Toxicology in Siddha

Toxicology in Siddha

Toxicology is another important subject that is dealt with in depth by siddhars, the founding fathers of siddha medicine. Mention of antidotes against different kinds of poisons is found vastly dispersed in siddha texts. This is also considered to be a very important subject in which adequate knowledge is expected to be acquired by a siddha student or practitioner unless which he/she cannot be successful in his/her profession. It is because according to siddha philosophy everything found in nature has good and bad qualities (nalvinai and theevinai). This applies to both living (which has anma) and non living things (sada porul). Therefore when any matter in nature has to be utilized for medicine, the properties which may cause bad effects should be neutralised or eliminated. This is why any raw drug before taken for preparation of medicines undergoes purification (suthi murai) in appropriate procedure given in the texts. Also, if in case adverse reactions to medicines occur (particularly medicines prepared from metals and arsenics) suitable antidote should be given to the patient. In addition to this there are also considerable details about poisoning due to poisonous plants; poisonous reptiles bite etc, signs and symptoms of poisoning, antidotes to be used, therapy etc. Even some common food substances when taken in excess quantity produces adverse reactions in the body which is also considered a type of poisoning and antidotes to normalize them are recommended. Toxicology in siddha deals mainly with the following poisons and their remedies.

1.      Food poisons

2.      Plant poisons

3.      Chemical poisons

4.      Animal poisons

 Food poisons

Excessive ingestion of food substances like milk, ghee, rice etc produces effects like indigestion, abdominal pain, flatulence, constipation or diarrhoea and burning sensation in chest. Few food substances and there antidotes are given below.

Food substance


Cooked rice                                                        

Boiled water with cumin seeds



Ground nut

Sugar cane and palm jiggery



Jack fruit

Decoction of tobacco leaves


Coriander leaves and ghee


Pepper, milk, ghee


Poisoning due to plants


Plants and plant products can cause poisoning either because of consumption due to non awareness of its poisonous effect or for suicidal reasons. Even all plants that are used for medicinal purpose are also purified for removing the toxins present by appropriate method before their administration as a single drug or their addition in to compound preparations. For example the seed should be removed in dried fruit of kadukkai (Ink nut –Terminalia chebula) whereas for chukku (dried ginger) the skin should be removed before therapeutic use. Non removal of these toxic parts by suitable methods mentioned in siddha texts, not only is said to produce adverse reactions, but also considered to decrease the efficacy of the drug.

A glimpse of the tabulation below about few plants with the poisonous symptoms they produce and antidote used will give an idea about the significant way in which toxicology has been dealt by the siddhars even before modern scientific advancements.




Kuntrimani (Abrus precatorious)


vomitting, diarrhea, giddiness, burning sensation in stomach, abdominal pain, indigestion

2 gms of venkaram (Borax) fried and mixed with hot water is given

Ilavampisin(excessive consumption of gum of Bombax malbaricum)

Constipation, flatulence, urinary retention, fever

10 gms of sivanar vembu (Indigofera aspalathoides) ground with hot water and given for two times three to five days

Erukku (Calotropis gigantea) milk

Ulceration in mouth and stomach, vomiting, diarrhoea

4 gms of sesame seeds mixed with sugar (or) Leaves of cotton tree groud with vinegar about the size of betel nut (or) one tea spoon of turmeric mixed with castor oil

Nervalam (Croton tigilum) seeds

Nausea , vomiting, diarrhoea, ulceration in stomach, excessive salivation, severe pain in eye balls, fainting, tiredness, sweating, dimness of eyesight, dyspnoea, loss of taste etc.

Ash of vasambu (Acorus calamus) and ash of pulp of tamarind added to 325ml of water and boiled till it is reduced to 160 ml and given 40 ml two hourly (or) 10 gm of cumin seeds fried with honey and then added with 650 ml water and boiled till it is reduced to half and given 80 ml 4 to 5 times a day

Serankottai (nut of Semicarpus anacardium)

Ulceration in mouth and stomach and intestines, vomiting , diarrhoea, swelling of whole body and even death

Leaves of tamarind tree mixed with eight times of its quantity water and an outer skin removed tender coconut is added to this and boiled and the boiled coconut and water are consumed.

Umathai (Datura fastuosa)

Delirium, giddiness, dry throat, fainting, diminished eyesight, loss of orientation, mental confusion, abdominal distension and even death. Pupils become dilated.

Root bark of neeli (Indigofera) ground in sour water is given to induce vomiting, and then azhingil (Alangiun salvifolinium) ground in lemon juice / tuber of lotus ground in sour water is given.


In addition to specific antidotes like these many general antidotes such as pepper decoction are advised for treating any kind of poisoning of plant origin.

Chemical poisons

This is another important kind which is dealt with much significance because of the broad use of metals, minerals and arsenic compounds like mercury, mercuric chloride, calomel, red oxide of mercury, sulphur, arsenic penta-sulphide, copper, lead, mica etc in siddha system of medicine. These compounds can cause harmful effects when they are added in medicines without undergoing through proper purification process or when they are taken in doses exceeding their limits. Some antidotes are given below

Rasam (Mercury)

1.      Leaf  juice of mutchangan (Azima tetracantha) or mithi pagal (Momordica charanta) is give 80 ml two times for three days

2.      Root bark of avuri (Indigofera tinctorea) is ground with hot water and given twice the size of fruit of Solanum pubescens, twice a day for three days.

3.      Thulasi decoction prepared from 10 gms of thulasi (Ocimum sanctum) and 10gms of skin removed chukku (dried ginger) with dissolved 5 gms of  pottiluppu (Nitrate of potash) is given twice daily for 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 days.

4.      Decoction of avarai bark (Cassia auriculata) is also found to be effective.

Veeram (Mercuric chloride)

1.      20 ml of extract of nerunjil (Tribulus terrestris) two times a day.

2.      Decoction of /or ground with water neeli (Indigofera tinctoria) root bark is given twice daily.

3.      Juice of neichattikeerai (Vernonia cinera) is given twice daily

4.      Toddy of coconut tree.

5.      White of hen’s egg with tender coconut water or milk.


Pooram (Calomel)

1.      Juice of thulasi (ocimum sanctum) leaves or castor oil or pagal (Momordica charantia) leaf juice, twice a day.

2.      Avuri (Indigofera tinctoria) root bark in hot water, the size of fruit of chundai (Solanum pubescens) twice daily.

Lingam (Cinnabar)

Decoction made from jathikai (nutmeg), valmilagu (cupeba) and root bark of chemparuthi (Hibiscus rosasinensis) is given with dissolved sugarcandy in it.

Gandagam (Sulphur)

1.      Decoction made from avarai (Cassia auriculata), root of thaivelai (Gynandropsis), root of neeli (Indigofera tinctoria), chukku (dried ginger), leaves of paruthi (cotton) and sirunagapoo (Mesua ferrea).

2.      Decoction made from milagu (pepper), root of neeli (Indigofera tinctoria), and cumin seeds.

Generally for toxic effects produced due to overdose of metallo arsenic preparations like parpam chenduram drugs, arugampul (Cynodon dactylon ) preparation is advocated.

Animal poisons

Bite of poisonous snakes, animals like fox, dog, monkey, cat ant tiger and reptiles are also dealt with in detail starting from the identification of the organism by the symptoms produced, virulence of the poison to their treatment with specific antidotes.

Different stages of virulence of poison, especially ten are mentioned especially for snake bites depending on the symptoms produced, as tabulated below in brief.





Irritation/numbness in bitten part and whole body, cyanosis of face and redness of eyes

Nasal application


Tingling sensation/numbness in hands and legs, sweating, burning micturition, palpitation and body tremors, pale face.

Nasal application and application of medicated coat all over body


Vomiting, tremor of head, eyes becoming fixed/drooping of eye lids, perspiration.

Nasal application


Murmurs in chest, nausea, fatigue, diarrhoea, frequent urination

Nasal application and oral administration of mango leaves and pepper soaked in vinegar


Fainting, fever with chills, cyanosis of face and eyes, fatigue

Nasal application


Loss of intelligence, tongue tending to stick against the roof of the mouth, tingling sensation/ numbness all over the body, teeth grinding.

Nasal application


Speechlessness, lack of intelligence, amnesia, feeling dread/ shock, unconsciousness

Nasal application


Dread feeling/ shock, hiccups, dyspnoea, fixing of eye balls/ drooping of eye lids , feeling like dying

Nasal application


Unconsciousness , loss of vital functions

Application of medicated drops in eyes, ears and nose


Diminished vision , cyanosis of eyes , poisoning of udal thahukkal (physical constituents) leading to death

Nasal application


In treatment of poisoning due to snake bites, parenteral routes like kalikkam (eye application), nasiyam (instillation of nasal drops), nasikaparnam (application of nasal powders), pugai (fumigation) etc are used more common than oral route. Few examples are,

Kalikkam (eye Drops/collyrium):

 Perunkayam (asafoetida), Aritharam(yellow  Orpiment),  Venkaram (borax),  Gandagam (sulphur),  Induppu(rock  salt),  valarasam(mercury)  and kadugu (mustard  seed) purified and and taken in equal quantities and ground with  Pei Peerku (Luffa amera) juice, put as collyrium around the eyes of the victim.

Similarly Agathiyar Kulambu may be mixed in breast milk and the clear fluid dropped in eyes.

Nasiyam (nasal drops):

Vasambu (Acorus Calamous) root, garlic, asafoetida, borax, Nervalam (Croton Tiglium), Thaalagam (Yellow Orpiment) and Sulphur must be purified separately and  ground once first  in  Avuri (Indigofera tinctoria) juice,  then  in Uthamani (Daemia Extensa) juice and then in Kuppaimeni (Acalypha Indica) juice and made as pills. This pill is bundled inside a cloth, soaked in urine and dropped into the nostrils.

Ottradam (fomentation):

Root of avuri (Indigofera Tinctoria), sengathari (Capparis aphylla), vagai  (Cassia   latifolia), kattamanakku (Jatropha curcas), chottru kattazhai (Aloe barhadensis) are ground with Vinegar and fried in a mud pan and bundled in a cloth and fomentation is given from head to foot.

Pugai (fumigation):

Mercury, sulphur, camphor and asafoetida are ground well with erukku (Calatropis gigantea) milk and applied on cloth and dried.  The cloth then rolled to form like a thread is lit and the smoke is made to inhaled by the victim.

Food restriction like salt, tamarind, mustard seed and oil is advised during the course of the treatment.


Thus all kinds of poisoning have been dealt with in detail in siddha system of medicine under its special branch of toxicology, which has saved lives and restored health of victims of poison even those times when today’s advancements to treat snake bites like anti snake venoms were not available and many of the methods are still practiced by practitioners with good results.


1.      Pandit, K.S. Murugesa Mudaliar, Nanju Murivu nool, Directorate of Indian Medicine and Homeopathy, Chennai -106,2012.

2.      Dr.S.Chidambarathanu pillai, Siddha system of Toxicology, Siddha Medical Literature Centre, Chennai -102, 1993.



  • PUBLISHED DATE : Jun 30, 2016
  • PUBLISHED BY : Zahid
  • LAST UPDATED ON : Jun 30, 2016


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