Unani System Of Medicine

Unani System of Medicine

Unani System of Medicine


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Unani System Of Medicine

This ancient medical tradition, with its origins in the Mediterranean world was brought to India with the spread of Islamic civilization. The system came as a result of Muslim conquests in the region from around the 10th century A.D. Thus, an originally transplanted medical system became indigenous and traditional over the centuries, to the extent that today it is commonly used.

The Unani system of medicine was founded on the principles propounded by Galen, a Greek practitioner. Kitab – al – shifa, the Magnum opus of Abu Sina, an Arub Philosopher and physicist, also known as Avicenna in English (A.D.980 – 1037), played a role of great importance in the development of this system. In fact that today this style of medicine is not known as Galenic, as it was earlier called, but the Unani (Arabic name for Greek) system of medicine.

The essence of the Galenic system was the so – called humoral pathology which, having originated in the Hippocratic school of Kos, came to be modified by Aristotle and by medical schools such as Penumaticians. It was molded by Galen into a comprehensive and well – thought – out theory, the main point of which was that food, after being ingested was transformed by natural warmth in the stomach into different substances. Part of these were useful to the body and after a second transported by the blood to the different organs of the body, while the waste was excreted. The main products of this process were the four cardinal humours: blood, mucus, yellow bile and black bile. These humours were combined with the four primary qualities: warmth (or dampness), and dryness.If the four humours and the four primary qualities were all in a state of mutual equilibrium, man was healthy. The influence of exterior factors such as climate, age, profession, customs, etc caused a dominance of one of the four humours to be observed in every human body. This gave a man his “temperament”, which may be sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, or melancholic.

The magic word of this system was eukrasia, or more comprehend sively symmetria (Arabic I’tidal). It was by conserving symmetry in the different spheres of his life that a man protected his health and it was by teaching his patients how to conserve or restore it that physician made himself indispensable in the Galenic system. The Galenic physician was meant not only to be a simple practitioner busy with curing bodily diseases but an ethical instructor as well.

Another characteristic feature of the Galenic system was the Aristotelian relation between the general and the particular. What the medical textbooks contained were only the general facts of anatomy, pathology, therapeutics, etc. From these general rules, physicians had to derive the appropriate individual treatment for a given case by means of logical procedure, especially by the so – called analogical conclusion (analogismos). This was why in the Unani system it was not possible to be a good physician without having thoroughly learned the rules of logic.

Unani System of Medicine

Hospitals were built by both rulers and noblemen from the beginning of the Muslim rule, but their endowment was looked on rather as a matter of philanthropy than as part of a ruler’s administrative duties. The development of hospitals was encouraged in India by a large number of Iranian doctors who migrated here in the reign of Akabr. Through them the number of hospitals increased in his and in succeeding reigns. Both (Ayurvedic) vaidyas and (Unani) hakims were employed in these bimaristans (hospital’s), suggesting that there was recognition on the part of the hakims of the merits of the other system. The most important Muslim medical text produced in India, Miyan Bhowa’s Madan – ul – shifa Sikandarshahi (The Mine of Medicine of King Sikander), completed in A.D. 1512 and dedicated to the Sultan of Delhi, Sikander Lodi, fully recognized that the Unani system in its pure form did not suit local conditions, because the climate was different and many Unain drugs were hardly obtainable in India. On the other hand, Indian medicine knew of many drugs equally efficacious but not recognized in the Unani system. The practitioners of the two systems seem to have collaborated because each had much to learn from the other and further improved their own respective systems this way.

Today, the Unani system of medicine is practiced in India. Thanks to the pioneering work and research of a charitable organization Hamdard and various Tibbiya colleges located throughout the country, this system of medicine is in no danger of going into oblivion.




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