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Sri Lankan traditional medicine



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Sri Lanka has its own indigenous scheme of traditional medicine (Ayurveda).[1][2] This system has been practised for many centuries in the island nation. The Sri Lankan Ayurvedic tradition is a mixture of the Sinhala traditional medicine, Ayurveda and Siddha systems of India, Unani medicine of Greece through the Arabs, and most importantly, theDesheeya Chikitsa, which is the indigenous medicine of Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka developed its own Ayurvedic system based on a series of prescriptions handed down from generation to generation over a period of 3,000 years. The ancient kings, who were also prominent physicians, sustained its survival and longevity. King Buddhadasa (398 AD), the most influential of these physicians, wrote the Sarartha Sangrahaya, a comprehensive manuscript which Sri Lankan physicians still use today for reference.Map of sri lanka 

  1. Sri Lanka

Ancient inscriptions on rock surfaces reveal that organized medical services have existed within the country for centuries. In fact, Sri Lanka claims to be the first country in the world to have established dedicated hospitals. The Sri Lankan mountain Mihintale still has the ruins of what many believe to be the first hospital in the world. Old hospital sites now attract tourists, who marvel at the beautiful ruins. These places have come to symbolize a traditional sense of healing and care, which was so prevalent at that time.

Historically the Ayurvedic physicians enjoyed a noble position in the country’s social hierarchy due to their royal patronage. From this legacy stems a well-known Sri Lankan saying: “If you can not be a king, become a healer.” Along with Buddhism, the interrelationship between Ayurveda and royalty continues to influence politics in Sri Lanka.

Four systems of traditional medicine have been adopted in Sri Lanka: Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Deshiya Chikitsa. The Ayurveda and Deshiya Chikitsa systems use mainly plant and herbal preparations for the treatment of diseases–the former uses about 2000 species, the latter about 500. The plants are used singly or as mixtures.

The traditional systems of medicine have a vast literature, mainly in the form of manuscripts. The principle of the Ayurvedic system is to consider the body as a whole, ailments of different organs not being treated separately as in modern medicine. Similarly, Ayurveda takes into account the actions of the drug in its entirety.

Research therefore must be carried out in hospitals or biological laboratories and not in chemical laboratories where plant extracts are subject inevitably to chemical reactions. Therefore the chemical approach to identify active principles is a complete deviation from the principles of traditional medicine. Research on plants should be carried out for the further development of traditional systems of medicine and not to their detriment.

The threat of extinction of certain species of plants and herbs is stressed, the causes being the destruction of jungles, the greater demand for raw materials for increased manufacture of traditional medicinal preparations, the absence of organised cultivation of medicinal plants, and unscientific harvesting. The compilation of encyclopaedias of plants used in traditional medicine is highly recommended for every country interested in preserving the traditional systems of medicine.

Traditional medicine has been practiced in Sri Lanka for 3,000 years. At present, there are four systems of traditional medical systems in Sri Lanka viz. Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Deshiya Chikitsa (Sri Lankan traditional treatment). The most important among them is Ayurveda, which also forms part of the national health services provided by the government of Sri Lanka including separate ministry for Indigenous Medicine. At present, Ayurveda serves a large proportion of the population with one Ayurvedic physician per 3,000 people in Sri Lanka. About 60 to 70% of the rural population relies on traditional and natural medicine for their primary health care. Therefore Herbal drugs are essential components of traditional medical system in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is identified as one of the most biologically diverse countries in Asia with about 20% of the area under forest. It has the highest species diversity per unit area in Asia and is one of the mega biodiversity hot spots. Therefore it is an urgent need to rationally utilize medicinal plants for curative purposes with proper maintenance of biodiversity. The government of Sri Lana has taken several initiatives to develop technology for the effective conservation and efficient utilization of medicinal plants, to coordinate research and developmental activities through the Department of Ayurveda, Bandaranayake Memorial Ayurvedic Research Institute and the Institute of Indigenous Medicine – University of Colombo. But lack of funding and some problems and constraints knowledge of herbal medical systems and its applications to cure illnesses has not been effectively explored fully by Sri Lanka. If this happens successfully, Sri Lanka could gain a very significant competitive edge  in the global market, especially in the herbal medical drugs, beauty care and nutraceuticals.

There is a lot of scope for Sri Lanka to achieve higher rank in global market through export of quality products from medicinal and aromatic plants. But Sri Lanka seems to be lagging behind using advanced technology and standardization procedures in herbal products and is ranked lower in the herbal medicine global market share, while China occupies nearly 30% of the global market with high tech issues. Therefore Sri Lanka need to be focused on the quality assurance with multidisciplinary researches with in the country and collaborative works with other high tech used countries. Further Good laboratory practices (GLP) and Good manufacturing practices (GMPs) are also needed to apply for produce good quality medicinal products in Sri Lanka. Without overcoming these entire measures current scenario is not sufficient to increase the global market share of herbal drug industry and herbal medical practice for Sri Lanka.

Pathirage Kamal Perera, Guest invited speaker, Topic: Current scenario of herbal medicine in Sri Lanka, ASSOCHAM , 4th annual Herbal International Summit cum Exhibition on Medicinal & Aromatic Products, Spices and finished products(hi-MAPS) at NSIC, Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi on 14 -15 April,2012.


Works Cited 1. Waxler-Morrison NE. “Plural Medicine in Sri Lanka: Do Ayurvedic and Western Medical Practices Differ?” 1988. Web. 27 Jan. 2012. . 2. Glynn, J. R. “Factors That Influence Patients in Sri Lanka in Their Choice between Ayurvedic and Western Medicine.” British Medical Journal 291 (1985): 470-72. . 3. Jeyarajah R. “Factors That Influence Patients in Sri Lanka in Their Choice between Ayurvedic and Western Medicine.” 28 Sept. 1985. Web. 27 Jan. 2012. . 4. Ediriweera ER ER. “Clinical Study on the Efficacy of Chandra Kalka with Mahadalu Anupanaya in the Management of Pakshaghata (Hemiplegia).” Jan. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012. . 5. Mano H. “Mechanisms of Blood Glucose-lowering Effect of Aqueous Extract from Stems of Kothala Himbutu (Salacia Reticulata) in the Mouse.” Jan. 2009. Web. 27 Jan. 2012. . 6. Nordstrom CR. “Exploring Pluralism–the Many Faces of Ayurveda.” 1988. Web. 27 Jan. 2012. . 7. Weerasinghe MC. “Paradox in Treatment Seeking: An Experience from Rural Sri Lanka.” Mar. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012. .

The contacts of mentors and other respective sources

Commissioner of western province, Ministry of Indigenous Medicine, Sri Lanka Name- Dr. Nimal Karunasiri, Designation – Commissioner of Western Province, Ministry of Indigenous Medicine Sri Lanka Address- Ministry of Indigenous Medicine, Sri Lanka Contact information- Tel 01194777675679 Email-

National Ayurvedic Medical College and hospitals Name- Dr. R.A. Jayasinghe Designation – Director of indigenous medicine – Rajagiriya Address- National Ayurvedic Medical College, Rajagiriya, Sri Lanka Contact information- Tel +94775412312

National Ayurvedic research center Name- K.D.S. Ranaweera Designation- Professor Address- Institute Bandaranayaka Memorial Research Institute, Navinna, Sri Lanaka Contact information- Tel +942850302 or 333 /0712413537

Licensed Ayurvedic medical practitioners Name- Dr. H.A.M Sriyani Designation- Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine Institute- Ayurvedic Hospital Address- Minipe Pradeshiya Saba (provincial level hospital), Hasalaka, Sri Lanka Contact information- Tel- 01194772865364

Name- Dr. H.P Jayadasa Designation- Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine Institute- Gampaha Ayurvedic dispensary Address- 40. A, Rahula Road, Katubadda, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka Contact information- Tel- 01194777551389

Address of the hospital where the shadowing of doctors and interviewing patients will take placeMinipe Pradeshiya Saba (provincial level hospital) Hasalaka


  1.  Plunkett, Richard; Ellemor, Brigitte (2003). Sri Lanka. Lonely Planet. p. 174. ISBN 1-74059-423-1.
  2. Petitjean, Patrick; Jami, Catherine; Moulin, Anne + – Marie (1992). Science and Empires. Springer. p. 112. ISBN 0-7923-1518-9.

Sri Lankan traditional medicine


  1. Prana Potions says:

    Mmm… love this so much!

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