Hippocrates : Unani Medicine

Unani Medicine: Introduction and Present Status in India

S Ahmad


S Ahmad. Unani Medicine: Introduction and Present Status in India. The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine. 2007, Volume 6 Number 1.


Unani Medicine (commonly referred to as Greeco-Arab medicine or Unani Tibb) is a traditional system of medicine practiced in
Indian subcontinent. The present paper is an attempt to summarily introduce this complimentary therapy, its basic principles to
western healthcare professionals. The overview of education, training and research in this field has also been presented.


The Unani system of medicine; sometimes referred to as
Greeco-Arab medicine or Unani Tibb; is based on Greek
philosophy. As per this traditional system, the human body
is composed of four basic elements: earth, air, water and fire
having cold, hot, wet and dry temperaments respectively.
The body fluids are composed of four humors: blood,
phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.

These humors have their
own temperament:
Blood: hot & wet
Phlegm: cold & hot
Yellow bile: hot & dry
Black bile: cold & dry

The quality and quantity of four humors affect the state of
health and disease in the body.


The Unani system of medicine originated in Greece (Unan
or Yunan in Arabic language).
Aesculapius is credited as originator of this system. Buqrat
(better known as Hippocrates, 460-377 BC) is said to be a
descendent of Aesculapius and recognised as ‘father of
Unani medicine’.

Unani medicine developed in the four time periods each in a
different geographical belt:
1. Greek period
2. Arab-Persian period
3. Spanish period
4. Indian period


According to Unani medicine, health is considered as a state
of body with humors in equilibrium and body functions
normal. Health is based on six essential elements:
1. Air
2. Drinks and food
3. Sleep and wakefulness
4. Excretion and retention
5. Physical activity and retention
6. Mental activity and rest
This theory is indirectly having partial similarity with the
accepted definition of health as a state of physical, mental
and social wellness.


Classical diagnosis in Unani system is based on examination
of pulse, stool and urine in addition to routine physical


There are three modes of treatment in Unani system:
1. Regimental therapy (Ilajbil tadbeer) – Use of
exercise, climate change, massage, venesection,
leaching, cupping, diet therapy etc.
2. Pharmacotherapy (Ilajbil dava) – use of drugs of
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plant, animal and mineral origin, either alone or in
3. Surgery (Ilajbil Yad) – Surgical intervention in
treatment as last resort.


This section is intended to provide a brief over-view of the
education & training, professional practice and research in
Unani medicine including the recent advances.


The Unani Medicine education in India is governed by
Central Council of Indian Medicine (Govt. of India). Forty
three colleges impart five and a half years’ Bachelor of
Unani Medicine and Surgery (BUMS) degree after 12 years
of schooling. The BUMS courses are either affiliated to
universities or are run by deemed university. The students
learn basic / pre-clinical (e.g. anatomy, physiology), preclinical
(e.g. pharmacology, pathology, hygiene) and clinical
subjects (e.g. Unani medicine, surgery). BUMS course
essentially involves a one year rotatory internship. BUMS
can be followed by specialised courses in the form of house
job training or post graduation.

3 year post graduate courses – MD (Unani medicine) or MS
(Unani surgery) are offered by a number of institutions
(Table 1) apart from National Institute of Unani Medicine,
Bangalore in one or more of the following branches:

1. Unani internal medicine (Moalejat)
2. Principles of Unani medicine (Kulliyat)
3. Gynaecology, Obstetrics and Paediatrics (Amraz-eniswan-wa-qabalat-o-atfal)
4. Preventive & Social Medicine (Tahaffuzi-wasamaji
5. Unani surgery (Jarahiyat)
6. Pharmacology (Ilmul Advia)


Clinical practice is undertaken by Unani graduates after
registration with a duly constituted government registration
board / council. They work in government and private
establishments as Unani medical officers, research officers,
clinical registrars, teaching staff members, manufacturing
chemists and as Unani drug inspectors with drug control
authorities. Few of the graduates and post graduates serve in
the funded-research projects as research fellows or research
associates. A sizeable number opts to work as Unani general
practitioners. A minority of the Unani postgraduates are able
to get the coveted Lectureships in the teaching institutions.
These academicians have the opportunities to become
Readers (Associate Professors) and Professors in the
academic hierarchy.


The academic research is mostly undertaken by PostGraduates-in-training
under the supervision of Unani
academicians; sometimes; in collaboration with experts from
other fields such as pharmacy, modern medicine and science.
Dept. of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and
Homoeopathy) under the Central Ministry of Health and
Family Welfare is involved in the extra-mural research
project funding to academic departments in Unani Institutes.
The in-house research is undertaken by Central Research
Council for Unani Medicine, New Delhi through its countrywide
network of clinical, survey of medicinal plants and
drug standardization units. Pharmacopoeial Laboratory of
Indian Medicine, Ghaziabad under Central government is
also involved in standardization of traditional remedies.
Some Unani manufacturing companies also have their inhouse
research departments.
Ibne Sina Institute of Tibb in South Africa is also benefiting
from the expertise of Unani physicians and academicians of
A paper has been published discussing the impact of Unani
medicine on the Western world in Middle ages. Traditional
knowledge digital library (TKDL) project under the
functional control of National Institute of Science
Communication & Information Resources (Council for
Scientific & Industrial Research, New Delhi) is a milestone
in the history of Unani medicine in India.
Clinical trials, standardization of drugs and manufacturing
practices alongwith TKDL project are all aimed at getting
global edge for this therapeutic system – the Unani

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Figure 1

Table 1: Post Graduate Institutions of Unani Medicine*.


1. Ahmad J, Qadeer A: Unani: The Science of
Greeco-Arabic Medicine. New Delhi: Lustre Press
/ Roli Books, 1999, pp. 9-19.
2. AYUSH Website: http://indian
3. Azmi AA: Impact of Arabian Medicine on the
Western world in the middle ages. Studies in
History of Medicine & Science 2001; 17 (1-2):
4. Hamdard University website:
5. NISCAIR website: http://www.niscair.res.in
6. Said M ed: Hamdard Pharmacopoeia of Unani
Medicine. New Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications,
1997, pp. viii – xi

Author Information:  Shoaib Ahmad, Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Applied Medical Sciences, Lovely Professional University

SOURCE: Unani Medicine