The Unani System of Medicine has a long and impressive record in India. It was introduced in India by the Arabs and Persians sometime around the eleventh century. Today, India is one of the leading countries in so for as the practice of Unani medicine is concerned. It has the largest number of Unani educational, research and health care institutions.
As the name indicates, Unani system originated in Greece. The foundation of Unani system was laid by Hippocrates. The system owes its present form to the Arabs who not only saved much of the Greek literature by rendering it into Arabic but also enriched the medicine of their day with their own contributions. In this process they made extensive use of the science of Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Therapeutics and Surgery.
Unani Medicines got enriched by imbibing what was best in the contemporary systems of traditional medicines in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Persia, India, China and other Middle East countries. In India, Unani System of Medicine was introduced by Arabs and soon it took firm roots. The Delhi Sultans (rulers) provided patronage to the scholars of Unani System and even enrolled some as state employees and court physicians. During 13th and 17th century A.D. Unani Medicine had its hey-day in India.
The system suffered a severe setback during the British rule in India. The allopathic system was introduced and gained ground. This retarded the growth of education, research and practice of Unani system of medicine. All the traditional systems of medicine along with Unani System faced almost complete neglect for about two centuries. The withdrawal of State Patronage could not harm much as the masses reposed faith in this system and it continued to be practiced. It was mainly Sharifi family in Delhi, the Azizi family in Lucknow and the Nizam of Hyderabad due to whose efforts Unani Medicine survived during the British period.
The Unani system of the Medicine, saw the beginning of its revival during the freedom struggle. Hakim Ajmal Khan, was a renowned physician and also one of the foremost freedom fighters in the country. He established an Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College and Hindustani Dawakhana a pharmaceutical company for manufacturing of Ayurvedic and Unani medicine in Delhi in 1916. Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated the college on February 13, 1921. Some of the Princely States also fully patronized this system.
After independence the Unani System along with other Indian systems of medicine received a fresh boost under the patronage of the National Government and its people. Government of India took several steps for the all round development of this system. It passed laws to regulate and promote its education and training. It established research institutions, testing laboratories and standardized regulations for the production of drugs and for its practice. Today the Unani system of medicine with its recognized practitioners, hospitals and educational and research institutions, forms an integral part of the national health care delivery system.