Aromatherapy and Aromatic Drugs in Unani System of Medicine


“Aroma” is a Greek word which means spice, an agreeable odour. In general aroma means an odour arising from spices, plants, cooking, etc., especially an agreeable odour; fragrance. Though the term aromatherapy is new but the basic concept has been taken from Unani medicine, which is evident from the review of classical Unani texts. The history of aromatherapy dates back to the period of Hippocrates (460–377BC).

It is a modern term for a healing art that is ages old. It is one of the regimens of regimental therapy (Ilaj-bil- Tadbeer) employed for the restoration and maintenance of health under Unani system of medicine. Aromatic drugs are those drugs having an agreeable odour or aroma and used medicinally for the purpose of diagnosis/prevention/cure of disease before and after processing. The term “Aromatherapy” was initially used in 1928, by a French chemist to describe the therapeutic action of aromatic plants, essences, although the value of natural plants oils has been recognised for more than 6000 years for their healing, cleansing, preservation and mood enhancing properties as well as for the sheer pleasure of their fragrances.

Since time immemorial, the aroma plays a vital role in the human beings and even in animals. The aromatic plants and aromatic chemicals contained in them have also significance in our day to day life. Process of distillation described and adopted by Unani scholars confirms the claim that, they were aware of the importance of aromatic drugs and perfumes.

Popularity of Aromatherapy has attracted worldwide attention. Unani system of medicine with its speciality in use of aromatic drugs may also contribute to Aromatherapy debate effectively. In aromatherapy, plant extracts are used called essential oils, by either breathing them through nose or putting them on skin. Some people put the oils on their skin when they get a massage or take a bath.

Essential oils are made from herb, flower and tree parts, like peels, bark, roots and petals. The cells that give a plant its fragrant smell are its "essence." When an essence is extracted from a plant, it becomes an essential oil. The pure essences of aromatic plants have been prized for thousands of years for their health giving properties and healthy scents.

In Unani medicine, there are many aromatic drugs used for medicinal purposes. Due to their medicinal properties they play very important role in the diagnosis, prevention and cure of the diseases before and after processing.

Most oils obtained from such aromatic drugs are highly antiseptic, both upon contact and as a vapour. Essential oils of aromatic drugs possess different types of activities. Hundred of essential oils are used today in common articles of food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and perfumery.

The vital element in any aromatherapy treatment is the pure essential oil. Because of its small molecular structure, essential oil can penetrate into the skin more effectively than vegetable oils, which are less absorbable as compared to essential oils.

Properties of Aromatic Oils: The aromatic oils possess different types of properties such as:

  1. Antibacterial oils: some of the strongest anti-bacterial oils are obtained from lemon (Citrus limonum fruit), Thyme (It is the herb (dried aerial parts) of some members of the genus Thymus of aromatic perennial evergreen herbs in the mint family Lamiaceae), abhal (Juniperus communis Linn. Fruit), Ustukhuddus (Lavandula stoechas Linn. flower), eucalyptus (It is a genus of over seven hundred species of flowering trees, shrubs or mallees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae), sandal safed (Santalum album Linn. wood), peppermint (Mentha piperita Linn.), sada bahaar (Catharanthus roseus (Linn.) G. Don Syn.: Vinca rosea Linn. Flower) Tea Tree.
  2. Antifungal oils: Such are antiviral as Lehsun (Allium sativum, Bulb), Ustukhuddus (Lavandula stoechas Linn. Flower), Tea Tree (Camellia sinensis (Linn.) O. Kuntze) etc.
  3. Antiviral oils: Some are antiviral as Lehsun (Allium sativum bulb), Ustukhuddus (Lavandula stoechas Linn. flower), Tea Tree (Camellia sinensis (Linn.) O. Kuntze) etc.

Philosophy behind use of aromatherapy

Some scientists/ experts think that aromatherapy activates areas in the nose called smell receptors, which send messages through nervous system to brain. The essential oils may activate certain areas of brain, like limbic system, which plays a role in emotions. They could also have an impact on hypothalamus, which may respond to the oil by creating feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin.

Some experts/ scientists think that when essential oils are applied on skin, they cause a response in skin and other parts of body e.g. joints, brain etc.

Health Benefits of AromatherapyResearch shows that aromatherapy have many health benefits.

  • It eases stress, anxiety and depression
  • It reduces pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee
  • It boosts feeling of relaxation
  • It improves sleep
  • It helps to improve quality of life for people with long-term health problems like dementia
  • It eases certain types of pain, including pain from kidney stones and osteoarthritis of the knee
  • It fights bacteria when you put essential oils on your skin.
  • It improves quality of life, particularly for people with chronic health conditions
  • It eases some of the side effects of cancer treatment, like nausea and pain

Chemistry of Aromatic Plants/ Drugs

Chemistry of aromatic dugs is very complex. They are composed of many different chemical compounds. The most common chemical compounds are alcohol, aldehydes, acids, esters, lactones, hydrocarbons, phenols and ketones. Quantity of constituents is affected by geographic origin, environmental conditions, harvesting methods, extraction, and storage.

Essential oils are extracted from the wide array of plant sources. These are found in barks like Dar Chini (Cinnamomum zeylanicum Blume) and Sandal safed (Santalum album Linn.), in flowers like Ustukhuddus (Lavandula stoechas Linn.), Gulab (Rosa damascena Mill.) and Yasmin (Jasminum officinale Linn.), in leaves like Peppermint (Mentha piperita Linn.), Badranjboya (Nepeta hindostana Haines), Baadranjboya Sehrai/Baqlat-uz-Zeb (Melissa axillaris (Benth.) Bakh. f. Syn.: M.  parviflora Benth.) and Sada bahaar (Catharanthus roseus Linn./  Vinca rosea Linn.), in resins like Kundur (Boswellia serrata Roxb. ex Coleb.) and Mur (Commiphora myrrha Nees.), in rind like Lemon (Citrus limon (Linn.) Burm.f.) and Sangtra talkh (Citrus aurantium Linn.), Sangtra shirin (Citrus sinensis (Linn.) Osbeck.), in roots like Tagar (Valeriana jatamansii Jones Syn.: V. wallichii DC.) etc.

Common Aromatic Drugs of Unani Medicine

Name of the Plant with Parts

Scientific Name


Myrtis communis, Linn

Ajwain            (Seeds)

Trachyspermum ammi

Anisoon (Seeds)

Pimpinella anisum Linn.

Arjun (Bark)

Terminalia arjuna (Roxb.) Bedd.

Badam (Fruit)

Prunus dulcis MillerPrunus amygdalus Batsch


Viola odorata Linn.


Anithenis nobilis Linn.

Suddab (Leaf)

Ruta graveolens Linn.

Badam talkh (Fruit)

Prunus amara

Baadiyan (Seeds)

Foeniculum vulgare Mill.

Bisbasa (Fruit coat)

Myristica fragrans Houtt.


Nymphaea alba Linn.


Rosa alba Linn.


Jasminum officinale Linn.

Darchini (Bark)

Cinnamomum zeylanicum Blume

Duhn-ul- Aas

Myrtus communis, Linn.

Duhn-ul- Afsanteen

Artemisia absinthium Linn.

Duhn-ul- Babunaj

Anthemis nobilis Linn.

Duhn-ul- Ban

Melia azedarach Linn.

Duhn-ul- Banafsaj

Viola doctorata, Linn.

Duhn-ul- Hina

Lawsonia inermis Linn. /Lawsonia alba


Tribulus terristris, Linn.

Duhn-ul- Khairi

AI-hagi comelorum, Fisch.

Duhn-us – Sudab

Ruta graveolens Linn.

Duhn-us- Safarjal

Cydonia oblonga Mill.

Duhn-us- Sosan

Iris ensata Thumb.

Duhn-ul- Qust

Saussurea Lappa Clarke.

Duhn-ul- Marzanjosh

Orianum vulgare Linn.

Duhn-ul- Mastagi

Pistacia lentiscus Linn.

Duhun-ul- Miah

Liquidambar orientalis Miller

Duhn-ul- Nardin

Nardostachys jatamansi


Narcisstus tazetta Linn.

Duhun-ul- Nilofar

Nymphaea alba Linn.

Duhun-ul- Ward

Rosa alba Linn.


Chrysanthemum coronarium Linn.

Gul-e- Surkh (Flowers)

Rosa damascena Mill.


Boswellia serrata Roxb. ex Coleb.


Cinnamomum camphora Linn.


Al-hagi camelorum, Fisch

Waj (Root)

Acorus calamus Linn.

Qust (Root)

Saussurea hypoleuca Spreng/ Saussurea lappa

Qaranfal/ Laung (Bud)

Syzygium aromaticum Linn./ Caryophyllus aromaticus

Safaida (Leaves)

Eucalyptus sp.

Heel Kalan (Fruit)

Amomum subulatum Roxb.

Kunjad Siyah/ Til (Seeds)

Sesamum indicum Linn.

Heel Khurd (Fruit)

Elettaria cardamomum (Linn.) Maton


Thymus vulgaris Linn./ Thymus serpyllum

Karafs-e- Kohi (Herb)

Petroselinum crispum (Mill.) Nyman ex A.W. Hill


Commiphora myrrha Nees.


Orianum vulgare Linn.


Narcissus tazetta Linn.

Raihan (Herb)

Ocimum sanctum Linn.

Sada Bahaar

Catharanthus roseus Linn./  Vinca rosea Linn.

S'atar (Leaf)

Zataria multiflora Boiss


Iris florentina Linn.


Ocimam basilicum Linn.

Shaqaiq-un- Noman

Asparagus recenmosus Willd.


Artemisia persica Boiss

Muqil (Gum)

Commiphora mukul/ Commiphora wightii Bhandari


Ocimum gratissimum Linn./ Ocimum frutescens


Mentha piperita Linn.

Ustukhuddus (Flower)

Lavandula stoechas Linn.

Zufa/ Zufah (Flower)

Hyssopus officinalis Linn.

Gul-e- Atr

Pelargonium roseum Ait.

Leemu Kaghzi/ Sangtra Talkh

Citrus aurantium Linn.

Sangtra Shirin

Citrus sinensis (Linn.) Osbeck.

Utraj/ Lemoon

Citrus limon (Linn.) Burm.f.


Cistus craticcus

Afsanteen (Herb)

Artemisia absinthium Linn.

Abhal  (Fruit)

Juniperus communis Linn.

Zeera Siyah (Seed)

Carum carvi Linn.

Sangtara (Fruit)

Citrus sinensis (Linn.) Osbeck.

Iklil-al- Jabal

Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.

Zeera Safed (Seed)

Cuminum cyminum Linn.

Pudinah (Herb)

Mentha arvensis Linn.

Kashneez (Fruit)

Coriandrum sativum Linn.

Sandal (Wood)

Santalum album Linn.

Paalkhan/ Roosa

Cymbopogon citratus (DC. ex Nees) Stapf

Laung (Clove)

Eugenia caryophyllata

Habaq Jabli/ Haasha

Thymus vulgaris Linn.

Zafran (Stigma)

Crocus sativus Linn.

Ambar Baaris/Rasaut

Berberis petiolaris

Badranjboya (Herb)

Nepeta hindostana Haines

Baadranjboya Sehrai/Baqlat-uz-Zeb

Melissa axillaris (Benth.) Bakh. f. Syn.: M.  parviflora Benth.

Kundur (Gum)

Boswellia serrata Roxb. ex Coleb.

Tagar (Root)

Valeriana jatamansii Jones Syn.: V. wallichii DC.


  • PUBLISHED DATE : May 03, 2021
  • CREATED / VALIDATED BY : Dr. Mahtab Alam Khan
  • LAST UPDATED ON : May 03, 2021


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