Unani medicine is also known as Greek medicine, and is an ancient science developed and systematised as a separate discipline of medicine by Hippocrates in 4th century BC. Unani medicine believes that when a body develops a disease, the symptoms are a natural reaction of the body against the disease. This system of medicine also believes that the physician should aid the body to cure itself in the most gentle manner possible. It follows a holistic approach towards healing and seeks to restore complete well-being by achieving harmony with the universal life forces and cosmos.
The seven essential constituents of the body, according to unani medicine, are:
- Arkan (elements like air, water, and fire)
- Mizaj (temperament)
- Akhlat (humours)
- Aza (organs)
- Arwah (life, spirits or vital breaths)
- Quva (energy)
- Af’al (action)
All these constituents are interdependent and function in accordance. Thus, disruption of any one of them or an imbalance between these elements eventually affects the overall health of an individual, causing diseases.
Unani theory of medicine is based on four humours
- Dum (blood)
- Balgam (phlegm)
- Safra (yellow bile)
- Sauda (black bile)
The most important constituent on which the theories of unani medicine are based is the Akhlat (humours). It is believed that these four humours when present in a harmonious balance keep the body healthy, and any disruptions in their balance is the root cause of all diseases. Unani medicines facilitate maintenance of balance between these four humours to promote good health.
Unani method and theory of diagnosis
A unani practitioner is called a hakim. A hakim’s check-up includes observing the ‘nabz’ (pulse) and the rhythmic expansion of arteries of the patient. A hakim holds the patient’s palm facing upwards and uses his fingers to gently tap and feel the pulse in order to get an idea of the pulse cycle, duration, emptiness or fullness of vessels between beats, compressibility of arteries, and rhythm of the pulse. Stools and urine are also examined. Urine, which has a light tint, has a non-offensive odour is considered healthy. Diseases are diagnosed by observing the quality, odour, colour, foaming, texture, clarity and residues or sediments found in urine. Stools are examined on the basis of quantity and consistency.
Various therapies administered during Unani treatments include
Laj bil tadbeer (Regimental therapy)
Laj bil tadbeer is a regimental therapy that removes toxins and other wastes from the body to restore health. It also boosts the defence mechanism of the body. This method of treatment includes techniques like maalish (massage), hammam (Turkish bath), riyazat (exercise), talaq-e-alaq (leeching) and fasd (venesection)
Ilaj bil ghiza (Diet therapy)
We are what we eat. Thus, diet is one of the most important aspect of the treatment of any disease or condition. Altering your diet and taking specific foods can prove to be very helpful in not only treating a diseases but also in diagnosing diseases by alleviating symptoms. Ilaj bil Ghiza includes providing relief and treatment by regulating diet and food intake.
Ilaj bil dawa (Pharmacotherapy)
Ilaj bil dawa is a therapy that involves use of drugs prepared from minerals, plants, and animals. The drugs are made and prescribed to patients considering their temperament (hot, cold, moist, dry). The medicines are prepared in various forms depending on the effectiveness and suitability. They are available in the form of tablets, syrups, powders, infusions, concoctions, jawarish, majoon and khamira.
The unani system of medicine also involves surgery, which is very rare in other alternative medicine disciplines. Unani is actually considered to be a pioneer in the field of surgery. Elaborate and major surgeries have not yet gained acceptance, however, minor surgeries are being done at present.