Meaning and Origin
Unani means medicines which are a symbol of life. The name is derived from the word ‘Ionian’ which originated in Greece. ‘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.
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.
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 –
• Internal medicine (Moalijat)
• Gynecology including Obstetrics and Pediatrics
• Diseases of the head and neck
• Rejuvenation Therapy including Geriatrics
• Regimental Therapy
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 is responsible for maintenance of health.
These are: –
• Arkan (Elements)
• Mizaj (Temperament)
• Akhlaat (Humours)
• Aaza (Organs)
• Arwah (Vital forces or Neuro)
• Quwa (Faculties)
• Afaal (Functions)
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 clean, 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 are 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.
Obstacles in Unani medicine
Although a complete system of treatment, the Unani system, similar to other systems of medicine, has drawbacks in terms of application and effectiveness. The vast materia medica, from herbal and animal to mineral sources, as described in ancient Unani textbooks, is sometimes so vague that authenticity must be established by modern pharmacognostic assessments (by means of a basic, descriptive pharmacology) before medicines can be put to use. In addition, the use in Unani medicine of precious stones and minerals, the chief ingredients of many polyformulations (medicines containing multiple ingredients), is expensive. These items often are unavailable as well, thereby hindering effective treatment.