By Sharukh Vazifdar August 2010 Too little is known about Unani, one of the world’s major therapies rooted in a holistic perspective. Founded by Hippocrates, and built on by various cultures including the Arab world, Unani is a sophisticated therapy offering cures for an impressive range of maladies Personalities based on humoursThere are four types of personalities based on the characteristics and the proportion in which the four humours are present in the human body.• Sanguine or plethoric: They have a hot and moist temperament, and are obese and robust. They are very active, tense and moderately hypersexual. They have a good appetite and a full strong pulse. They have red complexion, and a slight feeling of heaviness in the body.• Choleretic or bilious: These individuals possess a hot and dry temperament. They get angry quickly. They have a sallow complexion and a lean and hairy body. They are proud, revengeful and shrewd. They are energetic and intelligent individuals, usually with a strong inclination to indulge in sexual pleasures. They are fastidious about food and have a strong and rapid pulse as well as prominent blood vessels.• Phlegmatic or pituitic: Their constitution is cold and moist. They are flaccid and obese individuals, with white and pasty skin. They have thin and soft hair and narrow (non-prominent) blood vessels. Their movements and activities are sluggish and their intelligence is slow and dull. They are overcome with drowsiness, do not get angry and are not much given to gastronomic or venereal pleasures. They also experience excessive heaviness of the body.• Melancholic type: Their temperament is cold and dry. They are thin, dark, with narrow blood vessels and slow pulse. They show slight inclination towards sexual activity, and suffer from loss of sleep. Ankit and Sudha Jain, a couple from New Delhi, were on heavy allopathic medication for hypertension. Their dosage had increased over the years with no sign of lasting relief or decrease in symptoms. By using Unani medicine as a supportive treatment and observing a few simple diet restrictions, they were able to completely stop the allopathic medicine within six months.Farooq Ahmed, a 31-year-old shop owner from Mumbai was diagnosed with chronic renal failure in 2008. Since he could not afford hospitalisation, he tried Unani medicine under Prof Sharique Zafar of the Dr Jamkhanawala Tibbia Unani Medical College in Mumbai. Using various herbal formulations, his condition was reversed permanently in less than a year. Now his blood urea and serum creatinine levels are normal with no abnormal fluctuations. Gurpreet Singh (30) a manager in a Delhi-based media company, turned to Unani when he was diagnosed with jaundice. Admitted to Majeedia Hospital in New Delhi, he was cured in a week and could resume a normal diet.Unani medicine, whose name we have all heard, but of which most of us know nothing, owes its origins to Greece, and in particular to Hippocrates. Bearing close resemblance to Ayurveda, the Indian system of health care, Unani is based on the theory that the human body has the four elements present within it in the form of four humours. Being a holistic form of treatment, it eradicates the root of the disease and not just its symptoms, preventing recurrence.Conventional medicine may still swear the Hippocratic oath, but in every other way it has renounced the healing approach founded by Hippocrates.History of UnaniIt was the Greek philosopher-physician Hippocrates who freed medicine from the realm of superstition and magic, recognising the disease process as a natural phenomenon, and established for the first time, a system of diagnosis and proper cure of ailments, giving it the status of science. The theoretical framework of Unani medicine is based on the teachings of Hippocrates. After him, a number of other Greek scholars enriched the system considerably. Of them Aelius Galenus, a prominent Roman physician of Greek origin, better known as Galen stands out as the one who stabilised its foundation, on which Arab physicians like Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, popularly known as Rhazes, and Ibn Sina or Avicenna constructed an imposing edifice. Avicenna’s book, al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine), is “the single most famous book in the history of medicine, in East or West”, as stated by the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Composed of five long volumes totalling one million words, the Canon drew together all of the medical knowledge that existed in the world up to his time, which he refined and codified into the science of medicine. Unani medicine got enriched by imbibing what was best in the contemporary system of traditional medicine in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia, India, China and other Middle East and Far Eastern countries. It also benefited from the native medical systems in vogue at the time in various parts of Central Asia. That is why this system is known, in different parts of the world, with different names, such as, Greco-Arab Medicine, Ionian Medicine, Arab Medicine, Islamic Medicine, Traditional Medicine, Oriental Medicine and so on.In India, Unani system of medicine was introduced by the Arabs, and was soon well-established and followed. When Mongols ravaged Persian and Central Asia, scholars and physicians of Unani medicine fled to India. The Delhi Sultanate provided state patronage to the scholars and even enrolled some of them as state employees and court physicians. Unani medicine had its hey-day in India between the 13th and the 17th century. Mughal gardens were designed by Unani herbologists to enhance well-being through the healing effects of various flowers and plants. During British rule, Unani medicine suffered a setback and its development was hampered due to withdrawal of governmental patronage. But since the system enjoyed faith among the masses it continued to be practised. Hakim Ajmal Khan, freedom fighter, president of the Indian National Congress, and founder of the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Aligarh, greatly furthered both Unani and Ayurveda in the pre-independence era.Apart from India, Pakistan is another country where Unani is extensively practised. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh also feature in this list but to a lesser capacity. Countries such as South Africa have a few well-known Unani doctors with patients coming from all over the globe. In the Middle East, Egypt and Afghanistan, the trend is to pass on the knowledge from father to son, diluting the skill and proficiency, and without any valid authoritative body. Dr Noor Patel, the RMO at the HAR Kalsekar Tibbia Hospital of Unani medicine in Mumbai, states here that many of the so-called hakims who sell medication in vans or stalls on the streets aren’t certified practitioners and give the field a bad name by distributing their own concoctions, which might be ineffective.Many wrongly believe Unani to be traditional Islamic medicine. Hakim Daljeet Singh and Hakim Ram Lubhaya, two ardent promoters and practitioners of this system, belonged to different religions. Dr Patel points out that both students and patients come from varying backgrounds and religious identities. The reason for this misconception is that most of the earlier texts on the subject were in Urdu, greatly limiting the outreach. The Munshi Naval Kishore Press in Lucknow was the sole publisher of Unani literature until recently, printing only in Arabic, Persian and Urdu.Unani physiologyUnani physicians consider seven basic natural principles (Al Umoor al Tabi’yah) of human physiology. The term ‘al Tabi’yah’ is derived from the word tabi’at or physis which in English would be interpreted as physiology. ElementsThe anasir or elements are divided into four major categories based on four states of elements, which contribute to the formation of things in nature, including the human body. The properties of an element are described in terms of their temperament which is expressed in terms of four qualities, heat, cold, moisture, and dryness. Heat and cold are considered active qualities, and moisture and dryness are passive qualities. TemperamentThe temperament or mizaj is the resultant uniform state or the state of equilibrium emerging after the combination of more than one element. The temperament could be either balanced or unbalanced.HumoursThe humoral theory postulated by Hippocrates, describes that the body contains four major kinds of humours, blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. When in the right proportion, according to quantity and quality, the body is healthy. Incorrect proportion and irregular distribution constitutes disease. Blood or dam is a fluid of red colour, hot and wet in nature, whose main function is to provide nutrition to the human body. It promotes growth of the body in adolescence and helps in the generation of innate heat by supplying fuel to the human body. Phlegm or balgham is a whitish fluid, which includes all white humours of different nature possessing different characteristics and functions. Its temperament is cold and wet and is capable of transformation into blood at anytime. It serves nutrition to the organs like cerebrum, lubricates the joints and keeps the tissues and organs moist to permit their smooth movement without causing friction. Yellow bile or safra is hot and dry in nature, and is bright red in colour. It enables the blood to nourish those organs which need the presence of bilious humour (relating to bile), such as the lungs. Being comparatively lighter, it attenuates the blood and thus enables the blood to reach the thinnest channels of the body. Black bile or sauda is the most inferior amongst all humours and is cold and dry. Its main use is that by travelling to the mouth of the stomach, it tickles the site and sets up a sense of hunger and so arouses the appetite.Tissues and organsIn Unani medicine, the tissues and organs have bee
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