In this region of the world, cannabis grows wildly and freely and has become an intrinsic part of the people and culture. In fact, you’ll find that many landrace strains originated in the foothill region of the Himalayas and the surrounding areas like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Having become a valuable resource to the people inhabiting the land, one of the first infused cannabis beverages ever invented comes from India.
Bhang, also known as Bhang Lassi in India, is one of the world’s first cannabis-infused beverages. It is a drink believed to be for and from the gods and an integral part of the Indian culture and religion.
So, what exactly is bhang, and why is it so heavily revered among those who live in India?
To find out more, read on. We’ll be covering the history of bhang, its cultural significance, and the benefits of bhang should you want to try it for yourself.
What is Bhang? Can You Smoke Bhang?
As we outlined above, bhang is a weed-infused beverage, so it isn’t something you’d want to smoke.
The term “bhang” actually refers to a paste made from the leaves and flowers of female cannabis plants used to make the beverage, also commonly known as Bhang Lassi.
That said, bhang is essentially a cannabis edible fashioned into a milk-based beverage with the addition of spices, water, and nuts. However, unlike other cannabis edibles or infused-drinks, bhang is relatively subtle in terms of its potency.
In fact, traditional variants of bhang usually only have around an 8-10% THC concentration and are made from the trim of the cannabis plant, meaning the bits and pieces shed from the regular handling of the plant.
Indian culture has utilized bhang for generations as a form of Ayurvedic medicine to provide people with spiritual experiences and awakenings through ceremonial and religious practices.
As far as its cultural and traditional applications in India, bhang has shared a rich history with many religious figures, particularly Lord Shiva, the third Hindu god being one of the most well-known.
As a matter of fact, in the Hindu religion, Lord Shiva is so well acquainted with cannabis that he himself is known as the “Lord Of Bhang,” having been known to regularly consume the beverage to hone his skills and achieve spiritual enlightenment.
Seeing as how bhang is a cannabis-infused drink with religious ties, it is frequently enjoyed during many Hindu festivals throughout the year, with two of the most popular being the Holi and Maha Shivratri festivals.
There are also several government-sanctioned stores and stands that also sell bhang regularly.
Bhang & Indian Culture
Although cannabis itself is outlawed and regarded as illegal in India, bhang, which is made from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant, is still very much a legal beverage that can be purchased and consumed freely.
Only a handful of things in Indian culture favour the protection of cultural and religious sanction, and bhang is no doubt one of them.
Since it’s native to the region, cannabis naturally grew throughout the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. Actually, its use has been dated back to thousands of years in ancient India. Eventually, as it crossed paths with the region’s people, cannabis started playing a more significant role in society.
Hemp, the male variant of the plant, provided seeds and fibres for food and crafting. In contrast, the plant’s female variant provided psychoactive buds regularly used for spiritual enlightenment and medicinal applications.
According to the Atharva Veda, one of the earliest documented uses of bhang dates back to 2000 BC, with a heavy association to Hindu gods. Cannabis wasn’t just seen as a plant that provided valuable resources. Instead, it was deemed one of the five most sacred plants on earth, providing a profound depth of insight if consumed.
As a matter of fact, the Indian people valued the herb so much that cannabis became intrinsic to the Hindu religion. So much so that one of the Hindu gods, Lord Shiva, was known as the Lord of Bhang, as he regularly used cannabis for its introspective properties to strengthen himself.
Eventually, Lord Shiva descended from the Himalayan mountains and bestowed upon humanity the gift of bhang.
With such strong roots in the Hindu religion, bhang is consumed freely during and around its various festivities. If you’re in India, it’s not uncommon to see people drinking bhang openly around the time of the Holi and Shivratri festivals.
If you’re interested in trying some for yourself, you’ll likely be able to find bhang and purchase it at various government-sanction stands and stores in religious areas.
The Legality of Cannabis in India
Although cannabis has been used in Indian civilization for thousands of years, it was deemed an illegal substance in India in 1985 through the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS).
Despite a history of generations of cannabis use without much negative impact on their society, the Indian government has been influenced to believe that cannabis would cause widespread suffering and annoyance to its inhabitants.
For that reason, cannabis and hash are illegal, but bhang is not. That said, Bangalore has recently opened one of its first medical cannabis dispensaries, so there may be a change in the near future.
Bhang vs Other Edibles
At its core, bhang is essentially a cannabis-infused beverage that really is not much different from many other commercial weed beverage variants. If you drink it, you will get high.
However, with a more detailed view, bhang is more akin to a cannabis latte than an infused juice or soda.
Bhang is also relatively soft surrounding potency than other cannabis edibles out there, as its power generally ranges from 8-10% THC content.
Benefits Of Bhang
In Indian culture, bhang has several uses and is considered to be an effective remedy for the following:
- Assistance with Sleep Disorders – Cannabis users widely celebrate weed for its ability to help provide sedative effects that can combat insomnia or other sleep-related conditions. According to a 2017 study, cannabis may help reduce disturbances in sleep and muscle spasms during sleep.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties – Since bhang contains cannabis, which is known for its ability to combat and reduce inflammation, ingesting bhang could help supply these effects.
- Effect Appetite-Stimulating Effects – Along with helping combat inflammation and supply more effective long-lasting sleep, bhang may also help induce hunger for those who need it. This common side effect of ingesting bhang could help those undergoing medical treatments that diminish appetite or those needing to put on weight.
- It Can Help with Nausea & Vomiting – THC, one of the primary components of cannabis and, subsequently, bhang, has shown to possess elements that can help treat nausea. The majority of evidence to support this theory comes from research surrounding chemotherapy treatments.
- Potential Anti-Cancer Properties – According to evidence published in a 2019 study, the cannabinoids present in cannabis may have cancer-fighting effects that help reduce the spread of cancer cells.
Although bhang may be able to provide some solace for those who find themselves suffering from the ailments above, there are still some inherent risks of over-consuming THC, including green out and suffering from a weed hangover.
Get More Bhang for Your Buck
As we stated before, while cannabis itself is illegal in India, its by-product, bhang, is protected and permitted for use through cultural and religious sanctions.
The drink itself was one of the very first cannabis-infused beverages to be enjoyed by humans and has stood the test of time by still being enjoyed today for various cultural and religious occasions and festivals.
The significance of bhang and its importance to the Hindu faith is undoubtedly apparent throughout the region’s culture and traditions.
Bhang is just one example of how cannabis has played a pivotal and prominent role in the development of humanity from ancient times to the present day.
In this way, arguably, the best is yet to come!