It has been eight years since South African-born doctor and Wits University medical graduate Dr Summeiya Omar started her functional medicine practice in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Aptly named the Optimum Health Centre, the practice has grown steadily, mostly through patients’ word of mouth. Her innovative approach blends functional medicine, also known as integrative medicine, with the Unani-Tibb system — an Arabic-Greek medical system developed by Arabic physicians, notably the philosopher-scientist Ibn Sina in the 11th century. The system has its roots in the Greek philosophers Hippocrates and Galen.

The key principle in Unani-Tibb is that the body is capable of healing itself and maintaining optimum health and balance. The underlying concept is that the body is made up of the four natural elements — fire, water, air and earth — and it has a specific temperament — hot or cold, wet or dry — and various combinations of these. For example, hot and dry people are generally lea...

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