It’s no secret that Dubai’s residents have a fondness for natural and herbal remedies – and very open minds. In 2011, a survey suggested that more than 55 percent of people in the UAE were using alternative medicine, and many in the medical community predict that demand will continue to grow.
Alternative medicines available in the emirate span a number of different areas and disciplines, including homeopathy, ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathy, guided imagery and tai chi. Dubai’s Breath and Health, already established in the field of alternative remedies, is making the most of heightened interest in these therapies by bringing on board two new doctors – one specialising in ayurveda, the other in the lesser-known unani.
Though the two are very similar in many ways, ayurveda is an old Hindu philosophy, while unani has Greco-Arabic roots, which become clear when you look a little closer at how it works. Unani is based on the principle of the four ‘humours’ – blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. For the past few hundred years, it has been enormously popular in India, and there are now a number of unani medical colleges in the country where graduates are awarded BUMS (bachelor of unani medicine and surgery) status following the completion of a five-and-a-half-year course.
‘We can treat any health complaints, but unani is particularly effective in treating chronic diseases, and anything that affects the liver and kidneys,’ explains Breath and Health’s Dr Izhar Bano Gulam Nawaz. At the centre, they specialise in a variety of concerns, including psoriasis and eczema, migraines, diabetes, back pain, asthma, neurological diseases, obesity, arthritis and lumbar spondylosis. Though she says unani therapies can be of particular use in female gynaecological complaints, unani therapies are a ‘safe, natural method’ that can, on the whole, be prescribed for anyone regardless of their age, gender or background. With that in mind, we put three common Dubai health complaints to Dr Izhar to find out how each would be addressed by unani therapies.
Stuffy sinuses from too much air-conditioning
‘First, we’ll look at what you’re eating and prescribe some breathing exercises to promote a normal oxygenation cycle, such as going for a walk and concentrating on cultivating a deep, calm breathing pattern. For lots of people, their breathing pattern is obstructed by continuous work, work, work. They need to get out of the air-conditioning earlier in the morning, and go for a walk. We might prescribe some medicine afterwards, either itrifal ustukhuddus or itrifal kishneezi, which also improve constipation and digestive problems.’
Neck and back pain from hunching over a desk
‘I know work is very important for everybody, but you have to start every day making sure you are sitting in a proper position. For the pain, we prescribe light massages, and regular application of a special ointment to the area: it contains surkh oil, which is very good for pain relief. We might also give you some stretching exercises to do. If you do all of these three, the pain should go. If it’s something you’ve had for a very long time and is chronic, there are also herbal medicines we can prescribe. Depending on the problem, habbe suranjan is very good: it has anti-inflammatory properties. Medicine is always the last choice – we first try to find a solution with stretching and exercise, or light massage. This works in 50 to 60 percent of cases.’
‘Everyone in this life suffers from stress. The first thing most people want is to be listened to, so that’s what we do – we listen to their problems and try to help modify their lifestyle. We’ll prescribe a lighter diet in some cases, and exercises to help the person feel their power and be more in control. Often we suggest people remember to sit down and take a deep breath, and get some oxygen to their minds. When their head is a bit clearer, it is easier to start finding the solution to the stress. We can try to find the solution with you. We can also give some medicine that will help relax you and improve sleep, similarly to ayurveda with the pouring of the oil over the head and body, which has a very calming effect.’
From Dhs200 for a full consultation. Breath and Health, Al Wasl Road(04 348 9940).
Three more to try: alternative therapies
Beijing Tong Ren Tang
The Chinese medicine offered at this clinic covers everything from acupuncture to cupping. This venue offers free consultations in certain slots on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Healthcare City (04 435 6905).
The Healing Zone
A naturopathic wellness centre that offers spiritual healing, reiki, homeopathy, nutritional therapy and much more.
Al Wasl Road(04 388 4227).
New Life Clinic
As well as homeopathy, craniosacral therapy and light therapy, this spot also offers hydrotherapy.
Al Wasl Road (04 348 4789).