Unani is a Greek medicine system which was developed in Muslim countries during the last 13 centuries. The Main concept of Unani is balancing the body humours, which are Blood (hot/wet), Phlegm (cold/wet), Yellow bile (hot/dry), and Black bile (cold/dry). The imbalance of these elements may cause diseases of the human body. Unani Medicine restores the balance of these four elements in order to heal such diseases.
To understand the concept better it could be elaborated as follows.
There are nine flavors contained in the food consumed by humans. They are oily, spicy, bitter, sweet, salty, acrid, limey, milky and sour. Diseases will not occur in the human body If these nine flavors are in balance. These flavors are absorbed from our food through the digestive system. These extracted elements produce Vitamins, Hormones , Enzymes etc… If the body receives these flavors in balance quantities, overall it leads to a perfect Immune system which finally protects the body from diseases.

When these levels fluctuate due to various reasons, the immune system becomes weak resulting in sicknesses to the body.


The origin of the Unani medicine begins with the age of Pericles in Greece (562-430B.C) and it was developed during the Arab civilization. Although there were many who contributed to the development of Unani medicine the most significant character is Avicenna (980-1037), who is regarded as the most famous and influential scientist of the Islamic Golden era. Avicenna was born in Persia. He began studying medicine at the age of 13 and started treating patients at age 16. Due to his success, he gained a very good reputation among the rulers of the Samanid Empire (presently Iran), During his life time Avicenna wrote books on philosophy and medicine. His writings were on various subjects such as mathematics, astronomy, geology, and logic. His most important medical work was “The Canon of Medicine (Qunun)”, which was considered a valued text throughout Europe and the mid-East for many centuries after his death.


The Unani system has a long and impressive record in Sri Lanka and as history reveals this was introduced during the 1st Century AD by the Arabians. The strong commercial link between the Arab world and Sri-Lanka resulted in bringing Unani into Sri-Lanka. History reveals that some Arabian physicians came to Sri Lanka to treat the Sri Lankan Kings and ministers for their sicknesses. Due to the success of the Unani treatment these doctors, were gifted with lands and various properties and honours by the rulers of that time. As a result of these appreciations and favourable conditions the Unani doctors settled in Sri Lanka and treated the locals. As time went on the Unani doctors combined Unani medicine with local (Ayurvedic) medicine and practices. This made Unani more appropriate to the Sri Lankan community. The Unani medicine which is being practiced now in Sri Lanka is a combination of both Arabian Unani and Sri Lankan Ayurveda, which we now refer to as “Sri Lankan Unani”. Presently both these medical systems; ie. Ayurveda and Sri Lankan Unani are considered as indigenous medicines. Both these medicine systems are protected and preserved by the 1961 Act of Ayurveda.


According to the Unani system diagnosis of diseases is a natural process where the symptoms of diseases are the body's reaction to that disease/s. Hence, the Unani physician can carry out the steps categorized below on a patient in order to overcome the sicknesses.


Step 1 : - The Unani Physician checks every possible aspect which could be a reaction/s for the disease, from top to bottom of the body.

For Example: the mucus, the color of urine, wounds or rashes on the skin, the colour of the eyes, fever, the smell of the sweat, the color and form of stools, the history of the patient’s parents etc… Feeling the pulse and rhythmic expansion of arteries of the fingers is also a method of diagnosis. Click here, to see a check list, which is used by a Unani physician to identify the sicknesses.


Step 2 : - From step 1, the physician gathers adequate information of the sickness. In Step 2 the physician comes to the final conclusion of the sickness. This is done by way of a blood test.


Step 3 : - The 3rd or final step is determining the treatments and tests the success of the treatment.

A Unani physician never prescribes strong drugs at the beginning of the treatment. First, they select the drug according to the degree of variation from the normal healthy condition and observe the effect produced by the treatment. At the same time, patients are instructed to observe some restrictions in diet and lifestyle during the period of treatment. In Unani, it is very important to understand which humor is dominant at the time. Health and disease depend upon the balance or imbalance between the four humors (as mentioned in the introduction).


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Monitoring the success of the treatment of the Unani medicine is a simple and practical task. For example, if a patient has an allergy for a certain food, after the treatment the patient who has the allergy should successfully be able to eat that food like a normal person. After medication the Unani physician will request the patient to eat the food he/she was allergic to eat and observe the reaction of his /her body. For a cholesterol patient the physician will test the patient’s cholesterol level after the treatment. The progress of urine and or blood reports of a patient suffering from diabetes, pressure or any other disease will be monitored. Depending on the degree of the progress of the patient the physician will decide on the medication required. This medication will be administered until the patient recovers fully.


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