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Treatment (‘Ilāj)

Treatment is adopted when Prevention fails and disease occurs. It is mainly based upon Heterotherapy (‘Ilāj bi’l-Ḍidd). Disease, which amounts to the emergence of an abnormal Temperament, is treated by applying Drugs and Non-Drug Factors with opposite Temperament. Since, Environmental Factors, Diet and the even Mental States etc. either themselves possess a Temperament or affect the Temperament, the Unani System of Medicine uses these non-drug factors very frequently and extensively, on the basis of this correlation. The Unani System of Medicine has also discovered some Specific Drug Effects, arising from Essence (Ṣūrat Naw‘iyya) and not from the Qualities (Temperament). Therefore, it uses these Specific Drugs (Adwiya Dhū al-Khāṣṣa) also, particularly in serious diseases, as these drugs are generally more potent. The Unani System of Medicine also uses Surgery (‘Ilāj bi’l-Yad), including Ophthalmological, Gynaecological and Obstetrical Surgery.

Thus, the Unani System of Medicine describes the following modes of treatment:


  1. 'Ilāj bi'l Tadbīr (Regimen Therapy),

  2. 'Ilāj bi'l Ghidhā' (Dietotherapy),

  3. 'Ilāj bi'l Dawā' (Pharmacotherapy)

  4. 'Ilāj   bi'l Yad (Surgery)

Regimenal therapy along with Dietotherapy is considered the best approach for the promotion of health and treatment of disease. Unani System of Medicine has also emphasized the importance of psychiatric treatment (‘Ilāj Nafsānī) in the management of various diseases. Surgical interventions and procedures are elaborately described and practiced in conditions, which are not amenable to drug treatment.

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1. ‘Ilāj bi’l-Tadbīr (Regimen Therapy)

Regimental therapy (‘Ilāj bi’l-Tadbīr) is one of the most popular methods of treatment, practiced by Unani physicians since antiquity. Literally, ‘Tadbīr’ is an Arabic word meaning ‘regimen’ or ‘systematic plan’ whereas ‘Ilāj means ‘therapy’ or ‘treatment’. Thus, ‘Ilāj practiced is one of the most popular methods of treatment, bi’l-Tadbīr means treatment through regimen, by which care of the sick person is taken and the general health is maintained. In this way, Regimenal therapy comprises mostly non-medicinal procedures by which the lifestyles for the preservation of health and treatment of disease are modulated. Ancient Unani physicians, e.g. Hippocrates, Galen, Rhazes, Avicenna, Albucasis etc. have described various regimens for the management of diseases, either independently or in combination with other therapies. These include changes in diet, physical exercise, lifestyle modification and measures to eliminate the morbid humour (Tanqiya) from the body or divert them (Imāla) by Cupping (Ḥijāmat), Massage (Dalk), Leeching (Ta‘līq), Venesection (Faṣd), Purgation (Ishāl), Emesis (Qay’), Diuresis (Idrār-i Bawl), Enema (Ḥuqna), Diaphoresis (Ta‘rīq), Expectoration (Tanfīth), Counter Irritation (Īlām), Sitz Bath (Ābzan) etc. Some other regimens are also used for elimination/diversion of morbid material or resolution of the inflammation, e.g. Turkish bath (Ḥammām), Irrigation (Natūl), Fomentation (Takmīd) etc.

2. ‘Ilāj bi’l-Ghidhā’ (Dietotherapy)

Unani System of Medicine lays great stress on treating certain ailments by administration of specific diets or by regulating the quality and quantity of food. In addition to nutritional properties, various foods have pharmacological actions too. For example, many foods are laxative, diuretic and diaphoretic.

The weakness of certain organs is corrected by administering the same organ of an animal by way of food; for instance, disorders and weakness of liver are treated by including the goat liver in the patient’s diet. Likewise, heart, kidney, and brain are recommended in the respective organ’s treatment.

Natural Medicine

3. ‘Ilāj bi’l-Dawā’ (Pharmacotherapy)

According to the Unani System of Medicine, the choice of drugs for treatment is governed by three laws:

  1. Quality of drug in terms of Temperament

  2. The quantity of drug in terms of its weight and potency

  3. Time of administration

The selection of a drug depends on the nature and type of the disease. The proper drug is that which is contrary to the nature and qualitative pattern of the disease i.e. its pathological Temperament. The weight and potency of the drug are determined by the nature of the organ; the severity of the disease; and other related factors such as sex, age, weight, habit and habitat, season, built, previous treatment, and stage of the disease.


The Unani System of Medicine states that the drugs have their own particular temperament due to their specific constituents. Concoctive drugs (Munḍij Advia) are used to prepare the morbid matter for excretion, whereas Purgative drugs (Mushil Advia) are used to remove morbid matter through the intestine.

Unani drugs are used in different forms e.g. Powder (Safūf), decoction (Joshānda), infusion (Khīsānda), tablet (Qurṣ), semisolid preparations (Jawārish, Ma‘jūn, Khamīra etc.). In ‘Ilāj bi’l-Ḍidd, drugs having qualities and temperament opposite to those present in the diseases should be administered. 

4. ‘Ilāj bi’l-Yad (Surgery)

Kitāb al-Taṣrīf li-man ‘, an Arab Unani physician, wrote a book entitled Abū al-Qāsim al-Zahrāwī has always been a part of treatment in Unani System of Medicine since ancient times. (‘Ilāj bi’l-Yad)Surgery ajiza ‘ani’l-Ta‘līf with illustrations of surgical instruments, consisted of 30 volumes on topics of medicine, surgery, pharmacy, and other health sciences. The last volume, comprising of 300 pages, is dedicated to Surgery. He treated Surgery as a separate subject for the first time in the history of Medicine. He described several procedures, inventions, and techniques, including thyroidectomy, extraction of cataracts, removal of kidney stones, tonsillectomy, tracheotomy, craniotomy, caesarian section, dentistry etc.

In Unani System of Medicine, certain categories of drugs are used in cases needing surgical interventions, e.g. antiseptic drugs (Dāfi‘-i Ta‘affun Adwiya) - Cinnamomum camphora (Kāfūr), Azadirachta indica (Nīm), Santalum album (Ṣandal) etc.; Styptic drugs (Ḥābis-i Dam Adwiya) - Alum (Shibb Yamānī), Quercus infectoria (Māzū), Polygonum bistorata (Anjibār) etc.; Wound healing drugs (Mudammil-i Qurūḥ Adwiya) - Dracaena cinnabari (Dam al-Akhwayn), Soap stone (Sang Jarāḥat), Red Ochre (Gerū) etc.; Anaesthetics (Mukhaddir Adwiya) - Datura innoxia (Jawz al-Māthil), Hyoscyamus alba (Ajvā’in Khurāsānī), Lactuca sativa (Kāhū) etc.; Analgesics (Musakkin-i Alam Adwiya) - Colchicum autumnale (Suranjān), Conium maculatum (Shūkrān), Syzygium aromaticum (Qaranfal); and Cicatrizants (Khātim Adwiya) – calcified shell (Ṣadaf Sokhta), Slaked lime (Āhak Maghsūl), Nummulite (Shādinaj) etc.

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A page from book Kitāb al-Taṣrīf li-man ‘ajizaani’l-Ta‘līf showing some surgical instruments.

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