Jump to content

Sri Lankan traditional medicine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sri Lanka has its own indigenous scheme of traditional medicine which is called hela wedakama (not associated with ayurveda it is unique).[1][2] This system has been practised for thousands of years. On the other hand, the Sri Lankan hela wedakama tradition is a mixture of Sinhala traditional medicine, mainland āyurveda and Siddha systems of India, Unani medicine of Greece through the Arabs, and most importantly, the Desheeya Chikitsa, which is the indigenous medicine of Sri Lanka. College teaching of these systems began in 1929 at what is now the Institute of Indigenous Medicine of the University of Colombo. The Siddha Medicine Unit moved to the University of Jaffna in 1984.[3]


Sri Lanka developed its own ayurvedic system based on a prescriptions handed down from generation to generation over 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 obtain the permit prior to start treatments for the patients or prior to starting making medicines according to the ancient traditions.

Ancient inscriptions on rock surfaces reveal that organized medical services existed within the country for centuries. In fact, Sri Lanka claims to be the first country in the world to have established dedicated hospitals with the capability of performing surgeries even for animals. 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. These places have come to symbolize a traditional sense of healing and care.

Ayurvedic physicians had historically benefited from royal patronage which in turn endowed them with prestige. From this legacy stems a well-known Sri Lankan saying: "If you can not be a king, become a healer." Traditional medicine had largely died out in Sri Lanka with the advent and ravages of European colonialism and the growth in popularity of prescription drugs. In recent years, however, increasing numbers of tourists have been seeking out alternative remedies such as panchakarma.[4] In addition to Buddhism and other things which have become objects of nationalism, āyurveda continues to influence politics and discourse in Sri Lanka.


  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.
  3. ^ Bhavani, Dr S. "History of the Development of Indigenous Medical System in Sri Lanka" (PDF). Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  4. ^ "Ayurveda Sri Lanka|Yoga and Ayurveda Retreat".