Unani medicine

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Unani medicine
Alternative medicine
Unani tibb, Arabian medicine, Islamic medicine
Asclepius, originator of unani medicine.[1]
Related fieldsAlternative medicine
Year proposed1200 BC
Original proponentsAsclepius
Subsequent proponentsHippocrates, Galen, Avicenna, Rhazes
See alsoHumorism, heroic medicine
Birbahuti (Trombidium red velvet mite) is used as Unani Medicine.

The term Yūnānī means ("Ionian"/"Greek"),[2][3] as the Perso-Arabic system of medicine was based on the teachings of the Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen.[4] The Supreme Court of India and Indian Medical Association regard unqualified practitioners of Unani, Ayurveda and Siddha medicine as quackery.[5][6][7] Practitioners of alternative medicine, including those practicing Unani medicine, are not authorized to practice medicine in India unless trained at a qualified medical institution, registered with the government, and listed as physicians annually in The Gazette of India.[5][7] Identifying practitioners of Unani medicine, the Supreme Court of India stated in 2018 that "unqualified, untrained quacks are posing a great risk to the entire society and playing with the lives of people without having the requisite training and education in the science from approved institutions".[5]


Arab and Persian elaborations upon the Greek system of medicine by figures like Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and al-Razi (Rhazes) influenced the early development of Unani.[8][9]

The medical tradition of medieval Islam was introduced to India by the 13th century with the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate and it took its own course of development during the Mughal Empire,[10][11] influenced by Indian medical teachings of Sushruta and Charaka. Alauddin Khalji (d. 1316) had several eminent physicians (Hakims) at his royal courts.[12] This royal patronage led to the development of Unani in India, and also the creation of Unani literature.[13][14]

The Hellenistic origin of Unani medicine is based on four humours: phlegm (balgham), blood (dam), yellow bile (ṣafrā) and black bile (saudā'), but it has also been influenced by Indian and Chinese traditional systems.[15]

Diagnosis and treatment[edit]

A title page of Unani book on physiology in Urdu printed in 1289 Hijri (1868 AD) in India

According to Unani medicine, management of any disease depends upon the diagnosis of disease. Proper diagnosis depends upon observation of the patient's symptoms and temperament.

Unani, like Ayurveda, is based on theory of the presence of the elements in the human body. According to followers of Unani medicine, these elements are present in fluids and their balance leads to health and their imbalance leads to illness.

According to Unani practitioners, the failure of the Quwwat-e-Mudabbira-e-Badan, or the body's ability to maintain its own health, may lead to derangement of the normal equilibrium of the body's akhlat (humors). Abnormal humors are believed to lead to pathological changes in the tissues at the affected site, creating the clinical manifestations of illness. The theory postulates the presence of blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile in the human body. Each person's unique mixture of these substances determines his mizaj (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.

After diagnosing the disease, treatment follows a pattern (Usool-e-ilaj):

Izalae Sabab (elimination of cause)
Tadeele Akhlat (normalization of humors)
Tadeele Aza (normalization of tissues/organs)

Treatment includes regimens and therapies included in the term Ilaj-Bil-Tadbeer. These therapies include cupping, aromatherapy, bloodletting, bathing, exercise, and dalak (massaging the body). It may also involve the prescription of Unani drugs or surgery.[16][17]

Education and recognition[edit]

There are several Indian universities devoted to Unani medicine, in addition to universities that teach traditional Indian medical practices in general.[18] Undergraduate degrees awarded for completing a Unani program include the Bachelor of Unani Medicine and Surgery, Bachelor of Unani Tib and Surgery, and Bachelor of Unani Medicine with Modern Medicine and Surgery degrees. A small number of universities offer post-graduate degrees in Unani medicine.[19]

The Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM), a statutory body established in 1971 under the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), monitors higher education in areas of Indian medicine including Ayurveda, Unani, and other traditional medical systems.[20] Another subdivision of AYUSH, the Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM),[21] aids and co-ordinates scientific research in the Unani system of medicine through a network of 22 nationwide research institutes and units.[22]

To fight biopiracy and unethical patents, the Government of India set up the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library in 2001 as repository of formulations used in Indian traditional medicine, including 98,700 Unani formulations.[23][24]

The government of Pakistan's National Council for Tibb is responsible for developing the curriculum of Unani courses and registering practitioners of the medicine.[25] Various private foundations devote themselves to the research and production of Unani medicines, including the Hamdard Foundation, which also runs a Unani research institution.[26] The Qarshi Foundation runs a similar institution, Qarshi University.[27] The programs are accredited by Higher Education Commission,[28] Pakistan Medical and Dental Council,[29] and the Pakistan Pharmacy Council.[30] In 1974 it was estimated by US authorities that there were 40,000 hakims (physicians who practice Unani medicine) in Pakistan.[31]

Regulation in India[edit]

Practicing Unani medicine and similar forms of rural alternative medicine in India was banned in the Travancore-Cochin Medical Practitioners' Act of 1953,[32] then reinforced in 2018 by the Supreme Court of India which stated that "A number of unqualified, untrained quacks are posing a great risk to the entire society and playing with the lives of people."[5] The Act requires that qualified medical practitioners be trained at a recognized institution, and be registered and displayed on a list of valid physician practitioners, as published annually in The Gazette of India.[5][32] The Gazette list does not recognize practitioners of Unani medicine because they are not trained, qualified or registered as valid physicians.[5][7]

Safety issues[edit]

Some medicines traditionally used by Unani practitioners are known to be poisonous.[33]

The Indian Journal of Pharmacology notes:

According to WHO, "Pharmacovigilance activities are done to monitor detection, assessment, understanding and prevention of any obnoxious adverse reactions to drugs at therapeutic concentration that is used or is intended to be used to modify or explore physiological system or pathological states for the benefit of recipient." These drugs may be any substance or product including herbs, minerals, etc. for animals and human beings and can even be that prescribed by practitioners of Unani or Ayurvedic system of medicine. In recent days, awareness has been created related to safety and adverse drug reaction monitoring of herbal drugs including Unani drugs.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Akhtar, Mohd Sayeed; Swamy, Mallappa Kumara (2018-07-03). Anticancer Plants: Clinical Trials and Nanotechnology. ISBN 9789811082160.
  2. ^ William Dalrymple (1994). City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi. Flamingo. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-00-637595-1.
  3. ^ "Unani Tibb". Science Museum, London. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  4. ^ Unani Medicine in India: Its Origin and Fundamental Concepts by Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman, History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, Vol. IV Part 2 (Medicine and Life Sciences in India), Ed. B. V. Subbarayappa, Centre for Studies in Civilizations, Project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture, New Delhi, 2001, pp. 298-325
  5. ^ a b c d e f Justice RK Agrawal (13 April 2018). "Judgment by the Supreme Court of India: Kerala Ayurveda Paramparya vs State Of Kerala". Supreme Court of India. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  6. ^ "Quacks practising medicine great risk to society: Supreme Court". Business Standard. 13 April 2018. Retrieved 28 November 2019. People having no recognised and approved qualifications, having little knowledge about the indigenous medicines are becoming medical practitioners and playing with the lives of thousands and millions of people. Sometimes such quacks commit blunders and precious lives are lost.
  7. ^ a b c "IMA Anti Quackery". Indian Medical Association. 2014. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  8. ^ Unani Medicine in India during 1901–1947 by Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman, Studies in History of Medicine and Science, IHMMR, New Delhi, Vol. XIII, No. 1, 1994, p. 97-112.
  9. ^ Alam, Zulfeequar (2008). Herbal Medicines. APH. p. 13–15. ISBN 9788131303580.
  10. ^ Chishti, p. 2.
  11. ^ Kapoor, p. 7264
  12. ^ Indian Hakims: Their Role in the medical care of India by Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman, History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, Vol. IV Part 2 (Medicine and Life Sciences in India), Ed. B. V. Subbarayappa, Centre for Studies in Civilizations, Project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture, New Delhi, 2001, pp. 371-426
  13. ^ "Unani". Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy, Govt. of India. Archived from the original on 2007-12-23.
  14. ^ Bala, p. 45
  15. ^ Heyadri, Mojtaba; Hashempur, Mohammad Hashem; Ayati, Mohammad Hosein; Quintern, Detlev; Nimrouzi, Majid; Mosavat, Seyed Hamdollah (2015). "The use of Chinese herbal drugs in Islamic medicine". Journal of Integrative Medicine. 13 (6): 363–7. doi:10.1016/S2095-4964(15)60205-9. PMID 26559361.
  16. ^ Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman (1980), Kitāb al-murakkābāt, ʻAlīgaṛh: Pablikeshan Ḍivīzhan, Muslim Yūnivarsiṭī, OL 18981483M
  17. ^ Mehra, Raakhee (2003). Significance of Ayurvediya Marma: Vital Body Points. p. 15–25. ISBN 978-8189973803.
  18. ^ S. C. Bhatt, Gopal K. Bhargava, ed. (2006). Land and People of Indian States and Union Territories. 16. Gyan Publishing House. p. 191.
  19. ^ Kumar, Ashish (2006). Handbook of Universities, Volume 1. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. xiii,13.
  20. ^ CCIM Archived 2011-02-26 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM)". Traditional Knowledge Digital Library.
  22. ^ "Research and Development: Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM)". Centre for Research in Indian Systems of Medicine, (CRISM).
  23. ^ Traditional Knowledge Digital Library website.
  24. ^ "Know Instances of Patenting on the UES of Medicinal Plants in India". PIB, Ministry of Environment and Forests. May 6, 2010.
  25. ^ Bodeker, Gerard (2005). WHO Global Atlas of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine. WHO. p. 167.
  26. ^ "Hamdard Research Institute of Unani Medicine, Hamdard University". Archived from the original on 15 January 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  27. ^ "Department of Eastern Medicine and Surgery, Qarshi University". Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  28. ^ "H.E.C. Accreditation List". Archived from the original on 2013-10-29.
  29. ^ "PM&DC Accreditation List". Archived from the original on 2012-01-16. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  30. ^ "PCP Accreditation List". Pharmacy Council of Pakistan. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
  31. ^ Arthur Homer Furnia, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, Division of Program Analysis, 1976, p. 34
  32. ^ a b "Travancore-Cochin Medical Practitioners' Act, 1953" (PDF). Medical Council of Kerala, Kerala Adaptation of Laws. 1956. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  33. ^ Arnold, David (2012). David Hardiman, Projit Bihari Mukharji (ed.). Medical Marginality in South Asia: Situating Subaltern Therapeutics. Routledge. p. 171. ISBN 9780415502412.
  34. ^ Rahman, SZ; Latif, A; Khan, RA (Dec 2008). "Importance of pharmacovigilance in Unani system of medicine". Indian J. Pharmacol. 40 (7): 17–20. PMC 3038517. PMID 21369407.