Potency and safety analysis of hemp-derived delta-9 products: The hemp vs. cannabis demarcation problem

Photo of bhang drinkers, from the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission report, 1893
Process of making bhang in a village in Punjab, India. On the Hindu festival of colors called Holi, it is a customary addition to some intoxicating drinks.

Bhang (IAST: Bhāṅg) is an edible preparation made from the leaves of the cannabis plant originating from the Indian subcontinent.[1][2] It has been used in food and drink as early as 1000 BC in ancient India.[3][4] Bhang is traditionally distributed during the spring festival of Maha Shivaratri and Holi.[5][6] Bhang is mainly used in bhang shops, which sell the cannabis-infused Indian drinks bhang lassi and bhang thandai.[7]

Western documentation

Garcia de Orta, a Portuguese Jewish physician based in Goa, wrote extensively on bangue in his Colóquios dos simples e drogas da India (1563),[8] including its recreational use by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat and by many Portuguese.[9] He explicitly rejected the notion of the Indian plant that produces bangue being the same as the European hemp plant (alcanave).[10]

In 1596, a Dutchman, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, wrote three pages on "Bangue" in a work documenting his journeys in the East. He also mentioned the Egyptian hashish, the Turkish boza, Turkish bernavi and the Arabic bursj forms of consumption.[11][12][13] Despite the other accounts, the contemporary historian Richard Davenport-Hines lists the late-17th-century[14][15] and early-18th-century British adventurer Thomas Bowrey[16][17][18] as the first Westerner to document the use of bhang.[19]


Peda made with bhang leaves

Using mortar and pestle, the leaves of cannabis are ground into a paste which can be added to foods. For a beverage it is mixed with milk and filtered, then often flavored with kusha grass, sugar, fruit, and various spices. In Mathura it can be found in bhang thandai and bhang lassi. Bhang is also mixed with ghee and sugar to make a purple halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called goli (which means "tablet" as well as "pill") in Hindi. Another form is bhang chutney also called 'bhangeera ki chutney', a dish served in Kumaoni cuisine from Uttarakhand. It is made from grinding cannabis/bhang seeds with mint, tomatoes and different spices.


Bhang eaters from India (c. 1790)

Bhang is part of the ancient Hindu tradition and custom in the Indian subcontinent. In some parts of rural India, people attribute various medicinal properties to the cannabis plant. If taken in proper quantity, bhang is believed to cure fever, dysentery, and sunstroke, to clear phlegm, aid in digestion, increase appetite, cure speech imperfections and lisping, and give alertness to the body.[20][failed verification]

Bhang lassi is a preparation of powdered green inflorescence with curd and whey put in a village blender (a hand blending operation is carried out until the butter rises). It is regarded as tasty and refreshing. It is legal in many parts of India and mainly sold during Holi, when pakoras containing bhang are also sometimes eaten. Uttar Pradesh has licensed bhang shops, and in many places in India one can buy bhang products and drink bhang lassis. Some states such as Bihar and West Bengal also allow the production of bhang. States like Rajasthan do not allow production of bhang but do allow procurement and sale of bhang from such states where production is legal.[21]

The tradition of consuming bhang lassi during Holi is particularly common in North India where Holi itself is celebrated with a fervor unseen elsewhere. Bhang is heavily consumed in Mathura, an ancient town of religious importance to the Hindus.[22] Here the practice is believed to have been introduced by the followers of Shiva and has stayed ever since.[23] They begin the preparation by Sanskrit chants and recitation of prayers.[citation needed] In Mathura, some people take bhang to work up their appetite while others do it to de-stress.[citation needed] But the hub of bhang use is Varanasi where the bhang is prepared on its famous ghats.[24]

Bhang is also available as bhang goli which is just freshly ground cannabis with water.[citation needed] Apart from this, sweetened bhang golis are also widely available; these are not considered a drug, but a traditional sleeping aid and appetizer.[by whom?] Bhang goli has metabolizing effects after approximately two hours, sending a user into a dreamlike meditational state.[25] Bhang is also part of many[which?] Ayurvedic medicinal preparations. Bhang powder is available legally at ayurvedic dispensaries.[26]


A bhang shop in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was the first ever international treaty to have included cannabis (or marijuana) with other drugs and imposed a blanket ban on their production and supply except for medicinal and research purposes.[27] However, the Single Convention's definition of 'cannabis' does not include the leaves of the cannabis plant, thereby preserving the legality of bhang culture in India.[28]

Regardless, as bhang has served such an important role in India's culture and spiritual practices, it would be impossible to criminalize cannabis completely in the country.[neutrality is disputed] Important festivals such as Holi and Maha Shivratri have traditionally seen people consume bhang during various local festivities. Cultivation of cannabis is government regulated.[29]


According to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985:

"cannabis (hemp)" means-

(a) charas, that is, the separated resin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish;

(b) ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops), by whatever name they may be known or designated; and

(c) any mixture, with or without any neutral material, of any of the above forms of cannabis or any drink prepared therefrom.

As bhang is prepared from the seeds and the leaves of the Cannabis plant, it is not banned under the NDPS Act of 1985. However, some states do regulate and ban the sale and consumption of bhang. Bhang can also be used in the form of medicine if the patient has a prescription from an Ayurvedic practitioner.[26]

In states where sale of bhang is legal, bhang golis or golas are sold openly at places like paan shops with little to no regulation at low prices.[25]

See also


  1. ^ Torkelson, Anthony R. (1996). The Cross Name Index to Medicinal Plants, Vol. IV: Plants in Indian medicine, p. 1674, ISBN 9780849326356, OCLC 34038712. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780849326356.
  2. ^ Helen Schreider; Frank Schreider (October 1960). "From The Hair of Siva". National Geographic. 118 (4): 445–503.
  3. ^ Staelens, Stefanie (10 March 2015). "The Bhang Lassi Is How Hindus Drink Themselves High for Shiva". Vice.com. Archived from the original on 11 August 2017. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  4. ^ Courtwright, David T. (2009). Forces of Habit. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674029-90-3. Archived from the original on 20 April 2023. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  5. ^ "Right kick for day-long masti". The Times of India. 16 March 2014. Archived from the original on 17 April 2019. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Holi 2014: Festival Of Colors Celebrates Spring (SONGS, PHOTOS)". Huffington Post. 16 March 2014. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  7. ^ "Thandai in Mumbai: 12 bars in the city to get more bhang for your buck". GQ India. 9 March 2020. Archived from the original on 30 October 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  8. ^ "GARCIA DA ORTA". antiquecannabisbook.com. Archived from the original on 29 October 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  9. ^ Ball, V. (1889). "A Commentary on the Colloquies of Garcia de Orta, on the Simples, Drugs, and Medicinal Substances of India: Part I". Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 1: 381–415. ISSN 0301-7400. JSTOR 20503854.
  10. ^ "GARCIA DA ORTA". reefermadnessmuseum.org. Archived from the original on 29 October 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  11. ^ Booth, Martin (30 September 2011). Cannabis: A History. Random House. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-4090-8489-1. Archived from the original on 20 April 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  12. ^ "Voyage of Huyghen Van Linschoten to the East Indies". gexabo.yn.fanypy.pw. Archived from the original on 27 October 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  13. ^ Burnell, Arthur Coke & Tiele, P.A. (1885). The voyage of John Huyghen van Linschoten to the East Indies. from the old English translation of 1598: the first book, containing his description of the East. London: The Hakluyt Society. pp. 115–117. Full text at Internet Archive. Chapter on Bangue.
  14. ^ Davenport-Hines, Richard (10 November 2003). The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-32545-4.
  15. ^ Kenneally, Christine (29 September 2002). "The Peace That Passeth". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 25 July 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  16. ^ "1675: English sailors get high on cannabis in India". Past Peculiar. 16 September 2013. Archived from the original on 20 April 2023. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  17. ^ Wigmore, James (10 January 2019). "First Description of Cannabis Use in 1675". ResearchGate. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.15228.39042.
  18. ^ Kennedy, Maev (25 February 2006). "17th-century cannabis pioneer's journal found". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 10 June 2021. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  19. ^ Davenport-Hines, Richard (2001). The Pursuit of Oblivion: a global history of narcotics 1500—2000. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0297643754.
  20. ^ Holi Festival, archived from the original on 17 October 2016, retrieved 8 June 2019 Tradition of Bhang
  21. ^ "Rajasthan Excise Department Website: Licensing Issues - BHANG". rajexcise.gov.in. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  22. ^ Dikshit, Rajeev (17 March 2016). "Mathura beats Shiva's Kashi in bhang binge". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 27 June 2021. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  23. ^ "Holi 2024: Why people consume Bhang on Holi, a look at the tradition". Hindustan Times. 20 March 2024.
  24. ^ "Did you know 'bhang' is served as prasad in Varanasi on Maha Shivratri?". Zee News. 19 February 2020. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  25. ^ a b "What Is Bhang? Health Benefits and Safety". vice.com. 17 July 2018. Archived from the original on 26 February 2021. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  26. ^ a b "Bhang or Marijuana is Legal in Ayurvedic Prescription" (PDF). Indian Journal of Clinical Practice. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2021. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  27. ^ "Recreational use of marijuana: Of highs and laws". The Times of India. 10 November 2012. Archived from the original on 1 August 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  28. ^ Boister, Neil; Jelsma, Martin (2018). "Inter se modification of the UN drug control conventions: An exploration of its applicability to legitimise the legal regulation of cannabis markets". International Community Law Review. 20: 472. doi:10.1163/18719732-12341385. hdl:10092/101255. ISSN 1388-9036. S2CID 150161293. Archived from the original on 25 April 2021. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  29. ^ "India's Cannabis Market: Examining Regulatory Frameworks then & Now". 5 March 2020. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 21 November 2020.

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