ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT
The Unani System of Medicine, as its name suggests, owes its origin to Greece. The roots of this system go to Egypt and its sister civilization Mesopotamia. It was further adopted by the Arabs, and was developed and improved tremendously by them. The herbal basis of Unani therapy can be traced back to its earliest originators in ancient Egypt who gave primary place to plants in disease treatment. They also initiated the use of surgery as a method of treatment. The studies of Papyri show the ability of Egyptians in the field of Medicine. Imhotep (2800 BC) and Amenhotep (1550 BC) are some noted physicians of Egyptian period. Due to their great contributions in the field of Medicine, Mesopotamians also occupied an important place in history. They used urine sample as a diagnostic tool. The Greek period of Unani Medicine began with Asclepius (Asqalébüs-1200 BC), who was a great scholar of Medicine. During Asclepian period, the Greeks developed the art of Medicine in the light of medical knowledge of Egyptians and Babylonians.
Unani System of Medicine was introduced to India by the Arabs, and soon it took firm roots in the soil. The Delhi Sultans, the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs and the Mughal Emperors provided state patronage to the scholars and even enrolled some as state employees and court physicians. The system found immediate favour with the masses and soon spread all over the country. During the 13th and 17th century, Unani Medicine had its heyday in India. Among those who made valuable contributions to this system in the period were, to name only a few, Abu Bakr bin Ali Usman Kashani, Sadruddin Dimashqui, Bahwa bin Khwas Khan, Ali Geelani, Akbar Arzani and Mohammad Hashim Alvi Khan.
Unani System of Medicine came to India in the eighth century and developed as a comprehensive medical system due to multi-pronged original contribution and new applications by scholars of successive generations. It has been practised, taught and scientifically documented in different parts of the country and flourished as a scientific medical system. The Government of India facilitated the growth and development of Unani Medicine by recognizing its utility and scope and integrated it into healthcare delivery system. With its wide network of quality educational institutions, comprehensive healthcare facilities, state‑of‑the‑art research institutions and quality drug manufacturing industries and on account of its utilization by a large number of people for their healthcare needs, India has emerged as the global leader in Unani System of Medicine.
During the British rule, Unani Medicine suffered a setback, 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 period. An outstanding physician and scholar of Unani Medicine, Ùakém Ajmal Khan (1868 -1927) championed the cause of Unani System of Medicine 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 systems of medicine – Unani Medicine and Ayurveda.
The Majeedi family of Delhi, especially Ùakém Abdul Hameed (1908-1999), made valuable contribution towards modernization of Unani drug industry. Ùakém Abdul Hameed also established an Institute of History of Medicine and Medical Research (IHMMR) in New Delhi that developed into a deemed university the Jamia Hamdard in 1989. Also, some other families such as the Niamathullah Family of Madras (now Chennai) and the Usmani Family of Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) played significant role in the advancement of Unani Medicine in the 20th century.
The development of Unani Medicine as well as other Indian systems of medicine gained considerable momentum after independence. A Health Survey and Development Committee appointed in the year 1943 underscored the future role to be played by the indigenous systems of medicine of India. In 1946, the conference of health ministers resolved that adequate provisions should be made at the Centre and provinces for research in indigenous systems of medicine, Ayurveda and Unani. The conference also recommended starting educational and training institutions of these systems. In pursuance of the recommendations of the conference, a number of committees were appointed by the Government of India, famous of them being Colonel R.N. Chopra (1946) and C.G. Pandit (1949) Committees. These committees recommended detailed outline for the development of Indian systems of medicine.
The Indian Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy including Unani System of Medicine got a boost in 1969 with the Government of India establishing Central Council for Research in Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy (CCRIMH) to conduct research and scientific activities. The dissolution of CCRIMH in 1978 to accord focused attention for research in individual systems led to setting up of four separate research councils – one each for Ayurveda & Siddha, Unani Medicine, Yoga & Naturopathy, and Homoeopathy. Initially, the Indian Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy (ISM&H) were taken care of by a division within the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In March 1995, it was replaced by a full-fledged Department of Indian Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy in the ministry, which was renamed as Department of AYUSH in November, 2003 for overall development of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy. With the aim of providing focused attention to the development of education and research in AYUSH systems of medicine, the Department of AYUSH has been elevated to a full-fledged Ministry of AYUSH with effect from 09 November, 2014.
At present, Unani System of Medicine, with its own recognized practitioners, hospitals and educational and research institutions, forms an integral part of the national healthcare delivery system. The Government of India is providing increasing support and funds for the manifold development of Unani Medicine as well other indigenous medical systems to have the fullest advantage of these systems in healthcare delivery to the masses.