Highlights

  • Cannabis has been growing wild in the Himalayas in India
  • The plant is distinguished between three different therapeutic parts
  • They can act as analgesics, nervous system stimulants, and have sedative, spasmolytic and diuretic effects

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Indian Ayurveda and the traditional use of Cannabis

In traditional Indian medical texts, cannabis has first been mentioned a couple of thousand years ago in the Atharva Veda.

Cannabis has a long history in Indian mythology intertwined with religion as a principal deity of Hinduism, Shiva, is closely associated with Bhang, a byproduct of cannabis.

Traditional use

In traditional Indian medical texts, cannabis has first been mentioned as far back as 2000 B.C. in the Atharva Veda. Cannabis is classified as a toxic substance by the ancient texts on Ayurvedic herbs, but it has been used in healing processes due to its mild anaesthetic and pain-relieving properties. The Sushruta Samhita, an ancient medical treatise, recommends cannabis plant extract for treating respiratory ailments and diarrhea.

Cannabis has been growing wild in the Himalayas in India, right from Kashmir to Assam. The International Institute of Cannabinoids says that according to Ayurvedic measures, the plant is distinguished between three different therapeutic parts as they have a somewhat different effect upon consumption. Bhang is a name for the leaves of the male and female plants. The name ganja is given to the flowering tops of the female plant, and charas is the name for the plant resin.

Is it legal?

Overall, cultivating, trading and consuming cannabis is illegal in India according to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. However, bhang was excluded from the definition of cannabis drugs to preserve the legitimacy of bhang culture. There are very few government-authorised bhang shops in Jaisalmer, Varanasi, Hampi and Kolkata.

Also watch: What is CBD? Let's talk about the lesser-known child of cannabis

Is it beneficial?

In Indian pharmacopeia, all parts of the plant are denoted as somewhat narcotic, with the resin (charas) being the most powerful narcotic. But different parts of the plant can also stimulate digestion, act as an analgesic, nervous system stimulants, and have sedative, spasmolytic and diuretic effects.

However, prolonged habitual use of cannabis can cause disbalance in the three physiological forces of the body - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vata means the energy of movement; Pitta is the energy of digestion or metabolism and Kapha is the energy of lubrication and structure. As a result of disbalance in these forces, it can lead to poor digestion, melancholy, sexual impotence, and body wasting.

Also watch: Beware! Cannabis users at 7 times higher risk of severe mental illness

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