Dr. Hettige M., PhD (A.M.) B.A.M.S.(Hon)AY M. Ac. F

 Traditional medicinal  Treatments in Sri Lanka dates back to the pre Aryan civilization and it goes back as far as the 3rd century before Christ .The earliest systems of Medicines which functioned before the introduction of Ayurveda was the indigenous systems of Medicine in Sri Lanka. This could be proved by taking into consideration the archeological inscriptions, Ola leaf manuscripts and the ancient historical writing namely Mahawansa and Chulawansa in Sri Lanka. However the archeological findings reveal that the standards of health services maintained in the ancient past are highly commendable, and were in keeping with modern concept of primary health care, which illustrates instances and examples of treatments even before Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Rev. Mahinda son of great king Asoka of India. Sri Lankans had practiced Traditional Medicines and thereafter with the introduction of Ayurveda Medicines, it got mixed up with our traditional Medicinal systems and they are practiced very widely today. However the Ayurveda treatments have not forgotten the traditional medical systems and they are embedded in Ayurveda.

  Indigenous Medicine and Ayurveda is a science of life and the system had come in being over 5000 years ago in India and further mentioned in Atharva Veda of the four Vedas. The term Ayurveda is coined by two Sanskrit words, they are Ayu and Veda. AYU means all aspects of life from birth to death. Veda is scientific knowledge and it is not a kind of treatment for the deceases of beings. It consists of health promotive Medicine, preventive Medicine, health protective Medicine, as well as curative Treatments.

  According to Ayurveda consists of a logical theory which explains human anatomy and about human physiology. Human anatomy consists of Panchabhuta , Saptadhatu , Srothas , and three Malas. Panchabhuta consists of Pruthuvi , Apo, Thejo , Vayo, and Akash . I.e. earth, water, fire, air and ether. Sapthadhathu are Rasa, Raktha, Mansa, Medus, Asthi, Majja, and Sukra. Sorthas are the thirteen main channels inside the human body.

Next comes to the physiological aspect of the human body. Where the treatment aspects give highest prominence and it is named Tridosha theory. The Tridoshas are Vata , Pita, Kapa. These three controls the entire functions of the human body, and these three doshas have their own definite quality, quantity and functions. When they are in normal balance they attain to different functions of the body, mind and   spiritual and follows the maintenance health of the human body. Rejuvenating and purification (Detoxification) are done by Ayurvedic Medicines. All foods, behaviors, thoughts and Ayurvedic Medicines would increase or decrease or neutralize the mental and physical Doshas. Vata dosha - initiate and promote biological activities and is responsible for all functions and movements of the body. It controls the utilization of energy by cells and organs for all metabolic activities. Pitha is the responsible for generation of heat, energy and all biochemical reactions and metabolisms. Kapha constitute of cellular and intercellular stability of the body and it provides nutrition to the tissues, and strength.

If these three Doshas are not in a state of absolute position of balance in the body it produces the cause of  diseases. Thus Ayurveda explains all physiological psychological pathogenesis of diseases, signs and symptoms by this theory of Tridoshas.

 In Ayurveda classification of diseases is three fold, they are Nija, Aganthuja and Karmaja, and accordingly they are Manasika roga and Sharirika roga that is the treatment on the classification, correct diagnosis and prognosis which depends on the patient’s internal physiological and mental hallucination.

Ayurveda places a fairly high consideration to the patient than the deceases.

 The examination of the patient mainly is of two types, they are Roga pariksha and Rogee pariksha, namely the examination of the deceases and the examination of the patient. In Ayurveda there are three ways to reach to diagnose the diseases.

Pratyaksha - perception

Aanumana- inference

Apthopadesa- Experience

According to Sri-Lanka history book of Mahawansa medical cures for all deceases prevalent during ancient times and some are followed even today and Three hundred and twenty one medical Ola leaf books in Sri-Lanka and British Museums are good examples for the Traditional Medicine.

 In Traditional Medicines Therapeutic agents for curing of deceases are mostly by herbal preparations. Along with Ayurveda there are Siddha as well as Unani medicines which have been developed in Sri- Lanka. Sddha Medicine have been gifted to us from India, and Unani system has left its imprints through Arabs who came to Sri Lanka for trade. The Muslim community use Unani almost exclusively and Siddha system is popular among the Tamil community in the globel. Although Sri Lanka inherited a glorious history of Indigenous Medicines from pre historic times and expanded and developed independently on its own way. It is practice as a Traditional process from father to son. There is a very high degree of specialization in  areas such as fractures, dislocations, ophthalmology, etc. some of these traditional treatments are as follows.

Esvedakama - Ophthalmology

Gedi vana vedakama - Treatment of Tumors and carbuncles

Sarpa visha vedakama - Serpent Toxicology

Pissu balu vedakama - Hydrophobia Treatments

Vidum pilissum vedakama - A system similar to Acupuncture and Moxibaction

Kadum bidum vedakama - Treatments for fractures and dislocations

Nelavedakama - Smiler to the Acupressure

Ayurveda Medicine developed into eight well defined specialized branches as follows.

Kaya Chikitsa- Internal Ayurveda Medicines

Kaumarabritya - Pediatrics

Graha Chikitsa - Psychological Medicine

Urdwanga Chikitsa - Shalakya Tantra (Otorhinolaryngology and Opthalmology

Shalya Tantra - Surgery (both General and Special )

Agada Tantra - Toxicology

Rasayana Tantra - Geriatrics

Vagikarana Tantra - Science of Eugenics and Aphrodisiacs

In the year 1961 an Act of the Parliament of Ceylon bearing no. 31 had been passed to establish Ayurveda Medicines along with Sri Lankan Traditional Medicines, Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. Today Ayurveda has become more and more popular and the entire human beings in the world accepts these systems. The world health organization (WHO) has done a detailed study of all these Medical system and drafted guide lines on safety in naturopathy health care inclusive of all herbal medicines. 

The tributes paid to the practice of Traditional Medicine in Sri Lanka by Western writer Robert Knox is an evidence that practice of Traditional Medicine moved on uninterrupted even after the advent of Portuguese and Dutch in Sri –Lanka.


Traditional Medicine in Sri lanka and neighboring countries Dr. Chandra Abeysekara year 2006.

Health and longevity through Ayurveda Dr. T.l.Devaraj Newdelli year 2003

Ayurveda History of Sri lanka  Mr. Manjula Ruwan Sirisena year 1998

Charaka Samhitha second division Ayurveda Vidyacharya Padith Aryadasa Kumarasingha year 1994

An Introduction to Human physiology Professoor J. H. Green University of London. Year 1982

Ayurveda sameeksha   Department of Ayurveda Sri Lanka. Year 1999

Madhava Nedhanaya   Department of Ayurveda Sri Lanka  year 2005

Evidence Based Herbal Medicine Professor Michael Rotblatt University of California year 2002

Ayurveda Viyakaranaya Royal Ayurveda Physician Jayalath Ovin Mandis year 1907

 WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants volume 2 World Health Organization.