Bhang is a famous intoxicating preparation in India made from leaves and stalks of Cannabis (Marijuana) plant! We know that Gujarat is a dry state and alcohol is banned in Gujarat but is Bhang really legal in Gujarat? Let’s check out about Bhang, its history, its legal status in Gujarat, its health benefits and side effects.
What is bhang actually? What is the difference between Bhang, Marijuana, Weed, Ganja, Charas, Hash and Hemp?
Cannabis plant is considered to be a native plant of India which probably originated in Himalayan region. As mentioned earlier, Bhang is an intoxicating preparation made from leaves and stalk of Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica plant.
Bhang is prepared both in a form of a drink (bhang thandai/bhang lassi) and Goli. The bhang goli is a mixture of cannabis leaves, species and herbs rolled into chewish, greenish-black balls. Power Bhola, Bhola ka Gola, Tarang, Leher, Sanan, Mastana, Mahakal, Mahashakti or Munnakka No.1 are some of the brands manufacturing bhang goli (ayurvedic digestive balls).
Bhang is part of the ancient Hindu tradition and custom in the Indian subcontinent. People consume it as a Prasad of Lord Shiva. The drink is consumed majorly during the occasions of Mahashivratri and Holi. The mythology says that, when Lord Shiva consumed poison named ‘Halahal’ created during Samudra manthan, Goddess Parvati gripped her hands around Shiva’s neck with both hands in order to stop the poison and gave him Bhang to relieve the pain and harmful effects of poison which helped Lord Shiva. The poison’s effect vanished but lord Shiva’s throat turned blue giving him title “Neelkanth”. It is also said that only Goddess Parvati was able to control the anger, angst and anxiousness of Lord Shiva. And, in her absence, the herb, Cannabis, prepared by her could only hold Lord Shiva.
Cannabis has been used in food, drink and medicine as early as 1000 BCE by Hindus in ancient India. The ayurvedic names of cannabis are “vijaya” – ‘the one who conquers’ and “siddhi” – ‘subtle power’, ‘achievement’.
The main psychoactive chemical in bhang, responsible for most of the intoxicating effects, is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The other important chemical found in cannabis is CBD (Cannabidiol). CBD is not psychoactive like THC but it has various medicinal properties that we will mention later in the article.
Ganja is the flowering part of the female cannabis plant. It is more intoxicating than leaves or stalk of Cannabis plant as it has more amount of THC. Majority of THC is found in resin produced by leaves and buds primarily of the female cannabis plant. Ganja is also called Marijuana and Weed.
Charas is a concentrate made from the resin of the cannabis plant. The difference between charas and hashish (Hash) is that hashish is made from a dead cannabis plant and charas is made from a live one.
Hemp or industrial hemp, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products such as fiber, seeds and CBD oil. Hemp plant has very minimal THC level (less than 0.3% THC) and it does not cause high.
Legal status of Bhang and Marijuana
Marijuana and Bhang was sold in government shops during the times of the British India and in independent India until the 1980s. Despite this long history, Marijuana was made illegal in India under pressure from the United States in the 1980s and severe sentences were introduced for possession, cultivation and trafficking.
Ironically, the recreational use of cannabis is currently legalized in 11 states of United States and medicinal use is legalized in 33 states. In Canada, Cannabis is legal for both recreational and medicinal purposes. United states Congress is expected to vote on a bill soon that would decriminalize marijuana in whole USA on a federal level.
Bhang consumption is legal in Gujarat since 2017
On 21st February 2017, Gujarat government legalized Bhang (leaves) consumption by removing the item from the list of “intoxicating drugs” under section 23 of the Gujarat Prohibition act. The state’s minister of Home and Prohibition Pradipsinh Jadeja explained “Bhang is consumed only as prasad of Lord Shiva. Also Bhang is less intoxicating than Ganja”
It is important to note that only consumption of Bhang prepared from leaves and stalk is legal. Ganja (or Marijuana) is still illegal.
Ayurveda connection and medicinal uses of Bhang and CBD
Bhang is mentioned in many of the ancient texts on Ayurveda like the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, and Shargandhara Samhita. The Atharva Veda mentions cannabis as one of the five most sacred plants on Earth and says that a guardian angel resides in its leaves. It also refers to it as a “source of happiness,” a “joy-giver” and a “liberator”.
In ancient India, warriors would drink bhang to steel their nerves, newly weds would consume bhang to increase their libido and bhang leaves paste was applied on wounds for healing. In rural India, Bhang is used in treatment of nausea, chronic vomit, fever, sunburn, arthritis and sunstroke
The Unani system of medicine practised by Muslims in medieval India also used cannabis as a cure for diseases of the nervous system and as an antispasmodic and anticonvulsive.
CBD is a chemical found in bhang which has several medicinal uses backed by scientific research. Here are some benefits of Bhang and CBD:
- It relieves pain. It is a natural pain killer.
- If taken in proper quantity and under medical guidance, Bhang is capable of treating stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia or any chemical imbalance caused in brain.
- Bhang enhances libido in both male and females.
- Cannabis is considered safer than Alcohol in terms of both overdose and long-term health risks.
- Aides digestion
- CBD eradicates inflammations.
- CBD reduces lower blood pressure problems.
- CBD resolves skin conditions.
- Two separate studies show that CBD has neuroprotective and antioxidant qualities that help in easing neurological damage caused by free radicals.
- Academic research proves that CBD can be helpful in treating alzheimer’s and parkinson’s disease.
- Academic research proves that CBD can help calm epilepsy.
- CBD helps speed up the healing of bones, which spurs the new bone-cell formation and also decreases the likelihood of bone re-fracturing due to the stronger fracture callus.
- Some academic research proves that CBD can help reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Academic research proves that CBD has anti-tumor effects. Cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in laboratory.
Side effects of Bhang
Bhang has fewer side effects compared to alcohol. However, anything in excess is always harmful. Here are side effects of Bhang:
- Bhang consumption is harmful for pregnant women, lactation and children.
- Can increase appetite : Increased appetite is one of the most common side effects of bhang. This may benefit those trying to gain weight or maintain it — but may be considered a disadvantage to others
- Overdose may cause panic attack, hallucinations and bad experience (especially in first time users). Overdose is likely to happen as bhang’s effect starts after 1 hour of consumption and first time users may consume more bhang thinking they are not feeling the high.
- Just like alcohol, due to its psychoactive effects, bhang may reduce short-term memory, coordination, and judgment. Avoid doing activities such as driving while under its effect.
- Long term usage of bhang can be addictive.
- Overdose may cause irregular heartbeat.
We do not suggest that anyone should start consuming bhang due to its medicinal uses as it is addictive in nature. Also, more research needs to be done regarding its benefits and side effects. Always refer local laws and consult your doctor before consuming bhang.
Gujarat Prohibition Amendment Act 2017 : https://prsindia.org/files/bills_acts/acts_states/gujarat/2017/2017Gujarat9.pdf