Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
Indian health traditions: October 08, 2000
Prof. Hakim Syed Khaleefathullah
Unani Consultant and Researcher, Formerly Chairman of the Central Council of Indian Medicine.
Modern civilisation owes an immense debt to ancient Greece. Almost everything that contributes to the interest and happiness of life originated in Greece. Philosophy and history, poetry and drama, sculpture and architecture, mathematics and astronomy, science and medicine; all had their roots there, and indeed attained in some instances a level of excellence which has never since been equalled.
Painting by Mahaveer Swami
Unani, as a system of medicine, originated in Greece. It was Bukrath (Hippocrates), 460-377 BC, who freed medicine from the realm of superstition and magic, and gave it the status of science. After him many scholars enriched the system of whom Jalinoos (Galen) 131-210 A.D., Al-Razi (Rhazes) 850-925 A.D. and Abu Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna) 980-1037 A.D. are noteworthy.
It was further enriched by imbibing the best of contemporary systems of medicine in the middle eastern and far eastern countries. In India the Unani system found immediate favour with the masses and spread all over the country and was unchallenged for a long time even after the Mughal period. The system, however, suffered a setback during the colonial period for want of official patronage.
Unani medicine was the first to establish that disease was a natural process and that symptoms were the reactions of the body to the disease. It believes in the humoral theory which presupposes the presence of the four humors - Dam (blood), Balgham (phlegm), Safra (yellow bile) and Sauda (black bile) in the body. Each humor has its own temperament - blood is hot and moist, phlegm cold and moist, yellow bile hot and dry and black bile cold and dry. Every person attains a temperament according to the preponderance in them of the humors which represent the person's healthy state, which are expressed as sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic.
To maintain the correct humoral balance there is a power of self preservation or adjustment called Quwwat-e-Mudabbira (medicatrix naturae) in the body. When this power weakens, imbalance in humoral compositions occurs resulting in disease. The medicines used help regain this power and thereby restore the humoral balance and the disease is eradicated.
The diagnosis of diseases in Unani system of medicine is through Nabz (pulse) and examination of Baul (Urine) and Baraz (stool).
Unani system recognises the influence of surroundings and ecological conditions on the state of health. It has laid down six essential pre-requisites (Asbab-e-Sitta Zarooriya) i.e. air, food and drinks, body movement and repose, psychic movement and repose, sleep and wakefulness, and excretion and retention.
Once a person develops a disease, the Unani physician employs the following types of treatment:
Haj bit tadbeer (regimental therapy) includes venesection, cupping, diaphoresis, diuresis, turkish bath, massage, cauterisation, purging, emesis, exercise and leeching.
Haj bil ghiza (dietotherapy) aims at treating certain ailments by administration of specific diets or by regulating the quantity and quality of food.
Haj bid dawa (pharmacotherapy) deals with the use of naturally occurring drugs mostly herbal, though drugs of animal and mineral origin are also used. Single drugs or their combinations in raw form are preferred over compound formulations. The materia medica of Unani medicine being vast, the medicines are easy to get, for most are available locally. Although general preference is for single drugs, compound formulations are also employed in the treatment of various complex and chronic disorders.
Jarahat (surgery) has also been in use in this system for long. The ancient physicians of Unani medicine were pioneers in this field and had developed their own instruments and techniques.
The development of Unani medicine gained considerable momentum after Independence. In 1969, the Government of India established the Central Council for the Research in Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy (CCRIMH) to develop scientific research in different branches of Indian systems of Medicine Homoeopathy. In 1978, the CCRIMH was made into four separate councils - for Unani Medicine, Ayurveda and Siddha, Homoeopathy, Yoga and Naturopathy. The Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM) is developing independent and multi-dimensional research into various fundamental and applied aspects of Unani system on scientific foundation whose benefits can be extended to the common man.
The areas of research are clinical research, standardisation of single and compound drugs, literary research, survey and cultivation of medicinal plants and family and welfare.
Much research has been done in the field of iltehab-e-kabid (infective hepatitis), bars (vitiligo), daul feel (Filariasis) and waja-ul-mafazil (rheumatoid arthritis).
The Central Council of Indian Medicine, a statutory body, monitors the education in Unani system. There are 37 under-graduate recognised colleges, situated in different parts of the country and affiliated to the universities of that area. Post-graduate education in six subjects is available in three centres - Hyderabad, Aligarh and Delhi. The Government of India has set up a National Institute of Unani Medicine at Bangalore in collaboration with the Karnataka Government.
There are more than 35,000 registered Unani practitioners scattered all over the country. A large number of unregistered practitioners practise Unani medicine on hereditary basis. There are 105 Unani hospitals and 950 Unani dispensaries run by Government/local bodies and non-government organisations, besides seven CGHS dispensaries.
The manufacturing of Unani drugs is regulated through the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940. Licences are issued by the State Drug Controllers. The good manufacturing practices (GMP) are also applied to the manufacture of Unani Medicine.
Professor Wilkins - a Nobel Laureate in medicine - said: "The time has come for philosophy to say interesting things to science which is changing. The great success of modern medicine, molecular biology being one example, tends to give rise to an idea that its concepts are final and comprehensive. This tendency contributes to certain weaknesses in modern scientific medicine. There is often a need for broader approach where wider aspects of patients living are taken into account".
Unani medicine has that broad perspective. Its approach to the problems of patients is individualistic and the therapy encompasses all aspects of a patient's life.
Copyrights © 2000, The Hindu.
Republication or redissemination ofthe contents of this screen are expressly prohibited
without the written consent of The Hindu.