The fundamental principle of the unani system recognises that disease is a natural process and symptoms of a disease are body's reaction to disease. The chief function of the physician is to aid the natural forces of the body.
The unani medicine is based on the Humoral theory-which presupposes the presence of four humors. They are Dum (blood), Balgham (phlegm), Safra (yellow bile) and Sauda ( black bile). The body has the power of self preservation to maintain a correct balance of these humors, which is called as Quwwat-e-Mudabbira (Medicatrix natura). Unani medicines help the body to regain this balance.
The essential constituents and the working principles of the body, according to Unani, can be classified into seven main groups: arkan or elements, comprising earth, water, air and fire as different states of matter and the building blocks of everything in the universe; mizaj (temperament); akhlat (humours); aza (organs); arwah (life, spirits or vital breaths); quva (energy); and af'al (action).Each of the four elements has its own special qualities: earth is cold and dry; water is cold and moist; fire is hot and dry; air is hot and moist. The resultant quality of the uniform body is called its mizaj. The temperament of a substance may be a mizaj-e-mutadil (balanced one) or a mizaj-e-ghair-mutadil (imbalanced one).Different types and shades of imbalanced temperaments are described in Unani, which believes that at birth every person is endowed with a unique and healthy humoural constitution determining the temperament of an individual. Unani also postulates that the body contains a self-preservative power, which strives to restore any disturbance within the limits prescribed by the constitution or state of the individual. The physician merely aims to help and develop rather than supersede or impede the action of this power.
The unani Physician-called Hakim diagnoses a disease by feeling the Nabz(pulse) and rhythmic expansion of arteries by fingers. stool and urine examination also help in diagnosis. Four types of treatment lines are available:
- Ilaj bil tadbeer (regimental therapy)
- Ilaj bil Ghiza (dietotherapy)
- Ilaj bil dawa (Pharmacotherapy)
- Jarahat (Surgery)
In unani system, single drugs or their combinations in raw form are preferred over compound formulations. "A Unani physician does not prescribe the strongest drug at the beginning of the treatment. He selects the drug according to the degree of variation from the normal healthy condition and observes the effect produced by the treatment. At the same time, he instructs the patient to observe some restrictions in diet and lifestyle."
Since in Unani, health and disease depend upon the equilibrium or imbalance between the four humours, a thorough examination of the pulse is undertaken to determine which humour is dominant at the time. The examination of the urine is the next important step. Its colour, viscosity, whether it has froth on its surface, if the bubbles formed are large, indicating balgham, or small, indicating safra are scrutinised. The stool is also examined in a similar way.The Hakim comes to a conclusion about the diagnosis after examining all these in detail and starts a step-by step treatment regime taking into account the severity of symptoms and combinations of therapy.
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