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Treating Arthritis with an Age Old “Unani” system of Medicine Featured

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The ‘Unani medicine’ is an old age system of medicine, also known as Greeko-Arab medicine, was founded by Hippocrates. The Unani medicine is based on unani2the principle of equilibrium and balance of natural body humours (blood, bile, black bile and phlegm). 

‘Arthritis’- common joint disorder characterised by joint pain and inflammation, affecting humans since ancient time and can disable humans if not treated in time. ‘Arthritis’ is a general term covering more than 100 different conditions.

In conventional treatment, pain killers, surgeries and other medical interventions are used to treat different types of arthritis; in order to relieve pain and prevent dysfunction of joints.

However, conventional treatment cannot get total control over symptoms leading to great dissatisfaction and may be disabilities in some cases.
The complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) has been proved effective in treatment of various arthritis, controlling symptoms without medicinal side effects; while improving quality life of patients.

Let’s know how the time tested Unani system of medicine helps in controlling the symptoms of various types of arthritis from renowned Unani practitioner and researcher Dr. Munshi.

dr.munshiDr. Younis Munshi MD (Unani) is working as Scientist-3 in Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine, Dept. of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and FW.

He had already published four international and seven National publications.
Dr. Munshi had also presented one paper in San Diego University, CA, USA in 9th International Conference on Functional Foods held in August 16-19, 2012
Dr. Munshi had presented at least 13 papers in different national seminars/conferences on various topics including leeching therapy, diet therapy etc.


Can you provide brief introduction about Unani system of Medicine.

The name Unani is derived from a Greek word Ionian which means medicine- a symbol of life. Tibb means the knowledge of the states of the human body in health and illness (decline of health).
 unaniUnani Tibb strives to find the best possible ways by which a person can lead a healthy life. Hence, Unani is an age old, time tested system of medicine dating back 5000 years to Greece.

It refers to a tradition of Greeko-Arabic medicine which is based on the teachings of Greek physician Buqrat (Hippocrates; 460-377 BC) and Roman physician Jalinoos (Galen) and developed into an elaborate medical system by Arab and Persian physicians such as Al Razi (Rhazes), Avicenna (Ibne sina), Al Zahrawi and Ibn Nafis.


How unani system of Medicine, helps in treatment of arthritis?

 The Unani System of Medicine is based on the humoral theory. There are 4 humors in the body viz,

  • Phlegm (Balgham),
  • Yellow Bile (Safra),
  • Blood (Dham)
  • Black Bile (Sauda).

When these four humors are in balance and equilibrium of them is maintain the body stays in healthy state. The disturbance of equilibrium or imbalance of these humors leads to diseased condition.

As far as the Arthritis is concerned the physicians of Unani system have mentioned different types of arthritis e.g. Naqras (Gout), Waja-ul-Warak (LBA), Waja-ul-Mafasil Har (Rheumatoid Arthritis), Waja-ul-Mafasil Sajiz (Osteoarthritis) etc.
All these type of arthritis are  caused due to derangement of one or the other humor. While determining the course of treatment temperament of the persona and temperament of the medicine are considered. The medicines are selected on the base of disease stage, patient temperament (imbalance of particular humour) and temperament of the medicine.

The suitable medicine and regime help to balance the imbalance humour; thus treats the root cause and gives relief from the symptoms of pain and inflammation of joints

Which type of arthritis is treatable with Unani system of medicine?

As I mentioned above when all the types of arthritis are mentioned in the Unani System so the treatment is available for both osteoarthritis as well as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
We have studied the efficacy of Leeching (Regimental therapy) in osteoarthritis where we have been able to reduce the joint swelling of Knee by an average of 0.7 inches (Data already published).

In Rheumatoid Arthritis we had been able to reduce the DAS score from average of 6.2 to the average of 2.4 with Munzij/Mushil therapy (Concoction and Purgation) one of the regimental therapies, which prove the efficacy of Unani Medicine in both the conditions.

How is patient of arthritis treated under the treatment of Unani? Various modes of treatment?

 As far as the mode of treatment is concerned we practice three options for the treatment according to the preference which are as follows:

1. Diet/Regimental therapy (Ilaj Bil Tadabeer wa Agzia)

2. Pharmaco-Therapy (Ilaj Bil Advia)

3. Surgical intervention (Ilaj Bil Yad)

First and foremost consideration is being given to Diet-Regimental therapies. If it does not show results then we shift to pharmaco therapy and last surgical Intervention may be considered.

The regimental therapies have given very positive effects in all types of arthritis. The regimental therapies include

  • Fomentation,
  • Massage,
  • Leeching,
  • Cupping,
  • Turkish bath,
  • Diaphoresis,
  • Concoction
  • Purgation etc.

These all therapies have collectively given excellent results in controlling the symptoms and general well being of patient.

What is role of Diet therapy or how diet therapy helps in treatment of arthritis?

 'Prevention is better than cure'. When we adopt proper dietary regime, and take due care of Asbab-e-Sitta Zarooria (Six essentials of life) we can prevent the communicable as well as non-communicable diseases. The six essentials of life have been described as follows:

  1. Air
  2. Maakool wa Mashroob (Food and Drink)
  3. Body movement and rest
  4. Mental work and rest
  5. Sleep and Wakefulness
  6. Retention and Evacuation

So if proper balance of all these six essentials maintained, via purity and timely implementation, a human can avoid development of major chronic diseases. The adoption of proper dietary regimen can control the progress of the disease.

I have already published one paper regarding the increase of disease activity in arthritis by different diets in Pakistan Journal of Nutrition in 2008. According to it, the survey conducted in arthritis patients shows that protein rich diets aggravate the symptoms of arthritis, that includes red meat, kidney beans etc.

Also, unani system believes in detoxification (Istefarag) of the body by the way of purgation, diuresis, vanisection etc.
The detoxification of the body is advisable in the starting of a particular season to avoid seasonal diseases or aggravation of certain diseases in particular season

Regarding juvenile arthritis we had been able to treat by way of combination of certain herbs believed to be full of phyto-steroids.

How diet therapy differs from nutritional therapy?

 The diet of the patient is altered by adding beneficial food substances considering diseased condition of patient. While  nutrition therapy greatly deals with the nourishment you receive from food substances that you eat. Here they consider some food items are nutritious and some have less nutrition in it.

But the Unani System believes in medicinal properties of food in particular and in olden times  they were not in practice of counting calories and nutrition. Here is the difference between diet therapy and nutrition therapy.

The diet has an important role as far as Unani Medicine is concerned. It has been mentioned that the food stuffs which are having hot temperament should be avoided in the diseases of joints which include most of the pulses, red meat etc.

In a classical book Al-Hawi-Fi-Tibb written by Zikriya Razi (Razis) the bird meat and fish has been mentioned to be beneficial in arthritis. In our study published in Pak J of Nutrition we have also observed that fasting has definite effect on the reduction of symptoms in arthritis which has also been supported by different modern scientific studies conducted from time to time in different European countries.

What types of drugs are used in Unani system?

 Drugs or medicine are prepared from Herbs, Minerals and even, from animals also. Large number of formulations is used considering the patient illness, temperament etc. So, if we say that this herb or that herb is beneficial in controlling the specific type of Arthritis, will be wrong. Unless and until we know the patient’s temperament, we cannot predict the medication.


In what form the drugs are used?

 Drugs can be used in crude form as single herb or in compound form.

What are preventive aspects of Unani?

 Environmental factors and mental status of a person affects the internal balance of humours of the body and can disturb. However, maintenance of the humour via six essentials of life can provide healthy life to people.


"Arthritis is one of the conditions identified in the report 
Living Well with Chronic Illness: A Call for Public Health Action, with notable implications for the nation's health and economy. It is an important and continuing challenge to public health."

                                                                                                                                                            Robert Wallace, MS, MD



Image:national institute of Unani medicine
Noble dispensary 
Read 33503 times Last modified on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 12:14

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