Unani system of medicine owes its origin to Greece (Unan in Arabic means
Greece). The theoretical framework of Unani medicine is based on the
teachings of the Greek philosopher-physician Hippocrates. On this
foundation, Islamic physicians constructed the edifice of Unani
medicine. The medical system was enriched by imbibing what was best in
the contemporary systems of traditional medicine in Egypt, Syria, Iraq,
Persia, India, China and other Middle East and Far East countries.
At present, India is considered a world leader in the Unani system of
medicine, which has its own recognised practitioners, hospitals and
educational and research institutions. It offers time-tested remedies
for gastro-intestinal, cardiovascular and nervous disorders and makes
use of surgery, too.
The fundamental principles of Unani medicine stress on disease being a
natural process and its symptoms being the reaction of the body to the
disease. Unani is based on the humoral theory, which presupposes the
presence of four humors -- dam (blood), balgham
(phlegm), safra (yellow bile) and sauda (black bile) -- in
the body. Every person is supposed to have a unique humoral constitution
which represents her/his healthy state.
To maintain the correct humoral balance, there is a power of
self-preservation or adjustment called quwwat-e-Mudabbira (medicatrix
naturae)in the body. If this power weakens, an imbalance in the
humoral composition is bound to occur and this causes disease. In Unani
medicine, great reliance is placed on this power. The medicines used in
this system, in fact, help the body to regain this power to an optimum
level and thereby restore the humoral balance, thus retaining health.
Correct diet and digestion are also considered in maintaining humoral
Diagnosis is through nabz (pulse), which is felt by the fingers.
Other methods of diagnosis include examination of urine, stool, etc.
Treatment is of various types -- regimental therapy, diet therapy,
pharmacotherapy and surgery. The regimental therapy includes venesection,
cupping, diaphoresis, diuresis, Turkish bath, massage, cauterization,
purging, exercise and leeching. Diet therapy aims at treating certain
ailments by administration of specific diets and by regulating the
quantity and quality of food. On the other hand, pharmacotherapy deals
with the use of natural herbal drugs, though drugs of animal and mineral
origin are also used. In Unani medicine, single drugs or their
combinations in raw form are preferred over compound formulations.