Traditional Systems of Medicine

Traditional Systems of Medicine

Traditional systems of medicine includes diverse health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal, and/or mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises which can be used to maintain wellbeing, as well as to treat, diagnose or prevent illness.  India is famous for its traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Homeopathy, Yoga and Naturopathy.

traditional systems of medicine
traditional systems of medicine


Ayurveda is the oldest and most famous Indian traditional system of medicine. The word Ayurveda comes from two words Ayur and Veda. Ayur means life and Veda means science. Hence Ayurveda commonly called as science of life.

Charaka is known as the father of Ayurveda. In his ‘Charaka Samhita’ he explained various types of diseases and their treatment.

Basic principles of Ayurveda

The Ayurveda is based on the Indian philosophy of ‘pancha mahabhutas’. It means the universe is composed of five basic elements called- Prithvi(earth), Jal(water), Agni(fire), Vayu(air), Akash(space).

For healthy wellbeing ‘pancha mahabhutas’ should be in harmony. The ‘pancha mahabhutas’ are represented in the human body as the doshas, dhatus and malas.

The Doshas

There are three types of doshas- vata, pitta, kapha knows as tridoshas.

The vata dosha represents the two ‘pancha mahabhutas’ Vayu and Akash.

The pitta dosha represents the two ‘pancha mahabhutas’ Agni and Jal.

The Kapha dosha represents the two ‘pancha mahabhutas’ Prithvi and Jal.

The Dhatus

There are seven types of dhatus- Rasa (food juices), Rakta (blood), Mamsa (muscle tissue), Medas (fat tissue), Asthi (bone tissue), Majja (bone marrow) and Shukra(semen).

The Malas

Malas are byproduct of Dhatus. The waste elements excreted by human body is known as Malas. The chief Malas are Mutra (urine), Shakrit (faeces) and Sweda (sweat).

Any imbalance in the Doshas, Dhatus and Malas causes health issues.


The word Siddha means achievement. The siddha medicine system is most commonly practised in southern part of India. Siddha medicine system is considered to be originated from the great sage Agasthiyar.

Basic principles of Siddha system of medicine

The siddha medicine system is based on the philosophy that the whole universe consists of two essential entities called as Shiva (matter) and Shakti (energy).

The Shiva and Shakti are inseparable. They cannot exist without each other.

The siddha medicines mainly use the metals and minerals as a therapeutic agents like mercury, sulphur, arsenic, gold.

Siddha considers that the physical structure of the universe and man are made up of five basic elements. They are Nilam (earth), Neer (water), Thee (fire), Kaatru (air) and Vin (sky).

Three humours (three Dosha)

Vali (Vatham) – This humour represents air and space.

Azhal (Pitham) – This humour represents water and fire.

Iyyam (Kapham) – This humour represents the water and earth.

When these three humours are in equilibrium, a person has a good health.


Unani system of medicine is originated in Greece by the Greek philosopher, physician Hippocrates. Hippocrates freed the Unani medicine system from the realm of superstition and magic. The Unani system is developed and refined through systematic experiments by the Arabs.

Basic principles of Unani system of medicine

The Unani medicine system considers that body is made up of four basic elements. They are earth, air, water and fire, which have different temperaments i. e. Cold, Hot, Wet, Dry.

There are four humours in the Unani system i. e. phlegm, yellow bile, blood and black bile. The humour is also assigned with the temperament.

Phlegm is assigned to the cold and hot temperament.

Yellow bile is assigned to hot and dry temperament.

Blood is assigned to hot and wet temperament.

Black bile is assigned to the cold and dry temperament.

Unani considers the human body made up of seven components i. e. Arkan (elements), Mizaj (temperaments), Aklath (humours), Anza (organs), Arawh (spirits), Quo (faculties) and Afal (functions).


The word Homeopathy is made up of two words, homois means like and pathos means treatment. The Homeopathy system is developed by Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann.

Homeopathy system of medicine is based on natural law of healing; Similia Similibus Curantur, which means ‘likes are cured by likes.’

Basic principles of Homeopathy system of medicine

Hahnemann discuss homeopathy fundamental principle in different sections.

1. Law of Similia

According to this principle the drug administered possess a power to produce similar type of symptoms of disease.

2. Law of Simplex

In this principle simple and single drug used to treat without adding any other substance.

3. Law of Minimum

In this principle drugs are administered in a very minimum quantity to just arouse a reaction in the body.

4. Drug proving

Drug proving is also termed as Homeopathic Pathogenic Trial. This is a process to find out new drug to launch in homeopathic system. In this drug substance is administered to healthy individual and their pathogenetic effects are observed and compiled.

5. Drug dynamization or potentization

The dynamization or potentization is the process of dilution of a substance to remove toxic effects of substance. The dynamization is done by two processes.

  • Trituration: for insoluble substances.
  • Succession: for soluble substances.

6. Vital force

Vital force is the process to protects the body from bacteria, viruses and various other disease-causing agents. Hahnemann called vital force as, a never resting preservating force. Vital force has spiritual, autocratic, automatic, dynamic and instinctive characteristics.

7. Acute and chronic disease

The diseases are classified into these types depending upon their onset, nature of progress            and termination of disease.

8. Individualization

No two persons can be same in the world, so the medicines can never be prescribed on the             basis of name of disease. The medication is decided on person to person.

9. Direction of cure

The principle says the cure proceed by following ways,

  • From more recent to older symptoms
  • from vital organs to less vital organs
  • from the centre to the circumference
  • from above to downloads


The word yoga is derived from Sanskrit word yog meaning union. Yoga is the practice of mind and body that can build strength and flexibility. Various types of yoga contain physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation.

Basic principle of Yoga

The overall philosophy of yoga is to connect mind, body and spirit. There are 8 basic principles of yoga called as, eight limbs of yoga.

  1. Yama – it is a universal moral code.
  2. Niyamas – it is process of self-purification by discipline.
  3. Asanas– it is a different type of posture to perform yoga.
  4. Pranayama– it is a technique of rhythmic controlled of breath.
  5. Pratyahara– it is a technique to withdraw your mind from senses.
  6. Dharana– it called as a concentration.
  7. Dhyana– it is a technique of deep meditation.
  8. Samadhi– it is a union to the object of meditation.

These are the core principles of yoga to attain moksha.


Naturopathy is a system of medicine that uses natural remedies to help the body heal within itself. Naturopathy is the way of life, which based on the laws of nature. Naturopathy contains many therapies including herbs, massage, acupuncture, exercise, purification measures, eating and living habits. It combines traditional treatments with some aspects of modern science.

Basic principles of Naturopathy

Naturopathic medicine is defined by principles rather than by treatment options. These principles and beliefs are,

  • Self-healing: Identifying and removing the obstacles to recovery, allows for natural healing.
  • Underlying symptoms: Rather than symptomatic treatment naturopathy focuses more on the underlying root cause of illness.
  • Harmless treatment: The typical approach of naturopathy is to utilise the most natural, least invasive and least toxic therapies.
  • Holistic treatment: Naturopathy understands the incorrectness of our body, environment and our lifestyle on total health. Naturopathy more focuses on individuality; hence treatment vary from person to person.
  • Education and treatment: Naturopathy elevates patient care literacy. Through education and trust base relationship, patients better understand the steps they need to take. It helps patients to achieve and maintain health.
  • Prevention: Naturopathy believes in the principle that; prevention is better than cure. It is good to have a healthy lifestyle to prevent problems from arising.

Chinese systems of medicine

The Traditional Chinese System (TCM) of medicine is thousands of years old. The basic concept of TCM is that a vital force of life is surges through the body. The force is called as Qi. The Qi is made up of two opposite and complementary forces called as Yin and Yang. Any imbalance in these two forces causes the disease and illness.

Ancient Chinese believed that humans are small part of large universe and the individual person is interconnected to the universe.

TCM is based on the five elements theory that the whole universe is made up of these five elements. The five elements are, wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Any imbalance in these five elements causes illness and suffering.

The basic principle of TCM is to make proper balance between these external five elements and internal body vital forces.

Role of pharmacognosy in traditional medicine systems

  • Pharmacognosy plays an important role in new drug discovery and its development.
  • It is a connecting link between modern medicine system and traditional system.
  • It provides thorough knowledge about safe use of herbal drugs including their side effects, toxicity, drug interactions, thereby increasing effectiveness in traditional medicine.
  • It is a connecting link between pharmacology and medicinal chemistry.
  • New plant drugs are finding their way into the medicine as purified drug because of pharmacognosy.


In modern days peoples are more suffering from lifestyle diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, high cholesterol, heard diseases, digestive problems, etc. The basic principles of most of the above traditional systems is to improve the lifestyle of humans. The traditional systems of medicine is more focused on the root cause of diseases and illness. Traditional system links the human to nature.

Frequently asked questions

1. What are the traditional systems of medicines?

The most common traditional systems of medicine are Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy, Siddha, Yoga, Naturopathy.

2. What is the Law of Similia?

Law of similia is the principle of homeopathic medicine system. It means “let like be cured by like”. According to this principle the drug administered possess a power to produce similar type of symptoms of disease.

3. Who is the father of Ayurveda?

Charaka is the father of Ayurveda.

4. Who is the father of Homeopathy?

Dr. Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann is the father of Homeopathy.

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