Origin and Development
The Unani system of medicine owes, as its name suggests, its orgin to 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 enriched the system considerably.
Of them Galen (131-210 AD) stands out as the one who stablized its foundation,
on which Arab physicians like Rhazes (850-925 AD) and Avicenna (980-1037
AD) constructed an imposing edifice. Unani Medicine got enriched by imbibing
what was best in the contemporary system of traditional medicine in Egypt,
Syria, Iraq, Persia, India, China and other Middle East and Far Eastern
It also benefited from the native medical systems in vogue at the time in
various parts of Central Asia. That is why this system is known, in different
parts of the world, with different names, such as, Greeco-Arab Medicine,
lonian Medicine, Arab Medicine, Islamic Medicine Traditional Medicine, Oriental
In India, Unani system of medicine was introduced by the 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 Sultans, the Khilijis, the Tughalaqs
and the Mughal Emperors provided state patronage to the scholars and even
enrolled some of them as state employees and court physicians.
During 13th and 17th century Unani Medicine has its hey-day in India. Among
those who made valuable contributions to this system in the period were,
to name only a few, Abu Baker bin Ali Usman Kashani, Sadruddin Damashqui
Bahwa bin Khwas Khan, Ali Geelani, Akbar Arzani and Mohammad Hashim Alvi
The scholars and physicians of Unani Medicine who settled in India were
not content with the known drugs but they subjected Indian drugs to clinical
trials and as a result of their experimentation added numerous native
drugs to their own system, thus further enriching its masses and soon
spread all over the country and continued to hold an unchallenged sway
for a long period even after the downfall of Mughal Empire.
During the British rule, Unani Medicine suffered a setback and its development
was hampered due to withdrawal of governmental patronage. But 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 Lucknow and the
Nizam of Hyderabad due to whose efforts Unani Medicine survived in the British
An outstanding physician and scholar of Unani Medicine, Hakim Ajmal Khan
(1868-1927) championed the cause of the Unani system in India. The Hindustani
Dawakhana and the Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College in Delhi are the two
living examples of his immense contribution to the multipronged development
of the two Indian system of medicine, Unani Medicine and Ayurveda.