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Since time immemorial, Bhang, which is commonly known as cannabis, has been revered as one of the most sacred herbs in Indian culture and remains rooted to the traditional celebration of Holi. What's all the more intriguing is how not many people are aware of the fact that our good, old Bhang has also been listed among the top five Ayurvedic herbs in the Atharvaveda. Having said that, it is important to note that the Cannabis sativa plant, with the exception of its leaves and seeds, has been included in the NDPS Act of 1985.
Despite this, the plant has been utilised during various Indian festivals such as Holi, Mahashivratri, and Ambubachi Mela in Guwahati. It has also been consumed by the Sikh Nihangs during Hola Mohalla. The plant's usage during these occasions is often viewed as a means to provide pain-free and stress-free experiences, besides being an enabler in attaining inner peace.
Bhang is known to offer an array of benefits that span from pain management to nutrition provision. The plant is rich in fibre, calcium, and essential vitamins, thereby making it an excellent source of nourishment. According to Ayurvedic principles, bhang is believed to assist in achieving a pain-free, stress-free existence, while also helping to attain inner peace. Additionally, it has been reported to improve appetite, facilitate digestion, and aid in sleep.
Bhang has been utilised in Ayurvedic medicine to address a variety of illnesses. Historically, bhang has been recognized for its medicinal properties and has been mentioned in various Ayurvedic texts such as the BhavaPrakash Nighantu, Dhanwantari Nighantu, and Rasatarangini. These texts document various uses of bhang in the treatment of different diseases. Rasatarangini, in particular, details the specific parts of the bhang plant to be used, as well as the purification methods, indications, applications, and dosages.
The plant is particularly effective in managing conditions such as Shulahara (Pain management), Anidra (Insomnia), Grahani (irritable bowel syndrome), Kashtartava (Dysmennorhea), and Ardhavbhedaka (Migraine), among others. The leaves of the plant are grounded to form a powder and are utilised in various Ayurvedic preparations such as capsules, tablets, and powders. Furthermore, bhang leaves are also consumed in the form of thandai, a very popular beverage during Holi and the summer months across India.
The quantity of bhang administered is contingent on numerous variables, including age, gender, and overall health status. Rasatarangini suggests a 250-500mg dose of whole leaf powder. When consumed in the correct quantity, bhang has been demonstrated to produce favourable outcomes without any harmful effects. Nevertheless, it is critical to seek advice from an Ayurvedic practitioner before ingesting bhang or any other Ayurvedic medication.
Despite the numerous health benefits of bhang, consuming it in moderation is crucial. Excessive consumption of bhang can result in side effects such as dizziness, hallucinations, and anxiety. Pregnant women and individuals with a history of substance abuse should refrain from using bhang. Additionally, purchasing bhang from a reputable source is essential to ensure that it is pure and free of contaminants.
Bhang has been an integral part of Indian culture and Ayurveda for centuries. While its varied benefits qualify it as great, it is essential to play prudent and exercise moderation. To use it for health benefits, it merits to do so under the guidance of a reputed Ayurveda medical practitioner. While the leaves and seeds of the plant have various health benefits, only the resin (Charas) and flower buds(ganja) are legalised in India and it is important to be cognizant of it. A Holi bash with Bhang can really sound cool and no denying it, but consuming it responsibly is key.
The author of the article is Delzaad Deolaliwala, Chairman, PIMCHA (Pan India Medical Cannabis and Hemp Association).
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