About Unani

For ages, Unani system of medicine enjoys worldwide recognition. As the name suggests, this system was originated in Greece (Unaan) where the knowledge of almost all branches (including medicine) was at its zenith during the historic period witnessed by many genius personalities and scholars. It reached India in 12th century via Rome, Arab and Iran. Being able to generously integrate with other pathies like Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy etc., it emerged as an important part of Indian System of Medicine. Hippocrates (460-377 BC), the renowned Greek philosopher & physician earned it a scientific recognition and status.   
Restoration, prevention and maintenance of human health is fundamental and main objectives of Unani. Hippocrates not only freed the medicine from realm of superstition and magic but also established the fact that human body consists of four humours (Akhlat) viz. Dam (Blood), Balgham (Phelgm), Safra (Yellow bile) and Sauda (Melanine). The basic framework (or a proper blending or compounding) of the humours is the basis of health. 
Universal System of Medicine

Unani system of medicine has a universal status. Though it is a Greek by origin but reached in India through a chain of development by Rome, Arab and Iran. Indeed, muslim caliphs invited professors of medicine from medical school of Jundeshapur to Damascus and Baghdad. They patronized this system at state level. This was further enriched with Chinese, Persian and Indian medical knowledge.

Unani system of medicine came to Indian subcontinent in 12th. century A.D. where it was not only further enriched with drugs and medicines of Indian systems e.g. Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy etc. but also got the position of Indian system of medicine permanently. Unfortunately, after downfall of the Mughal Empire, British Government patronage to this system including other Indian systems of medicine was withdrawn. However, despite this, Unani medicine survived in this country because of its efficacy, popularity among public and due to the efforts of scholars. Presently, it is a well recognized system not only in India, but also in Pakistan. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka etc. Registered medical practitioners, hospitals, recognized educational and research institutions are engaged in the aforesaid countries for the upliftment of Unani system of medicine.

The reason of its nomenclature viz. Unani Medicine (Tibb-e-Unani) is its origin in Greece where knowledge was at its zenith at a historic period and genious and scholars contributed a lot in almost all branches of knowledge wherein medicine was atop.

Hippocrates (460-377 BC) gave it a scientific form and recognized as a scientific system. Hippocrates not only freed the medicine from the realm of superstition and magic but also established the fact that human body consists of four humours (Akhlat) viz. Dam (Blood), Balgham (Phlegm), Safra (Yellow bile) and Sauda (Melanine). The basic framework (or a proper blending or compounding of the humours) is the basis for health. Whereas, dyshormony is a dyscrasia, which takes place by various factors, congenital, accidental and natural phenomenon. Dyscrasia is nothing but today's pathology.

It is universal truth that "health is wealth," since actual pleasures of life are directly based upon physical as well as mental health. Aristotle says "Health is first step in our life." Likewise. Galen described the fact that only individual having healthy and strong heart and brain may tolerate the life long afflictions, shocks and troubles.


The temperament of the individual to be treated are expressed by Galenic concept of their being sanguine (Damwi), phlegmatic (Balghami), choleric (Safrawi) and melanic (Saudavi), as preponderance of the humours in them. Humours themselves have been assigned temperaments. Drugs are also assigned temperament alongwith grades. Those are attributed as "Galenic grades."

Apart from Hippocrates, Dioscorides, (1st century A.D.) (military doctor in the Roman Army), Jalinoos (Galen) (131-210 A.D.), Rbban Tabari (850-900 A.D.), Abu Bakr Mohammed bin Zakaria Razi (Rhazes) (865-925 A.D.), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037), Abul-Qasim Zahrawi (Albucasis) (936-1106 A. D.), Ibn Zohr (Avenzoar) (109 I -1161 A.D.), Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126-1198 A.D.) and many other Greek, Arab and Iranian author and physicians enriched the system with their endeavors. Likewise numerous Indian Hakims e.g. Hakim Mohd. Akbar Arzani (d. 1721 A.D.) and Hakim Mohammed Azam Khan (1211-1320 A.D.) etc. contributed a lot to the subject. The services of sharif family in Delhi, Aziz family in Lucknow and Usmani family in Allahabad during the late 18th and 19th centuries for the development of Unani system, that too during a critical period, may not be ignored. Furthermore, cordial patronage of Nizam of Hyderabad till independence was also of high appreciation.

According to Unani theory every, individual has a tibbi mizaj (Medical temperament). Temperament is a quality, which results from mutual interaction and interpassion of the four apposite qualities residing within the (imponderable) elements. The disease becomes invasive in the case of ill temperament. Likewise derangement in any four humours is a strong cause of ailment. The natural faculty inherent in human system i.e. Tabiat Mudabbir-i-Badan (viz. medicatrix naturae) corrects any accidental fault and restores the disturbed equilibrium of human system. It is built in extra capacity in human body which meets the demands in emergencies and in conditions when normal tracts are obstructed. The duty of Unani Physician is to prevent or restore the function of this power or activate and ensure that it does not fail during crisis. In case of non- traceable factor(s) of disease, it is rather better to leave it on the disposal of this power and wait. Usually, this power will subdue the disease, or the disease will become manifest. Promotive/prophylactic health aspects, based upon six essentials (Asbab-e-Sitta Zarooria), should be adopted for the improvement of this power.

The diagnostic parameters include inspection of urine, stool, appearance of the body, study of general symptoms and pulse. Diagnosis should be given top priority followed by treatment.

Ibn Sina defines medicine as “the knowledge of the state of the human body in the health and decline in health. Its purpose is to preserve health and endeavour to restore it whenever lost.

The utilisation of natural drugs is the oldest method for treatment. Furthermore, the selection of the drugs has been made through series of trials for determining their efficacy. In fact, our country is a repository of herbal drugs and nowadays, India has become a big centre and fountain in the field of herbal therapy and beautification. This system of medicine is very popular in Indian subcontinent due to its efficacy and non-toxic properties. People in our country have firm belief in this system for therapeutic purpose. Unani physicians (Hakims) are of high repute in the society and recipient of high regard for their services to provide relief from pain and morbidity.

Today, Unani system of treatment has became part and parcel of Indian temperament. It is not only a live system of medicine but also engaged in the services of public health with full devotion. It was not only presumed but also propagated under a planned conspiracy from the platform of modern medicine that Unani system of medicine is unscientific. This act of underestimation was continued for a long time. But efficacy of non-hazardous drugs of Unani system of medicine, ultimately changed the ideas into favourable thinking and now even doctors of modern medicine are compelled to utilise the single (in the form of decoction etc.) and compound Unani medicines branded as "Herbal treatment." Not only our Asia continent but also America, Russia and most of the European countries are prone to utilise the herbal drugs. WHO have also recognised its efficacy like other Indian systems and urged to include this system in general health care programme.

Restoration, prevention and maintenance of human health is fundamental and main objectives of Unani system of medicine. Most of the Unani medicines contains herbs other natural ingredients of mineral or animal origin. No side or toxic effect on the human body have been observed after their utilisation. Unani medicine have no belief in temporary relief, which is result of depressing the apparent manifestations. These may be taken in single drug form e.g. safoof (Powder) or joshanda (decoction) etc. or as a compound drug therapy duly formulated with different single drugs e.g. Khamirajat, Majoonat, Itrifalat, Jawarishat and Ashreba etc.

A Scientific Approach with Historical Background

This is awakening era of general scientific mind. No science may be popularised only on the basis of history. It is responsibility of its experts to standardize the Unani Medicines, to analyze them chemically to search out their active ingredients, properties, mode of action on the body, their metabolism and exertion, dosage in different ailments. The scientific studies of their adverse effect should be carried out. Their apparent effects and efficacy, beside improved packing etc. should be moulded on modern patterns.

"All the praises are due for Almighty Allah, whose name itself is the Healer (He is the healer and blesses and peace are due for our spiritual and physical physician Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as we have received the Islam, knowledge and wisdom through Him.

After rehabilitation of human being on the earth, messengers (Rasool) of Almighty Allah were sending during historical span to teach them standard of living and to take advantage or benefits from existing facilities. These messengers had given regular training of a ‘Model Lifestyle’. The maintenance and restoration of lost health was taken into account as spiritual responsibility. Religious leaders and reformers holding the responsibility of treatment may be seen during each period of history in every religion. In ancient Egypt, Purohit (family priest) were healing in the places of worship. According to Shastras, Brahmans had good knowledge of therapeutics. Hazrat Daood (Alaihis-Salam) was founder of pharmacology (Ilmul-Advia). This knowledge was God gifted to him. When he walked, each herbs and minerals explained self nomenclature and efficacy in various ailments, which were recorded by the messenger of Allah, Hazrat Daood (A.S.). Holy Quran itself has given importance to the wisdom (Hikma) as following:

"He granteth wisdom to whom He pleaseth; And he to whom Wisdom is granted receiveth indeed benefit overflowing." 
(Baqara: 269)

And this benefit granted to Hazrat Luqman (A.S.) was of high significance that is why, the same is admirable and example even now a days: Almighty Allah says:

"We bestowed (in the fast) Wisdom on Luqman: Show (thy) gratitude to God.”
(Luqman: 12)

Almighty Allah has repeatedly given the prime importance to the knowledge and wisdom, e.g. in the following verses:

"For God hath sent down to thee the Book and wisdom and taught thee what thau knewest not (before)". 
(Nisa: 113)

It is an established fact that Almighty Allah has the knowledge of each and every thing. He heals and gives wisdom. He is omniscient and wise. If He teaches to anybody, no question arises of deficit or lacunae in His knowledge or wisdom.

The knowledge of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) regarding the medicine as well as their medication was final and curative because it was based upon divine revelation which was free from any failure or mistake.

Prophet (PBUH) says:
"Your duty is to satisfy the patient, physician is Allah Himself: If properties of (recommended) drugs are in accordance to the pathogenesis of the ailment, cure will take place by the grace of Almighty Allah.”
A 1500 year old above hadis told us that no drug should be prescribed without having proper knowledge of pathology and pharmacology, because without understanding the pathology, no desired action of the drugs in accordance to the ailment will be produced. It means, Prophet (PBUH) has not accorded the permission to treat the patient without acquaintance of proper knowledge of the disease.

Though this system was initiated during 600 B.C., however, Greece philosopher physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC) stood first who freed medicine from the realm of superstition and magic and gave it the status of science. Subsequently, Aristotle (384-322 BC), Galen (131-220 AD) and other Greek author physicians took active part in the development of this system of medicine. The system was subsequently adopted by the Arabs, who by the tenth century A.D. had enriched and advanced it through scientific methods. They not only rendered almost all the Greek medical and scientific works into Arabic but also authored valuable treatises on various aspects of Unani medicine. Contribution of Mohammad bin Zakaria Razi (865-925 A. D.), Abul-Qasim Zaharavi (936-1106 AD) and Ibn Sina (980-1037 A.D.) etc. may not he ignored.

Hakim Ajmal Khan

Arab scholars introduced this system in India between the 13th and 14th century A.D. This is an established fact that in 14th century A.D. Mangoles destroyed the Persian and Central Asian cities e.g. Shiraz, Tabrez and Geelan. In these unavoidable circumstances, the scholars and physicians of Unani system of medicine fled to India. The Delhi sultans, the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs and the Mughal emperors provided state patronage to the scholars and even enrolled some as state employees and court physicians. It was immediately popularised amongst the masses and soon spread throughout the country and continued to hold unchallenged sway for a long period even after downfall of Mughal Empire.

No need to mention that during the British period, Unani medicine suffered a lot and its progress was hampered due to withdrawal of governmental patronage. But this system was embraced by masses so that it continued to be practised. It was miracle of ancient Unani Hakims who succeed to keep the tradition alive even in British period, e.g. Sharif family in Delhi, Aziz family in Lucknow. Nizam of Hyderabad and Usmani family in Allahabad. It is an established fact that Hakim Ajmal Khan's efforts in connection with protection and development of Unani medicine have high significance. He first understood in 1920s the need for scientific research into Unani medicine.

Expertise’s of tibb have given great importance to the observation and philosophy. They were always ambitious to test this pathy and remove the lacunae, if found. After interpretation with Ayurvedic system of medicine, some new theories and ideas were added in Unani medicine. Moreover, numerous experts revolurtionised the system. They not only removed the wrong theories but also excluded all the incorrect hypothesis of the ancient physicians. This is admirable that they had the courage to admit the incorrect theories of their ancestors prior to defamation by so called developed communities. They detached the medicine from superstitiousness and prepared the modules and parameters for ailments on firm scientific basis. The earlier knowledge based upon observation and philosophy was subsequently experimented, thoroughly. In fact, therapeutics is a docile, augmentative and experimental action comprising of record of complete history, temperament of the patient, hereditary conditions and effects, different complaints, signs and symptoms, structure of the body, external observation, examination of the pulse, urine and stool and various other tests are essential part of the practice of medicine. It is not a result of all at once but is achievement of efforts and strategies of Unani physicians for a long period. Unani physicians and expertise of different periods not only used this but also trailed as per their own hypothesis and standards and continuously to add something more.

Unani system of medicine considered four primary elements viz. Fire (nar), air (hawa) water (ma) and earth (arz) responsible for building blocks of all substances in nature including the human body. This theory of the four primary elements was widely accepted by Hippocrates, Aristotle, Galen, Avicenna and other eminent scholars of the subsequent periods.

These four elements also determine the four states of matter, air for the gaseous state, water for the liquid state, earth for the solid state and fire stands for the matter duly transformed into heat. Each of these elements has their own properties. The natural machinery of our body is mobilised due to these four elements. The Unani system of medicine provides us line of treatment keeping in view those four elements, and we know that each of them have definite temperament.

Dieto therapy (ilaj bil-ghiza) is an important fundamental of Unani therapeutics. On the basis of experiments, it has been proved that ailments may be treated by regulating the quantity and quality of the patient's diets. The salient feature of this therapy is to alter the quality of food as far as ingredients and physical state are concerned.

Climatic therapy (ilaj bil-hawa) was introduced by Arab physicians of Unani medicine. This parameter of Unani medicine is of high significance in many ailments including tuberculosis, the change of climate is must. The ancient physicians were aware that the geographical conditions are responsible for the quality of air. It is an established fact that places at a higher altitude are less polluted as the air is cleaner, that is why in various cases only a change of climate will prove more sufficient to cure an ailment.

Regimental therapy (Ilaj bit-Tadbir): Unani system of medicine has also the privileged to provide the natural path of treatment comprising of the following regiment:

Exercise (Riyazat), massage (Dalak), steam bath (Hammam), fomentation (Takmeed), emesis (Qai), purging (lshal) and enema (Huqna) etc.

Needless to mention that all the above methods have been adopted by the modern medicine under the nomenclature of "Physiotherapy".

Pharmacotherapy (Ilaj bid-dawa): Medicinal therapy is also innovation of Arab physicians which is fully adopted by modern medicine. Ancient physicians were expertised in the treatment of patients by animal, herbal and mineral drugs of natural sources. Unani (Greek) and subsequently, Arab physicians completed almost all parts of pharmacology (Ilmul-Advia) and no herbal drug is left without description of its properties and therapeutic use.

Credit of chemistry also goes to Arab physicians. They disclosed more of such type of chemical elements which became basis for various chemotherapies in the subsequent days. This is also an established fact that ancient Egyptian physicians were treating different ailments through animals’ organs and internal secretion. Subsequently, the same pattern has been adopted in Europe that developed form attributing with opotherapy. Internal secretion indicates the clear-cut concept of hormone therapy. Galen and other ancient physicians were had an opinion that there are something in the animal organs which have comprehensive effects on the homogenous organs. In the books of Unani medicine, brain, liver, kidneys of cow and goats harisa, Majoon Ghudadi, their compounds and treatment have been described in detail. According to Unani system of medicine, Majoon Sangdana-e-murgh is beneficial in stomach atony whereas, goat brain is beneficial in mental weakness, liver for hepatic atony and kidneys for renal atony. Two thousand years of experiments of Unani system of medicine clearly shows that there is lot of benefits in animal organs. The western doctors are now in the search of its efficacy.

Ancient physicians have prescribed liver soup in liver ailments. Expertise of modern medicine also confirms this fact that nothing is better than liver extract for hepatic patients.

A high quality of Unani system of medicine is that, the physicians generally avoid the utilisation of toxic drugs as far as possible. However, in inavoidable conditions, they administer these type of drugs only after reducing their toxicity i.e. mudabbar (Properly managed). Contrary in allopathy, this type of drugs are used freely and excessively. For example, Unani physicians utilize the Azaraqi (Kuchla) only after minimizing its toxicity (mudabbar) whereas, physicians of modern medicine are compelled to utilize strychnine, the pure ingredient derived from Azaraqi (strychnine). No doubt, this method has accelerated the action of the drugs. But on the other hand, even ordinary negligence may lead to uncompensable loss. Unani system of medicine is free from dangers and hazards.

In Unani system of medicine, the main objective is to oppose the ailment and not to depress the apparent symptoms. As such symptoms disappear automatically after eradication of disease. In modern system of medicine, the symptoms are presumed as ailment and main stress given for their removal (symptomatic treatment). They adopt only one line of treatment neglecting the other important principles. Though all those principles should be adopted which are effective on the life, as such we may name the Unani system of medicine as holistic medicine, which cares the life and health as a whole, and not just the diseased part.

This is the fact that devolvement of any science never stopped. It has changed its form instead of exhaustion. Same thing is with Unani system of medicine, which not only developed itself continuously but so called modern system born from the womb of Unani medicine.

Besides, Unani system of medicine also continued its journey slowly or otherwise. The present shape of Unani medicine is result of accumulative strategies and efforts of previous Hakims, who contributed a lot based upon their life long trials and experiments. Their additions and deletions may not be ignored.

At the present stage, such type of expertise are required who can correlate this system with modern sciences so that it’s important role in health upliftment may be recognized at global level.

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