The word "Unani" (meaning "Ionian") reflects the strong Greek influence to this tradition of medicine widely practiced in India and Indian subcontinent, but the origins of the traditional Oriental medicine known as "Unani-Tibb" begin with the famous physician, Avicenna.
‘Tibb’ means the knowledge of the states of the human body in health and decline of health, or in other words, medicine. 'Tibb-E-Unani', is hence an age old, time tested system of medicine dating back 5000 years to Greece.
Also known by the name Hakim Abu Ali Abdullah Husayn Ibn Sina, this physician and naturalist was so advanced in his insights and dedicated to his studies that he mastered a great deal of the medical knowledge of his day when he was barely a teenager! Understanding Avicenna’s writings in depth would tax the resources of the greatest intellects of our time.
I can’t imagine the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to alway search my destination.
When it’s dark enough, you can see the stars.
You may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, but you can control your attitude and how you deal with it.
Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. Hope never abandons you, you abandon it.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
Dear GOD, if today I lose my hope please remind me that your plans are better than my Dream.....
Unani medicine, like any other form of medical science strives to find the best possible ways by which a person can lead a healthy life with the least or zero sickness. It prescribes drugs, diet, drinks and other regiments including codes of conduct which are conducive to the maintenance and promotion of positive health, as well as the prevention and cure of disease. The ultimate aim of these scientific prescriptions and prohibitions is the creation of a healthy society.
The practice of Unani medicine shares the same early beginnings as modern medicine but, unlike modern medicine, still retains principles developed during the period of ancient Greek and Islamic civilisations. It began with Greek medicine as practiced by the civilization which peaked in the 400 years B.C. Later, the contributions of the Islamic civilization physicians, such as Ibn Sina/Avicenna (980 – 1037 A.D.) and Rhazes/ar-Razi (865 - 923 A.D.) also contributed towards the development of the Unani medicine system.
The Unani medicine system is based on the principles of humoural balance adapted from Greek Medicine. The principle states that each individual has a different humoural constitution, built from the 4 basic humours (akhlat) – Dam (Blood), Balgam (Phlegm), Safra (Yellow Bile) and Sauda (Black Bile). A healthy state is defined as a well-balanced proportion of the humoural fluids in the body while sickness is a condition where the humoural composition is imbalanced in a body system or a qualitative change in the composition or physical properties of the humours occurs.
The natural balance of the humoural constitution in the body is regulated by a power of self- preservation or adjustment called Quwwate-Muddabira or tabiyat (Medicatrix naturae). The practice of Unani medicine helps bring Quwwate-Muddabira or tabiyat to an optimum level at the onset of disease to restore humoural balance and regain a healthy state of the body system.
The principles of Unani medicine also states that the health state of the human body is maintained by the harmonious arrangement of al-umoor–al-tabiyyah or the 7 basic physiological principles of the human body. The 7 basic physiological principles of the human body are:
Besides the above, additional factors are also instrumental in maintaining the health state of the body. These factors are known as Asbab Sitta Zaruriya or Six essential causes and are listed below:
Other non-essential factors known as Asbab Gair Zaruriya also influence the health state of individuals who come in contact with these factors. These factors are listed below:
Traditional systems of medicine are no doubt prevalent in various countries of the world. But most of these are empirical. On the other hand, Unani and its allied branches have rational and scientific basic principles. It is distinct from other branches of medicine, as the drugs it uses are natural in their sources and forms. It emphasizes on retaining natural compounds which belong to the human body, and hence prescribes only natural remedies. Unani medicine believes that diseases can be kept at bay by the use of clean and fresh water, breathing clean air and consuming fresh food. Likewise, a balance should be maintained between the mind and the body so that the metabolic process can take place easily and the body waste evacuated. Unani medicine also believes that all life forms have originated from the sea.There are eight specialized branches of Unani medicine -
How does it work?
The fundamental theory of the Unani System of medicine is based upon:
Each person’s unique mixture of these humors determines his temperament (Mizaj): A predominance of blood gives a sanguine (confidently optimistic and cheerful) temperament; a predominance of phlegm makes one phlegmatic (showing little emotion); a predominance of phlegm yellow bile gives a bilious or choleric (quickly aroused to anger and irritable) temperament; and black bile gives a melancholic (sadness) temperament. When the balance of the four humors is disturbed, it can result in diseases. Every individual has inherent powers of self-preservation, called quwat-e-modabira. In the Unani system, the physician’s job is to aid these natural forces of the body in combating a disease. In short, Unanipathy aims at maintaining proper health by conserving symmetry in the different spheres of a man’s life.
As long as these humors are in normal balance in normal quantities and in the normal regions of the body the human body works normally and is healthy. Imbalances to the humored construction result in disease. A Unani Physician attempts to diagnose the disturbance and to restore the normal working by use of Unani herbal medicines, diet control and by regulating living habits.
Another distinctive feature of the Unani system of medicine is its emphasis on diagnosing a disease through Nabz (Pulse), arrhythmic expansion of arteries which is felt by fingers. Other methods of diagnosis include examination of Baul (Urine), Baraz (Stool) etc.
Particularly in the Sufi lineage of the Chishtiyyah order, control of breathing and voice, as well as particular visualizations specific to exercises in which the pulse is felt, assist the student in clearing the mind of distractions to understanding the nature of the pulse quality.
The Unani physician also takes into consideration the influence of surroundings and ecological conditions such as air, food, drinks, body movement and repose, psychic movement and repose, sleep and wakefulness, and excretion and retention on the state of health.
The diagnostic skills required by a practitioner of Unani medicine are quite subtle, so studying the style of pulse analysis used by the Hakims is very helpful for practitioners of other Oriental medicines. As with many of the Oriental systems, practitioners are taught to focus on the patient and their particular manifestations of disease. Questioning, palpation, and observation are the three modalities utilized to investigate the nature of the imbalance. As with Tibetan and Chinese theories of disorder, the body in health is hypothesized to be in a dynamic equilibrium, and disorders arise when environmental or intrinsic factors influence a shift out of that equilibrium. The qualities of the blood, complexion, and body substance which need to be analyzed by Unani physicians is quite sophisticated and comparable to the highest levels of physical diagnosis taught in the West.
According to the Unani discipline as it stands today, the human body is composed of 7 natural and basic components called 'Umoor e Tabaiyah' which are responsible for maintenance of health.These are:
The loss of any one of these basic components or alteration in their physical state could lead to disease, or even death. It is highly essential to consider all these factors so as to reach the correct diagnosis and consequently the correct line of treatment.
The Unani physicians describe that there is a special ability hidden in every individual called the defensive mechanism of the body or in the language of Unani - ‘Tabiyat-e-Muddabare Badan’. The ‘Tabiyat’ may be defined as the sum total structural function and psychological character of the human being. The ‘Tabiyat’ or nature is the best physician, and maintains the equilibrium of the four humours or 'Akhlat'. Their quantity and quality should be as per the natural chemical composition of the body.
The UNANI System of addressing whole health considers illness as an event serving to cleans, purify, and balance us on the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual planes.
Allah (The one God of All) says in the Quran “There may be a thing decreed for you that you do not like that is good for you; and things that you like that are not good for you.” Imam al-Ghazzali (r.a.) expressed this idea as follows: “Illness is one of the forms of experience by which humans arrive at a knowledge of God; as He says, ‘Illnesses are my servants which I attached to My chosen friends.’” Just because something feels “good” does not necessarily mean it is of ultimate benefit to us. And conversely, if we have a moment of pain, we cannot dismiss this experience as "bad" without understanding how and what the result of these sensations will be. A "Healing Crisis" is the natural function of the body eliminating toxins: Vomiting, Nosebleeds, Diarrhea, Fevers, Sweating, and Frequent Urination these are avenues to full health.
While admitting the existence of microbes, the UNANI Tibb system maintains that it is the original imbalance of temperament that provides an altered biotic environment in which the viruses and bacteria can thrive. Treatments of killing off microbes can provide a temporary "cure", but without restoring the humor to its proper balance, the disease will recur. So, the UNANI Tibb System is one of seeking balance between the Humors of the body and the temperament, mainly through proper metabolism of the bodies nourishment.
Food is important
In common with many traditional sources of medicine, Unani-Tibb emphasizes the use of flavors and tastes to adjust the imbalances which contribute to disease. The choices of foods and the manner in which they are prepared are considered to be among the most important issues to consider when choosing a diet to improve or maintain health. Skillful use of warming and cooling spices and herbs contribute heavily to the appropriateness of the meal to correct the root causes of imbalances.
Each ingredient in a meal affects the heat or cold balance of the body differently and may also influence factors of the humoural system. The potency of some foods are mild, and can be used by anyone. Three other levels of potency rise through the moderately medicinal foods, to those highest two levels which are powerful and for which a Hakim or trained practitioner should be consulted.
The strongest level of potency includes poisons which may, in the right hands, be used as medicine. This reality is difficult for Westerners to grasp, as we are taught to think in a concrete way about medicine. Poisons are always poisons to the academic, but practitioners of Oriental traditions understand that skillful use sometimes requires the physician to do something unconventional in order to save the patient.
The tastes, salty, sweet, bitter, pungent, and sour also affect the humoural system, as do various qualities that are more subtle than the five tastes normally considered. The aromas which are given off during the preparation and cooking phase, as well as those emitted during the consumption of the meal, and even some post digestive transformations, contribute to the healing benefit of a well conceived meal. It is in this way that Hippocrates intended physicians to "make food your medicine". To this day, skillful cooking and prescribing the most beneficial diet remains the path of the Hakims.
Modern urban society accepts the concept of the business lunch, but this type of environment is generally not a conducive atmosphere to digestion. From a traditional perspective, the primary agenda for any meal is to benefit from the medicinal quality of food. Any factor which interferes with this agenda degrades the value of the meal inasmuch as nutrition is concerned. And, because of its central role in determining health or disease, as much emphasis should be placed on diet as on every other aspect of medical care.
When there are business goals, such as making a sale, reviewing performance, or fulfilling social obligations to colleagues, these will often conflict with the necessary focus on health. Patients have told me of situations where disagreeable events and personality conflicts have resulted in a loss of appetite as well as actual physical symptoms of distress either during or soon after such incidents.
In addition, the atmosphere of many restaurants is not conducive to a pleasant experience. Aside from food borne illnesses, the attitudes of the cooking and serving staff can seriously degrade the value of commercial meals. Second or third rate ingredients are often necessary realities in a business where most of the cost of a meal is dedicated to staff salaries, benefits, and taxes. A noisy or disruptive atmosphere is another negative influence on the value of a meal.
Another modern habit which had caused deterioration in the health value of a meal is attempting to combine the experience with that of work, entertainment, or travel. Eating while reading, watching television, driving, or talking on the phone will all detract from the nutritional value of a meal, according to the traditions of Unani-Tibb.
Scent is the power
Another fascinating and subtle area of specialty in Unani medicine is the use of fragrance to alter the physiology of mind and body. Specific attars are extracted from the plant and are utilized alone or blended as the Hakim directs in as much as alcohol is not permitted as a medicine in Islamic tradition, these attars are produced without the use of this substance.
Elements or Arkan are four simple individual entities which forms primary components of the human body and all other creations in the universe. The four elements are arz (earth), maa (water), nar (fire) and hawa (air). Air stands for matters in a gaseous state, water for a liquid state, earth for a solid state and fire for matter that has been transformed into heat. According to Unani practice, each element possesses unique temperament qualities – earth is cold and dry, water is cold and moist, fire is hot and dry and air is hot and moist.
The "Humoural theory" assumes the presence of four humours - Blood (Dam), Phlegm (Balghum), Yellow Bile (Safra) and Black Bile (Sauda). This is central to the practice of Unani medicine. Each humour is assigned with respective temperament qualities of the elements – Blood like air is hot and wet; Phlegm like water is cold and wet; Yellow bile like fire is hot and dry and Black bile like earth is cold and dry. The humoural constitution in each individual is unique and represents his or her health state.
Mizaj indicates the state of equilibrium between four humours in the body. The dominance of a particular humour combined with the temperament qualities of the elements – hot, cold, wet and dry in an individual result in his or her temperament (mizaj). The 4 basic temperaments outlined are:
The temperament in an individual can be classified as a balanced one (mizaj-e-mutadil) or imbalanced one (mizaj-e-ghair-mutadil). The principle of Unani medicine believes that each individual is born with a unique humoural constitution which determines their temperament and health state.
The first point of diagnosis in Unani medicine begins with the observation of the patient’s physical appearance and questions on dietary intake, excretions, symptoms, sleep and activity patterns by the Unani physician (hakim).
Further diagnosis is further conducted through the assessment of the pulse (nabz), urine (baul) and stool (braz). Common diagnostic activities include the following:
Once the disease has been identified from the diagnosis phase, the hakim would commence treatment of the medical condition.In Unani medicine treatment given is either preventive or curative.
The modes of treatment are:
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions".
"The purpose of our lives is to be happy" - Dalai Lama