Also known as the Traditional Tamil System of Medicine, the Siddha System of Medicine has been widely used in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu since the ancient times. The Siddha system is considered to be the oldest among all the medicine systems worldwide and it is said to have originated between 10,000 B.C. and 4,000 B.C. Archeological evidence as well as textual documents reveal that the remote, ancient Dravidian civilization flourished in the erstwhile Kumarikandam, which eventually submerged in the Indian Ocean. The Siddha System has its origin and thrived in this ancient land and is a contemporary of the ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Greece and Mesopotamian medicine systems.
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The Siddha Medical System is unique in many ways and this is manifested in the fact that it has been offering effective health services to mankind for over 5,000 years. This ancient system is effective in combating various ailments and, at the same time, in sustaining its mental, physical and moral heath. On the contrary, several other medical systems that were contemporaries to it have vanished from the face of the earth long back.
It is interesting to note that the origin of the Siddha Medical System is interwoven with the mythology as well as the culture of the prehistoric Dravidian or Tamil civilization, which existed in the far south of the Indian peninsula. In fact, this ancient medical system predates much of the documented history we have at our disposal today. According to myth, Siddha's origin is ascribed to Lord Shiva, who, it is said, passed on the blessed knowledge to his follower Nandi. On his part, Nandi transmitted the knowledge to the foremost "Siddhars". It is worth mentioning here that Siddha is a Tamil term, the term Siddha has its origin in the word "siddhi", which denotes achieving heavenly bliss or complete perfection in life.
It is said that the Siddha Medical System has emerged in the ancient times from the Siddhars' vastly evolved consciousness. The Siddhars possessed clarity of intelligence coupled with sharp intuition owing to their yogic power, which allowed these great men to look at the world around them and make use of the natural resources for the benefit of mankind. The findings of these Siddhars regarding the attributes of plants, animal products, metals and minerals, their knowledge regarding the drugs' properties, their procession, purification, fixing dosages, toxicity, clinical application and antidote were all conserve properly and as verses for use by later generations.
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This inimitable legacy was handed down to a few chosen disciples, locally known as "chides", simply by word of mouth. It is said that Agasthya was the foremost siddhar and he was succeeded by a linage of 18 siddhars. In fact, a major section of the lore on Siddha has been credited to Agasthya. Over a period of time, people transcribed the oral verses as palm leaf manuscripts and currently they are the most important storehouse of knowledge about this ancient medicine system.
The Siddhars belonging to the Tamil land contributed to the Siddha Medicine System. These learned people were yogis, mystics, seers, devotees, poets and medical men who came from various backgrounds and had various statures. The Siddhars are considered to be super human beings possessing supernatural powers, for instance eight types of Siddhis. In the ancient times, the Siddhars were the greatest scientists and also the protectors of the world. In general, they lived and continue to live only to offer benefits to the public as a whole. These men possessed great wisdom and practical knowledge and were completely aware of the temperament as well as the activities of the entire objects on our planet. They possessed knowledge of all times, including the past, present as well as the future. Primarily, the Siddhars were responsible for the development and growth of not only Tamil medicine, but also for various other sciences that were meant for public utility.
When we talk of Tamil medicine, we refer to alchemy, yoga, medicine, philosophy, kayakalpa (the rejuvenation therapy), astrology, astronomy, muppu, varma, thokkanam and various others.
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As discussed earlier, Siddha is an ancient medicine system having its origin in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Siddha Medicine System is now a major part of the ancient medicine systems prevalent in India, with the other two being Ayurveda and Unani systems. It is believed that Siddha is over 10,000 years old and it is believed to be among the most old-fashioned traditional medicine systems worldwide.
Siddha mainly focused on "Ashtamahasiddhi", or the eight supernatural powers of the universe. People who succeeded in achieving or attaining these supernatural powers were called Siddhars. In all, in the olden days, there were 18 main Siddhars and they worked to develop the Siddha Medicine System. Therefore, this ancient medicine system has been named as Siddha medicine. These 18 Siddhars wrote down their knowledge on palm leaf manuscripts. Some fragments of these ancient manuscripts were discovered in various regions of south India. It is said that some families have more such manuscripts in their possession, but they have retained them solely for their personal use. In fact, the traditional Siddha families still retain a huge collection of such Siddha palm leaf manuscripts even to this day.
Going by the manikandan, in all 22 principal Siddhars existed in the olden days. Among them, it is believed that Agasthya was the father of the Siddha Medicine System. These Siddhars were of the view that it is only possible to develop a healthy soul when one has a healthy body. Consequently, they developed means as well as medication that were supposed to make the body stronger physically, thereby making the soul healthier. All men and women who worked to develop this ancient medicine system were known as Siddhars. These Siddhars continuously practiced severe yogic activities, which included several years of meditation and periodic fasting. It was believed that these helped the Siddhars to attain supernatural powers and gain highest level of wisdom as well as overall immortality. These spiritual measures helped the Siddhars to attain supreme knowledge and this enabled them to write wonderful pieces on various aspects, which ranged from arts to science and even the reality about life to various miracle cures for different ailments.
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The discovery of the palm leaf manuscripts of the Siddhars was responsible for the Siddha Medicine System to develop into an important part of the Indian medical science that is prevalent today. These days, there are several recognized Siddha medical colleges, which are governed by the government universities in India. Young and old are trained in Siddha Medicine System at these medical colleges.
Nearly all people practicing Siddha Medline System are trained traditionally, generally by their own family members adept in this ancient medicine system and also by gurus (teachers). If a guru is also proficient in martial arts and imparts training in this stream, he/ she are also referred to as an ashan. The methods followed by the Siddha medical practitioners have helped to work out various different causes of health disorders and then formulate interesting remedies that may occasionally comprise over 250 ingredients.
In general, the fundamental concept of Siddha Medicine System is the same as that of Ayurveda. However, there is a key difference between the two medicine systems. While Siddha recognizes the prevalence of Pitham, Kabam and Vaadham during one's childhood, adult days and old age, respectively, the matter is completely reversed in Ayurveda, where Kabam is prevalent during childhood, Pitham during adulthood and Vaatham in old age.
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As per the norms of the Siddha Medicine System, a variety of physiological and psychological functions of our body are related to an arrangement of seven different elements, which include ooneer (plasma) in charge of our growth, development as well as nourishment; cheneer (blood) accountable for enhancing intellect, nourishing muscles, and imparting color; oon (muscle) responsible for giving our body appropriate shape; koluppu or kozhuppu (fatty tissue) that helps in maintaining the perfect oil equilibrium as well as keeping the joints lubricated; elumbu (bone) in charge of our body structure as well as posture and movement; elumbu majjai (bone marrow) accountable for blood corpuscles formation in the body; and sukkilam (semen) that is responsible for reproductive activities. As in the case of Ayurveda, Siddha Medicine System also classifies the physiological elements of the human body as Kabam (earth and water), Pitham (fire) and Vaadham (air).
In the Siddha Medicine System, treatment is aimed at ensuring that the three equilibriums remain in harmony and, at the same time, maintaining the seven elements. Therefore, the practitioners recommend an appropriate diet, medicine and controlled life regimen in order to live healthily and restore the equilibrium of the three humors when a person falls ill. According to Saint Thiruvalluvar, there are four requisites for this treatment to be effective and successful. These requisites include the patient, physician, the attendant and medicine. If the physician or practitioner is competent and all the other three agents also possess the required qualities, it is possible to cure severe ailments quite easily, provided the concepts introduced by the Siddhars are followed strictly.
In Siddha Medicine System, it is important to commence the treatment at the earliest after the course as well as the cause of a disease is assessed thoroughly. This ancient medicine system of India classifies all treatments into three different categories - manuda maruthuvum (rational method); devamaruthuvum (divine method) and asura maruthuvum (surgical method). Siddha practitioners use medicines prepared from herbs like kudineer, churanam or vadagam, while medicines like chendooram, parpam, guru, kuligai prepared using sulfur, mercury and pashanams are used in the treatment processes. In the surgical method, Siddha practitioners employ excision, incision, blood-letting also called leech application or heat application.
Going by the different therapies mentioned above, the treatments undertaken by Siddha practitioners can be classified further into a number of sub-categories, which include fasting therapy, purgative therapy, steam therapy, emetic therapy, physical therapy, oleation therapy, blood-letting therapy, yoga therapy and solar therapy.