Siddha system is one of the oldest systems of medicine in India . The term Siddha means achievements and Siddhars were saintly persons who achieved results in medicine. Eighteen Siddhars were said to have contributed towards the development of this medical system. Siddha literature is in Tamil and it is practised largely in Tamil speaking part of India and abroad. The Siddha System is largely therapeutic in nature.

The principles and doctrines of this system, both fundamental and applied, have a close similarity to Ayurveda, with specialization in Iatro-chemistry. According to this system the human body is the replica of the universe and so are the food and drugs irrespective of their origin.

Like Ayurveda, this system believes that all objects in the universe including human body are composed of five basic elements namely, earth, water, fire, air and sky. The food, which the human body takes and the drugs it uses are all, made of these five elements. The proportion of the elements present in the drugs vary and their preponderance or otherwise is responsible for certain actions and therapeutic results.

As in Ayurveda, This system also considers the human body as a conglomeration of three humours, seven basic tissues and the waste products of the body such as faeces, urine and sweat. The food is considered to be basic building material of human body which gets processed into humours, body tissues and waste products. The equilibrium of humours is considered as health and its disturbance or imbalance leads to disease or sickness.This system also deals with the concept of salvation in life. The exponents of this system consider achievement of this state is possible by medicines and meditation.

Materia Medica

The system has developed a rich and unique treasure of drug knowledge in which use of metals and minerals is very much advocated. Some idea about the depth of knowledge the system possesses in the field of mineral, materia medica can be formed from the detailed drug classification, briefly described below:

There are 25 varieties of water-soluble inorganic compounds called UPPU. These are different types of alkalis and salts.
There are 64 varieties of mineral drugs that do not dissolve in water but emit, vapours when put in fire. Thirty-two of these are natural and remaining are artificial.

There are Seven drugs that do not dissolve in water but emit vapour on heating. The system has classified separately classes of metals and alloys, which melt when, heated and solidifies on cooling. These include items like gold, silver, copper, tine, lead and iron. These are incinerated by special processes and used in medicine.

There is a group of drugs that exhibit sublimation on heating and includes mercury and its different forms like red sulphide of mercury, mercuric chloride and red oxide of mercury etc. Sulphur, which is insoluble in water, finds a crucial place in Siddha materia medica along with mercury for use in therapeutics and in maintenance of health.The above classification shows detailed knowledge and study of minerals that this system has evolved for treatment. In addition there are drugs obtained from animal sources. The system has published and hand-book on Siddha treatment for common diseases and ailments.

Sulphur, which is insoluble in water, finds a crucial place in Siddha materia medica along with mercury for use in therapeutics and in maintenance of health. The above classification shows detailed knowledge and study of minerals that this system has evolved for treatment. In addition there are drugs obtained from animal sources. The system has published and hand-book on Siddha treatment for common diseases and ailments.

The Siddha system is capable of treating all types of disease other than emergency cases. In general this system is effective in treating all types of skin problems particularly Psoriasis, STD, urinary tract infections, diseases of liver and gastrointestinal tract, general debility, postpartum anaemia, diarrhoea and general fevers in addition to arthritis and allergic disorders.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The diagnosis of diseases involves identifying its causes. Identification of causative factors is through the examination of pulse, urine, eyes, study of voice, color of body, tongue and the status of the digestive system. The system has worked out details procedure of urine examination which includes study of its color, smell, density, quantity and oil drop spreading pattern. It is holistic in approach and the diagnosis involves the study of the person as a whole as well as his disease.

The Siddha System of Medicine emphasizes that medical treatment is oriented not merely to disease but has to take into account the patient, environment, the meteorological consideration, age, sex, race, habits, mental frame, habitat, diet, appetite, physical condition, physiological constitution etc. This means the treatment has to be individualistic, which ensures that mistakes in diagnosis or treatment are minimal.

The Siddha System also deals with the problems affecting the women's health and a lot of formulations are available in the Siddha classics which can counter the problems for a better living. The care for women's health starts from the first day of the girl child. The Siddha System strongly advocates breast feeding upto the first three months of the life. The Siddha System believes in the principle of Food itself is medicine and during this nursing period, lactating mothers are advised to take the food rich in iron, protein and fibre so as to prevent any nutritional disorders both to the child as well as the mothers. Once in 15 days, the mothers are advised to take simple remedies for de -worming so that they may not land up in anaemic conditions.

For any diseases due to infection or otherwise, the treatment is individualistic on examination of that particular patient. Once the girl child attained menarche, the Siddha System has got a variety of preparations which can strengthen her reproductive system so as to deliver a healthy child in future. And also, effective treatments are available to take care of the menopausal syndromes, especially problems related to the hormonal imbalance.

The Siddha System is effective in treating chronic cases of liver, skin diseases especially Psoriasis, rheumatic problems, anaemia, prostate enlargement, bleeding piles and peptic ulcer. The Siddha Medicines which contain mercury, silver, arsenic, lead and sulphur have been found to be effective in treating certain infectious diseases including venereal diseases. Practitioners have claimed that Siddha medicines are effective in reducing the highly debilitating problems that manifest themselves among patients of HIV/AIDS. More research into the efficacy of these medicines is presently in progress.

National Institute of Siddha (NIS), Chennai

The National Institute of Siddha (NIS), Chennai is an autonomous organization under the control of Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. It has been constructed in 14.78 acres of land. This Institute was registered under the societies Act. The Institute conducts Postgraduate courses for Siddha students, provides medical care through this system, conducts research in its various aspects and develops, promotes and propagates this science. This is a leading institute not only in taking the Siddha Medicine, i.e. the Tamil Medicine to the masses and the people of all walks of life, but also in promoting research activities. The Institute has been established by the Government as a joint venture with the Government of Tamil Nadu. The Government of India and the State Government share the capital expenditure in the ratio of 60:40 and the recurring expenditure in the ratio of 75:25. This Institute was dedicated to our nation by our Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh on 3-9-05.

Every year, in this institute, 46 students are admitted and given quality education in six branches of Postgraduate-M.D(Siddha) courses namely, Maruthuvam(General Medicine), Gunapadam (Pharmacology), Sirappu Maruthuvam(Special Medicine), Kuzhanthai Maruthuvam (Pediatrics), Noi Nadal (Siddha Pathology) and Nanju Noolum Maruthuva Neethi Noolum (Toxicology and Medical Jurisprudence). This institute has been approved as a center for awarding Ph.D degree in Siddha by The Tamil Nadu Dr.M.G.R Medical University, Chennai.