Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
Bhuta, cittar, dosha, Kapham, Pitham, siddhars, siddhas, tridoshas, Vatham.
Siddha is a system of medicine that focuses on keeping the body's many systems working in harmony, and is popular in Southern India. Although Siddha has many similarities with the Northern Indian healing system of Ayurveda, Siddha developed in Southern India and has unique diagnostic and therapeutic techniques.
Siddha is derived from the word and supernatural power "Siddhi," a concept with origins in Hinduism, which means the ability to achieve physical and spiritual perfection and heavenly bliss.
Siddha was developed by the ancient Tamils who were locally called the Cittars. These spiritual leaders developed a system of personal and spiritual improvement, which eventually evolved into a system of medicine. This system of physical and spiritual yogic awareness as well as its associated practices for self-improvement became known as the "Siddha System." Some of the palm leaves that were originally used for recording this system of medicine have been excavated in Southern India. It is believed that many of these fragments were also passed down through family generations and held protectively.
The individuals who diagnose and treat patients in this system of medicine are known as Siddhars who aim to bring the body into a state of perfection through meditation, breathing exercises, and treatment with certain herbal formulas. Through these practices, as well as other unique treatments, it is thought that Siddhars may become immortal.
Siddha is most popularly practiced in the Tamil speaking part of Southern India. The government of India regulates the medical practice of this medicine, and the country has medical schools dedicated to training future siddhars in the practice.
Some of the herbs used in Siddha are under clinical investigation for their possible use in a variety of applications, such as treatments for diabetes and cancer.
A patient evaluation involves eight methods of diagnosis, each of which involves examining a different part of the body or its excretions. An intake from a Siddha practitioner will typically be very different from an appointment at a conventional doctor's office. Regardless of the patient's condition, the practitioner will take a stool and urine sample. The patient's tongue is also usually visually inspected. The practitioner then feels the patient's pulse, but does not count the number of beats per minute; rather, the quality of the pulse provides clues as to a patient's condition. The eyes, voice, skin color, and body sensitivity are all evaluated as well.
In many cases, the practitioner gives advice on lifestyle modifications, including breathing techniques, meditation, and eating patterns, as part of the prescribed regimen for healing.
Smoking and consuming alcohol are considered unhealthy by Siddha practitioners because they are thought to potentially cause imbalances in the body. Consuming chilies, teas, and coffee is also discouraged.
A variety of herbal and other formulary preparations may be given as a part of treatment. Even in contemporary times, the exact contents of many of these preparations are closely guarded family secrets, and only a few people know how to manufacture them. Plants, parts of animals, and even some metals may be integrated into the treatment. Metals are in most of the medications given in Siddha. These medications may contain gold, silver, and mercury. A risk benefit analysis of using these metals to treat medical conditions is not available at this time.
In addition to medications, methods classified as surgery may be performed. These methods include creating incisions and putting herbs in wounds, excising tissue, blood letting, and the application of leeches.
Physiotherapy may also be part of the treatment regimen. A variety of medicated oils may be heated and applied or rubbed onto the body. Patients may also take an herbal steam bath, or they may have heat packs or poultices applied. Some specialized forms of massage may be used as well.
In the Siddha system of medicine, recovery from illness is thought to occur only after dedication from the patient in following the proper choice of treatment chosen by the practitioner.
Siddhars believe that lifestyle modification and yogic practices, such as breathing exercises and medication, are crucial to a healthy soul. Further, they believe that a healthy body can only occur if the soul is also healthy. In some parts of Southern India, it is believed that a Siddha practitioner may become immortal by strengthening the physical body and therefore their souls. It is considered possible to eliminate all disease and become immortal if one adheres to the principles of Siddha because one is reincarnated over many lifetimes.
The universe is considered to be made of different combinations of five primordial elements (bhutas). They are defined as earth (solid), water (fluid), fire (radiance), air (gas), and ether. Everything in the universe is considered a manifestation of different combinations of these elements and their interactions. The five elements are thought to create the human form, and the human body is considered to be a microcosm of the universe.
Organs, bodily processes, colors, and voice tones are just a few of the aspects of the body that are considered to be associated with a particular element. Further, any of the eight signs used in evaluation of a patient are thought to manifest the state of interactions between the elements in the body.
The bhutas purportedly combine into three doshas, known as Vatham, Pitham, and Kapham, which are also called tridoshas. The doshas are considered the three elemental forces in the body. Space and air form Vatham; Pitham is present as fire; and water and earth form Kapham. Voluntary as well as involuntary bodily activities are related to Vatham. Changes in the body linked to destruction and metabolism are related to Pitham. Karpam performs all of the constructive processes, such as growing, in the body. The three doshas are believed to rely on one another to keep the five elements interacting smoothly and in proper proportions. It is thought that if the five elements do not exist and interact in the proper ratios, then illness may result in the body. Maintenance of the doshas is considered a state of health, while the disturbance of this balance is considered to be a state of disease.
According to the theory of predominance, the interactions of elements are believed to change somewhat according to the season. In the human body, these changes are thought to appear as slight behavioral or gastrointestinal changes that occur in a yearly cycle.
Of the eight methods of diagnosis, it is thought that the most important means of evaluating a patient is by urine examination. The urine is considered to result from all of the processes of the body working together to create an excretion. Thus, the color, odor, cloudiness, sedimentation, and other features of urine are believed to tell the physician how all of the body functions are working in harmony or disharmony. Palpation of the pulse at the wrist, touching various parts of the body, as well as visual inspection of skin color, the tongue, eyes, and feces are also considered clues to the patient's health state.
Treatment occurs by using a drug that is in the same category of five elements causing the problem. Alternatively, the purported correction in the patient's energy balance may take place by using a drug of the opposite nature as the element that is considered the primary source of the problem. Thus, if one element in the body is overacting, a patient may take that element's counterbalance, in order to offset the overacting element.
The body is considered to have ten vital points. Thus, the energy of interacting elements may also be influenced by performing various procedures at these bodily sites.
Patients who choose Siddha medicine should alert their practitioner to any and all allergies prior to ingesting any formula or having any type of herb, formula, or mixture applied on the skin.
Patients should not use Siddha as the sole therapy for serious medical conditions.
Some Siddha formulations may contain mercury.
There is a risk of transmitting blood-borne diseases if cuttings performed as a part of surgical treatment are not done with sterilized instruments.
This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017