Unani medicine is one of the ancient systems of medicine. The term Unani means ‘Greek’, and is used because this system is based on the teachings of ancient Greek philosophers and physicians. It is currently being practiced in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern Countries. The practitioners of Unani Tib claim to cure numerous ailments and diseases through it.
History of Unani Medicine
In history, the origin of Unani medicine can be traced back to Greek, almost 2500 years ago. It comes out to be the second century of the Common Era. (Lloyd 23) The Greek physician Hippocrates was the first person who presented the theoretical framework of this medical system. Roman physician Claudius Gelenus also stabilized its foundations. (Husain et. al. 59)
After the decline of Greek and Roman civilizations, these medical texts survived in Islamic Courts of the Near East. Later, in the eighth and ninth centuries AD, many of these Greek texts were translated in the Arabic language. (Ahmad and Jamal 210) Arabian and Persian scholars, including Ibn-e-Sina (Avicenna), Al-Zahrawi, Al-Razi (Rhazes), and Ibn Nafis, further developed it into an intricate piece of medical science. (Alam 14) Due to this transition from Greeks to Arabs, it is called as Greco-Arab medicine.
Introduction of Unani Medicine in India
Unani medicine was introduced in India during the 13th century after the establishment of Muslim rule. When Mongols attacked Persian and Central Asian regions, many of the experts and physicians of the Unani Tib fled to India. (Ahmad and Jamal 210) They benefitted from the local medicinal methods. In the subsequent centuries, the system flourished under the royal patronage of many Muslim Kings, especially during the Mughal Rule. (Subbarayappa 142)
Under the British Rule, its official acceptance retreated; however, it was still practiced among the working class, and Hakeem Ajmal Khan is considered as the main practitioner and contributor to Unani medicine in that era. (Poulakou-Rebelakou et. al. 325) During this period, Hakim Mohammed Moizuddin Farooqui also contributed a lot to this field, and his prepared formulation, known as Zinda Tilismath, is used to cure numerous common ailments, became popular as an effective household essential by millions. Today, India is the country where this medical system is majorly practiced and is officially recognized.
Concept of Unani Medicine
The concepts of Unani medicine are based on the philosophy that the human body is made up of four basic elements i.e. Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Each has its specific temperament i.e. cold, hot, wet, and dry. Their combination and interaction lead to the formation of a new compound having a new Mizaj (temperament) i.e. hot wet, hot dry, cold wet, and cold dry. (Jabin 140)
Four Akhlat (Humours) provide nourishment to the simple and complex organs of the body, and these humours include Dam (Blood), Balgham (Phlegm), Safra (Yellow Bile), and Sauda (Black Bile). Each humour has its particular Mizaj. Blood is hot and moist, phlegm is cold and moist, yellow bile is hot and dry, and black bile is cold and dry. (Ahmer et. al. 6)
The predominance of humours determines the temperament of every person i.e. sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, or melancholic. (Hongal et. al. 12) The practitioners of Unani medicine believe that equilibrium between these humours determines the health of the body. The body maintains this optimum balance and this self-preservation ability is known as Quwwat-e-Mudabbira. When this equilibrium is disturbed, the abnormal temperament of the affected organ upsets the body functions resulting in disease. (Ahmad and Jamal 210)
Benefits & Uses Of Unani Medicine
The Unani system of medicine offers various health benefits and it is used to treat diseases related to all the organs and organ systems of the human body. A brief introduction to the use of Unani rugs and formulations in various health disorders is given below.
Oral diseases are considered as major health problems around the world. The most prominent ones are dental caries and periodontal diseases. Application of Zinda Tilismath on the affected gums helps to relieve toothaches due to its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties. Similarly, Unani formulations like Buzidan, Habbe Gule Aak, Sunune Zard, Sunune Mulook, Sunune Mujalli, Majoon Suranjan, Majoon Azaraqi, etc, are also used in the treatment of orofacial diseases. (Said 166-167)
Cough and sore throat are common infectious problems of the neck. Herbal medications, like Zinda Tilismath, due to their anti-microbial and anti-infectious characteristics, effectively cure these conditions and also ameliorate symptoms like pain and difficulty in swallowing.
Unani medicines like Zinda Tilismath are also used as a remedy for stomach/abdominal problems like indigestion, constipation, flatulence, diarrhea, burping, and retching. Moreover, formulations like Jawarish-e- Bisbasa (Shailaja et. al. 172) and Sandalwood (Ahmed et. al. 81) are proved to be potent in the treatment of gastric ulcers and have no toxic effects.
Diabetes mellitus is a multifactorial metabolic disorder characterized by hyperglycemia due to relative or absolute deficiency of insulin. Unani drugs containing Gurmar Booti (Gymnema sylvestre) are proved to be helpful for diabetic patients (Singh et. al. 88) as its leaves are found to regenerate β pancreatic cells which secrete insulin in the body. (Saxena and Naval 369) Other beneficial drugs include Safoofe Ziabetus, Qurs Tabasheer, Tuhme Jamun, Satte Gilo, etc. (Anzar 462)
Unani medicine puts arthritis under a broad category termed as Waja-ul-Mufassil which covers all joint disorders including infectious, inflammatory, non-inflammatory, metabolic, and various musculoskeletal disorders. Among various Unani formulations available to treat arthritis, the most reputed one in this regard is Majoon Suranjan which is made up of 21 ingredients. (Khan et. al. 351) A research study conducted on rats has also proved that Majoon Suranjan reduces inflammation and is effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. (Singh et. al. 384)
Hakeem Shareef Khan invented an ophthalmic formulation, known as Kohl-Chikni Dawa. It is renowned for its advantageous effects in the treatment of premature cataracts. In 3 different research studies conducted on rats having cataracts induced by naphthalene (Siddiqui et. al. 1), alloxan (Siddiqui et. al. 109), and galactose (Siddiqui 85), local application of Kohl-Chikni Dawa demonstrated significant positive results and was found completely non-toxic.
Unani medications are also been used to treat heart disorders. Ibn e Sina described 63 cardio-protective Unani drugs in his book, Adviya-E-Qalbiyah. Some of these major drugs include Khamirah, Qurs Zahar Mohra, Mufarreh Yaqoot, etc. (Ansari and Shahla 67)
Researchers tested Khamirah Abresham Sada and Jawahar Mohra on patients of congestive heart failure and significant improvements in symptoms were observed. (Manzar et. al. 113) Another Unani medicine, Qalbeen, which is a herbomineral combination, is used for the treatment of ischemic heart disease (IHD). The results of a study, conducted on 40 adult patients, also support that this drug can be prescribed in the stable cases of IHD. (Mohsin et. al. 575)
Practitioners of this ancient system of medicine also cure many breathing problems with their formulations and techniques. For example, Zinda Tilismath is used to treat breathing difficulties in children as well in adults like wheezing, bronchitis, nasal congestion, throat discomfort, etc. it also cures common cold and coryza. Moreover, during a clinical trial, asthma, known as dama, was treated in a patient with the help of bronchodilation, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmolytic Unani drugs. Not only the symptoms were relieved in that patient but also the airway hypersensitivity was rectified resulting in normalizing the histopathological changes induced by asthma. (Shamsi et. al. 130)
Many kidney diseases are also claimed to be treated with the therapeutic strategies of this medical system. For instance, Hajrul yahood (Lapis judaicus) is found helpful in the management of urolithiasis/kidney stones. (Makbul et. al. 165) Jawarish Zarooni Sada, a polyherbal preparation made up of 15 ingredients, is proved to be nephroprotective and diuretic. (Afzal et. al. 219) Similarly, according to a case report, acute kidney injury was cured in a patient by only using Unani formulations. (Siddiqui and Khan 5)
Unani physicians have been efficiently treating numerous skin problems from ancient times by using various modes of treatment like Ilaj Bil-Ghiza (Dietotherapy), Ilaj Bit-Tadbeer (Regimental Therapy), and Ilaj Bid-Dawa (Pharmacotherapy). The herbo-animo-mineral medications used for treating Psoriasis (Taqashshure Jild), have anti-inflammatory, purgative, moisturizing, blood purifying, and demulcificant properties. (Khan et. al.200) Likewise, the topical application of Zinda Timilismath is also useful in skin problems like itching and eczema.
Various health problems related to the brain are being cured effectively through Unani concepts. For instance, Kamira Abresham Hakim Arshad Wala is a Yunani medicine prepared by a combination of natural ingredients like saffron, Indian bay leaf, citron, and cardamom. Research, conducted on rats, has shown that it protects from free radicals-induced harmful effects, thus helps in the prevention of age-related functional impairments in the brain. (Khan et. al. 68) Similarly, a study demonstrated that Majun Khadar is neuroprotective against cerebral damage due to ischemia. (Yousaf 1) Also, simple massaging with few drops of Zinda Tilismath on the forehead relieves headaches.
One of the most praiseworthy achievements of the Unani system of medicine is the treatment of sexual disorders. It is helpful in the cure of both male and female sterility enhancing the sexual strength and general wellbeing. Research has also shown that Withan somnifera a plant used in the formulations of Unani drugs, can improve semen quality in infertile males by the regulation of reproductive hormones and oxidative stress. (Ahmad et. al. 989)
To conclude the above discussion, we can say that Unani medicine is one of the ancient systems of medications. Many scholars have contributed to its development. Cures of disorders related to almost all organs and organ systems of the body are present in it.
Afzal, M., et al. “Diuretic and nephroprotective effect of Jawarish Zarooni Sada—a polyherbal unani formulation.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 91.2-3 (2004): 219-223.
Ahmad, Bilal, and Jamal Akhtar. “Unani system of medicine.” Pharmacognosy Reviews 1.2 (2007): 210-214.
Ahmad, Mohammad Kaleem, et al. “Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males.” Fertility and sterility 94.3 (2010): 989-996.
Ahmed, Nazeer, et al. “Anti-ulcer activity of sandalwood (Santalum album L.) stem hydro-alcoholic extract in three gastric-ulceration models of wistar rats.” Boletín Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Plantas Medicinales y Aromáticas 12.1 (2013): 81-91.
Ahmer, S. M., et al. “Mizaj: Theory of Greko-Arabic Medicine for Health and.” Asian Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine 1 (2015): 1-9
Alam, Md Zulfeequar. Herbal medicines. APH Publishing, 2008.
Ansari, Khurshid A., and Shahla Nazir. “Cardio protective drugs in Unani medicine: A review.” The Pharma Innovation Journal 3.9 (2014): 67-69.
Anzar, M. A. “Drugs indicated for the management of ziabetus shakri (diabetes mellitus) in unani medicine-An overview.” Int. Jour. of Pharmamedix India 1.3 (2013): 460-74.
Hongal, Sudhir, et al. “Role of unani system of medicine in management of orofacial diseases: A review.” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR 8.10 (2014): ZE12-ZE15.
Husain, Ahmad, et al. “Unani Medicine and Stability Studies—A Short Communication.” Pharmacognosy Journal 2.16 (2010): 59-60.
Jabin, Farkhunda. “Guiding tool in Unani Tibb for maintenance and preservation of health: a review study.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 8.5S (2011): 140-143.
Khan, Asim Ali, et al. “Majoon Suranjan: A Potent Unani formulation for Arthritis.” Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics 8.6 (2018): 351-355.
Khan, M. Badruzzaman, et al. “Prevention of cognitive impairments and neurodegeneration by Khamira Abresham Hakim Arshad Wala.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 108.1 (2006): 68-73.
Khan, Mohammad Shamim, Qamrul Hasan Lari, and Mahmood Ahmad Khan. “Therapeutic approach of unani medicine in the management of psoriasis (Da-us-sadaf).” European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research 5.2 (2018): 200-205.
Lloyd, Iva. The Energetics of Health E-Book: A Naturopathic Assessment. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2009.
Makbul, Shaikh Ajij Ahmed, Nasreen Jahan, and Ghufran Ahmad. “Hajrul yahood (Lapis judaicus): An important mineral drug of Unani system of medicine for the management of urolithiasis.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 222 (2018): 165-170.
Manzar, Jawed, M. Y. Siddiqui, and M. H. Hakim. “Effect of khamirah abresham Sada and Jawahar mohra in congestive heart failure.” Hamdard Medicus (Pakistan) (2002): 113-116.
Mohsin, Mohd, et al. “Therapeutic evaluation of Qalbeen-A polyherbal mineral formulation in ischaemic heart disease.” (2008).
Poulakou-Rebelakou, Effie, Marianna Karamanou, and George Androutsos. “The impact of ancient Greek medicine in India: the birth of Unani medicine.” AMHA-Acta medico-historica Adriatica 13.2 (2015): 323-328.
Said, Hakim Mohammad, ed. Hamdard pharmacopoeia of eastern medicine. No. 55. South Asia Books, 1970: 166-167.
Saxena, Abha, and Naval Kishore Vikram. “Role of selected Indian plants in management of type 2 diabetes: a review.” The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 10.2 (2004): 369-378.
Shailajan, Sunita, et al. “Phytochemical, safety and pharmacokinetic profile of Jawarish-e-Bisbasa: a potent unani medicine for gastric disorders.” Afr J Tradit Med 7 (2012): 168-77.
Shamsi, Yasmeen, Rabia Khan, and Sadia Nikhat. “Clinically Significant Improvement in a Case of Bronchial Asthma with Unani Medicine: a Case Report.” Traditional and Integrative Medicine (2019): 130-136.
Siddiqui, Muhammad Shakil Ahmad, and Khan Usmanghani. “Acute Kidney Injury: Treatment with Unani Medicine—Case Report.” Chinese Medicine 2014 (2014).
Siddiqui, T. A., et al. “Anticataract activity of Kohl-Chikni Dawa—a compound ophthalmic formulation of Unani medicine in alloxan-diabetic rats.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 86.1 (2003): 109-112.
Siddiqui, Tariq Akram, et al. “Effect of Kohl-Chikni Dawa–a compound ophthalmic formulation of Unani medicine on naphthalene-induced cataracts in rats.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 2.1 (2002): 1-4.
Siddiqui, TA. “Protective effect of Kohl-Chikni Dawa against galactose-induced cataract in rats.” Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine 4.2 (2004): 82-86.
Singh, Vinay Kumar, et al. “Gymnema sylvestre for diabetics.” Journal of herbs, spices & medicinal plants 14.1-2 (2008): 88-106.
Singh, Surender, Vinod Nair, and Y. K. Gupta. “Antiarthritic activity of Majoon Suranjan (a polyherbal Unani formulation) in rat.” The Indian journal of medical research 134.3 (2011): 384-388.
Subbarayappa, B. V. “The roots of ancient medicine: an historical outline.” Journal of Biosciences 26.2 (2001): 135-143.
Yousuf, Seema, et al. “Neuroprotection offered by Majun Khadar, a traditional unani medicine, during cerebral ischemic damage in rats.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011 (2011): 1-9.