0803-Unani Medicine

Background material from Wikipedia for Year 1 Semester 2 PPSD Session on 12th March 2008-03-10

Unaani (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 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).


Though the threads which comprise Unani healing can be traced all the way back to Claudius Galenus of Pergamum, who lived in the second century of the Christian Era, the basic knowledge of Unani medicine as a healing system was developed by Hakim Ibn Sina (known as Avicenna in the west) in his medicial encyclopedia The Canon of Medicine. The time of origin is thus dated at circa 1025 AD, when Avicenna wrote The Canon of Medicine in Persia. While he was primarily influenced by Greek and Islamic medicine, he was also influenced by the Indian medical teachings of Sushruta and Charaka.


As an alternative medicine, unani has found favour in Asia, especially India. In India, Unani practitioners can practice as qualified doctors, as the Indian government approves their practice. Unani medicine is very close to Ayurveda. Both are based on theory of the presence of the elements (in Unani, they are considered to be fire, water, earth and air) in the human body. (The elements, attributed to the philosopher Empedocles, determined the way of thinking in medieval Europe.) According to followers of Unani medicine, these elements are present in different fluids and their balance leads to health and their imbalance leads to illness.


All these elaborations were built on the basic Hippocratic theory of the [Four Humours]. The theory postulates the presence in the human body of blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Each person's unique mixture of these substances determines his temperament: a predominance of blood gives a sanguine temperament; a predominance of phlegm makes one phlegmatic; yellow bile, bilious (or choleric); and black bile, melancholic. As long as these humours are in balance, the human system is healthy, it is imbalance which can result in disease.


Most medicines and remedies (often common herbs and foods) used in Unani are also used in Ayurveda. While Unani was influenced by Islam, Ayurveda is associated with Vedic culture.


The base used in Unani medicine is often honey. Honey is considered by some to have healing properties and hence is used in food and medicines practiced in the Islamic world. Real pearls and metal are also used in the making of Unani medicine based on the kind of ailment it is aimed to heal.

ŠProfessor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. March, 2008