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Unani Medicine

The Unani system of medicine owes its origin to Greece (Unan in Arabic means Greece). The theoretical framework of Unani medicine is based on the teachings of the Greek philosopher-physician Hippocrates. On this foundation, Islamic physicians constructed the edifice of Unani medicine. The medical system was enriched by imbibing what was best in the contemporary systems of traditional medicine in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia, India, China and other Middle East and Far East countries.

At present, India is considered a world leader in the Unani system of medicine, which has its own recognised practitioners, hospitals and educational and research institutions. It offers time-tested remedies for gastro-intestinal, cardiovascular and nervous disorders and makes use of surgery, too.

The fundamental principles of Unani medicine stress on disease being a natural process and its symptoms being the reaction of the body to the disease. Unani is based on the humoral theory, which presupposes the presence of four humors -- dam (blood), balgham (phlegm), safra (yellow bile) and sauda (black bile) -- in the body. Every person is supposed to have a unique humoral constitution which represents her/his healthy state.

To maintain the correct humoral balance, there is a power of self-preservation or adjustment called quwwat-e-Mudabbira (medicatrix naturae)in the body. If this power weakens, an imbalance in the humoral composition is bound to occur and this causes disease. In Unani medicine, great reliance is placed on this power. The medicines used in this system, in fact, help the body to regain this power to an optimum level and thereby restore the humoral balance, thus retaining health. Correct diet and digestion are also considered in maintaining humoral balance.

Diagnosis is through nabz (pulse), which is felt by the fingers. Other methods of diagnosis include examination of urine, stool, etc. Treatment is of various types -- regimental therapy, diet therapy, pharmacotherapy and surgery. The regimental therapy includes venesection, cupping, diaphoresis, diuresis, Turkish bath, massage, cauterization, purging, exercise and leeching. Diet therapy aims at treating certain ailments by administration of specific diets and by regulating the quantity and quality of food. On the other hand, pharmacotherapy deals with the use of natural herbal drugs, though drugs of animal and mineral origin are also used. In Unani medicine, single drugs or their combinations in raw form are preferred over compound formulations.
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