In Unani, the proper functioning of the human body depends on seven factors known as Umoor-E-Tabaiya—elements, temperament, humours, organs, vital forces, faculties and functions. The system has shown significant results in curing diseases like arthritis, paralysis, leucoderma, jaundice, acute and chronic gastrointestinal disorders and bronchial asthma among other diseases.
At the core of Unani
Unani medicine believes that disease is a natural process and its symptoms are the reactions of the body to the disease. It presupposes the presence of four humours in the body—dam [blood], balgham [phlegm], safra [yellow bile] and sauda [black bile].
Humours are fluids, which the human body obtains from food and includes the various hormones and enzymes. Each humour has a temperament—blood is hot and moist; phlegm is cold and moist; yellow bile is hot and dry; and black bile is cold and dry. A person is considered healthy, if these four main humours and their primary qualities are all in a state of mutual equilibrium.
Every person has a unique humoural constitution, which represents his/her healthy state. To maintain the correct humoural balance, we are endowed with the power of self-preservation called Quwat-e-Mudabbira. A weakening of this power causes an imbalance in the humours, leading to diseases.
Unani medicine lays down six essential prerequisites, known as Asbab-e-Sitta Zarooriya, for the prevention of diseases. They are: air, food and drinks, bodily movement and repose, psychic movement and repose, sleep and wakefulness, and excretion and retention.
Diagnosis through Unani
Unani diagnoses disorders through nabz [pulse], baul [urine] and baraz [stool]. The functioning and health of the entire mind-body constitution, including the balance of the humours and the health of the various organs can be determined with the help of pulse, urine and stool.
Therapeutics in Unani
Unani employs various types of treatments. The important ones are: Ilaj bil-Ghiza [diet therapy]; laj-bit-Tadbeer [regimental therapy] and Ilaj bid-Dawa [pharmacotherapy].
Diet therapy: Unani treats ailments mainly through diet control—administration of specific diets or by regulating the quantity and quality of food.
Regimental therapy: This treatment aims at evacuation of waste material from the body through various therapies.
- Fasd [Venesection]: This procedure aims at evacuation of Madda-e-Fasida [waste material] from the blood vessels. An incision is made to any of the superficial veins, and blood containing waste material is allowed to flow. This process stimulates metabolism and helps cure a number of ailments.
- Hijamat [Cupping]: In this, a horn is attached to the surface of the skin of the diseased part through which negative pressure is created by vacuum [through heat or suction] for local evacuation or diversion of morbid humours.
- Tareeq [Diaphoresis]: This accelerates the secretions of the sweat glands of the skin. It helps excrete waste matter from the skin, blood and other parts of the body; enhances dermal nutrition; and improves body texture.
- Idrar-e-baul [Diuresis]: This is one of the important processes for evacuation, which employs specific methods and drugs. The objective is to excrete poisonous matters and waste through urine. It is used to cure hepatic ailments, heart and pulmonary diseases as well as renal disorders.
- Hammam [Turkish bath]: It is a place used for bathing, consisting of several rooms with one room leading to the other with specific provisions and conditions customised according to the disease to be treated. It is effective in treating obesity, paralysis and muscular wasting.
- Dalk [Massage]: This is a systematic manipulation of body tissues with the hands. Unani has several types of massages with different objectives, e.g. a hard massage [dalak-e-sulb] makes the body firm, soft massage [dalak-e-layyan] relaxes the body and produces sedation, prolonged massage reduces body fat, and moderate massage improves and maintains blood circulation.
- Kai [Cauterisation]: Cauterisation is an effective method for treating several conditions like destructive lesions, removal of putrefactive matter and bleeding. Unani physicians have preferred mikwa [cauterant] made of gold for the process.
- Ishaal [Purgation]: This process is used for expulsion of the waste matter through the bowels.
- Qai [Emesis]: This helps evacuate gastric contents through the mouth. The main purpose of vomiting is to eliminate toxic/morbid material from the gastrointestinal tract.
- Taleeq [Leeching]: This is a unique method of removal of Mawaad-e-Fasida [morbid matters]. Leeching draws blood from deeper tissues helping treat ailments like baldness, ringworm, moles and pneumonia.
Pharmacotherapy It deals with the use of natural drugs and drugs made from animals and minerals—they symbolise life. Unani prefers prescribing single drugs or their combinations in raw over compound formulations. The natural drugs are generally free from side-effects, though because of some of the drugs are toxic in crude form, they are processed in many ways before use.
Important components used widely in Unani system of medicine are:
- Hibiscus: Rich in vitamin C, calcium, fibres, iron, nitrogen, phosphorous, tartaric and oxalic acids, fructose, glucose, sucrose, flavonoids and flavonoid glycosides, hibiscus is an important constituent in Unani medicines. This helps to treat health problems like cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure, kidney problem, and throat infections.
- Kasni or Chicory: The plant, rich in nutrients and vitamins such as calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamins A and C is also high in proteins, fat, fibre and carbohydrates. It helps in curing problems of the liver, brain, digestive system, eyes, nervous and muscular system. It also has a good anti-inflammatory action on the abdominal viscera.
- Haritaki or Harar: The fruit acts as an anti-toxin that cures gastric problems, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, melancholia and hysteria. It is also used in the treatment of mild constipation, heart-burn, liver and spleen disorders.
- Saunf [bitter fennel]: A strongly recommended herb by Unani system of medicine, saunf is a good source of vitamin C and essential minerals like calcium, sodium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium. A good home remedy for many stomach ailments like cramps, pain and gastric disorders, saunf also helps in enhancing memory, eyesight, controlling cholesterol levels and curing coughs.
- Ashwagandha: The herb is used for treating a variety of conditions including nervous disorders, gynaecological disorders, respiratory disorders, anxiety, insomnia and arthritic inflammation. It also helps increase energy and strength, cures impotency, enhances resistance to stress, controls and regulates body metabolism, and promotes general well-being.
- Almonds: They are used to treat anaemia, mental fatigue, constipation, impotence and respiratory disorders. The presence of complex carbohydrates helps in the treatment of constipation, gastric problems and colon cancer. Being a good source of vitamin E, manganese, iron, carbohydrates and minerals, it is a one-stop solution of total healthcare for the entire family.