Nature has blessed India with a vast variety of herbal and medicinal plants and shrubs that grow in its different climatic regions from the frozen Himalayas in the north to the tropical forests in the south. From times this immemorial rich beauty has been used in preparing herbal medicine to cure various diseases and to promote a great repository of this knowledge, organized in the from of Unani and Ayurvedic herbal systems of medicine. The systems have a mass following and word wide acceptability.
The foundation of fundamentals was laid down by the father of Unani medicine "HIPPOCRATES" and a number of other Greek Philosophers, physicians and scholars have not only enriched the system but also gave it -a status of science.
Practice of medicine is as old as human existence. The extensive studies on earliest civilization and the prevailing religions, it is quite evident, that the philosophy of medicine originated by not as a science but as some dogma, magic, superstition and spirits. How ever, it was Greek philosopher physician Hippocrates (460-377 B.C) who had freed medicine from the imagination of magic, spirits and superstition.
"Unani" was derived from the word "IONIAN" which indicates it origin to Greece. "TIBB" means medicine. Hence, the Unani Tibb-a system of medicine is an age old time tested system. In fact Unani system of medicine is a synthesis of Greek & Arab systems. The land of Greece had been the epicenter of learning & intellectuals ever since the ancient time .In India it has a long history though it was originated from Greece, 5000 years back.Unani physicians were the first to classify the disease on the basis of different anatomical and physiological symptoms of the body, Hippocrates explained that the disease was a normal process and its symptoms were the reaction of the body to the disease.
After him many scholars enriched the system of whom Jalinoos (Galen) 131-210 A.D. AL-Razi (Razes) 850-925 A.D and Abu Ali Ibn (Avicenna) 980-1037 A.D are note worthy. Unani pathy got enriched by imbibing what was best in the contemporary system of traditional medicine in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Persia, India, China and other middle east and far east countries. That is why, this system is known in different parts of the world, with different names such as Greeco-Arab medicine, Ionian medicine, Arab medicine, Islamic medicine, Traditional medicine, oriental medicine etc. Arab physicians introduced Unani pathy in India which took firm roots in the soil soon. Unani pathy had its days in India during 13th & 17 centuries. Soon it spread all over the country and remained popular among the masses, even after the downfall of Mughal Empire. It got a set back during British rule but still remained in practice as it enjoyed the faith of masses.
The Unani pathy survived during the British rule due to the efforts of the Sharifi family in Delhi, The Azizi family of Lucknow and the Nizam's of Hyderabad.Hakim Ajmal Khan (1868-1927) from Sharifi family was an outstanding physician and scholar of Unani medicine kept the tempo high.
Ajmal Khan was the scion of the family of physicians who had long served the Mughal court and after their decline those of regional princes. Like his father and grand father, Ajmal Khan was an influential figure in the city of Delhi, respected for his aristocratic standing and behavior & renowned for miraculous cures.
Besides this Maseeh-ul- Mulk ,as he came to be known, was a versatile genius of his time ,he was an acclaimed physician, a statesman of national stature, a poet of great sentiments, a reformer and an orator , all at the same time. Ajmal Khan's was an aristocratic style . He was a patron and a host, invariably in the company of poets and literary landlords and government servants. His sporting activities shifted from traditional 'Akhara' (wrestling pit) to billards and shikar. It has been mentioned that he went along on the hunt but never actually shot anything, arguing that a Hakim ought not to take but give life.
Ajmal Khan's most original contribution was almost single handedly making available some of the great benefits of traditional medicine. The respectability which the Hakims and Vaids enjoy today is largely due to his tireless efforts. His efforts were devoted to reversing the tide of cultural decline in medicine his political activities were an inevitable out growth of them.
In an introduction to a catalogue of Arabic and Persian manuscripts he wrote: "Although the sun of Eastern arts and sciences kept rising in its own time and many nations drew benefits from its light, now that sun has declined and the age, as is its habit, has given birth to a new sun that fulfil's the needs of the people of the age ...The results of this reversal, which previous nations have already endured, will happen to us: We will see our former greatness and glory in the hand of oblivion if we do not take thought to preserve it."
Hakim Ajmal Khan vigorously advocated the causes of Unani & Ayurvedic systems of medicine. He stressed that two Indian systems which had served the people well should continue and make progress without any hindrance. While speaking at the first Tibbi conference he tried to emphasize the value of Eastern medicine by giving historical evidence.
He said: "It is not I who aim at praising the Unani System of medicine but the whole world recognizes that the Greek medicine traveled from Greece to Egypt, then to Spain from where it reached Baghdad. From Baghdad it came to Iran where it made tremendous progress and produced great physicians and scholars who in spite of flux of time still shine and I am confident, they will continue to guide us till knowledge remains in the world. From there it came to India & flourished here".