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The Unani Profile: Six Factors

    In this section you can see the Six Factors which Unani considers the most important to evaluate in assessing the state of a person. Below are presented some of the preliminary factors which also must be taken into account for a comprehensive evaluation of a patient.

    There are three states of the body: health, disease, and the neutral state between the two, when one is not truly healthy but the signs of disease are not fully manifest.

    The neutral state is of three forms: (1) health and disease exist in the same body in different parts (an example would be a blind person, who is healthy apart from the disease of the eyes); (2) neither health nor disease exists to a perfect degree, as with the old and convalescing; (3) the body alternates between healthy and diseased states, as in persons with a hot temperament, who are generally well in the winter and ill in the summer. People with a cold temperament are generally ill in winter and well in summer: those with wet or dry temperament are generally ill in childhood and gain health in maturity and old age.

    What we call organic diseases arise when the functions associated with the vital, natural, and psychic forces of the body become "obstructed," or unbalanced, owing to a deviation in the humor away from its characteristic temperament. An example would be an excess of heat affecting the blood humor, altering it to a condition of excess dryness. There are other causes of disease, which need to be treated, although they are generally not the result of disturbance of a humor from metabolic causes. Examples of "disease" conditions of this type a. re improperly shaped organs (basket head), narrow or expanded ducts, irregular tissue within or without organs (rough uterine-wall tissue), excessive organ size (enlarged heart), displaced organs (transposed liver), small organs (stomach), and conditions arising from occasional causes (poisonous animals and insects). There are other diseases caused by what Unani calls a break in continuity, or accidents, such as fractures, burns, wounds, and the like.

    The treatment of diseases of malformed organs and accidents requires the specialized help of a well-trained physician. Unani has no herbal treatment for an inverted valve in the bladder, for example, although if this condition were known, the general diet and regimen of the person could be adjusted, until or unless correction by surgical methods was attempted. The treatment of severe injuries and wounds belongs to the realm of Western emergency medicine, which possesses the training, procedures, and technical knowledge to deal with them. In fact, emergency medicine is one of the most legitimate and impressive achievements of orthodox medicine.

The Six Factors

    Six primary factors are examined in relation to health and disease: (1) the air of one's environment, (2) food and beverages, (3) movement and rest, (4) sleep and wakefulness, (5) eating and evacuation, and (6) emotions. These six factors must be properly apportioned in quantity, quality, time, and sequence in order for there to be health. If these six factors are disturbed in any of the six elements, disease arises and is maintained. With the exception of congenital defects and accidents, it is the changes in the humors caused by these six factors which most often lead to disease.

Innate Factors of Health

    Before considering each of these factors in turn, we should note that there are some innate characteristics that affect a person's health, or at least are signs by which we can search for the underlying cause of imbalance. These factors are age, complexion, hair color, and eye color.

    First we should understand that there are four main stages (or ages) of life: youth, adulthood, maturity, and old age. The years of youth commence with infancy and continue as long as the body is growing, generally up to about thirty years of age. The years of adulthood are those in which growth has ceased but has not yet started to decline. This period usually lasts to about thirty-five years of age. The years of maturity are marked by some decrease in the body and generally end at about sixty years of age. The years of old age are marked by total decline in strength and last from age sixty until death. The temperaments associated with each of these stages are as follows:

Youth: hot and humid

Adulthood: hot and dry

Maturity: cold and dry

Old age: Principal organs are cold and dry; moistures collected in the body are cold and moist.

    There are different types of moisture within the body, and it is the drying out of these moistures that ultimately brings on death. There are four types of moisture: moisture of the small vessels; moisture in the small spaces of the body; moisture of the different parts of the organs; and the moisture that holds the body together.

    Now, when evaluating a person's health, one must consider first the temperament of the person's age, then the temperament of the particular organ(s) affected. For example, the choice of food and herbs to treat an elderly person with a fever would be quite different from that selected for an infant with a fever, owing to the vastly different innate temperament of each. This is why it is so puzzling to find herbals that, under a heading such as "fever," arbitrarily list many herbs to treat a fever, without any reference to the age or any other factors of the individual.

Complexion, Hair & Eye Color, Other Factors

    The complexion also reveals the condition of a person's balance or lack of it. A skin color between white and red--rose--indicates a balanced temperament. Black, yellow, and red colors indicate the dominance of one of the humors: yellow, yellow bile humor; black, black bile humor; red, blood humor; and white and fair, phlegm humor.

    The pigmentations of the skin particular to various parts of the world are the result of long exposure to some external environmental factor. The white complexion of the Slavs comes from the cold temperatures of their countries; the black coloration of the Sudanese is from the heat of the desert. Other colors are signs of imbalance, such as yellowish skin due to grief and reddish coloration from shyness.

    The effect of skin color on health can be quite significant. For example, persons whose ancestry is in the African deserts cannot "adjust" within a few generations to great climatic changes. The original very hot environment is what the temperament is accustomed to. When the person moves to a very cold environment, the vital force cannot generate enough heat, and, according to Unani, the person may suffer greatly from sadness, depression, and melancholy and many other ailments.

    The color of hair also results from internal conditions. Black hair is from intense heat; red hair is from deficient heat and combustion; blond hair is from a heat level below that caused by red hair; and white hair results from extreme weakness of innate heat and decomposition of putrified phlegm.

    The evaluation of eye color also provides information of the metabolic efficiency of a person. There are four basic eye colors: black, blue, gray, and brown. Black eye coloration is from lessening of the spirit faculty (that which activates metabolic functions) of the eyes, lack of moisture in the lens of the eye, and increase in albumin. Blue eyes are caused by the opposites of those producing black eyes. Gray and brown eyes are the result of combining of the black and blue factors. Green eyes are the result of blue pigmentation being admixed with yellowed phlegm deposits.

    Table 4 summarizes the various physical faculties of the human being, arranged according to the predominating temperaments and humors.

    There are five factors that will determine the particular organ or system in which the symptoms of disease appear. These are: (1) strength of the organ affected by the imbalance; (2) weakness of the organ receiving the by-products of the disordered metabolism; (3) excess superfluous matters in the body; (4) weakness of nutritive forces (poor digestion, weak liver, etc.); and (5) dilation of arteries or widening of channels carrying humors.

    As noted before, there are congenital factors which are beyond the scope of self-treatment but are presented here for interest: diseases of morphology, narrowed ducts, widened ducts, increase and decrease in correct number of organs, hypertrophy, atrophy, accidents, and displacement of organs.

    Now you will have a composite profile of the body and its parts according to Unani traditional healing, and the basic ways in which the health is evaluated to determine how and where an imbalance of humors arises. The Unani system considers that foods and beverages taken in as nutrients constitute the building materials of the body, including the humors. Therefore, the selection of foods for general nutrition and in correcting imbalances forms the most central part of the Unani system of healing. I have omitted the causative factors associated with food intake and evacuation in this section because the subjects are so important as to warrant complete discussion. Therefore, please see Unani Dietetics for a complete understanding of the role that food plays in maintaining the body in a healthy state.

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