While the potential therapeutic application of bhang is what interests us the most, this is one herbal product that is more widely used as an intoxicant, rather than as a medication – at least during the Holi festivities. So, with the festival of color just around the corner, let’s take a closer look at this substance and get some facts straight.

Bhang In Ayurveda

“Nighantu, an Ayurvedic medicinal plant guide, describes bhang as an herbal product that helps manage Kapha diseases, while increasing Pitta”

A derivative of cannabis or ganja, bhang has long been a part of the Indian cultural tradition. Documented in the ancient Indian texts and scriptures, the substance was probably in use even before the Vedic period. It is mentioned in the fourth book of the Vedas, the Atharvaveda, as an herb for anxiety relief.

In Nighantu, an Ayurvedic medicinal plant guide, bhang is described as an herbal product that helps manage Kapha diseases, while increasing Pitta. Traditionally, bhang has been used in the treatment of appetite loss, anxiety disorders, dysentery, indigestion, and many other disorders.

The Evidence

No matter the method of consumption, any cannabis product that contains Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will cause a euphoric high. While that’s what all of you Holi revellers crave, scientists inform us that bhang also contains another cannabis chemical, called cannabidiol (CBD). This is the component that is responsible for most of the therapeutic benefits.

Despite the fact that research on marijuana was severely restricted for decades, there are numerous studies that vindicate the position of Ayurveda. A comprehensive study, “Association Between Marijuana Exposure and Pulmonary Function Over 20 Years” found that rather than impairing lung function, marijuana use may even benefit it!

Another study by researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center, US, found that cannabidiol in bhang can halt cancer progression by turning off the Id-1a gene. Researchers at Harvard Medical School believe that many of the known marijuana health benefits can be attributed to its anxiety relieving effect, but only in low doses.

Enjoying Bhang Safely

While responsible use of bhang can offer several health benefits (and an unearthly high), a few poor choices and a little rotten luck could utterly ruin your Holi celebrations. So keep these points in mind to safely enjoy bhang this Holi:

Heart Patients Beware

Yes, the heart wants what the heart wants, but in this situation, you’ll just have to learn to say no to bhang. Intoxication with bhang or any other cannabinoid is rarely life threatening. However, patients suffering from high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, or palpitations are at considerable risk, as bhang will increase your heart rate significantly.

Don’t Try It Out In A New Place

Trying out bhang at that cool Holi party may seem like a great way to make new friends, but it’s not. You’re more likely to have a bad high, as the risk of paranoia is higher in unfamiliar surroundings and with new faces. Instead of enjoying your first Holi high, you’ll be battling a panic attack.

Eat Before You Bhang!

Yes, bhang will stimulate your appetite, but it’s important that you get some nutrition before you get high. On an empty stomach, the bhang high can hit you hard and suddenly, making the effects rather unpleasant.

Alcohol & Bhang Don’t Mix Well

Alcohol always seems like a good idea to drinkers, but if you really want to enjoy bhang safely, it would be best to skip the beer. Mixing alcohol and bhang increases the risk of alcohol poisoning and more commonly of a bad high. This includes feelings of dizziness and nausea, with pale, sweaty skin and possible vomiting.

Our Advice

Well, warning you about the Ayurvedic recommendations against using bhang for pleasure instead of for health benefits does seem pointless! So, enjoy your Holi high, but play it safe, not just with colors, but also with your choice of intoxicants. And remember, although bhang and weed may be more natural and less harmful than other illicit drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, if abused, any substance can be deadly.

 

References:

The Nighantu and the Nirukta, the oldest Indian treatise on etymology, philology and sementics [sic]. Critically edited from original manuscripts and translated for the first time into English, with introd., exegetical and critical notes, three indexes and eight appendices. Delhi Motilal Banarsidass, Retrieved February 23, 2018, from https://archive.org/details/nighantuniruktao00yaskuoft

Baron, E. P. (2015). Comprehensive Review of Medicinal Marijuana, Cannabinoids, and Therapeutic Implications in Medicine and Headache: What a Long Strange Trip Its Been … [Abstract]. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 55(6), 885-916. doi:10.1111/head.12570

Pletcher, M. J., Vittinghoff, E., Kalhan, R., Richman, J., Safford, M., Sidney, S., . . . Kertesz, S. (2012). Association Between Marijuana Exposure and Pulmonary Function Over 20 Years. Jama, 307(2), 173. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1961

Mcallister, S. D., Christian, R. T., Horowitz, M. P., Garcia, A., & Desprez, P. (2007). Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells [Abstract]. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics,6(11), 2921-2927. doi:10.1158/1535-7163.mct-07-0371

Medical marijuana and the mind. (2010, April). Harvard Health Publishing, Retrieved February 23, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/medical-marijuana-and-the-mind

Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., & Kunos, G. (2005). Cardiovascular Pharmacology of Cannabinoids. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, (168), 599–625.

Taite, R., & Scharff, C. (2014, May 06). The Dangers of Combining Alcohol and Marijuana. Psychology Today, Retrieved February 23, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ending-addiction-good/201405/the-dangers-combining-alcohol-and-marijuana

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About Shaun DMello

A musician and writer with a passion for health and fitness, Shaun has been there and done it all. Having contributed to health content publications for over a decade, he is not just informed, but als... Read More

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