About the Siddhas

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Siddha medicine is practised in Southern India. The origin of the Tamil language is attributed to the sage Agasthya and the origin of Siddha medicine is also attributed to him. Before the Aryan occupation of the Sind region and the Gangetic plain there existed in the southern India, on the banks of the river Kavery, and Tamirapani, a civilization which was highly organised

(1) This civilization has a system of medicine to deal with problems of sanitation and treatment of diseases. This is the Siddha system of medicine. It is possible that in the course of time this system and the one prevalent in the north supplemented and enriched each other. The therapeutics of Siddha medicines consists mainly of the use of metals and minerals whereas in the earlier Ayurveda texts there is no mention of metals and minerals

(2). From earliest times in Siddha text, there is mention of mercury, sulphur, copper, arsenic and gold used as therapeutic agents. The analogy : if there are one hundred herbal /mineral combination in Ayurveda to cure a disease , Siddha just uses ten herbs/mineral to elicit a similar cure. The Tridosha theory , sapta dhatu physiology and nomenclature of the diseases in the two systems may seem similar. According to Siddha medicine AIDS has been written by the Tamil Siddhars as far back as few thousand years during the ancient prehistoric civilisation of Southern India. Traditionally, it is said there were 18 Siddhas. They left their imprint not only in medicine, but in yoga and philosophy. The Siddhas were essentially Yogis and secondarily physicians.

Fundamental Principles of Siddha medicine
The universe consists of two essential entities, matter and energy. The Siddhas call them Siva (male) and Shakti (female, creation). Matter cannot exist without energy inherent in it and vice versa. The two co-exist and are inseparable. They are the primordial elements Bhutas, not to be confused with modern chemistry. Their names are Munn(solid), Neer (fluid), Thee (radiance), Vayu (gas) and Aakasam (ether). These five elements (Bhutas) are present in every substance, but in different proportions. Earth, water , fire , air and ether are manifestations of these 5 elements .

The human anatomy and physiology, causative factor of diseases, the materials for the treatment and cure of the diseases, the foods for the sustenance of the body, all fall within the five elemental categories (3) .

The human being is made up of these five elements, in different combinations. The physiological function in the body is mediated by three substances (dravayas), which are made up of the five elements. They are Vatham, Pitham, and Karpam. In each and every cell of the body these three doshas co-exist and function harmoniously. The tissues are called dhatus. Vatham is formed by Akasa and Vayu. Vatham controls the nervous actions such as movement, sensation ,etc. Pitham is formed by Thee and controls the metabolic activity of the body, digestion, assimilation, warmth, etc. Kapam is formed by Munn and Neer and controls stability. When their equilibrium is upsets disease sets in. The chart below may help to visualize the different properties. In addition to the influence of the Tridoshas the seasons also affects body constituents as evident in northern and southern India.

The five elements
Munn , Neer, Thee, Vayu, and Aakasam

Tridoshas according to Siddha Medicine
The three doshas may be compared to three pillars that support a structure. From the charts below it can be seen the Tridoshas are involved in all functions of the body, physical, emotional and mental. The bodily activities, voluntary and involuntary are linked to Vatham. Pitham is linked to bodily changes involving destruction/metabolism. All constructive processes are performed by Karpam. They function dependent on each other. They permeate every single structure in the body. The maintenance of the equilibrium is health, disturbance is disease.

Vatham Pitham Karpam
characteristic is dryness, lightness, coldness & motility heat, mover of the nervous force of the body smoothness, firmness, viscidity, heaviness

Formed by Aakasam and Vayu, controls the nervous action that constitute movement, activity, sensation,etc. Vatham predominates in the bone. Formed by Thee, controls the metabolic activity of the body, digestion,warmth, lustre, intellect,assimilation,etc. Pitham predominates in the tissue blood. Formed by munn and Neer,controls the stability of the body such as strength, potency, smooth working of joints. Karpam predominates in other tissues
Vatham predominates in first one third of life when activity, growth ,sharpness of functionof sense,are greater Pitham predominates in the second one third of life Karpam predominates in the last one third of life. Diminishing activity of various organs and limbs
Location-pervades the body (refer to Vayu chart) Location-in alimentary canal from cardiac end of stomach to end of small intestine Location-in chest ,throat, head and joints
-acts as thermostat to the body

The seven tissues (dhatus) one of the three doshas predominate as shown in chart above in third column. The seven dhatus are: Rasa (lymph), Kurudhi(blood), Tasai(muscle), Kozhuppu (adipose tissue), Elumbu(bone), Majjai (marrow) and Sukkilam and Artavam (male and female hormones) (4).

The theory of predominance of the Tridoshas according to age and season varies from that of Ayurveda (see chart). Plus in Ayurveda the experts argue that Vatham predominates in old age as in last one third of life contributing to emaciation, dryness, etc.( as opposed to Karpam in Siddha) but as anyone who has been to north and south India will attest to -the extreme weather in the opposite ends of the country will affects individuals differently. Hence both theories could very well be correct.

Method of Treatment - The treatment for the imbalance of the Tridoshas are made up of the five elements. The drugs are made up of the five elements. By substituting a drug of the same constituents (guna) the equilibrium is restored. The correction of the imbalance is made by substituting the drug which is predominately of the opposite nature. An example is of Vatham imbalance is cold, dry thus the treatment will be oily and warmth. For inactivity of limbs, massage and activity, are prescribed. If Pitham dosha is increased, warmth is produced; to decrease Pitham , sandalwood is administered, internally or externally because of its cold characteristics (5).

Five types of Vayu
Vatham is considered to be the primary dosha because it activates the other two doshas. Vatham is the outcome of the Akasa and Vayu of the Panchamaha Bhutas. The location and functions of the Vayu is not much different from that of Ayurveda.

Prana Apana Samana Vyana Udana
located in mouth and nostrils (inhaled)
- aids ingestion
located at anal extremity (expelled)
-elimination, expulsion
equalizer, aids digestion circulation of blood and nutrients functions in upper respiratory passages

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Siddha Pharmacy
Alchemical ideas dominate Siddha medicine. Although alchemy was not the primary aim of Siddha medicine, they wanted to evolve drugs that could arrest the decay of the body. But this could not be achieved by drugs that which them selves are subject to decay such as drugs of vegetable origin. Thus the preparation of medicines of metal and mineral origin that do not lose their potency with the lapse of time. These medicines can be adminstered in small doses. They are available in all seasons and can be preserved. The Siddhars knew of the occurrence of the metallic compounds, ores, and their knowledge was so advanced that they could prepare them from simpler materials(6). Agasthiyar , Thirumular and Bogar are three of the Siddhars in the lineage of the 18 Siddhars. They have contributed to the preparation to these medicines. As the universe is composed of the five Bhutas so are the medicines. Some of the methods used by the Siddhas still survive under a veil of secrecy. Certain mercury and arsenic compounds are manufactured only in certain families and the methods are a closely guarded secret.


In North America ,mercury based medicines are banned although the dental field still non-chalantly performs mercury amalgam fillings. Most practitioners would caution patients against using some Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Tibetan medicine due to the mercury and lead. This is largely due to ignorance, as the mercury used in these medicines are completely transformed into inert compound or ores (bhasma) through a 18 step process before being prescribed as medicine. (On the other hand it has been proven via X-ray that every time a person with mercury amalgam fillings chew their food they swallow a little of the mercury in their fillings. However the Dental Association keeps on stating it is such minute amounts to warrant health concerns. You be the judge of that).

Mercury occupies a very high place in Siddha medicine. It is used as a catalytic agent in many of its medicines. When mercury is used it is used in combination with sulphur. The addition of sulphur is to control the fluidity of mercury-this converts to mercuric sulphite which is insoluble in mineral acids. Siddhas used 5 forms of mercury. (1) mercury metal-rasam (2) red sulphide of mercury-lingam (3)mercury chloride- veeram (4) mercury subchloride (mercury chloride)-pooram (5) red oxide of mercury-rasa chenduram. Ordinary rasa chenduram (red oxide of mercury) is a poison but when it is processed as Poorna chandrodayam according to Siddha practice, it becomes an ambrosia. Research is necessary to solve such apparent riddles of the transformation of these admittedly poisonous compounds.
Here is a brief summary of the classifications of Siddha medicine (7).
1. Uppu (Lavanam): drugs that dissolve in water and decrepitate when put into fire giving off vapours. (water soluble inorganic compounds). There are 25 varieties and are called kara-charam, salts and alkalis.
2. Pashanam: drugs that do not dissolve in water but give off vapours when put into fire(water insoluble inorganic compounds)
3. Uparasam: drugs that do not dissolve in water (chemicals similar to Pashanam but differing in their actions) such as mica, magnetic iron, antimony, zinc sulphate, iron pyrites, ferrous sulphate.
4. Loham: metals and minerals alloys (water insoluble, melt in fire, solidify on cooling)such as gold, silver copper, iron, tin and lead
5. Rasam: drugs which are soluble, sublime when put in fire, changing into small crystals -mercury amalgams and compounds of mercury, arsenic.
6. Gandhakam:sulphur insoluble in water , burns off when put into fire
7. Ratnas and uparatnas: thirteen varieties are described-coral, lapis-lazli, pearls, diamonds, jade, emerald, ruby, sapphire, opal, vaikrantham, rajavantham, spatikam harin mani.
It is important to know the compatibility of the drugs that produce synergistic effects or antagonistic effects-hence do not self prescribe Siddha medicines.
In Siddha materia medica, metals are divided according to the Bhutas. The Siddha have also given the following proportions of the Bhutas (see second table).

Anatomical division
abdomen -Appu chest- Theyu neck- Vayu head-Akayam
urine-Appu blood-Theyu saliva- Vayu sex hormones-

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Table of Bhutas ( proportion) and metals

Prithvi (1 ½) Appu (1 1/4) Theyu (1) Vayu (3/4) Akayam (½)
gold lead copper iron zinc

It is advised that all pharmaceutical preparation follow these proportion of the Bhutas.
The common preparations of Siddha medicines are, Bhasma (caclined metals and minerals ), churna (powders), Kashaya( decoctions), Lehya (confections ) Ghrita (ghee preparations) and Taila (oil preparations). Siddha have specialized in Chunna (metallic preparations which become alkaline), mezhugu (waxy preparations) and Kattu (preparation that are impervious to water and flames).

The eight methods of diagnosis (sthanas) are nadi (pulse), kan (eyes), swara(voice), sparisam(touch), varna (color), na(tongue), mala (faeces) and neer (urine).

Nadi Vignanam- diagnosis and prognosis by reading of the pulse.
Nadi in Siddha means two things -one is the pulse and the other is the nerves. In Yoga philosophy there are 72,000 nadis or meridians. They take root from the main sushuma , intertwined by the ida and the pingala. These are three most important nerves in the body along the spinal cord. The sushuma resides inside the spinal cord, and ida and pingala cross at the chakra points along spine. Science has yet to locate these three nerves. They are part of the sympathetic nervous system. The pulse is influenced in health or in a disturbed state by the nerves mentioned above and their minute branches all over the body (8).

The following pre-conditions are necessary before taking pulse.
The patients should not have oil on his/her head and the body should not be wet. The pulse should not be taken after a meal, running, any physical exercise, emotional disturbances (anger, joy). The general rule is for males , the right hand pulse is taken , female -left hand pulse. But owing to anatomical variations other places for pulse taking can be used, such as ankle, ear lobes .
The pulse should also be read at different parts of the day according to the season.

( NB: Most of these temperature changes are based on Indian weather . This could vary in other countries.)

April to May, the pulse read at sunrise. June to July. October, and November the pulse should be felt at noon. December , January and February the pulse is read while the sun sets. In March , August and September the pulse is read in the right hand. Due to the disturbance of the doshas by the temperature changes, the normalcy of the pulse is affected.

This is due to the increase and decrease of the doshas in the day (warmth, cold), seasons and atmospheric changes. This increases and decrease will affects the life stream or Jeeva dhatu. At noon the heat of the noon sun increase pitha dosha thus normal pitha pulse will not be felt. In the cold season karpa pulse is increased. In the hot season because of the dryness, the vatha increases and in autumn pitha increase. So these natural seasonal changes will be reflected in the pulse. This is the reason in the hot months (April to May) the pulse should be felt before sunrise. As pulse reading is subjective, evaluation, concentration and experience is valuable.

Vatha increases in morning for 4 hours after sunrise. Pitha for the next 4 hours and karpa in the evening. In earlier part of night vatham increases, pitham during middle of night and karpam at end of night
The place for feeling of this pulse is on the lateral aspect of the right forearm, two centimetres up from the wrist -joint. The index, middle and ring fingers are used to feel the vatham, pitha and karpa nadi in this respective order. An experienced Siddha practioner can read the threedoshas by placing his/her finger on the radial artery. In feling the pulse, the pressure should be on on efinger after another. The pressure alternates, on alternate fingers. The pulse is felt in the order of vatha nadi, pitha nadi and kapa nadi.

Vatha nadi imbalance will indicate flatulence of the abdomen , pain and ache all over the body, difficulty in urination, fever, change in voice, constipation , dry cough, discolouration of skin.
Pitha nadi imbalance will indicate eyes, urine, and faeces become yellowish, burning sensation in the stomach, headache, thirsty, dryness of mouth, confusion, diarrhea.
Kapa nadi imbalance will indicate heaviness of the body and head, sweet taste of tongue, cold to touch, loss of appetite, flatulencem cough with phlegm, m difficulty in breathing.