The story of Tibb (also known as Unani-Tibb) stretches back into the mists of time, to the pharaohs of Egypt, and maybe beyond. Its history is measured by the lives of three Titans of medicine – Hippocrates (“the Father of Medicine”) from Ancient Greece; Galen from Imperial Rome; and Ibn Sina from the Islamic Golden Era. Hippocrates, around 430 BCE, was the first to break away from the superstitious, magical and ritualistic atmosphere that dominated the healing arts of the times, and bring in the logical, science-based approach to health, disease and convalescence that we experience today.
His main contributions to Tibb were the humoral theory and the concept of inner healing, or Physis. He also introduced the ecological model of health. This described health as harmony between the person’s characteristics, his or her lifestyle, and the environment. Disease occurs when this harmony is disturbed by injury, infection or faulty lifestyle.
Another iconic Tibb pioneer was Galen who lived in the 2nd century Rome. He contributed hugely to medicine in many ways. Amongst these was his theory of temperament, or the role of a person’s uniqueness in the diagnosis and treatment of ailments. This is currently enjoying a revival of interest worldwide.
The third founder of Tibb was Ibn Sina (aka Avicenna) born in the year 980 CE, aptly lauded as the Prince of Physicians. Together with his colleagues, the bedrock of modern medicine was laid down. He combined the theory and practice of traditional Arabic, Greek and Roman medicine, with valuable input from Indian and Chinese medicine. The Lifestyle Factors were hugely important in the achievement of health.
A huge debt of gratitude is owed by Western civilization to many medical and philosophic experts of the Islamic culture of this time. The body of knowledge from ancient times was saved to survive the European Dark Ages, and passed on at the dawn of the Renaissance.
Until quite recently the Tibb system of medicine was the central pillar of Western healing practice. The two systems diverged in recent times on issues of inner healing, diagnostic practice, use of synthetic drugs, and the importance of Lifestyle Factors. Even so, both Tibb and conventional medicine have a common heritage, and this is the basis for their successful partnership in Integrative Medicine.
Tibb is uniquely positioned to address the health issues in South Africa because it integrates conventional, allopathic medicines with traditional approaches, thereby offering a comprehensive system that is accessible to all individuals across the spectrum in our country. Tibb’s motto is “A Science of Medicine – The Art of Care”.