The Unani System of Medicine has a long and impressive record in India. It was introduced in India by the Arabs and Persians sometime during the eighth century. Today, India is one of the leading countries in so for as the practice of Unani medicine is concerned. It has the largest number of Unani educational, research and health care institutions.
Soon after the introduction in India, the system got rooted in the country as an indigenous system of medicine. Unani physicians in India succeeded in retaining its traditional strength and also benefitting from contemporary scientific development over the years. During second half of the twentieth century, with the support of government of India, the system developed institutionalized quality education, state of the art research and an extensive network of hospitals and dispensaries for meeting the healthcare needs of the people. Hakim Ajmal Khan (1868-1927 AD) pioneered research in Unani Medicine with modern scientific parameters in the 1920s. This lead to the significant discovery of alkaloids viz., Ajmaline, Ajmalinine, Ajmalicine, Isoajmaline, Neoajmaline and Serpentine from a native plant Rauwolfia serpentina, used extensively in Unani system of Medicine.
During the British rule, Unani Medicine suffered a setback and its development was hampered due to withdrawal of governmental patronage. But since the system enjoyed faith among the masses, it continued to be practiced. It was mainly due to patronage recieved from the Sharifi family in Delhi, the Azizi family in Lucknow and the Nizam of Hyderabad that Unani Medicine survived during the British period. An outstanding physician and scholar of Unani Medicine Hakim Ajmal Khan, was one of the foremost freedom fighters in the country. He established an Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College for teaching and research in Ayurveda and Unani respectively alongwith Hindustani Dawakhana a pharmaceutical company for manufacturing of Ayurvedic and Unani medicine in Delhi in 1916. Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated the college on February 13, 1921.