Traditional Arabic Herbal Medicine

Traditional Arabic or Islamic medicine became known in India, where it is widely practiced, as Unani-Tibb. “Tibb” is an Arabic word meaning “medicine,” while “Unani” is thought to be derived from “Ionian” (meaning Greek) – acknowledging the influence of the early Greek healing traditions on this system of medicine.

The system dates back to the 7th century, when the Arab-Islamic world adopted the traditions of Europe as it expanded into areas that had been part of the Greco­Roman empires. Medical practice and theory were then dominated by the works of the Greek physican Galen (A.D. 130-200) who studied anatomy and made use of numerous drugs. The Unani system of medicine owes, as its name suggests, its origin to Greece. The term ‘UNANI’ is derived from the word ‘UNAN’ which means Greece in Arabic. It was the work of the Greek philosopher-physician Hippocrates {Buqrat In Arabic} (460-377 B.C.), who freed medicine from the realm of superstition and magic and gave it the status of science.

The Muslims who invaded India in the 11th century brought their medicine with them, and the system is prominent today, particularly among Muslims, in India and its surrounding countries. It owes most to the work of the 10th-century Persian physician Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna. A follower of Galen, he considered the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health and developed a system of botanical medicine and dietetics for health.

Unani- Tibb has been influenced by Ayurvedic medicine, as well as influencing it. It is a holistic system that treats the imbalances that lead to disease and encourages the patient to adopt a balanced way of life. It incorporates the following concepts:

four elements, namely, earth and water (heavy) and fire and air (light)

nine temperaments, one equable (balanced) and eight nonequable and relating to hot, cold, wet, and dry

four humors, as in ancient Greek medicine – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile – semigaseous vapors that maintain body fluids and balance digestion.

In India

In India, Unani system of medicine was introduced by the Arabs and soon took firm roots in the soil. When Mongols ravaged Persian and Central Asian cities, scholars and physicians of Unani medicine fled to India. The Delhi Sultans, 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 13th and 17th century A.D. Unani Medicine had its heyday in India. During the British rule Unani system of medicine suffered a setback due to withdrawal of State patronage, but continued to be practised as the masses reposed faith in the system.