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Unani Medicine : Origin and Development

UNANI system of medicine owes its origin to Greece (Unan in Arabic=Greece). It was the Greek philosopher-physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC) who freed Medicine from the realm of superstition and magic, and gave it the status of Science. The theoretical framework of Unani Medicine is based on the teachings of Hippocrates. After a number of other Greek scholars had enriched the system considerably, Galen (131-210 AD) stands out as one who stabilized its foundation. On this foundations islamic physicians like Al-Razi (Rhazes) (850-925 AD) and Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037 AD) Al Zahravi (Albucasis) the surgeon and Ibn-Nafis (to name only a few) constructed an imposing edifice. Unani medicine got 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. The Unani system received great impetus during the reign of the Abbasids and became a respectable and 'rational' science

In India, Unani system of medicine was introduced by Arabs, and soon it took firm roots in the soil. When Mongols ravaged Persian and Central Asian cities like Shiraz, Tabrez and Geelan, scholars and physicians of Unani Medicine fled to India. The Delhi Sultan, the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs and the Mughal Emperors provided state patronage to the scholars and even enrolled some as state employees and court physicians. During the 13th and 17th century Unani Medicine had its hey-day in India. Among those who made valuable contributions to this system into period were Abu Bakr Bin Ali Usman Ksahani, Sadruddin Damashqui, Bahwa bin Khwas Khan, Ali Geelani, Akbal Arzani and Mohammad Hashim Alvi Khan.

The scholars and physicians of Unani Medicine who settled in India were not content with the known drugs. They subjected Indian drugs to clinical trials. As a result of their experimentation added numerous native drugs to their own system further enriching its treasures.

During the British rule, Unani Medicine suffered a setback and its development was hampered due to withdrawal of governmental patronage. Since the system enjoyed faith among the masses it continued to be practiced. It was mainly the Sharifi family in Delhi, the Azizi family in Luchnow and the Nizam of Hyderbad due to whose efforts Unani Medicine survived during the British period. An outstanding physician and scholar of Unani Medicine, Hakim Ajmal Khan (1868-1927) championed the cause of the system in India.

The development of Unani Medicine as well as other Indian systems of medicine gained considerable momentum after independence. Even prior to independence, several committees were appointed which underscored the future role to be played by the indigenous systems of medicine.

The government established in 1969 a Central Council for Research in Indian Medicine and Homeopathy (CCRIMH) to develop scientific research in different branches of Indian systems of medicine viz Unani Medicine, Ayurveda, Siddha, Yoga, Naturopathy and Homeopathy. the research activities in these systems continued under the aegis of the CCRIMH till 1978 when it was split up into four separate research Councils, one each for Unani Medicine, Ayurveda and Siddha, Yoga and Naturopathy and Homeopathy. This was done to further develop these systems in consonance with the basic philosophies of the respective systems. Ever since its establishment, the Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM) has been making concerted efforts to provide scientific basis to this age-old system and to come up with viable solutions to the health problems of the people.

In order to streamline education and regulate practice in the Indian systems of medicine, the Government set up by an Act of Parliament, Indian Medicine Central Council Act 1970, the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM).

At present the Unani systems of medicine, with its own recognized practitioners, hospitals and educational and research institutions, forms an integral part of the national health care system. Today, India is considered a world leader in Unani Medicine. The Government is providing increasing support and funds for the multipronged development of Unani Medicine to draw the fullest advantage of this system in providing health care to the masses. It is hoped that the spread of Unani and other Indian systems of medicine will help realize the cherished goal of Health for all by the year 2000.