Perception of psychiatric disorders in the Unani system of medicine – a review

Ghazala Javed, M. Anwarb, M.A. Siddiqui

European Journal of Integrative Medicine

European Journal of Integrative Medicine 1 (2009) 149–154


Concepts of Amraz-e-nafsaniya (psychiatric disorders) date back to Hippocrates (460–377 B.C.), the father of medicine to whom psychiatry owes a great deal. It was him who first described the brain as the most important organ in the human body and declared that it is the brain alone from where our pleasures, joys, laughter, and jest, as well as our sorrows, pains, grief, and tears come from. This concept can be further traced in the writings of Asclepiades 5th century A.D., Soranus of Ephesus (98–138 A.D.), Aretaeus (150–200 A.D.), Galen (131–210 A.D.), Rhazes (850–925 A.D.), Al-Majusi (930–994 A.D.), Abu Sahal Masihi (1010 A.D.), Avicenna (980–1037 A.D.), and several other Unani physicians. They have all mentioned psychiatric disorders viz. delirium, melancholia, hysteria, insomnia, etc., and even philosophized about the reasons for various states of mind. While describing the faculties of the human body, they have made a separate mention of Quwwat-e-nafsaniya, the psychic faculty. Avicenna has written a psychological treatise in his book, Al-Qanun fit-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine), in which he postulated five faculties of the interior senses. Ibn-e-Nafees (1210–1288 A.D.), in his book, Kulliyat-e-Nafeesi (Book on Fundamentals, written by Nafeesi), has dealt with the effect of psychological signs and symptoms on the body. The savants of Unani Medicine have also described the causative factors, clinical features, and even the differential diagnoses of different psychiatric disorders along with their management. The present communication attempts to discuss significant contributions of yesteryear scholars of Unani Medicine to psychiatry.

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