Unani medicine, like other traditional systems of medicine, has its strengths and unique contributions, particularly in the use of natural remedies and holistic approaches to health.
– Mohd Naushad Khan
Dr. N. Zaheer Ahmed is presently Director General of Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM), a division of the Indian government’s Ministry of Ayush. He has also served as Deputy Director at Regional Research Institute of Unani Medicine (RRIUM), Chennai.
Dr. Zaheer is actively engaged in clinical research and has rendered his services to the CCRUM, Ministry of Ayush, Govt. of India for over three decades and carried out various IMR, EMR projects, in-house and collaborative clinical and pre-clinical studies as principal investigator and co-investigator. He is also a co-investigator in the NMPB project of Regional Raw Drug Repository- Southern Plateau Region.
He is an external examiner of PhD program in Moalejat (Unani Clinical Medicine) of National Institute of Unani Medicine, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, since 2019.
Earlier, he was awarded Gold Medal for securing highest rank in BUMS final year and also honoured with gold medal for securing highest marks in Moalejat.
Dr Zaheer was recognised as best researcher by Hamdard Laboratories, New Delhi in 2007, awarded best paper presentation award from Unani stream in 1st International AYUSH Conference and Exhibition 2017, 8-11th November at Dubai, UAE and best research paper publication award by CCRUM, Ministry of Ayush, Govt. of India in 2018.
He completed his BUMS degree from Government Unani Medical College, Chennai and MD in Moalejat (Unani Medicine) from NIUM, Bangalore. He also holds Diploma in Hospital Management from NIHFW, Govt of India.
He has attended and presented papers in around 60 national and international conferences and seminars in India and abroad. He attended more than 22 training programs, delivered more than 70 public and guest lectures. He has over 90 publications to his credit.
CCRUM is an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Ayush, Government of India. Since its establishment in 1978, the CCRUM as the apex government organization for research in Unani Medicine has been engaged in conducting scientific research on the applied as well as fundamental aspects of the Unani system of medicine. Consequently, over the past four decades of its existence, the Council has made significant strides in clinical research, drug standardization, survey and cultivation of medicinal plants, ethnobotanical surveys have been conducted in different forest areas of 14 states collecting over 1 lakhs specimens of medicinal plants.
So far database of 9,500 Medicinal Folk claims have been documented and published in 19 volumes of Books. Experimental and field scale cultivation of 38 important medicinal plants used in the Unani system of medicine has also been undertaken. Besides survey, units are maintaining 329 Medicinal Plants for its conservation and demonstration purpose in Herbal Gardens.
With the efforts of scientists and technical manpower at its 23 research centres spread across the country, the Council has won appreciation from various quarters for its patents which are 17 in number, innovative research outcomes, and scientific publications.
On the future prospects of Unani System of Medicine (USM) in combating health challenges, the Director General, while talking to radiancenews.com, said, “It depends on its integration with modern healthcare practices, ongoing research, and the ability to provide evidence-based solutions to a wide range of health issues. In broader terms, it also depends on, Integrative healthcare system, Lifestyle Diseases, Preventive Healthcare, Research and Evidence, Education and Awareness, Traditional Knowledge Preservation, Cultural Preservation, Regulation and Licensing, Globalization and Cultural Acceptance, Individualized/ Personalized Medicine and Patient Preferences.”
On the challenges faced by USM, Dr. Zaheer said, “Many Unani remedies and treatment modalities are based on traditional knowledge and historical practices. While some of these may be very effective, there is often a lack of rigorous scientific validation and clinical trials to establish their safety and efficacy according to modern medical standards. Unani medicine is sometimes seen as separate from modern medicine. This can lead to challenges in terms of collaboration and integration with conventional healthcare systems, making it less accessible to a broader population.”
He further said, “In many countries, there may be limited regulation and standardization of Unani medicine practices and products. This can result in variations in the quality and safety of Unani treatments. Compared to modern medicine, there is often limited research funding available for Unani medicine. This can hinder scientific exploration and the development of evidence-based practices. Much of the Unani medical literature is written in Arabic, Persian, or Urdu. This can be a barrier to accessing and disseminating knowledge for non-speakers of these languages.”
Dr Zaheer added, “Unani medicine is primarily practiced in certain regions of the world, such as South Asia and the Middle East. It may face challenges in gaining global acceptance and recognition as a legitimate system of medicine. Unani medicine relies on traditional diagnostic methods, which may not be as precise or advanced as modern diagnostic tools and technology. This can affect the accuracy of diagnoses and treatment planning. Unani medicine can be concerns about the safety, quality, and standardization of herbal products, including the risk of adulteration.”
Elaborating on the challenges, he said, “Limited understanding of modern-day diseases is also a big challenge. Unani medicine may have limited understanding or treatment options for modern diseases and conditions that were not prevalent during its historical development. Exhaustive work based on symptomatology existing in Unani texts is required to correlate such diseases, to overcome the challenge.”
Dr Zaheer opined, “Cultural and religious factors are also there. Some individuals and communities may prefer traditional Unani medicine due to cultural or religious beliefs. However, this can sometimes lead to resistance or reluctance to seek modern medical care when necessary. It’s important to note that Unani medicine, like other traditional systems of medicine, has its strengths and unique contributions, particularly in the use of natural remedies and holistic approaches to health. Efforts to bridge the gap between Unani medicine and modern healthcare, to improve research and standardization, and to ensure the safety and efficacy of Unani treatment regimens are ongoing in various parts of the world.”
On the way forward, he said, “It is through rigorous research and innovative ideas, keeping in mind all prospects and challenges, we will work hard with the help of technological advancement to take up Unani medicine to the next height.”