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The topic covers about Unani - principles and concepts, diagnosis and prevention of diseases, related institutions and resources.


The Unani System of Medicine has a long and impressive record in India. It was introduced in India by the Arabs and Persians sometime around the eleventh century. Today, India is one of the leading countries in so for as the practice of Unani medicine is concerned. It has the largest number of Unani educational, research and health care institutions.

As the name indicates, Unani system originated in Greece. The foundation of Unani system was laid by Hippocrates. The system owes its present form to the Arabs who not only saved much of the Greek literature by rendering it into Arabic but also enriched the medicine of their day with their own contributions. In this process they made extensive use of the science of Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Therapeutics and Surgery.

Unani Medicines got enriched by imbibing what was best in the contemporary systems of traditional medicines in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia, India, China and other Middle East countries.  In India, Unani System of Medicine was introduced by Arabs and soon it took firm roots.  The Delhi Sultans (rulers) provided patronage to the scholars of Unani System and even enrolled some as state employees and court physicians.

After independence the Unani System along with other Indian systems of medicine received a fresh boost under the patronage of the National Government and its people. Government of India took several steps for the all round development of this system. It passed laws to regulate and promote its education and training. It established research institutions, testing laboratories and standardized regulations for the production of drugs and for its practice. Today the Unani system of medicine with its recognized practitioners, hospitals and educational and research institutions, forms an integral part of the national health care delivery system.

Principles and Concepts of Unani

The basic theory of Unani system is based upon the well- known four - humour theory of Hippocrates. This presupposes the presence, in the body, of four humours viz., blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.

The human body is considered to be made up of the following seven components:

Arkan (Elements)

The human body contains four elements. Each of the four elements has its own temperament as follows:

Element Temperament
Air Hot & Moist
Earth Cold & Dry
Fire Hot & Dry
Water Cold & Moist

Mizaj (Temperament)

In the Unani system, the temperament of the individual is very important as it is considered to be unique. The individuals temperament is believed to be the result of the interaction of the elements. The temperament can be real equitable where the four elements used are in equal quantities. This does not exist. The temperament may be equitable. This means presence of just and required amount of compatible temperament. Lastly, temperament can be inequitable. In this case there is absence of just distribution of temperament according to their requirements for healthy functioning of the human body.

Akhlat (Humours)

Humours are those moist and fluid parts of the body which are produced after transformation and metabolism of the aliments; they serve the function of nutrition, growth and repair; and produce energy, for the preservation of individual and his species. The humours are responsible for maintaining moisture of different organs of the body and also provide nutrition to the body. Food passes through four stages of digestion; (1) Gastric digestion when food is turned in to chyme and chyle and carried to liver by mesenteric veins (2). Hepatic digestion in which chyle is converted into four humours in varying quantities, that of blood being the largest. Thus, the blood which leaves the liver is intermixed with the other humours namely, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. The third and fourth stages of digestion are known as (3) vessels and (4) tissue digestion. While the humours are flowing in the blood vessels, every tissue absorbs its nutrition by its attractive power and retains it by its retentive power. Then the digestive power in conjunction with assimilative power converts it into tissues. The waste material in humour at this stage is excreted by the expulsive power. According to this system when any disturbance occurs in the equilibrium of the humour, it causes disease. The treatment, therefore, aims at restoring the equilibrium of humours.

Aaza (Organs)

These are the various organs of the human body. The health or disease of each individual organ affects the state of health of the whole body.

Arwah (Spirits)

Ruh (Spirit) is a gaseous substance, obtained from the inspired air, it helps in all the metabolic activities of the body. It burns the akhlat latifah to produce all kinds of quwa (powers) and hararat ghariziyah, it is the source of vitality for all the organs of the body. These are considered to be the life force and are, therefore, important in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. These are the carriers of different powers, which make the whole body system and its parts functional.

Quwa (Faculties)

These are three kinds of power:

  1. Quwa Tabiyah or Natural power is the power of metabolism and reproduction. Liver is the seat of this power and the process is carried on in every tissue of the body. Metabolism is concerned with the processes of nutrition and growth of human body. Nutrition comes from the food and is carried to all parts of the body, while growth power is responsible for the construction and growth of human organism.
  2. Quwa Nafsaniyah or Psychic power refers to nervous and psychic power. It is located inside the brain and is responsible for perceptive and motive power. Perceptive power conveys impressions or sensation and motive power brings about movements as a response to sensation.
  3. Quwa Haywaniyah or Vital power is responsible for maintaining life and enables all the organs to accept the effect of psychic power. This power is located in the heart. It keeps life running in the tissues.

Afaal (Functions)

This component refers to the movements and functions of all the organs of the body. In case of a healthy body the various organs are not only in proper shape but are also performing their respective functions. This makes it necessary to have full knowledge of the functions of the human body in full detail.

Health: Health refers to that state of human body when all the functions of the body are carried out normally. Disease is the opposite of health in which one or more functions or forms of the body organs are at fault.

Diagnosis: The Diagnostic process in Unani system is dependent on observation and physical examination. Any illness of a person is to be regarded as a product of:

  1. The stuff and material s/he is made of
  2. The kind of temperament, structure and strength of faculties s/he has
  3. The type of factors operating on him/her from outside and
  4. Natures own attempt to maintain his/her physical functions and to ward off disruptions to the extent possible.

Keeping all inter-related factors in view, the cause and nature of illness is determined and treatment is chalked out. Diagnosis involves investigating the causes of disease thoroughly and in detail. For this, the physicians depend mainly on Pulse (Nabz) reading and examination of urine and stool. The alternative contraction and expansion of the arteries produced by the systolic and diastolic of heart is called Pulse (Nabz).

Besides the means of pulse reading and physical examination of urine and stool, other conventional means such as inspection, palpitation, percussion and occultation are also used for diagnosis purposes.

Prevention of Disease

Prevention of disease is as much a concern of the system as curing of sickness. Right in its formative stages the influence of the surrounding environment and ecological condition on the state of health of human beings has been recognized. There is emphasis on the need for keeping water, food and air free from pollution. Six essentials pre-requisites (Asbab Sitta e Zaroriayah) have been laid down for the promotion of health and prevention of disease. These are:

  1. Air
  2. Food and drinks
  3. Bodily movement and repose
  4. Psychic movement and repose
  5. Sleep and wakefulness
  6. Evacuation and retention

Good and clean air is considered as most necessary for health. Avicenna, the famous Arab physician, noted that the change of environment relieves the patients of many diseases. He also emphasized the need for open airy houses with proper ventilation.

It is recommended that one take fresh food, free from putrefaction and disease producing matter. Dirty water is considered as a carrier of several diseases. The system, therefore, strongly emphasizes the need for keeping the water free from all sorts of impurities.

Exercises as well as rest are considered necessary for maintaining good health. Exercise helps the growth of muscles and ensures nutrition, increases blood supply and proper functioning of excretory system. It also keeps the heart and the liver in good condition.

The system documents extensively the impact on health of such psychological factors as happiness, sorrow, and anger etc. There is a branch of Unani medicine known as psychological treatment, which deals in detail with this topic.

Normal sleep and wakefulness are considered essential for good health. Sleep provides physical and mental rest. The lack of it is said to cause dissipation of energy, mental weakness and digestive disturbances.

Proper and normal functioning of the excretory processes is necessary for keeping good health. If the waste products of the body are not completely excreted or when there is disturbance or blockage, it leads to diseases and sickness.


In this system, the entire personality of a patient is taken into account. Each individual has got its own basic structure, physique, make-up, self-defence mechanism, reaction to environmental factors, likes and dislikes.

Unani medicine has the following main types of treatment

Regimental therapy (Ilaj-bil-Tadbir)

Regimental therapy is special technique / physical methods of treatment to improve the constitution of body by removing waste materials and improving the defence mechanism of the body and protect health. In other words these are the best known “detoxification methods”.

Important techniques in regimental therapy along with the ailments for which they are considered effective are briefly described below:

Venesectio (Fasd)

This method of treatment has been found very effective for:

  1. Correction of blood related problems and relieve high blood pressure.
  2. Prevention of toxicity and accumulation of waste matter in the blood.
  3. Excretion of waste matters from various parts of the body.
  4. Stimulation of metabolic processes.
  5. Cure of ailments due to certain menstrual disorders.
  6. Correction of hot material in temperament.
Cupping (Al-hijama)

This method of treatment is used for:

  1. Cleaning the skin of waste matters.
  2. To stop excessive menses or epistaxis.
  3. To correct liver diseases.
  4. To treat malaria and spleen disorders.
  5. To treat piles, inflammation of testes and uterus, scabies, boils etc.
Sweating (Tareeq)

Waste matter from skin, blood and from other parts of the body is excreted through the normal process of sweating. It helps in reducing excessive heat. Dry or wet fomentation, bath with warm water, massage and keeping the patient in a room having hot air are some of the methods of diaphoresis.

Diuresis (Idrar-e- baul)

Poisonous matters, waste products and the excess of humours is excreted through urine. It is applied as a cure for diseases of the heart, liver and lungs. Sometimes diuresis is effected by keeping the patient in a cold room and applying cold water.

Turkish bath (Hamam)

This is recommended for:

  1. Resolving the waste matter and increasing sweating
  2. Providing light heat
  3. Increasing nutrition
  4. Decreasing fat
  5. Increasing fat

Cold bath is preferable in normal health. Hot bath is generally applied for the cure of diseases like paralysis and muscular wasting etc after massage.

Massage (Dalk, Malish)

soft massage is sedative and relaxant; dry and hard massage is deobstruent and increases the blood supply while the massage with oil relaxes the muscles and softens the skin.

Counter irritation

This technique provides relief in pain, burning sensation and irritation. It helps to reduce inflammation and heals tumours.

Cauterization (Amal-e-Kae)

It prevents the poison malignancy of one organ from transferring it to other organs. In case of pain of hip joint, this technique is found very useful. By this technique the pathogenic matters, which are attached to some structures, are removed or resolved.

Purging (Ishal)

Unani medicine widely uses purgatives for intestinal evacuation. There are written rules for using this method. This method influences normal metabolic process.

Vomiting (Qai)

Emetics are used to cure headache, migraine, tonsillitis, bronchopneumonia and also bronchial asthma. This also cures mental diseases like mania and melancholia.

Exercise (Riyazat)

physical exercise has great importance for maintenance of good health and for treating certain diseases. It is said to be good for stomach and for strengthening digestion. There are laid down rules, timings and conditions for various types of exercises.

Leeching (Taleeq-e-Alaq)

This method is used for removing bad matter from the blood. This is useful in skin diseases and ringworms etc. The system describes specific conditions for applying it.

Dieto therapy (Ilaj-bil-Ghiza)

In Unani treatment, food plays a key role. By regulating the quality and quantity of food several ailments are treated successfully. There are several published books, which deals with the subject of diet in relation to specific diseases. Certain foods are considered as laxative, diuretic and diaphoretic.

Pharmacotherapy (Ilaj-bil-Dawa)

This type of treatment involves the use of naturally occurring drugs, mostly herbal. Drugs of animals and mineral origin are also used. Natural drugs only are used because they are locally available and have no or less after effects on the body. Unani medicine presupposes that the drugs also have their own temperament. Since in this system, emphasis is laid on the particular temperament of the individual, the medicines, administered are such as go well with the temperament of the patient, thus accelerating the process of recovery and also eliminating the risk of reaction. Drugs are supposed to act by their temperament of being hot, cold, moist and dry. As a matter of fact, drugs are classified into four classes according to their temperament and the physicians consider its potency, age and temperament of the patient, nature and severity of diseases. Drugs are used in the form of powders, decoctions, infusion, Jawarish, Majoon, Khamira, Syrup and tablets etc. The system has set rules for prescribing alternative drugs.

Surgery (Ilaj-bil-Yad )

This therapy is of very limited use, although the Unani system is credited to be pioneer in this field and having developed its own instruments and techniques. At present only minor surgery is in use in the system.

Drug Control in Unani

In India, manufacturing of Unani Drugs is governed by Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940, and rules there under as amended from time to time. The Drug Technical Advisory Board constituted by Govt. of India is responsible for the enforcement of this Act. There is a Drug Consultation Committee. This Committee advises the Central and State Governments/Board on matters for securing uniformity in the country in the administration of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has constituted Unani Pharmacopoeia Committee for evolving uniform standards for the manufacture of compound Unani drugs. This Committee consists of experts from different fields such as Unani Medicine, Chemistry, botany and Pharmacology.

Unani Pharmacopoeia

Pharmacopoeia is a book of standards, which are required for the quality control of drugs in respect of conforming parameters and protocols for testing/ analysis. The standards are finalized by Unani Pharmacopoeia Committees for evolving these standards / parameters experimental work is entrusted to Pharmacopoeial Laboratory for Indian Medicine.

Five parts of National Formulary for Unani Medicine (N.F.U.M) containing 1091 formulations and six Volumes of Unani Pharmacopoeia of India (U.P.I) containing 298 monographs on single drugs of origin and Unani Pharmacopoeia of India, Part-II, Vol. I consisting of 50 compound formulations has been published .

Pharmacopoeial Laboratory

The Phaarmacopeial Laboratory for Indian Medicine (PLIM) Ghaziabad is a standard setting –cum-drug testing laboratory for Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha Systems of Medicine , established in the year 1970 and is covered under the purview of the Drugs &Cosmetics Act 1940 at national level. The worked out data by the Laboratory is published after the approval of the respective Pharmacopoeia Committees of Ayurveda, Unani & Siddha as Pharmacopoeias of Ayurveds, unani and Siddha Systems of Medicine respectively.

Research in Unani

  1. Masih-ul-Mulk Hakim Ajmal Khan originally perceived the concept of research in Unani system of medicine in 1920s. A versatile genius of his time, Hakim Ajmal Khan very soon realized the importance of research and his inquisitive nature spotted Dr. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui, who was engaged in research work at the Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College, Delhi.
  2. Dr. Siddiqui’s discovery of medicinal properties of of plant, commonly known as Asrol (Pagal Booti), led to sustained research which established the unique efficacy of this plant, known all over the world as Rauwolfia serpentina in neurovascular and nervous disorders, such as hypertension, insanity, schizophrenia, hysteria, insomnia and psychosomatic conditions etc. Systematic research in various Indian systems of medicine, inculuding Unani Medicine, under the patronage of Government of India started in 1969 with the establishment of Central Council
  3. For Research in Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy (CCRIMH) for almost a decade research activities in Unani Medicine were carried out under the aegis of this Councils. In the year 1978, the CCRIMH was split into four separate research Councils, one each for Ayurveda and Siddha, Unani Medicine, Homoeopathy, Yoga and Naturopathy.

Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine

The Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine started functioning independently as an autonomous organization of the Ministry of Health and family Welfare, Government of India with effect from January 1979.

For more details visit: www.ccrum.net

Unani Hospitals & Dispensaries

  1. Unani system of medicine is quite popular among the masses. The practitioners of Unani medicine scattered all over the country, form an integral part of national health care delivery structure. According to official figures available, there are 47963 registered Unani practitioners in the country.
  2. Presently, 15 States have Unani hospitals. The total number of hospitals functioning in different states of the country is 263. The total bed strength in all these hospitals is 4686.
  3. Twenty states in country have Unani dispensaries. The Total number of Unani dispensaries is 1028. Besides, ten dispensaries-two in Andhra Pradesh, one each in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal and five in Delhi are functioning under the Central Government Health Schemes (CGHS).

Education in Unani

The education and training facilities in Unani system of medicine are presently being monitored by the Central Council of Indian Medicine, which is a statutory body set up by an Act of Parliament known as Indian Medicine Central Council Act 1970. At present, there are 40 recognized colleges of Unani Medicine in the Country, which provide education and training facilities in the system. These Colleges have a total admission capacity of about 1,770 students per year for undergraduate courses. They are either Government institutions or set up by Voluntary organizations. All these educational institutions are affiliated to different universities. The curriculum prescribed by the Central Council of Indian Medicine is followed by these institutions.

Postgraduate educations and research facilities are available in the subjects of Ilmul Advia (Pharmacology), Moalijat(Medicine), Kulliyat (Basic Principles), Hifzan-e-Sehat (Hygeine), Jarrahiyat (Surgery),Tahafuzi wa Samaji Tibb, Amraz-e-Atfal and Qabala-wa-Amraz-e-Niswan (Gynaecology). The total admission capacity to these courses is 79.

National Institute of Unani Medicine, Bangalore

The National Institute of Unani Medicine, Bangalore was registered under the Societies Registration Act on 19th November 1984 as a centre of excellence to develop and propagate Unani system of Medicine. N.I.U.M. is a joint venture of the Government of India and the state Government of Karnataka. It is affiliated with the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Science- Bangalore, Karnataka.

For more details visit the website at: www.nium.in

Source : Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India

Basu yadav Aug 13, 2019 08:43 PM

Amazing bro

Ashwin Aug 28, 2017 09:09 PM

the definitions given here are very easy and simple to understand . thank you for putting a wonderful article on unani medicine .



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