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Unani, a term originating from the Greek word ‘Ionian’, refers to a system of medicine largely based on Greek principles. This medical system emphasizes the balance of bodily fluids and has been practiced predominantly in South Asia and the Middle East.

Historical Background

Origin and Spread

  • Greek Influence: Unani medicine can be traced back to the teachings of Hippocrates and Galen. Their works laid the foundation for this medical system [1].
  • Islamic Golden Age: The system flourished in the Islamic Golden Age, with scholars like Ibn Sina (Avicenna) contributing significantly to its development [2].
  • South Asia Expansion: Unani medicine was introduced to India around the 10th century by Persian scholars and became an essential part of the subcontinent’s medical practice [3].

Table 1: Key Historical Figures

HippocratesFather of Unani Medicine460-370 BCE
GalenExpanded the theory130-210 CE
Ibn SinaAuthor of “The Canon of Medicine”980-1037 CE

Fundamental Principles

The Four Humors

Unani medicine is based on the balance of the four humors:

  1. Blood (Dam)
  2. Phlegm (Balgham)
  3. Yellow Bile (Safra)
  4. Black Bile (Sauda)

A disease is believed to occur when there’s an imbalance among these humors [4].

The Four Elements

  • Earth
  • Water
  • Fire
  • Air

These elements correspond to the four humors and are integral to the understanding of the human constitution in Unani medicine.

Practices and Treatments


  • Pulse Diagnosis: A method to understand the balance of humors.
  • Urine Examination: Provides insight into bodily functions.

Therapeutic Approaches

  • Dietary Regulations: Tailoring diets to balance the humors.
  • Herbal Medications: Use of herbal concoctions for healing.
  • Surgical Procedures: In some cases, surgical interventions may be applied.

Global Influence and Adaptation

Unani has left an indelible mark in various cultures:

  • Middle East: Continues to be practiced in countries like Iran.
  • South Asia: Integral to medical practices in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
  • Western Influence: Adaptation in some western holistic healing practices.

Contemporary Challenges

  • Standardization: Lack of uniform standards in practice and education.
  • Integration: Difficulty in integrating with modern medical practices.
  • Research and Development: Limited scientific research to support therapeutic claims.


Unani medicine is a rich and complex system rooted in ancient Greek principles. Though it has evolved and spread across different cultures, it faces challenges in the modern medical landscape. Continued research, standardization, and integration with contemporary medical practices may pave the way for Unani medicine to contribute effectively to global healthcare.

FAQs about Unani


[1] Majno, G. (1975). “The Healing Hand: Man and Wound in the Ancient World.” Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.1177/030098587601300410

[2] Ullmann, M. (1978). “Islamic Medicine.” Edinburgh University Press.

3] Mehta, P.H. (1978). “A Short History of Unani Medicine in India.” Studies in History of Medicine, Vol. 2, No. 4.

[4] Ahmad, I. (1983). “Introduction to Al-Umur Al-Tabi’yyah (Basic Principles of Unani Medicine).” All India Unani Tibbi Conference.

Anthropologist Vasundhra - Author and Anthroholic

Vasundhra, an anthropologist, embarks on a captivating journey to decode the enigmatic tapestry of human society. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity, she unravels the intricacies of social phenomena, immersing herself in the lived experiences of diverse cultures. Armed with an unwavering passion for understanding the very essence of our existence, Vasundhra fearlessly navigates the labyrinth of genetic and social complexities that shape our collective identity. Her recent publication unveils the story of the Ancient DNA field, illuminating the pervasive global North-South divide. With an irresistible blend of eloquence and scientific rigor, Vasundhra effortlessly captivates audiences, transporting them to the frontiers of anthropological exploration.

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