the oldest systems of medicine in India.

It's the 'S' in the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) of the Government of India. Tamil Nadu state runs a 5½-year course in Siddha medicine, the degree of Bachelor in Siddha Medicine and Surgery (BSMS).[1]

Siddha shares a lot of principles from Ayurveda, such as the idea that the human body (and the universe) comprises the five primordial elements, or Panchabootham (earth, water, fire, air and space). It proceeds to explain how udal thathukkal (physical constituents) are made up of these primordial elements, e.g., senneer (blood; lit: red water) is made up of fire and water, and kozhuppu (fat) is made up of water and earth. The Siddha system is based on the 96 thathuvangal (basic principles). [2]


According to tradition, it was the Hindu god Shiva who unfolded the knowledge of the Siddha system of medicine to his consort Parvati who handed it down to Nandhidevar, and he in turn to the 18 siddhars. Regardless of this divine nature, Siddhar Agasthyar is considered the founding father of this medical system, and those 18 prominent siddhars are the main contributors to this system of medicine. The original texts and treatises for Siddha are written in the Tamil language (a Dravidian language), setting it apart from Ayurveda, which were written in Sanskrit (an Indo-European language). The knowledge of Siddhars, which was orally transmitted initially, was later written in palm-leaf manuscripts, fragments of which are found in many parts of South India.[3][4]

Concept of disease and causes[edit]

The muthodam-uyirthaadhu (synonymous with tridosha of Ayurveda) comprises of vali (vatham - airy), azhal (pitham - fiery), and aiyam (kabam - watery/cool). Siddha views disease as a condition caused when the normal equilibrium of these three humors is disturbed.[5] The expected ratio of vatha, pitha, and kapha for a healthy person is 4:2:1.[6]

Contrast from Ayurveda[edit]

Functions of vatham, pitham and kabam in siddha are creation, protection and destruction, respectively, whereas in Ayurveda, they are vice versa. Also, in the siddha system, the predominant humour during childhood, middle age and old age are vatham, pitham and kabam, whereas in Ayurveda, it is vice versa.[4]


The treatment options are very similar to that of Ayurveda. Siddha medicine is characterized by the usage of thavaram (herbal product), thadhu (inorganic substances) and jangamam (animal products).[7] Also, in classic alternative medicine style, diet and lifestyle are believed to be the cause of all diseases.

Approach to diseases[edit]

Like every other alternative medicine system, Siddha has a twisted explanation of how otherwise well-understoon diseases work and how to "cure" them.

Rheumatoid arthritis[edit]

Rheumatoid arthritis, according to Siddha, is caused by derangement of vatha and pitha humours. Treatment options include various herbs (none of which have any high-quality evidence to support their use) and leech therapy.[8]

Diabetes mellitus[edit]

The cause of the disease, according to Siddha, is mainly attributed to the unhealthy lifestyle of a person. The main factors that do find mention in Siddha text are excessive indulgence in sex, overeating, laziness, mental stress, giving too much importance to material possessions, sedentary lifestyle, heredity, and high intake of ghee, milk, alcoholic beverages, meat and fish and food with a sweet taste.[9]


According to siddhars, jaundice is caused by excessive intake of food and activity, which leads to an increase of pitham, resulting in the destruction of seneer (blood). This happens because the excessive accumulation of pitham causes the pitha neer (probably bile) to mix with blood and stagnate in body tissues and other parts of the body like skin, eyes, tongue etc. The treatment, as usual, include a list of medicinal plants, none of which have been shown to "cure" jaundice.[10]

See also[edit]