National Unani Day 2020: Age-old remedies for common ailments
Founded by the ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates, Unani was formalized and propounded by the Islamic polymath Ibn Sina in the medieval era.
Every year, February 11 is celebrated as National Unani Day in India. Founded by the ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates nearly 2,500 years ago, it was formalized and propounded by the Islamic polymath Ibn Sina in the medieval era.
Unani is based on the principle of harmonious coexistence of the four ‘humors’ of the body. The four humors are blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile and correspond to sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic. Every person is composed of a mixture of these humors and when this balance is lost the individual falls sick. Treatments in Unani are based on maintaining this balance by providing therapeutic care - when these fail then medications may be prescribed as well. Here are some common problems and their suggested remedies according to Unani medicine:
1. Piles (Bawaseer-e-aamiya)
Piles, or haemorrhoids, are caused by a swelling of the veins in the anus and lower rectum. If the piles are inside the rectum, they are internal haemorrhoids, and if they are outside, along the anus, they are external.
Pile formation is attributed to poor diets lacking adequate fibre, obesity, and chronic constipation and diarrhoea. Those who sit on the pot for too long and strain also tend to develop piles.
Unani therapy suggests avoiding baked, fried and spicy food. It also recommends eating foods that are high in fibre like green leafy vegetables so that the body does not get constipated.
According to Unani, lukewarm milk mixed with ghee at night can help treat piles. Further, it might also be a good idea to avoid potatoes. Mango and sesame seeds are considered to be effective. Vegetables such as radish, turnip, bitter gourd and onion are recommended as well.
2. Acne (or Busoor-e-labaniyah)
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions that dermatologists see. It is usually caused by the blockage of hair follicles by excess oil, dead skin cells or ingrown hairs.
Acne most commonly occurs on the face, back, and shoulders because that is where the largest number of sebaceous (sebum- or oil-producing) glands are. Teenagers are affected the most because of the increase in androgens, a certain type of hormone, during puberty.
According to Unani, suppurative (pus-forming) material is transported to the skin due to increased abnormal heat. The suppurative material turns yellow due to contact with air. Because the pores can’t handle the sudden influx, it leads to acne. Further, the use of certain diets and indigestion are also linked with Busoor-e-Labaniyah.
Some Unani suggestions to tackle acne include drinking large amounts of water (10-12 glasses a day) to flush out toxins, protecting the skin from sunlight by using sunscreen, avoiding coffee, tea, alcohol smoking and wearing tight clothes, exercising regularly and having a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Some Unani formulations may help as well:
- Apply Indian cucumber juice mixed with lemon juice to the affected area. Rinse after a few minutes.
- Take an apple, grate it and mix it with one spoon of honey. Apply this to the affected area and let it sit for 15 minutes.
- Make a paste of almond powder and castor oil and apply it to the area for 15 minutes. Rinse after.
3. Hair loss (Intisar-e-Sha’r)
Hair loss can occur anywhere on the body but is most noticeable on the scalp. In most cases, hair loss is due to age and is hereditary, but acute stress or physical trauma can also cause the hair to thin and shed. Certain medications, hairstyles, radiation therapies can also accelerate the process of hair loss.
Here are some Unani-based therapies that may prevent hair loss:
- A head massage with coconut milk is supposed to be helpful. Make sure to rinse the milk with warm water afterwards.
- Mix 300 ml of coconut oil with 1 tablespoon of pomegranate bark. Heat the mixture until it boils and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain and filter the mix and massage the scalp with it. Let sit for 20 minutes and then rinse.
- Make a paste of olive oil, cinnamon and honey and let it sit for 10 minutes before rinsing it off.
4. High blood pressure (Zaghtuddam Qawi)
Chronic hypertension (or high blood pressure) can lead to several serious health issues. Sometimes the cause may be inherited, but lifestyle choices can induce high blood pressure as well. Not exercising enough, being obese, smoking, consuming high amounts of alcohol and stress can all cause high blood pressure.
According to Unani, increased blood flow in the vessels is caused by a hot, moist temperament attributed to the ‘sanguineous’ type. ‘Dryness’ of the vessels, which is attributed to ‘melancholic’ type may also lead to high blood pressure.
The suggested treatments include:
- Garlic, pepper, ginger and lemon are said to be good for lowering blood pressure.
- Avoid coffee and instead, have green or hibiscus tea.
- Foods that are fried and have a large amount of salt should be avoided.
- Dark chocolate can be consumed to lower blood pressure but only in moderation.
For more information, read our article on High Blood Pressure.
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