Eye care in siddha
Eye care and treatment has been given much prominence in siddha system of medicine from time immemorial. The types of eye diseases, their etiology, general and specific reasons for acquiring those diseases, preventive measures to protect the eye from the diseases, medicines to cure the eye diseases, their dosage and course are all mentioned in old siddha texts.
Agasthiar 2000’ — a book on Siddha medicines contains a chapter on Nayana vidhi - the rules for eye treatment. This gives the names, description, manufacturing techniques and uses of instruments for eye surgery.
The herbs used for the prevention of eye diseases, the need to get permission from the Government to grow plants like Nandiavattai (Ervatamia coronaria) and Karisalai (Eclipta alba) in herbal gardens and the tax payable to the Government for growing herbs are recorded in some old palm leaf manuscripts. The tax for cultivating medicinal plants in herbal gardens was called Kanam. This shows the significance given even in those days to eye care and treatment of eye diseases. People from villages of Tamil Nadu even today use latex of Nandiavattai (Ervatamia coronaria) for eye ailments and Karisalai (Eclipta alba) for the preparation of eye-tex.
Classification of eye diseases:
The diseases of the eyes, according to siddha Medical system, are divided into 96 types. A famous siddha text called Agathiar Nayana Vidhi-500 mentions in detail of these types. Siddhar Aruvai Maruthuvam, the traditional Siddha work on surgical methods of Siddha system describes various kinds of eye diseases. The book also describes both internal and external treatment to cure eye diseases. The Nagamuni Nayana Vidhi (Principles for eye care according to Nagamuni) classifies the eye diseases that occur in various parts of the eye as follows
Pupil – 27
Between retina and cornea - 9
Upper eye lid - 24
Whole eye -13
Abnormalities of three humours vatham, pitham and kabam related to the eye diseases are also explained in detail. The internal medicines, for the treatment of the eye diseases have been prescribed in Siddhar Aruvai Maruthuvam.
Various kinds of eye diseases and their descriptions described in the Siddha manuscripts like Siddhar Aruvai Maruthuvam and Agathiar NayanaVidhi are similar and comparable to that in modern medicine. The description of various symptoms of Suzhal vanderithal (vitreous opacities), Nagapadalam (pterygium), Mayir puznuvettu (ulcerative blepharitis), Amaram (opthalmia neonatorum), Kuvalaivipuruthi (dacryo cystitis), Vellelluthu (presbyopia), thurmamisam (episcleritis), Mudamayir (trichiasis) are very much similar to that in the allopathic system. It is surprising to learn how in those days they have explained in clear terms these diseases.
1. Non surgical methods
2. Surgical methods
Non surgical methods:
The different kinds of treatment types adopted or resorted to for curing eye diseases without surgical intervention are poulticing, application of fumigation, fomentation, bandaging, solving, washing etc.
Anjanam (Collyrium), Kalikkam (Eye salve) and Mye (Eye-tex) are some of the types of external applications used for eye diseases. Pearl, pearl-oyster and animal bones were some of the basic materials used in the preparation of internal medicines for the cure of eye diseases. Zinc sulphate and Gold thread were also used for the treatment.
There are clear indications that eye diseases were cured by the application of medicines as well as surgery. Various surgical methods are described in Siddha literatures. The Siddha medical practitioners of those days had skillfully used such instruments and successfully carried out eye surgeries. The surgical approaches are mainly via-scarification, operation incision, excision, perforation, cauterization, leeching etc. The names of surgical instruments used in eye surgery, their shapes and sizes, and their uses are clearly mentioned in the manuscripts.
For example Pricking with needle is advocated to release the accumulated liquid in a disease called ‘Pitthakasam’. The end of cornea is pricked with a copper triangular needle of 3 inch length called ‘Salagai’. Application of eye drops after the needle pricking, herbal fumigation procedure for alleviating pain in the eye after pricking, etc., have also been explained in Siddha literatures. Cleaning the teeth with herbal tooth powder, rubbing medicated ghee in the leg palm, application of pure water and eye-tex into the eyes are also advocated. Even after depleting the accumulated liquid from the eye, if the eye sight is not clear, further pricking is to be carried out second time with the help of a smaller size needle with the weight of sesame seed, as described in the manuscripts.
Prevention and eye care:
Prevention of eye diseases by giving proper care to the eyes is also emphasized in siddha system. For example the method of preparation and procedure for application and the benefits of anjanam (collyrium) are advocated for prevention of diseases. It is advised to apply collyrium once in three months. Few methods for good eye power like washing eyes with three drops of pure water in the night and staring the moon for few seconds or stare the moon few minutes when the air is clean and then wash thoroughly with water and avoiding looking at sun directly, intake of alcohol, starring at flame etc are also suggested.
K.S.Uthamarayan, Siddhar aruvai maruthuvam, Directorate of Indian Medicine & Homeopathy, Chennai- 106, 2013