Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging

Living Edition
| Editors: Danan Gu, Matthew E. Dupre

Geriatric Management in Persian Medicine

  • Arman ZargaranEmail author
  • Mohammad M. Zarshenas
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69892-2_957-1



Persian medicine is one of the oldest traditional systems of medicine dating back to at least 7000 years ago. This traditional system of medicine has a holistic approach to human and is based on humoral theory. Persian medicine was the main paradigm of medical sciences at least until the seventeenth century in Western Asia, Northern Africa, and Europe and some other traditional systems of medicine like Unani medicine derived from it. Geriatric management in Persian medicine covers all aspects of geriatric management to keep health of older people via lifestyle modification and the special recommendations and treatment approach embedded in Persian medicine for diseases and disorders.


Aging and geriatric management is a global health challenge (Onder et al. 2013), and finding any strategies to reduce the risk factors of disorders and to improve the quality of life for them is the key for healthy aging (Salas-Crisostomo et al. 2018). One of the sources to find such new strategies and recommendations based on historical perspective and generation by generation experience is traditional systems of medicine (Emami et al. 2013). These traditional systems of medicine like Persian medicine, Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathy, etc. have a root in history with their own philosophy and also centuries of experiences of physicians during history (Zarshenas et al. 2017).

Persian medicine is one of the traditional systems of medicine that dates back to at least 7000 years ago (Zargaran 2014). It was the main paradigm of medicine in the main parts of Western Asia, Northern Africa, and Europe until the seventeenth century. There were great Persian physicians like Akhawayni, Rhazes, Avicenna, Jorjani, etc. who have flourished this paradigm of medical sciences, in particular during the Islamic Golden Age (ninth to thirteenth century CE) (Ghaffari et al. 2017). One of the most important parts of Persian medicine is its contribution to health care, more than treatment (Nikaein et al. 2012) and in particular to geriatrics (Emami et al. 2013), for example, for their dietary regimen (Emami et al. 2014), and to reduce cardiovascular disease risks (Zarshenas et al. 2016).

Persian Medicine

This traditional system of medicine follows holistic paradigm and is based on four elements: earth, fire, air, and water with dry and cold, hot and wet, hot and dry, and cold and wet qualities, respectively (Zargaran et al. 2013). It is believed to special mizaj (temperament) for any person and any health care or treatment is personalized. It means that the physician had to treat patients, based on his/her own condition. It seems that they used phenotypes of the people to categorize them in different temperaments that currently we know that it is rooted in their genotypes (Moeini et al. 2017). Furthermore, current investigations show logical relations between these claims with evidences based on proteomics (Rezadoost et al. 2016). Also, it is believed that there is an age temperament that affects the temperament of each person (Table 1).
Table 1

Age temperament in Persian medicine




Middle age

Old age


Hot and wet

Hot and dry

Cold and dry

Cold and more dryness (sometimes abnormal wetness)

However, the wetness of older persons is abnormal and is not good. Therefore, this temperament can affect the temperament of the person and health-care services are based on the specific condition and temperament of older adults (Naseri 2018).

General Considerations for Older Adults in Persian Medicine

The term of geriatric management is under the title of Tadbeer-e-mashayekh in Persian medicine. Tadbeer means strategy and mashayekh means older adults. This part covers all aspects of geriatric management including Persian medicine fundamentals, nutrition, health-care strategies, and treatment for older adults (Rezaeizadeh et al. 2009). Fat older adults have cold and wet and thin older adults have cold and dry temperaments. Therefore, health-care services are based on their temperaments.

Health-Care Services for Geriatrics

Geriatrics need special managements including lifestyle modification like light exercise; body massage at morning with olive, almond, lily, and sesame oils; and adequate sleep during the day and night and good nutrition (Avicenna 1988; Jorjani 2006; Rhazes 2005) (Table 2). In general, foods with hot and wet temperament and hot and dry temperament are beneficial for thin and fat older adults, respectively (Emami et al. 2013).
Table 2

Health-care parameters for geriatrics

General considerations

Some useful foods

Some harmful foods

Foods should be in small amount, light, easily digestible at frequent intervals in geriatric regimen

Laxative foods, fruits (like fig, grapes, citruses, and plum), vegetables (like carrot and cabbage), chicken broth, honey, boiled milk with honey, or rock candy

Heavy foods and additives such as eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus Thunb.), beef, and vinegar

The aim of these recommendations is avoiding some common geriatric complications like vertigo, constipation, and insomnia (Hussain et al. 2002). Furthermore, Persian scholars recommended using some medicinal herbs in geriatric regimen to improve their health and decrease their aging disorders conditions (Avicenna 1988; Jorjani 2006; Rhazes 2005). Some of these herbs and their claimed effects in Persian medicine in comparison with current evidences are summarized in Table 3 (Emami et al. 2013).
Table 3

Medicinal herbs mentioned in Persian medicine for geriatric management

Persian name

Scientific name

Part use

Mentioned effects in Persian medicine

Effects based on current evidences


Abrus precatorius L.



Immunopotentiating activity (Ramnath et al. 2002: 910–913)


Acorus calamus L.


Health improver

Antioxidant (Manikandan et al. 2005: 2327–2330)


Allium sativum L.



Antioxidant, antiaging effect (Svendsen et al. 1994: 125–133; Moriguchi et al. 1997: 235–242)


Azadirachta indica A. Juss


Health improver

Immunomodulatory effect (Baral and Chattopadhyay 2004: 355–366)


Bryonia dioica Jacq.

Fruit, leaf


Antioxidant (Morales et al. 2012: 851–863)


Bunium persicum (Boiss.) B. Fedtsch.


Health improver

Antioxidant (Shahsavari et al. 2008: 183–188)


Carthamus tinctorius L.


Health improver

Antioxidant, neuroprotective (Hiramatsu et al. 2009: 795–805)


Cicer arietinum L.


Appetizer, general tonic

Growth enhancer (Nestares et al. 1996: 2760–2765)


Cocos nucifera L.


Antiaging, general tonic

Antioxidant (Mantena et al. 2003: 126–131)


Cuscuta epithymum L.

Aerial part

Health improver


Dracocephalum kotschyi Boiss


General tonic

Nutritional value (Goli et al. 2013: 188–193)


Echium amoenum Fisch. & Mey.


General tonic

Antioxidant (Ranjbar et al. 2006: 469–473)


Juglans regia L.


Memory enhancer

Neuroprotective (Orhan et al. 2011: 781–786)


Lupinus termis L.



Having dietary fiber (Písaříková and Zralý, Písaříková and Zralý 2010: 211–216)


Mangifera indica L.


General tonic

Antioxidant, Immunomodulator (Sánchez et al. 2000: 565–573; García et al. 2003: 1182–1187)


Matricaria chamomilla L.

Aerial part

Sleep improver

Sleep enhancer (Shinomiya et al. 2005: 808–810)


Melissa officinalis L.


Mood enhancer

Mood modulatory effect (Kennedy et al. 2002: 953–964)


Myosotis scorpioides L.

Aerial part

Health improver


Ocimum basilicum L.


Mood enhancer

Serotoninergic antidepressant effect (Abdoly et al. 2012: 211–215)


Tanacetum parthenium (L.) Sch. Bip.


Sleep improver


Terminalia chebula Retz.


Memory enhancer

Neuroprotective, cholinesterase inhibitor (Chang and Lin 2012: 1; Nag and De 2011: 121–124)

Summary and Future Directions of Research

Persian medicine is one of the oldest and most comprehensive traditional systems of medicine with a long historical background. Persian scholars paid attention to the geriatric problems and tried to manage their conditions with lifestyle modification as well as nutritional regimens and medicinal herbs. It seems that they focused on the common problems of older adults and prescribed medicinal plants as antiaging, health improver, appetizer, general tonic, memory enhancer, laxative, and sleep improver. Also, current investigations support their use and ancient claims about many of them. Therefore, with integrative approach to use traditional systems of medicine, Persian medicine can be considered to find new approaches for geriatric management in current medicine.



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Traditional Pharmacy, School of Persian MedicineTehran University of Medical SciencesTehranIran
  2. 2.Department of Phytopharmaceuticals (Traditional Pharmacy), School of PharmacyShiraz University of Medical Sciences ShirazIran
  3. 3.Research Office for the History of Persian MedicineShiraz University of Medical SciencesShirazIran

Section editors and affiliations

  • Danan Gu
    • 1
  1. 1.Population Division, Department of Economic and Social AffairsUnited NationsNew YorkUSA