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

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. 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.

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.

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.

Concept of Health

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:

  • Air
  • Drinks and food
  • Sleep and wakefulness
  • Excretion and retention
  • Physical activity and retention
  • 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 checkup.

Modes of treatment

There are three modes of treatment in Unani system:

  • Regimental therapy (Ilajbil tadbeer) – Use of exercise, climate change, massage, venesection, leaching, cupping, diet therapy etc.
  • Pharmacotherapy (Ilajbil dava) – use of drugs of plant, animal and mineral origin, either alone or in combination.
  • Surgery (Ilajbil Yad) – Surgical intervention in treatment as last resort
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