Unani (in Arabic, Hindustani, Persian, Pashtu, Urdu, etc) means "Greek". It derives from the Greek word Ionia, the Greek name of the Asia Minor coastline, from the Arabic word for Greece: "al-Yunaan".
It is used to refer to Graeco-Arabic or Unani medicine, also called "Unani-tibb", based on the teachings of Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna, and based on the four humours: Phlegm (Balgham), Blood (Dam), Yellow bile (Safra) and Black bile (Sauda — it seems to mean hard substance and black material).
Introduction and Origin
Unani System of Medicines originated in Greece and is based on the teachings of Hippocrates and Galen and it developed in to an elaborate Medical System by Arabs, like Rhazes , Avicenna, Al-Zahravi , Ibne-Nafis and others.
Unani Medicines got enriched by imbibing what was best in the contemporary systems of traditional medicines in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia, India, China and other Middle East countries. In India, Unani System of Medicine was introduced by Arabs and soon it took firm roots. The Delhi Sultans (rulers) provided patronage to the scholars of Unani System and even enrolled some as state employees and court physicians. During 13th and 17th century A.D. Unani Medicine had its hey-day in India. During the British rule, Unani System suffered a set back due to withdrawal of State Patronage, but continued to be practiced as the masses reposed faith in the system. It was mainly 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.
Unani System has Shown remarkable results in curing the diseases like Arthritis, Leucoderma, Jaundice, Liver disorders, Nervous system disorders, Bronchial Asthma, and several other acute and chronic diseases where other systems have not been able to give desired response. Now the system has crossed national boundaries and is popular among the masses globally.
Concept and Principles
Unani treatment is based on its natural and remarkable diagnosis methods and is affordable. It is mainly dependent on the Temperament (Mizaj) of the patient, hereditary condition and effects, different complaints, signs and symptoms of the body, external observation, examination of the PULSE (Nubz), urine and stool etc. Unique and special treatment methods like Dieto therapy (Ilaj-bil-Ghiza), Climatic therapy (Ilaj-bil-Hawa), Regimental therapy (Ilaj-bit-Tadbir), make it a different, remarkable and popular system.
Regimental therapy includes venesection, cupping, diaphoresis, diuresis, Turkish bath, massage, cauterization, purging, emesis, exercise, leeching, etc.
Dieto therapy (Ilaj-bil-Ghiza) aims at treating certain ailments by administration of specific diets or by regulating the quantity and quality of food.
Pharmacotherapy (Ilaj-bid-Dawa) is mainly dependent upon local available herbal drugs which make the system indigenous. Similarly, surgery has also been in use in this system for quite long. In fact, the ancient physicians of Unani Medicine were pioneers in this field and had developed their own instruments and techniques. But at present only minor surgery is in vogue in this system.
In Unani Medicine, single drugs or their combination in raw are preferred over compound formulations. Further the materia medica of Unani Medicine being vast, the medicines are easy to get as most of them are available locally. The naturally occurring drugs used in this system are symbolic of life and are generally free from side-effects. Such drugs as are toxic in crude form are processed and purified in many ways before use.
The Greek and Arab physicians encouraged poly-pharmacy and devised a large number of poly-pharmaceutical recipes which are still in vogue. In Unani Medicine, although general preference is for single drugs, compound formulations are also employed in the treatment of various complex and chronic disorders. Since emphasis is laid on a particular temperament of the individual, the medicines administered are such as go well with the temperament of the patient, thus accelerating the process of recovery and also eliminating the risk of drug reaction.
In India, the concept of research in Unani system of medicine was originally perceived by Masih-ul-Mulk Hakim Ajmal Khan in the 1920s. A versatile genius of his time, Hakim Ajmal Khan spotted Dr. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui – a chemist – for undertaking chemical studies on some important medicinal plants used in Unani Medicine. Dr.Siddiqui undertook the task visualized by Msih-ul-Mulk and his discovery of medicinal properties of a plant, commonly known as Asrol (Pagal Booti), led to sustained research that established the unique efficacy of this plant known all over the world as Rauwolfia serpentina, in neurovascular and nervous disorders, such as hypertension, insanity, schizophrenia, hysteria, insomnia and psychosomatic conditions, etc.