Unani History

The Unani system of Medicine owes, as its name suggests, its origin to Greece. The term "Unani" is derived from the work "Unan" which means Greece in Arabic. Hippocrates (Buqrat in Arabic) (460-377 BC) who freed Medicine from the realm of superstition and magic, and gave it the status of Science. The theoretical framework of Unani Medicine is based on the teachings of Hippocrates. After Hippocrates, a number of other Greek scholars enriched the system considerably. Of them Galen (Jalinus in Arabic) (131-210 AD) stands out as the one who stabilized its foundation, on which Arab physicians like Rhazes (Al-Razi in Arabic) (850-925 AD) and Avicenna (Abu Sina in Arabic) (980-1037 AD) constructed an imposing edifice.

(460-377 BC)

Galen introduced and practiced the Unani system of Medicine in pre-Islamic Egypt, serving as Royal court physician to the King of Egypt and under his patronage, researched, experimented and developed hundreds of new medicines and cures for almost all types of diseases. Unani system of medicine got 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. It also benefited from the native medical systems in vogue at the time in various parts of Central Asia. That is why this system is known, in different parts of the world, with different names such as Greco-Arab Medicine, Ionian Medicine, Arab Medicine, Islamic Medicine, Traditional Medicine, Oriental Medicine etc.

(980-1037 AD)


In India Unani system of Medicine was introduced by the Arabs, and soon it took firm roots in the soil. 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. The system found immediate favour with the masses and soon spread all over the country. During the 13th and 17th century Unani Medicine had its heyday in India. Among those who made valuable contributions to this system in the period were, to name only a few, Abu Bakr bin Ali Usman Kashani, Sadruddin Damashqui, Bahwa bin Khwas Khan, Ali Geelani, Akbar Arzani and Mohammad Hashim Alvi Khan.

(131-210 AD)


During the British rule, Unani Medicine suffered a setback and its development was hampered due to withdrawal of governmental patronage. But 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 in the British period. An outstanding physician and scholar of Unani Medicine, Hakim Ajmal Khan (1868-1927) championed the cause of the Unani system in India. The Hindustani Dawakhana and the Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College in Delhi are the two living examples of his immense contribution to the multi-pronged development of the two Indian systems of medicine - Unani Medicine and Ayurvedic.

(850-925 AD)


Unani system of Medicine, as said earlier, is based on the principles put forward by Hippocrates. He was the first physician to introduce the method of taking medical histories. His chief contribution to the medical realm is the humeral (Akhlat) theory.



Unani system of Medicine basically based on Humeral Theory that subscribes to four humors present in our body Blood (Dam), Phlegm (Balgham), Yellow bile (Safra) and Balck bile (Sauda). The temperaments of persons are expressed by the words sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic according to the preponderance in them of the respective humors - blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile, respectively. The humors themselves are assigned temperaments - blood is hot and moist, phlegm cold and moist, yellow bile hot and dry, and black bile cold and dry. Every person has a unique humeral constitution which represents this healthy state to maintain the correct humeral balance there is a power of self adjustment called Immunity (Quwwat-e-Mudabbira-e-Badan) in the body. If this power weakens, imbalance is bound to occur resulting disease. Thus in Unani therapy the objective is to strengthen the system to regain its power to optimum level and to restore humeral balance thus restoring a sound health.



The Unani system of Medicine is its emphasis on diagnosing a disease through pulse (Nubz), a rhythmic expansion of arteries, which is felt by fingers. Other methods of diagnosis include examination of urine (Baul), stool (Baraz).



Unani system of Medicine recognizes the influence of surroundings and ecological conditions on the state of health of human beings. This system at restoring the equilibrium of various elements and faculties of the human body. It has laid down six essential pre-requisites for the prevention of diseases and places great emphasis, on the one hand, on the maintenance of proper ecological balance and, on the other, on keeping water, food and air free from pollution. These essentials, known as Asbab-e-Sitta Zarooriya, are: air, food and drinks and repose, sleep and wakefulness and excretion and retention.



In Unani system of Medicine, various types of treatment are employed such as regimental therapy (Ilaj-bit-Tadbeer), diet therapy (Ilaj-bil-Ghiza), pharmacotherapy (Ilaj-bid-Dawa) and surgery (Jarahat). Regimental therapy includes vene-section, cupping, diaphoresis, diuretics, Turkish bath, massage, cauterization, purging, emesis, exercise, leeching etc. Diet-o-therapy aims at treating certain ailments by administration of specific diets or by regulating the quantity and quality of food. Pharmacotherapy deals with the use of naturally occurring drugs, mostly herbal, though drugs of animal and mineral origin are also used in Unani Medicine. Similarly, surgery has also been in use in this system for quite long. In Unani system of Medicine, single drugs or their combinations in raw form are preferred over compound formulations. Further, the materia medica of Unani Medicine being vast, the medicines are easy to get for 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 receipts which are still in vogue. In Unani system of Medicine, although general preference is for single drugs, compound formulations are also employed in the treatment of various complex and chronic disorders.



The manufacture of Unani drugs is being regulated by the government of India through the drugs and cosmetic act 1940 as amended from time to time.



For the purpose of this part the state government shall appoint such licensing authorities and for such areas as may be specified in this behalf by the notification in the gazette.

Hakim Ajmal