Hemp, commonly known as cannabis, marijuana or weed is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis plant and is renowned for its medicinal properties. In the traditional Indian medical texts, cannabis was first mentioned thousands of years ago in Atharv Veda. The Ayurvedic philosophy differentiates the plant in three therapeutic parts which have a different impact on the body and thus, are accorded different names.
The leaves and flowers of the shrubs are called Bhang while the name Ganja is given to the flowering tops of the female plant. Charas is the name for the plant resin which naturally exudes from the leaves. Of the three fragments of the plant, Bhang is known to have maximum therapeutic and recreational properties. Although, it should be purified before use.
Hemp is a shrub usually with a height of 1-3 metres with a life span of about one year. Known to grow in parts of India, Iran, Egypt and middle Asia, it is also found in rich quantities in the Bihar-Bengal region. According to the principles of Ayurveda, Cannabis has Tikta Rasa (bitter taste), Ushna Veerya (warm energy) along with light and sharp properties with narcotic effects. It helps in Kaphaghna and Vataghna (reduction in kapha and vata dosha) and Pittakar (increase in pitta dosha).
Bhang is purified in cow’s milk for about 2.5 hours in alchemical apparatus and is later rinsed with warm water and left to dry in the sun. After which, it is stirred in cow’s ghee in a pain before therapeutic application. Bhang is used for both local and internal purposes. Different parts of the plant stimulate digestion, act as analgesics and nervous system stimulants and help in sedative, spasmolytic, diuretic and aphrodisiac actions. With moderate use, it primarily works as a nervous system stimulant and later as a powerful aphrodisiac with its sedating properties. It is pertinent to note that habitual and prolonged use of cannabis leads to the imbalance of all the three basic physiological forces of the body – Vata, Pitta & Kapha.
Upon local application, it can be used as a pain reliever. It helps in reducing pain and inflammation and is also used for fomentation. The poultice of leaves can be applied over affected parts of the body. Internally, it helps in increasing Agni (digestive fire) and stimulates appetite and cures indigestion. Bhang with honey acts as an appetite stimulant and is given with digestive herbs like cumin and fennel to help with the digestive process. It is also helpful in curing diseases like Diarrhoea, Dysentery and Irritable Bowel Syndrome and helps in treating stomach-ache and inflammation over the liver.
For Diarrhoea, purified Ganja is given along with jaggery or sugar. As it has warm energy, it helps in releasing the spasms in vessels and improves respiratory functions. Bhang is especially used in Asthma and Ganja with honey is also used to treat the disease. Possessing narcotic properties, Bhang increases the blood flow towards the heart but gradually slows down on its own. It is helpful in treating the problem of high blood pressure and also helps treat bloody clotting.
Cannabis is very useful to treat muscular-skeletal diseases, as the person suffers from painful conditions, it acts as a pain killer and increases pain tolerance. It can also help in treating back pain, chest pain, headaches, migraine and insomnia. Also used in dysmenorrhoea and painful delivery conditions, it must be used under medical supervision as it can be addictive.
The fresh leaf juice of Bhang is also used to treat dandruff related problems and other conditions like hair fall or itchy scalp. The juice is also diuretic and therefore is used in treating inflammations of the bladder and kidney stones. The standard quantity in which Bhang is used ranges from 125 mg to 250 mg, while Ganja is used from 60 mg to 125 mg and Charas can be used anywhere from 30 mg to 60 mg.
Bhang is also one of the contents in several Ayurvedic medicines like Jatiphalai Churna, Vijaya Vati, Kumari Asava and Madanand Modak among others. Although patients must be careful in taking cannabis in limited quantities and under medical supervision. Cannabis is surely a blessing to the humankind and must be used for social and medical welfare.