A long time ago in ancient Greece, there evolved a system of medicine which is now known as UNANI SYSTEM. Hippocrates freed medicine from the realm of witchcraft and magic and gave it the status of science, and was named the ‘Father of Medicine’. He believed that equilibrium of ‘Arkan’ (elements), ‘Akhlat’ (humor) and ‘Mizaj’ (temperament) kept the mind and body healthy. After Hippocrates, a number of Greek scholars, including Galen and Razes contributed to Unani through their observations and discoveries.
Unani was first introduced to India by the Arabs. It enjoyed the patronage of the Khiljis, Tuglaqs and Mughal Emperors. Among the key contributors, Hakim Ajmal Khan championed the cause of Unani system in the pre independence era. Hakim Abdul Hameed made very valuable contributions towards stabilizing & modernizing Unani Medicine both before and after independence. He is credited with preparing a definitive edition of Ibn Sina’s al-Qanun fi al-tibb and translating it into English. For his contribution he received international recognition, including the first Avicenna Award by the U.S.S.R. in 1993 and was also honored with the Padma Shri & Padma Bhushan Awards by the Government of India.
In the story of Unani medicine, equilibrium plays a very important role. Unani says that the human body is maintained by the harmonious arrangement of the 7 basic physiological principles. These are the heroes and villains that play their crucial role in human life.
Diagnosis is the key storyteller in Unani Medicine. The patient’s physical appearance is the first chapter, telling the Unani Physician (Hakim) a lot about his ailments. Questions on dietary intake, excretions, symptoms, sleep and activity patterns lead to more insights and knowledge. They form the basis of the treatment. However the most distinctive feature of diagnosis in the Unani system is its emphasis on diagnosing the disease through Nabz (pulse), a rhythmic expansion of arteries, which is felt by fingers. Other methods of diagnosis include examination of Baul (urine) and Baraz (stool).
As far as possible Unani medicine therapy attempts to use simple physical means to cure a disease. Some of the techniques used in Ilaj bil- Tadbir (Regimental therapy) include Hijamah (Cupping), Fasd (Venesection), Tareeq (Sweating), Idrar-e-Baul (Diuresis), Hamam (Turkish Bath), Dalak (Massage), Kai (Cauterization), Ishal (Purging), Qai (Vomiting), Riyazat (Exercise) and Taleeq (Leeching).
Unani Medicine lays great emphasis on treating certain ailments by administering a specific diet or by regulating the quality and quantity of food. Ilaj-bil-Ghiza (Dieto therapy) is used in Unani as a key line of treatment. Food included as part of the diet is included, for both its nutritional value and its pharmacological actions.
Unani medicine derives its goodness from natural substances. Unani physicians usually practice usage of a single drug and poly-pharmaceutical preparations. According to sources 1, 17,000 formulations of Unani system are in practice. They believe the active ingredient should remain with the natural elements of the plant to help reduce the risk of side effects.
Ilaj-bil-Dawa (Pharmacotherapy) aims at rebalancing the body, so the body can fight off the problem on its own. Many Unani medications act to stimulate and support the immune system so it can function at the optimal level.
Unani Physicians were pioneers in surgery and developed their own instruments and techniques. They practised Ilaj-bil-Yad (Surgery) and wrote many remarkable treatises on the subject like Kitab-al-Tasreef by Abul Qasim Zohravi, ‘Kitab-al-umda fil Jarahat’ by Ibn-al-Quf, ‘Kamilus San’a’ by Ali Abbas Majoosi etc.
Unani System has shown remarkable results in curing the disease such as Musculo skeletal disorders, Respiratory conditions, Skin disorders, Liver disorders, Nervous system disorders and several other acute and chronic diseases where other systems have failed to give desired response. Now the system has crossed national boundaries and is popular among the masses globally.
The concept of research in Unani medicine was perceived by Hakim Ajmal Khan in the 1920’s. However it was Hakim Abdul Hameed , who under the Hamdard enterprise set up a modern laboratory and subjected the various drugs to laboratory tests bringing the Unani system of medicine on modern scientific lines for the first time. Hamdard undertook extensive research, collected widely recognised formulations, standardised them and arranged them in proper order. This was subsequently published as the Hamdard pharmacopoeia (Qarabadin-e-Hamdard).
Research in Unani medicine received a major boost with the setting up of Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM) by the Govt. of India (GOI). The council today is engaged in multimodal research activities including Clinical research, Drug Standardization research, literary research, Survey and cultivation of medicinal plants and Information, Education and Communication programs.
Unani recognizes the influence of the surrounding environment on the health of human beings. Thus Unani endeavours to restore the equilibrium of the various elements and faculties of the human body.
Unani lays down 6 essential pre-requisites for the prevention of disease. They are known as Asbab-e-Sitta Zarooriya
In today’s day and age, there are over 40 undergraduate and postgraduate colleges teaching Unani medicine in India. Postgraduate courses in Unani offer MD degrees in Ilmul Advia (pharmacology), Moalijat (medicine), Kulliyat (basic principles), Jarahat (surgery), Amraz-e- Niswan (gynaecology), Tahaffuzi wa samaji tibb (preventive and social medicine) and Amraz-e-Atfal (paediatrics)
There are over 250 Unani hospitals (With bed strength of 4562 beds), 1,200 Unani Dispensaries and 52,000 practicing Hakims spread across 18 states in India with more than 400 Unani pharmacies. Unani forms an integral part of the National Healthcare Delivery system and is recognised by the WHO. It is inexpensive, therapeutically effective, largely free from side effects and easily available.
The IMCC Act of 1970 has been implemented in India for Regulating Education and Practice in the Unani system of medicine. Unani healing is vibrant and vigorously alive today. It is being practiced, taught and researched under its local names in over 20 countries like China, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Finland, UK, USA etc.