Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM): Steering a Centuries-old Tradition along Modern Pathways

Part I : The origin and development of Unani system of medicine
Unani, along with Siddha, Sowa-Rigpa and Ayurveda, forms the family of the great Traditional Medicine Systems of India, with their own body of theoretical concepts, long traditions of textual knowledge, well-developed branches of practices, and long lineage of practitioners whose numbers run into thousands. Unani is one of the oldest healthcare systems of the world, and is a comprehensive medical system, based on the principles of harmony and balance of elements and humours in the body.
Interestingly, the name “Unani” has its roots in the word “Unan”, which in many languages of this region, refers to Greece. According to historians of Unani, the system originated from the ancient doctrines of Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen. It was later refined and developed through systematic experimentation by the Arabs. Hakim Ibn Sina (Avicenna) from Persia collated the knowledge and added to this therapeutic healing system. The Arabs brought Unani Medicine to India. It was in this intellectually fertile land that it took firm roots, developing its own indigenous flavour, and emerging into a multi-faceted medical pursuit. The Mughal Emperors, the Delhi Sultans, the Khiljis and the Tughlaqs provided state patronage to the scholars, enrolling and encouraging them as state employees and court physicians. The Unani physicians or Hakims, added new knowledge gained from other traditions of Indian healthcare and thus, the Unani healing system practiced in the sub-continent is a little different from the original Greek system. Today, the Unani system of medicine is practiced widely in Persia, Pakistan, South Africa, England and India.
Though the traditional healing systems suffered under the British rule, the Unani system survived due to the patronage of people in large numbers. It also found support from the Nizam of Hyderabad and a few influential Indian families. The scientific research in Unani Medicine received a boost in India from the towering personality Masih al-Mulk Hakim Ajmal Khan, in the 1920s. He pioneered research in Unani Medicine by establishing a college for its scientific study and is credited with many important discoveries. His protégé, Dr. Salim al-Zaman Siddiqi, undertook seminal research on important medicinal plants used in the Unani System of Medicine. In 1931, Dr. Siddiqi discovered the medicinal properties of the plant known as Asravl (Rauwolfia serpentine Linn.) and successfully isolated an agent from this plant, which he named as Ajmaline after his mentor Hakim Ajmal Khan. This significant discovery paved the way to sustained research in Unani Medicine on scientific parameters. Thus, by the first half of the 20th century, Unani gained aceeptance as a comprehensive system of medicine founded on a sound theoretical base and capable of providing preventive, curative and rehabilitative healthcare.

Last updated on March 11th, 2021 at 09:06 am

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