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Scientific Validation and Technical Evaluation of

Siddha System of Indian Medicine

(Paper presented by Siddha Vaidya P.S.Narasimha swamy, Director-Agasthya Siddha Literature Research Centre, #1495, Krishna murthy Puram, Mysore-570004, Karnataka State, INDIA. Ph: 09845167119, E-mail: swamy_siddha@yahoo.com , web: agasthiaherbal.tripod.com)

 

THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

A scientific theory is not a guess or an approximation but an extensive explanation developed from well-documented and reproducible sets of data derived from experiments, which repeatedly observe natural processes.
It is testable against the empirical world (verifiable) and its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word. Based on scientific data, models are developed and it is important to note that these models are not decided in advance but can be modified and improved as new empirical evidence is uncovered. Science is constantly subject to peer-review and can be seen to be a self-correcting attempt to understand nature and the observable universe. Scientific theories do not start with a conclusion or seek only data that the initial conclusion supports. Further, science does not base its theories on un-testable collections of dogmatic, mythical or mystical proposals but is characterized by questions, hypothetical proposals, and design of empirical models and conceptual frameworks with the aim of researching natural events.

It must be emphasized here that to carry out science it is not always necessary to conduct experiments. Science actually requires that a hypothesis or model is formulated and that it is then tested against observations to determine its validity. And experiments are just one means of generating those observations that the validation of a given hypothesis requires.
It must also be emphasized here that within science many things are not directly observable. No scientist is able to see within the heart of a star or planet, no one has directly observed "black-holes", dinosaurs, gravity or sub-atomic molecules but much data is available concerning these objects and few scientists doubt the validity of such findings.

 

With this background, this paper will now present the case of the Siddha medicine as a system based on sound principles of ancient Indian science and always open for validation and evaluation by tools and techniques of contemporary science and technology. The paper begins with an overview of the system highlighting all its essential aspects.

 


HISTORY

SIDDHA is one of the oldest medical systems of India, founded and devoloped by 18 Siddhars (saints) headed by AGASTHYA SIDDHA and dated to 400-300 B.C. The word “Siddha” means ‘ever sure’, ‘ever lasting’, ‘conquering death’ and so on. Siddhar is one who attains ‘Kaya Siddhi’ (protection of one’s constitution for the attainment of health and happiness). Although Siddha system declined in later years, in the wake of changing mode of life and modern medicine, it continues to sustain its influence on the masses because of its incomparable intrinsic merits. Its increasing popularity in India and abroad speaks volumes for its ever-lasting efficacy. 


                                              Agasthya siddhar

                          - The founder of Siddha System of medicine

                                        

 

Siddha system considers body as made of five elements (earth, water, fire, wind and ether) which are the fundamental principles of creation, protection and destruction. The treatment for ailments is based on Tridosha (Vatha, Pitha and Kapha) theory. Diagnosis is through pulse reading and recording of detailed history of the ailment, environmental factors, food habits, state of mind, etc.  and medication is prepared and administered based on these individual factors. The system is famous for its broad pharmaceutical base involving vegetable herbs (1008 varieties), piosons (64 varieties), salts (28varieties), metals (9 kinds) and other organic products. The characteristic feature of Siddha medicine is metallic and mineral base which was later incorporated into the Ayurvedic Materia Medica.

 

An astounding fact about Siddha medicine is that although no microscope ever existed during the Siddha period, leave alone sophisticated labs, Siddhars were able to classify and highlight the therapeutic benefits of more than 6000 herbs. This was probably due to their yogic and spiritual powers or intutive intelligence. Or maybe they had developed capabilities to directly receive clues from various creations of nature. 

 
siddha medicine preparation-the traditional way

 

 

The approach of Siddhars was holistic and not disease-specific, and prominence was given to preventive rather than curative aspects and respiration rather than circulation.

 

CLUES GIVEN OUT BY PLANTS

 

Similarities in the shape of the  plant part and the human organ

      Brain shaped leaves of  ‘centella asiatica’ and brain shaped kernel of ‘walnut’ are considered as brain tonic.

      Heart shaped leaves of ‘tinospora cordifolia’ for heart disorders.

      The human genital shaped seeds of ‘citrus colocynthus’for impotency.

      The hairy plant of ‘arnebia benthami’ as hair tonic.

Similarities between plant parts and medical conditions

      The serpentine roots of ‘rawolfia serpentina’ for snake bites.

      White juice-yielding tubers of ‘asperagus recimosis’ for lactation.

      Jointed stem of ‘cissus quadrangularis for fractures.

Similarities between plant properties and medical conditions

      The horse-urine-smell emitting  ‘withania somnifera’, for general virility.

      The leaves of ‘gymnema sylvestrae’ which temporarily paralyses the sweet sensing taste buds on the tongue, for diabetes.

Similarities between plant part colour and medical condition

      Fair coloured ‘turmeric’, ‘sandal’, and ‘kesar’ for fair complexion.

      Red coloured ‘aloe vera’ for red discharge.

      White coloured ‘hibiscus’ for white discharge.

      Red dye yeilding ‘rubia cordifolia’ for blood purification.

      White coloured seeds of ‘abrus precatorius’ for leucoderma.

GUIDELINES FOR SIDDHA VAIDYAS

A Siddha physician should

1. Go for the herbal collection personally and should not entrust the job to others.

2. Be well versed with the preparation and purification processes.

3. Prepare medicines according to individual needs.

4. Know the proper ‘anupanam’ (vehicle) through which the medicine is administered.

5. Pluck the plants only on the specifid days as mentioned in the ancient scripts.

6 .Use roots plunging towards north direction only as such roots have more medicinal value.

7.Not be greedy and help patients who are in distress.

8. Offer a prayer to Mother Earth before uprooting a plant.

 

DIGNOSTIC PROCEDURES

There are eight kinds of diagnostic procedures in Siddha practice to aid better understanding and treatment of the ailment as desribed below:

 

1. Pulse reading: Balanced Vatha pulse, Pitha pulse and Kapha pulse will be like the walk of a hen, tortoise and frog respectively.

2. Urine test: Upon adding a drop of sesame oil to the urine collected in a mud pot, if the oil floats like a thread, it is Vatha domination, if the oil floats as a round ring it is Pitha domination and if the oil spreads, it is Kapha domination.

3. Eyes: Eyes look dry in Vatha, yellowish in Pitha and watery in Kapha.

4. Feacal test: If the stools float on water it indicates good digestion, absorption and assimilation, and if it sinks the diagnosis is otherwise.

5. Voice: Hoarseness indicates Kapha and low tone Pitha.

6. Touch: If the body is cold it is Vatha, if it is hot it is Pitha and if it is sweating it is Kapha

7. Colour: Skin looks pale in Kapha and rough  in Vatha, skin and hair split in Pitha.

8. Tongue: Cold and hard is Vatha, red or yellow is Pitha and white and sticky is Kapha

 

COLLECTION OF HERBS AND PREPARATION OF MEDICINE

Right from collection of herbs to the preparation of medicine, Siddhars have laid down certain guidelines, which when followed strictly can lead to the purest and most potent end-products with virtually no side effects. For instance, usage of mechanical devices in place of pestle and mortar, and commercial-scale and season-insensitive plucking of plants have led to distortion of the efficacy of the end products and extinction of rare medicinal flora. Such aspects that go against the ancient prinicples need to be scientifically investigated now.

 

                  

                     A siddha vaidya should personally do the collection of herbs

 

 

 

 



MINERAL AND METALLIC PREPARATIONS

These are the byproducts of Siddhars’ alchemy practices and the details are found in their treatise called “Rasa Sasthiram. With their vast knowledge of the vegetable, animal and mineral kingdoms, Siddhars made the best use of these byproducts termed as ‘parpam’ (bhasma) and ‘chendooram’ (sindhoora). Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, sulphur, silver, gold and copper were converted to ‘ashes’ by ‘sand bath’, ‘puta’ and similar other specialized processes. The metallic contents of the bhasma are ‘killed’by these processes and the bhasma is potentiated by some herbal extracts and juices which can help preservation up to 100 years or even more without loss of its potency. Thus the therapeutic powers of some seasonal herbs which are not readily available throughout the year are also preserved during the making of metallic and mineral preparations. After preparation, the bhasma was subjected to range of potency tests and even if a small quantity of metallic content was found in the end product, the whole process used to be repeated several times to arrive at the finished product in colloidal form with no metal toxicity to the human system.

                                            

                                                                    

a copper wire and copper bhasma  The ‘puta’ system of making metallic ashes

 

             Burning process in the preparation of a Siddha metallic preparation

 

  

A MAJOR SOURCE BOOK

 

Late Dr.K.M.Nadakarni (India) made a great contribution to herbal science through his monumental work “Indian Materia Medica” with Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha, Homeo, Naturopathic and Home remedy appendices and indexes. The botonical identity, action and uses in Indian systems of medicine and homeopathy, the details of parts used, and the constituents, uses, essential acids and alkaloids of more than 2600 plants are studied and documented in this book. Similar details are also given for 58 minerals and 130 animal origin ingredients. This was done through extensive research and systematic experimentation and fieldwork. The contents of this book open up exciting opportunities for scientific and technical studies in Siddha medicine.

 

EXCITING POSSIBILITIES AHEAD

 

In conclusion, it must be said that Siddha medicine offers exciting avenues for investigations in the light of modern science and technology. Such investigations can lead to significant breakthroughs not just in herbal pharmaceuticals, but in conceptual and practical knowledge as well, with far-reaching benefits for the existing system of healthcare as a whole. But such investigative studies must necessarily be multidisciplinary, with full involvement of scholars in ancient Tamil scriptures, veteran Siddha Vaidyas, and tribal folks with knowledge of fieldwork, historians and several other members of the Siddha medical community at the local level. Exploration of the goldmine of Siddha knowledge and wisdom is certainly worth substantial investments of human and financial resources.

 

References:

1.Dr.K.M.Nadakarni’s Indian Meteria Medica (1954)

2. Siddhar padalgal (collection)

3.Nam nattu siddhargal by Dr.Manickavasagam

4.Agasthyar kandam.

5.Vadavaidyathukku adi by Sri. Balaramaiah

6.Medicinal plants of India by ICMR

7.Siddha Medicine an overview by Prof.B.V.Subbarayappa

8.Tolkappiyam (collection)

9.Padinen Siddhargal Vaidya Sara sangraham (collection)

10.Herbal Heritage, Vol.4, 5, and 8 by Dr. P.S. Narasimhaswamy

11.photos: personal album of the author

     and courtesy of .The Hindu’ folio dt.22nd oct.2000