History of Tibb-e-Unani

The origin of the word Unani is Arabic word “Unan” (Greece) and its meaning are “being from Unan” or from Greece. Unan was derived from the Greek word ‘Iona’ which was the name of a region in Greece when civilization of Greece was at peak. The word Tibb is an Arabic word which means ‘Science of medicines’. So Tibb-e-Unani refers to that system of medicine which originated from Greece.

Unani system of medicine was introduced by Ancient Greek Philosopher and Physician Hippocrates in the 4th century BC (460 to 377 BC). He was the first physician who separated the medicine from the clutches of superstition and magic and gave it the status of science. Unani system of medicines is strongly based upon the teachings of Hippocrates. His work was enriched further by a number of scholars like Plato (347 BC), Aristotle (322 BC) and especially by Galen (131-210 CE) who made fundamentals of Unani on which the Arab physicians like Rhazes (850- 925 CE) and Avicinna also known as Ibne-Sina (980-1037) constructed an imposing edifice. This is the cause that we sometimes call Unani system of medicine as Greco-Arab system. Avicinna’s (Ibne-Sina) treatise on medicine called ‘Al-Qanoon’ or ‘The Canon of Medicine’ was taught in all major Islamic and European universities up until the 19th century.

Unani system of medicine is based on the “Humoral Theory” which was presented by Hippocrates. According to “Humoral Theory”, there are four Akhlaat (humours) in the body- Dam (blood), Balgham (phlegm), Safra (yellow bile), and Sauda (black bile). Each humour has its own temprament- blood is hot and moist; phlegm is cold and moist; yellow bile is hot and dry; and black bile is cold and dry. Explaining the idea of Greek philosopher Empedocles (d. 430 BC) of the four elementary roots of all matter- earth, water, air and fire, Hippocrates presented the idea that human body was also a composition of four elements as blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. In Tibb-e-Unani, a state of health is called when there is an equilibrium and balance among these four humours and if there is any imbalance in their original composition, it is called a state of disease.