The Siddha medicinal system is one of the oldest systems of medicine, older than Ayurveda by a couple of centuries. It was the Siddha system that first put forward the adage ‘food as medicine and medicine as food.’ It said man the ‘microcosm’ is the reflection of the ‘macrocosm’ Universe. The simplicity of the system masked its inherent potency and dynamism to effect cure with the help of herbs, minerals, metals and animal products.
This system originated in South India and the texts are in Tamil. The general philosophy of the Siddha system is similar to Ayurveda in almost all aspects. Disease is the imbalance of the three doshas, vata, pitta and kapha. Environment, diet, climate and stress can cause this imbalance. Of the five basic elements earth, water, fire, air and ether, earth and water corresponds to kapha, fire corresponds to pitta and air corresponds to vata.
Diagnosis involves examination of tongue (na), varna (color), swara (voice), kann (eyes), sparisam (touch), malam (stool), siruneer (urine), and naadi (pulse) for disease symptoms.
The treatment regimen strives to reestablish the lost balance. The Siddha system goes a step further and helps maintain the regained equilibrium with the help of lifestyle changes that include diet and disciplined life. The aim of the system is to attain Kaivalya or perfection. For this it has developed the Kayakalpa chikitsa, a discipline for longevity.
The seven elements combine together to contribute to the psychological and physiological functions of the human body. The seven elements are saram (plasma) essential for growth, nourishment and development; next is cheneer (blood) to nourish muscles; third is oon (muscle) that provides the body shape; fourth, kozhuppu (fat tissue) responsible for lubrication of joints; fifth elumbu (bone) for structure, locomotion and posture; sixth moolai (brain) for strength and seventh is sukkilam (semen) for reproduction. Adequate nurture of these seven elements is essential for good health.
The three treatment modalities are namely deva maruthuvam (divine), manuda maruthuvam (human), asura maruthuvam (surgical) methods. The deva maruthuvam makes use of chendooram, parpam, kuligai, pashanams etc in treating a disease. The manuda maruthuvam has within its repertoire churanams, vadagam, kudineer etc obtained from herbs, to treat disease conditions. Asura maruthuvam involves incision, blood letting, leech therapy etc.
This can be further classified into nine categories based on the therapy namely emetic therapy, purgative therapy, steam therapy, fasting, yoga therapy, solar therapy etc.
Siddha remedies were prepared making use of medicinal herbs and shrubs (thavaram), inorganic substances (dhatu) and animal products (janganam). The dhatus are further classified into salts (uppu), pashanam, uparasam, loham (metals), rasam (mercury) and gandhagam (sulfur).
One notable difference between Ayurveda and Siddha systems is in their philosophical outlook on the actions and predominance of the three humors in human life cycle. Ayurveda is of the view that kapha dominates childhood followed by pitta in adulthood and vata in old age. Siddha system holds a diametrically opposite view. It emphasizes the dominance of vatam in childhood followed by pittam in adulthood and kapham in old age.