Unani Herbal Medicine


Unani system of Medicine owes its origin to Greece. It was the Greek philosopher – Physician Hippocrates, who lived during BC 460-377, freed Medicine from the clutches of superstition and magic, and made it the status of Science. He advocated that disease was a natural phenomenon and its symptoms were the reactions of the body to the disease. He said that the chief function of the body. He was the first physician to introduce the method of taking medical histories. His chief contribution to medicine is the humeral theory, the basis of Unani, after a number of other Greek Scholars enriched the system considerably. Of the Galen AD 131-210, stands out as the one that stabilized its foundation on which Arab physicians like Razes AD 850-925, and Avicenna AD 980-1037, constructed an imposing edifice. Unani Medicine got enriched by imbibing what was best in the contemporary systems of traditional medicine in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia, and India, China and other Middle East and Far East countries.

hippocrates_by_drismayil co

Unani Medicine in India was introduced by Arabs and soon it took firm roots in the soil. When Mongols ravaged Persian and Central Asian cities like Shiraz, Tabriz and Galan, scholars and Physicians of Unani Medicine fled to India. The Delhi Sultan, the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs and the Mughal Emperors provided state patronage to the scholars and even enrolled some as state employees and court physicians. During the 13th and 17th Century Unani Medicine had its hey-day in India, among those who made valuable contributions to this system into period where Sadruddin Damashqui, Ali Geelani etc. 

The scholars and Physicians of Unani Medicine who settled in India were not content with the known drugs. They subjected Indian drugs to clinical trials. As a result of their experimentation added numerous native drugs to their own system further enriching its treasures.

During the British rule, Unani Medicine suffered a setback and its development was hampered due to withdrawal of governmental patronage. Since the system enjoyed faith among the masses it continued to be practiced. It was mainly the Sharifi Family in Delhi, the Azizi family in Lucknow and the Nizam of Hyderabad due to whose efforts Unani Medicine survived during the British period. An outstanding physician and scholar of Unani Medicine, Hakim Ajmal Khan (1868-1927) championed.

Theory of Unani Medicine

The first fundamental theory of the Unani system of medicine established by Greek philosopher Hippocrates is founded in the belief that the body of the individual is composed of four basic elements i.e. Earth, Air, Water, Fire which have different Temperaments i.e. Cold, Hot, Wet, Dry. After mixing and interaction of four elements a new compound having new temperament comes into existence i.e. Hot Wet, Hot Dry, Cold Wet, and Cold Dry. The body has the Simple and Compound Organs which got their nourishment through four humerals i.e. Blood, Phlegm, Yellow Bile, Black Bile. The humerals also assigned temperament as blood is hot and wet, Phlegm is cold and hot, yellow bile is hot and dry and black bile is cold and dry. 

The diagnosis of diseases in Unani system of medicine is through examination of pulse, urine and stool. This system observes the influence of surroundings and ecological conditions such as air, food, drinks, body movement and repose, psychic movement and repose, sleep and wakefulness and excretion and retention on the state of health. This influence causes a dominance of one of the four humorals in every human body. Unani believes that it is this dominance which gives a man his individual habit and complexion i.e. his temperament.

In short, Unanipathy aims at maintaining proper health by conserving symmetry in the different spheres of a man’s life. Unani practitioners not only cure bodily diseases, but also act as an ethical instructor.

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Unani treatment

Once a person develops a disease, the Unani physician employs the following types of treatment.

Regimental Therapy: – It includes Venesection, Cupping, Diaphoresis, Diuresis, Turkish bath, Massage, cauterization, emesis, exercise and leeching.

Dieto Therapy: – It deals with certain ailments by administration of specific diets or by regulating the quantity and quality of food.

Pharmaco Therapy: – It deals with the use of naturally occurring drugs mostly herbal drugs of animal and mineral origin. Simple drugs are their combinations in raw form are preferred over compound formulations.

Surgery: – When the medicine is not effective, surgery is preferred. Surgery has also been in use this system for long. The ancient Physician of Unani medicines were pioneers in this field and had developed their own instruments and techniques.