The Unani Diagnostic Process
In Unani natural healing the entire personality of a patient is taken into account, because each individual patient has his or her own basic structure, psychic makeup, self-defense mechanism, reactions to environmental factors, likes and dislikes. The Unani physicians recognize the purpose of biology and that matter and energy cannot be regarded as separate from each other. The Unani therapeutic profile is individualized for each patient as a unique person.
The diagnostic process in the Unani system is dependent on observations and physical examination. Any illness of a person is to be regarded as a product of:
(a) the composition of the individual's body;
(b) the kind of temperament, structure and strength of faculties he or she has;
(c) the type of factors operating on him from outside; and
(d) Nture's own attempt to maintain his or her physical functions and to avoid imbalance as much as possible.
Keeping all such factors in mind, the cause and nature of illness is determined and a treatment plan is devised.
There are many forms of disease. The current texts of orthodox medicine identify more than twenty thousand names of diseases. It is fair to assume that no one person (or even a team of people) can possibly hold all of the various symptoms of all diseases in mind when evaluating a patient. This fact has led to the creation of medical specialties, in which a physician trained in one aspect or body part will diagnose and treat that aspect or part only. This is equivalent to a veterinarian's claiming that he only treats horses' ears and cannot be concerned with their hooves!
The first important point in considering potential treatments or therapies is that as many as 80 percent of all signs, symptoms, maladies, and conditions are not signs of disease, but rather evidence of the body performing its own self-cleansing role. Dr. Lewis Thomas, physician-philosopher and former head of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute in New York City, stated in an interview for the New Yorker that every honest physician will admit that 80 percent of his patients' ailments will get better by themselves. This may seem puzzling, but when the Unani principles are understood, it becomes clear that the symptoms associated with nausea, most fevers, diarrhea, sweating, frequent urination, and most nosebleeds, are all, during youth and middle age, almost invariably signs of health, not disease. Even though medication may be prescribed, most of these complaints would get better by themselves even if nothing was done.
This means that physicians spend an undue part of their practice misprescribing for ailments, while at the same time being prevented from concentrating upon more serious cases that require more time than they are accustomed to giving. For the patient, it means that almost all responsibility for knowing about one's own body and health has been lost or abandoned. For if patients were responsible and educated about the normal processes of health, they would not require medical treatment nearly as often as they seek it today--usually with less than satisfactory results.
Let us understand, from the point of view of Unani healing, precisely what is happening when the body sends forth those signals of so-called disease.
The first sign, a universal sign at least, of disease, is fever. If a person has a slight flushing of the cheeks, the dull throb of a headache, a warmish forehead, these are sufficient to call in sick at the office or take a day off from school.
But sometimes the fever is truly severe, soaring up over 100°, and the person is laid flat by the exertions of the body. Most people call a doctor at this stage because they have no idea what is going on, and the feelings they experience are intense enough for them to realize if they become any greater, there is reason to be concerned about the continuity of life.
In the first place, we become panicky because we are totally ignorant of these processes, and any unknown event creates awe and fear in human beings. If we had knowledge of what was happening to us, we would not become so alarmed. Hospital workers, nurses, and doctors seem so maddeningly blase when an alarmed and terrified mother arrives at the emergency room with a feverish and vomiting baby. The signs that caused the late-night flight to the hospital are apparently not so formidable to those trained and accustomed to dealing with illness.
Mothers who have raised more than one child can attest to this. The first baby is cuddled and coddled, and the slightest whimper sends the mother with ashen face to the side of the infant, peering into its eyes and face as if to discern the very presence of an actual germ crawling across the infant's skin. Or, when the baby is teething, the crying is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, fevers--so much so that the mother trundles the baby off to the well-baby clinic, only to discover that the doctors have no idea what is wrong and insist on performing tests to discover what is "causing" the symptoms. More often than not, after a great deal of probing and furrowing of brows, the baby and mother are ultimately returned home, with medicine to relieve symptoms and an admonition to watch the baby closely. But the next day, the signs have passed. Doctors often say it is something "going around."
The reality of the matter is that when anyone has a fever, it is either due to a bacterial or viral infection or, as I shall illustrate, the body is trying to process superfluous by-products of digestion on the way to a healing crisis--that is, the elimination of such substances and the restoration of health.
There is no known effective treatment for viral infections. As stated in the standard physicians' diagnosis manual: "Several hundred different viruses may infect man. Many have been recognized only recently, so their clinical effects or even relationships are not fully delineated. Such viruses are found in all parts of the world. In theory, most viral infections can, by some means, be recognized, in practice diagnosis remains difficult."
The manual goes on to state that even with such acute, life-threatening diseases as viral meningitis, the actual causative virus is identified "even in the best of circumstances" in less than half of the cases. For all forms of virus listed in the Merck Manual, under the headings giving proposed therapies, every entry states "None."
Physicians have no treatment, except for oral administration of iodine, called Lugol's solution. As recently as the 1940s, the general public could buy Lugol's solution of iodine, and this was a common home treatment for sore throat and strep throat--painting the throat with iodine. But Lugol's is now a prescription item, although there are non-prescription alternatives available.
Now, it is true that viruses can cause fevers, but usually the body, if healthy, will fight them off. If the innate heat (vital force; immune system) is weakened, this process can become complicated, and organs and systems may be damaged. But in any event, physicians cannot do anything to treat the cause, the virus infestation. Their treatments are aimed at preventing complications from arising-that is, a secondary infection from bacteria, which can occur when the body is in a weakened condition (in Unani, we would say that the humors are in a state of intemperament). This is the logic employed, at any rate, when administering penicillin for croup. Croup is caused by a virus, and penicillin has no effect on its cause. But the reasoning goes that the penicillin acts as a pre-ventative against any other disease that might arise in this weakened condition. Of course, many physicians give penicillin for flus and other conditions that are not affected by antibiotics.
If the fever is caused by bacteria, we have an entirely different matter, for as the world knows, antibiotics will definitely kill bacteria. However, the common scientific knowledge of today has elaborated the problems associated with bacterial strains evolving their own defensive mechanisms that can sidestep these killer medicines, creating evermore-virulent strains of bacteria.
According to Unani, the reason so many people are afflicted with the symptoms usually associated with vital infections, or influenza and the common cold, is that the body's own self-healing and cleansing mechanisms are trying to eliminate excess toxic matters from the body: this is the force behind those 80 percent who "get better by themselves."
The health industry in all its myriad manifestations has so conditioned people to believe that all diseases are caused by bacteria and other germs that people have a very difficult time accepting that these are not truly the cause of disease after all. Please reread the first section and the discussion of the evolution of the concepts of causative agents of disease, and ponder over the fact that the bacterial theory of disease has come into prominence only in the past fifty years, and may not be the prevailing accepted medical theory even ten years from now.
In the sections on food and dietetcis, it was explained that food is the source of heat, the fuel for the body. The body's digestive processes are also a continuous effort to heat, or "cook," the nutrients so that they may be broken down into component parts, utilized by the body, and then eliminated completely. The secret of human health and wellness is this fact, and this fact alone: most illness results when incomplete digestion of food has occurred over a short or long period of time.
"The stomach is the home of disease" is a statement of the essence of medicine, made by the Prophet Muhammad (peace of God be upon him) more than 1,400 years ago. More recently, some alternative-minded physicians have come to agree with this dictum. Hippocrates believed it. Galen believed it. Avicenna established it as a Law of Medicine. Yet today it is mainly ignored. Let me stress this point again in unambiguous terms:
Since the body's metabolism causes nutrient substances to become the human body (including its disease-fighting mechanisms), the ultimate origin of most illness is in food, or diet.
Heat is necessary for the efficient life of the body. Heat is maintained in the stomach by consuming food. And all of the body and limbs receive their proportion of nourishment and heat from the source of the stomach. As the whole room is warmed by the fuel that is consumed in the fireplace, the greater the quantity and quality of wood consumed, the greater the heat in the room. So too in the body: the more food, well digested, the more heat and life force through the whole body.
The origin of disease is due most of all to the continuous reception into the stomach of food that is not suitable for the best nourishment; the stomach becomes foul, so that the food is not well digested. This causes the body to lose its digestive heat; then the appetite fails and becomes corrupted; the bones begin to ache, and the person is sick in every part of the whole body.
The overt feelings and signs indicate that some medicine is needed. But before administering any chemical, herbal, or any other medicine, the first and absolutely vital step is to cleanse the stomach and the bowels, to unclog and restore the digestive powers. When this is accomplished, the food will raise the internal heat again, and the whole nourishment will be regained. All the medicine or training or science or art that is needed to restore health in such cases (which are perhaps 90 percent of all illnesses) is to know which foods, herbs, and procedures will accomplish this restoration of the natural bodily heat, and how to administer them--just as a knowledgeable person can clear a stove, chimney, and pipes clogged with soot and creosote, so that the fire will burn properly and the whole room will be warm and comfortable.
The most common sign of illness--fever--is a strange heat the body develops in order to make up for this long-standing lack of heat within the body. A fever rapidly accelerates the refining of accumulated superfluous matters in the body, "ripening" them so that they can be eliminated. Unani calls this process of elimination the healing crisis, which occurs in one of five forms: nose bleeding, vomiting, perspiration, diarrhea, and urination. Now, orthodox medicine, if confronted with the signs of vomiting, fever, aches and pains, and related symptoms, would almost invariably diagnose the common cold or some viral influenza.
It is interesting to note that all of the various forms of influenza receive "political" names such as Russian flu, Cuban flu, Chinese flu, Asian flu, and so forth. These are never called "Washington, D.C., Politician's flu," or "Pentagon flu" or "British flu." There is a psychological and emotional component in the naming of diseases that, as far as I am aware, has yet to be examined by any researcher. Moreover, at certain times of year, people are actually "told" to develop these symptoms via the barrage of television, radio, and newspaper ads for remedies. If there is some suggestive, psychological aspect to disease, as many believe, then it is a wonder that everyone does not display the signs of flu and colds. In any event, millions of such cases are handled by physicians daily in the United States. And none of them receives the proper treatment.
Even though the common cold remains one of the most omnipresent ailments, it is apparently impossible to find a cure. Untold millions of dollars have been expended in searching for a cure for the common cold, without results. In truth, the cold is no more than a natural cleansing of the body, which, if blunted or stopped, causes more serious diseases, sooner or later. In fact, the high incidence of disturbing the progress of colds and so-called flus--by medicines to plug up nasal discharge, thwart diarrhea, and stop fevers--is responsible for many of the chronic and degenerative diseases of the nation.
Those who have taken suppressive remedies in order to prop themselves up to attend a meeting, or to make it to work or to other functions they consider important, pay a huge price in contradicting the vital health-gaining functions of their own bodies. Over time, the blocking of exit and consequent reabsorption of these harmfully toxic matters creates chronic and degenerative disease--for which the only possible treatment is surgical removal of the affected organs, because all of the vital force of the body is extinguished.
The foregoing explanations may seem radical to some, and others will ask for confirmation, for research, for published results. My reply is, first, that Unani and Western (allopathic) medicine do not share a comprehensible terminology, and it does not seem likely that the Unani concepts could be framed to coincide exactly with the theories and vocabulary of Western medicine. I have worked closely with medical doctors who referred patients to me, and even when they could observe results from Unani after their procedures failed, still they were not interested to learn the elementary aspects of the treatment methods used.
Medical doctors are trained in a particular kind of scientific knowledge and practice. They will use what they have learned and by education, by custom, and by law must administer chemical drugs when confronted with particular symptoms. If they do not do so, their licenses will be revoked by their peers or they will not be able to find malpractice coverage. Even those physicians who try to gain some fundamental knowledge about nutrition in the broadest sense, and who may advise eating some vitamins, will still be compelled to prescribe drugs if the condition becomes "serious." Moreover, their entire viewpoint is to focus upon microbial causative agents, and they cannot adjust their thinking to perceive and understand that the body itself is cleaning itself out.
Second, to formulate the research protocols that would confirm these statements with clinical evidence would require millions of dollars in research funds--which no organization or individuals or agencies presently comprising the health industry would advance, because when these dietary and preventive concepts are proven true, the very edifice of the germ theory of disease, upon which the multibillion-dollar health industries rest, would collapse (a particularly disturbing possibility to those who earn their livelihood thereby and have invested their lives in training, if it transpired quickly).
In Unani Healing we are returning to the people the fundamental principles of human health and wellness, in simple terminology and language that can be understood and applied by anyone. The knowledge of food, bodily processes, fevers, elimination, detoxification, and all of the related topics once were part of the common traditional knowledge of every people in the world. Even as recently as the 1930s, medical doctors shared this knowledge with people and assisted them to regain their own health. It is my contention that each individual has a right and a responsibility to maintain his or her own health and that of his or her children. This is not the same as saying that every person should be his or her "own physician."
To those who wish to assert that the existence of flus and colds is a well-known scientific fact, it can be replied that the exact symptoms of flu, upper respiratory infection, and colds can be reproduced almost at will, simply by withholding certain elements from the diet and administering various foods, herbs, and spices.
My own clinical experience with Unani includes more than four hundred cases with persons of all ages, suffering from asthma, chronic constipation, arthritis, cancer, emphysema, unknown diseases, colds, migraine headaches, and dozens of other "diseases." These patients have included people from every walk of life, including men, women, and children, homemakers, business people, police officers, nurses, students, and even medical doctors (one heart surgeon called all the way from France to learn the Unani recommendations). And I have never had one person fail to respond to this treatment. Yet there have been those who refused to alter their diet, who claimed that they just couldn't possibly give up ice cream or chocolate bonbons or some other excess. Such people lack the desire to be well and cannot be helped by physical medicine. Their systems have become so fouled with toxins and clogged with excess that even their minds are confused to the point of preferring disease to health. Regrettably, there are millions of persons in such a condition today. It seems the surgical and chemotherapeutic treatments are the best course for them.
In the Unani system, there are three things used in treatment: (1) diet, (2) herbal treatments, and (3) treatments administered to the body by hand. Dietary treatment means first eliminating all incorrect foods, such as processed sugar in all forms, other overprocessed foods, and excess meat consumption, and then increasing heating foods and spices and eating at regular times and in proper amounts.
Herbal treatments are used to assist in restoring the body to its proper balance. This requires first detoxifying the body of the accumulation of superfluous matters, whatever they may be. Naming such things is not so important as removing them. The process of detoxification is explained in detail in the following section. Treatments by hand can be accomplished by any of the modes of body work, but my own preference is for naprapathy and shiatsu massage, and also includes the procedure known as cupping.
The main purpose of herbal treatments in Unani is threefold: (1) to ripen the excess of humoral substance, (2) to purge or eliminate the excess of humoral substance, and (3) to restore the humor to its proper characteristic temperament.
The majority of ailments and imbalances that affect people in the United States and the Western industrialized world are associated with imbalances of the phlegm humor (and specifically a cold imbalance of the phlegm humor). The following list provides a summary of conditions and imbalances associated with each humor. (The specific intemperament is not indicated, only the underlying humor that is out of balance.)
SIGNS OF IMBALANCES OF THE HUMORS
There are many interesting points to be gleaned from this table. First, all of these many different symptoms--which would be considered separate, individual diseases by Western medicine--are the result of only four intemperaments.
The significance of this fact is that if a patient presented the symptoms of swelling of the lips, backache, itching of the anus, and mental depression, virtually every physician in the West would consider these all unrelated and would treat each separately. By contrast, the Unani physician would quickly perform an evaluation and discover that all of these signs fall under the imbalances of the phlegm humor.
Then he or she would evaluate whether the imbalance was due to hot or cold intemperament and would effect the correction, using diet, herbs, cupping, and if necessary, some form of body work.
The adjustments to diet are used to correct the underlying intemperament, which has caused the humor to fall out of balance. The herbs, either singly or compounded, are used to evacuate the excess of the humoral or other superfluous matters that have arisen due to the imbalance. The herbs are also used to assist and speed the alleviation of the external and internal signs of swelling, redness, heat or cold, pain, and related symptoms. The treatments to the body assist in the expulsion of superfluous matters, relax the body, and improve harmony and digestion.
The lists of evidences of humoral imbalance in the above Table are not inclusive, meaning that if one of these humors is out of balance, not all of the symptoms will occur in each person. The appearance of one or more of the symptoms will depend upon the inherent strengths and weaknesses of each person's innate organs, tissues, vitality, and related factors. But it is very rare when viewing these lists that one is unable to find one's symptoms falling primarily (or exclusively) under one of these four humors.
Compound Humoral Imbalances
Phlegm and Black Bile: Projection of cornea
Phlegm and Yellow Bile: Lethargy and insomnia; sour mother's milk
Phlegm and Blood: Abscesses
Phlegm and Black Bile: Scrofula (swelling of glands, especially lymphatics)
Blood and Yellow Bile: Feeling of heaviness; canker
There are certain diseases, such as jaundice, that have almost two dozen causative factors. And there are symptoms not present on this list. Some four hundred different conditions are presented in the Formulary, giving the main features of each of these ailments, arranged by the body part affected. When the specific humoral imbalance is identified, the herbal formulas for correction are provided, along with any other particular adjustments recommended.
Here one must determine the herbal formulas that will ripen, purge, and rebalance each of the four humors that are out of balance. For long-standing chronic conditions, this general treatment is the best course. In addition, one should make appropriate adjustments to the diet and consult the section on Detoxification & Purification, a procedure that will eliminate a great deal of accumulated by-products of poor nutrition and unbalanced metabolism.
By consulting the list of signs of humoral imbalance, as well as the other sections of the types of intemperaments, one should identify the specific humor that is out of balance.
Whenever signs of imbalance occur, the main effort must be to rebalance the humor. This involves ripening and purging one or more of the humors. For example, cold phlegm imbalance requires that the phlegm be softened and ripened in order to be purged. The single and compound herbs and foods used to adjust each of the humors are given in The Formulary.
In the case of long-standing dietary indiscretions, lack of exercise, improper habits of elimination, and other wrong behaviors, it is common to find that the system is very congested and disordered. In all chronic and degenerative conditions, it is advisable to conduct such a Detoxification & Purification Program, to allow the body an opportunity to completely reform itself and to become cleansed and rebalanced, so that the improved foods eaten will find a completely efficient digestive system to process them. Therefore, please see the section devoted to the topic of detoxification and the events that can be experienced during this process.