Introduction to Unani Medicine
Unani-Tibb, Iranian Traditional Medicine, Islamic Medicine
Unani (Arab) Medicine is a direct offshoot of Galenic Medicine ('Unani' means Greek in Arabic). Just over 1000 years ago the Arabs took the writings of the Ancient Greeks and elevated them to a much higher level, clarifying and refining the Philosophy that had stood solid for over 1000 years. They combined this with their own traditional medical theories, and were also heavily influenced by the Indian Tradition (Ayurveda). Rhazes (826-923), Avicenna (980-1037), and a number of other Arab and Persian writers were translated into Latin and became the cornerstones of European medicine well into the 1800's.
Unani medicine is certainly a bridge between Western (European and Greek) traditions and traditions of the East (India in particular). It has clear influence from both directions. Most of the theory and formulas used in Europe over the past 1000 years were derived from Arab sources. The formulas of Mesue and Nicholas in particular were widely adopted throughout Europe, most of the early European Pharmacopoeias being based on the formulas of these Middle Eastern physicians. In the Western Tradition, the Unani-based formulas are some of the most beautiful and practical formulas which (with some modifications) can be applied today.
Unani medicine is still practiced in Islamic countries from the Middle East through to India and Western China (XinJiang). Iranian Traditional Medicine, which shares the same basic theory and many of the same same influences (Avicenna) and Formulas can be viewed as a branch of Unani Medicine. Islamic Medicine is also allied but is more strongly influenced by Islamic teachings.
In modern times, Unani is closely associated with Islam. In India, for example, even Muslims in the East (Kolkata) use Unani Medicine. It's also worth noting that Islamic Unani medicine focuses only on the Muslim practitioners. In 2019 while visiting Unani colleges and practitioners in Kolkata I noticed they were not familiar with the formulas of Mesue. This surprised me as his formulas were most highly regarded by European authors. Perhaps the fact that he was a Syrian Christian is related to this oversight.
Unani can serve as a useful starting point for the re-introduction of Traditional Western Medicine to developed countries. Unani is an ancient system, as old as Indian or Chinese Medicine, and is widely practiced today. In addition as with the other traditions, more and more research is being conducted proving efficacy of traditional formulas and treatment. Thus proving its relevance today.
Therapies used include Dietotherapy, Herbal Medicine, Bloodletting, Cupping, Massage, Purging, Vomiting, Bathing etc. One of its main strengths is the advanced use of purgative medicines to treat Humoral disease.