There are many categories of preparations in siddha medicine. A number of them are common to ayurveda and siddha, although there may be some small changes in procedures and ingredients. The widespread preparations are: kutinir (decoction of plants scarcely reducted), kasayam (decoction), tailam (oil medicinal), lekiyam (electuary), curanam (powder of dry herbs). The following products, more complex, are not produced by all traditional practitioners because of the long time of preparation and the high cost of ingredients: matirai, and gulikai (tablets and pills made of plants, minerals, metals), parpam (calcination of minerals and metals), centuram (red powder obtained from preparations with metals, metallic salts, mineral), meluku (preparation semi-solid based on mercury, arsenic, sulfur). It exists also some products obtained by iatrochemistry process that the practitioners are proud to show, such as kattu, a metallic complex very compact. The preparations below were photographed at a Siddha College and at several traditional practitioners' place.
Kasayam is a decoction, generally of herbs, concentrated four to five times. To outpatients, the
traditional practitioners sell packages of herbs accompanied by instructions to prepare the kasayam.
The kasayam presented here is made with chicken and given to inpatients, weak and undernourished. The method of preparation is simple: the flesh of a freshly cut chicken is wrapped in a cloth which is immersed in boiling water with curanam. The liquid is reduced, filtered, and consumed after cooling. In another clinic, frog flesh is used to prepare a kasayam which is given also to weak patients.
Tailam is a medicated oil made by all practitioners who hold their own recipes. These oils are mostly external and used for different massages, and sometimes internal, used for some treatments such as nasiyam or orally. The preparation of these oils is variable in terms of ingredients. Generally, it includes a juice of herbs which is boiled, in which a mixture of dried plants, pulverized manually or mechanically, and oil are added. The liquid is heated until total evaporation of water. Sometimes, the mixture of herb juice and curanam are exposed to the sunray for several days in order to increase the medicinal values of the preparation.
This tailam differentiates itself from the previous ones by the fact it is extracted from yolks. It is manufactured by the same method at the siddha college and by traditional practitioners. It is administered to the patients who suffer from speech disorders; a drop of this oil is put on their tongue.
The purification (cutti) of raw materials used in siddha constitutes a step considered as crucial to ensure the quality and safety of medicines. The purification concerns metals and minerals, and also some plants which are purified in milk or freed from their epicarp. The ingredients mostly used for purification are lemon juice, juice of certain plants, coconut water, quicklime. The fire is also a purification agent for raw material.
Mercury is purified in a grinder (kalvam) with brick powder, then a mixture of curanam and turmeric. After two days of intermittent grinding, mercury is collected in an earthen pot. It is heated with a precise volume of herb juice. Then, it is washed and ready to be used for preparing medicines.
The lingam or cinnabar is a sulfur of mercury (HgS) widely used in siddha. Its purification includes two steps: firstly, it is soaked in lemon juice for one day, then washed; secondly, it is boiled for several hours in a herb juice, then washed.
If the lingam does not change of color after purification treatment, this is not the case of the turucu (copper sulphate) which undergoes an important transformation after a soaking in lemon juice and a long exposure to daylight.
In siddha college, calcination of products (parpam, centuram) is made in putankal. These
pots are sealed with several layers of cloth strips impregnated of clay, and put to dry.
The calcination pit is filled with cow dungs, the pots are installed in the pit which is then filled with cow dungs. The cow dungs are lit evening and burn during the whole of the night. The pots are removed two days, after when the pit is entirely cooled.
This calcination practised in the garden of the Madurai Citta Vaithya Sangham consists to collect oil from a specific tree. Wood pieces are introduced into the pots which are pierced in the bottom. They are sealed as previouly shown and placed on bowls used to collect the oil. The oil is collected the next day, with caution. It is administrered internally to patients in critical condition.
The series of photographies was taken during courses which are organized by a traditional practitioner who teaches yoga and siddha. The shells (canku) are soaked in lemon juice in order to remove organic impurities, then they are washed. After purification process, the shells are dumped in the putankal (terracotta plates) which are previously covered by a paste of leaves freshly crushed. The shells are then covered by this leaves paste and the putankal are closed with several layers with cloth strips impregnated of clay. The putankal are dried, then placed in a pit which is filled with dry cow dungs. The cow dungs are lit. Two days later, the putankal are removed from the pit, opened and the calcined shells are collected. They are grinded for many hours until they become a very fine powder. The powder is packed and will be consumed with ghi (clarified butter), or lemon juice, or milk, according to the disease and the patient's temperament.