Parliamentary Unani Day to support Early Day Motion for the Protection of Traditional Medicinal Systems.

11th February, almost 100 gathered to synchronise with India for an Unani Day celebration.

The event, Chaired by Bob Blackman MP and Virendra Sharma Co-Chairs of All Party Parliamentary Group – Indian Traditional Sciences was well attended by almost one hundred participants including MP’s, Doctors, Researchers, Profession heads and interested parties.  David Tredinnick MP of Bosworth Constituency in Leicestershire opened the event.

  What is the Unani System of Medicine?  Unani is a complementary medical system that considers the health of an individual through multiple dimensions – mind, body and soul. Unani is part of Modern India’s National Healthcare System.  The impact of Unani Medicine as a health was so great, that 2004 saw the introduction of a dedicated research centre for Unani medicine in Bangalore.

Unani Medicine Day was held at Portcullis House, Palace of Westminster, London on Monday 11th February 2019 to mirror the same celebration in India. In Delhi, there is a hospital originally established by the British during their Raj, which is still running and sees some 300 people every day, free of charge, run by 6 Unani doctors.

The Unani philosophy is first to consider the individual as a whole and his constitution.  This is holistic medicine; Unani is going back thousands of years like Ayurveda and Siddha.   Ayurveda and Unani are ancient medicines and most of the pharmacopeia are household remedies.

 This event began with keynote speaker Dr Mohammed Salim Khan, Principle of the College of Healing Arts, who expressed his gratitude to the Ministry of AYUSH Government of India, and particularly Mr, Amarjeet S. Bhamra in bringing an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to fruition to celebrate the Indian Traditional Sciences in the Parliament.  “I have been with Ayush for 40 years now”, said Dr Khan “and this is an historical event for us and our National Health Service”.  He explained to the group that in 2018 he was at a celebration in New Delhi, where the Government of India were celebrating the launch of a special book to celebrate the birth of Hakim Khan and his birth, his fight for freedom and his life as an educator.

Dr Khan delivered a brief history of his journey, including slides of his family who arrived in India as physicians in 1526, where they opened a hospital that is still functioning today. That hospital led to the 1908 launch of a school which was opened by Lady Dean, and became a leading school for Unani medicine that was ground-breaking by training women in this field. Later that same year, Hakim Khan created an Ayurveda and Unani Society, and in 1910 he helped to organise the All India Ayurveda and Unani Conference. In 1916, Lord Harding laid the foundation stone of the College was which opened in 1921 by Mahatma Gandhi.  This heritage of Ayush and in particular Unani medicine, has a considerable pedigree, internationalising Unani Medicine.

Will Unani medicine succeed in penetrating modern society? In current times, it is the World Health Organisation who is promoting the resurrection of investment into Unani and Traditional Medicines and initiating research in more than 20 countries including the UK. In response to this a World Unani Foundation was established in Delhi, India.  So far, the research shows that 70 – 80% of modern disease is preventable via lifestyle.

The second speaker of the program was Professor Monique Simmonds, Director of Medicinal Plants at Kew Gardens. Ms. Simmons has been studying Traditional Medicinal Plants for the majority of her career.  “Plants,” she said, “are intimately connected to their environment.” The study of plants and plant medicines are therefore radically impacted by the cultivating methods of the grower. “This radically alters both the real medicinal effect obtained by the practitioner of plant based or herbal medicine and also the scientific results that are gleaned from trials.” Her message of the importance of cultivation is essential: if we are to study plants, and provide their value as traditional medicinal, substances: we must pay attention, not only to the plant, but the manner in which it is cultivated also.  She praised the Unani System of medicine as keeping the herbal tradition alive, and acknowledged that widespread appreciation and understanding of herbs was needed for the future of health in the UK.

His message of the need for increased understanding of Nature was reiterated by Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK, Hon. Charanjeet Singh. “Nature had provided us with all we require,” he said. “When man arrives to Earth, everything is set in place. Over time, we have lost that connection: now is the time to rediscover and reconnect with traditional systems of healthcare, and Unani is a vehicle to help people to make that connection.”

His Excellency the Ambassador of Senegal to the UK Hon Prof Cheikh Dieng was next to speak and state that he is very interested to include Senegal in discussions about Unani medicine and its benefits.

H.E. the High Commissioner of Mauritius to the UK Hon Mr. G. Nunkoo explained the health view of Mauritius where multiple traditional medicines are a normal part of everyday life. Mr Nunkoo explained: “the effectiveness and value of traditional medicine is clear. To move Traditional Medicines, forward the body of scientific evidence must be reinforced”.

Indian Traditional Sciences are widely accessible and practised in Mauritius.  We consider ourselves ahead in the use of them in this sensitive sector.  A first Ayurveda conference was held in 1990, and then in 2015, Prime Minister of India Mr. Modi came to Mauritius and signed an agreement on homeopathy. We offer different options. This is a defining moment, and Indian Traditional Sciences can offer answers for many in society.  It must follow conventional Western Medicine in terms of clinical trials and peer review. Unani should not compete but be complementary to allopathic medicine.  We would be pleased to cooperate with the APPG Indian Traditional Sciences for such initiatives”.

Richard Johnson, director of Maharishi Foundation UK read the Early Day Motion (EDM) 2052 on Unani Medicine Day tabled by Virendra Sharma MP. He said the EDM is now ready and encouraged all delegates should take this message and write to their MP to engage them to sign this EDM.

Mr. Thomas Pfeiffer from the Czech Republic spoke of his work in trying to support and help the use of traditional medicines and said that he is working to increase public awareness. “Most important is to build up the research base” he said. “We have up to 4000 dissertations and up to 18.000 cases on our data base of traditional medicines.  I can provide you with all this information and hope our co-operation can continue.”

A special message received from Hon. Shripad Yesso Naik, Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), Government of India, supporting the initiative of the APPG Indian Traditional Sciences was read by Leyla Moudden President Association of Naturopathic Practitioners in UK, and a message from Prof. Rashid Bhikha, Unani Medicine South Africa was read by Brittany Spence from Association of Physical & Natural Therapists.

Organiser Amarjeet S. Bhamra was the last to address to group. He said “We in Britain are spending over 10 billion pounds on the NHS every moth, but where is this money going?  The focus for the APPG is on the Indian Traditional Sciences, to promote awareness for all traditional medicines, to ask the government to offer choice of freedom for health and care. Over the past 5 years, we have been promoting all the various branches of Indian Traditional Sciences and this evening is our first attempt to bring all the British stakeholders in Unani to celebrate Unani Medicine Day.

I think you will agree with me that we all wish to see the legitimisation and accessibility to traditional medicines and therefore I seek your attention to the Early Day Motion 2052 tabled by Virendra Sharma MP. It takes a lot of hard work to prepare appropriate wording to parliamentarians to consider, and if we don’t reach out to our Members of Parliament, our effort’s will not be realised, all institutions should post this EDM on their website and rally members to ask their MPs to sign it.

I am also grateful to the Indian High Commissioner for his continuous support to all our initiatives and this year I am glad to see the presence of our special guests from their Excellencies the Ambassadors of Senegal as well as Mauritius. I am hoping that we will truly build an inspiring commitment to promote Indian Traditional Sciences not only the Europe but the continent of Africa and beyond.

Mr Bhamra thanked Dr Shantha Godagama, Member of the Herbal Medicine Regulatory Working Group to the Department of Health British Government, Dr. Anand Arya, Kings’ College, London, Dhruv Chhatralia Int’l Mergers and Acquisitions Lawyer London and Dr. Mauroof Athique, Principal Ayurveda College UK for their learned contribution to the meeting. A presentation of malas and gifts followed for the various dignitaries offered by Mrs. Bilay K. Want, a close supporter of APPG Indian Traditional Sciences.