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What is Siddha Medicine?

By Kristin Wood
Updated May 17, 2024
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Siddha medicine is a type of ancient traditional Indian medicine. It has been practiced for thousands of years by the Tamil people. Many scholars teach that Siddha is the oldest known form of medicine. Some practitioners believe that Siddha medicine was delivered to humans from the gods, and some claim that it is a path to immortality.

This form of medicine is part of a trio of Indian medicines that includes Ayurveda and Unani. Siddha medicine is most similar to ayurveda. They both seek to create balance between the three doshas, which are vāta, or wind; pitta, or bile; and kapha, or phlegm. Siddha medicine focuses on diet and lifestyle to both prevent and cure disease. It is a spiritual and physical approach to health, upholding the belief that a healthy spirit leads to a healthy body.

Physicians in Siddha medicine are called Siddhars. Tradition holds that there were 18 original Siddhars. Modern Siddhars can receive professional training in many Indian universities.

The Life of a Siddhar

Siddhars typically are expected to have more than just intellectual knowledge of Siddha medicine; they also are expected to be spiritual leaders. Many Siddhars strive to live spiritual and honest lives and to respect their fellow men and the Earth. These physicians wear only white cloth instead of colored clothing.

The Seven Elements of the Body

Siddha medicine classifies the human body with seven elements. Saram, or plasma, helps the body grow and receive nourishment Cheener, or blood, promotes healthy muscles and brain activity. Ooun, or muscle, forms the body. Internal balance is provided by kollzuppu, or fatty tissue.

Enbu, or bone, creates the structure of the human body and allows for movement. Strength is provided by moolai, which means nerve or brain. Sukila, or semen, is responsible for reproduction. Siddhars believe that all seven elements must be maintained for the body to remain healthy.

Diagnosing and Treating Diseases

Practitioners of Siddha medicine believe that disease is the result of one of the three doshas getting thrown out of its proper proportion. Several factors might disrupt harmony between the doshas. These might include diet, environment, physical activity or stress. When disease is suspected, a Siddhar will observe eight things: the patient's tongue, skin color, voice, eyes, touch, stool, urine and pulse. During each observation, Siddhars look for specific signs of health, which will change depending on the patient's stage of life.

Siddhars might recommend several kinds of treatment when diseases are diagnosed. They could prescribe thavaram, or an herbal product; jangamam, or an animal product; or thathu, which refers to inorganic medicine. Treatments might utilize both internal and external medicines. Siddha uses more minerals, metals and chemicals in its medicine than Ayurveda or Unani. Along with medications, Siddhars might recommend daily yoga, meditation or fasting as methods for fighting off disease.

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Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On May 06, 2011

They say that yoga originated with Siddha medicine as well. The siddhars were apparently able to diagnose and treat many illnesses thousands of years before.

They knew the stages of pregnancy and they made medicines that could be used together. These medicines are said to treat diseases and disorders without side effects.

My mom has to use a lot of medicines and is fed up of dealing with their side effects. Why can't we take advantage of this knowledge found in siddha medicine to make medications?

By fify — On May 05, 2011

@burcinc-- I think siddha medicine might not have become as popular in the West because in my view, it is more of a way of life rather than simply being a treatment option.

The siddhars also live spiritual lives, and even though that may be possible to do outside of India, it might become more difficult. And in order to be a siddhar, they have to be trained by an elder siddhar because it is passed on. So, there might not be so many siddhars in the West for that reason.

By burcinc — On May 03, 2011

Even though siddha medicine is older than ayurveda and has more specialized areas of treatment, ayurveda is much better known in the world.

You can find ayurvedic centers and doctors in many countries outside of India, but siddha practitioners are fewer and unrecognized. But as the article mentioned, there are a lot of similarities between the two. I wonder why the West isn't as interested in siddha as ayurveda.

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