Definition

Bhang

What is bhang? Bhang is an edible, intoxicating drink made from cannabis frequently used during traditional Hindu festivals such as Janmashtami, Holi, and Shrivratri. As such, bhang is among the oldest cannabis traditions celebrating the Hindu god Shiva and an enduring part of both Hinduism and cannabis culture, dating as far back as 2000 BCE.

What Does Bhang Mean?

The use of cannabis was once widespread in India. By the time the British commissioned the large-scale study called the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report in 1894, cannabis was so common that a team of Indian and British medical experts were unable to find any threat from its use. At that time, bhang was one of the most common forms of cannabis in India, according to the report.

Since that time, the government has authorized vendors to sell bhang by issuing permits. Bhang is particularly popular in northern India, and is usually consumed during festivals. Usually you find bhang in bhang lassis, sardai or thandai beverages, or in semi-solid form for use later.

Although different people have different preferences, bhang is commonly consumed with garam masala, rosewater, cardamom, fennel, ground ginger, and other traditional Indian spices. Fats such as ghee and coconut milk allow the cannabinoids to bind and interact with the endocannabinoid system, and other ingredients such as rose petals, curd, and pistachios might round out a particular version of bhang.

Benefits of Bhang

Today we know that cannabis has many therapeutic and medicinal uses, but this was also known to ancient cultures. Bhang has been a part of Indian culture for thousands of years. In Tibbi and Ayurvedic rituals, people used cannabis orally to treat diseases and newlyweds relied on bhang to improve the libido. Users also capitalized on the mental effects of cannabis, with Hindu warriors drinking bhang to steel their nerves.

Bhang continues to have religious uses, but it also has applications in Ayurvedic medicine. In fact, cannabis is one of the five sacred plants of status mentioned between 2000 and 1400 BCE in an ancient Hindu text called the Atharva Veda. Many Ayurvedic users today believe that bhang relieves: anxiety, digestive issues, dysentery, fever, headaches and migraines, malaria, pain and rheumatism, phlegm, and sunstroke. Hindu holy practitioners called Sadhus also use bhang to aid them in yoga and mediation.

Bhang Usage and Meaning

Bhang is among the world’s oldest and most traditional forms of cannabis edibles—although technically it should be called a drinkable. Bhang drinks are an integral part of Hindu culture and a popular way of ingesting marijuana throughout Northern India.

To be exact, bhang is the paste made from the flowers and leaves of the activated female cannabis plant. However, the phrase has also come to mean any beverage made with the paste.

Traditionally, bhang is made by boiling or soaking fresh cannabis leaves and ganja flowers in water or warm milk and then grinding them with a mortar and pestle into a paste. Next the preparer rolls the paste into bhang goli, which are smooth, shiny balls, usually dark brown to green.

Bhang and Bhang Thandai Origins

Although we think of any drink made with bhang paste as “bhang” itself, making these kinds of beverages is actually one of the most common uses for bhang paste–itself a sort of hashish. Bhang thandai, which is a sort of latte, also contains ground nuts or seeds, milk whether dairy or vegan, some sort of sweetener, and a variety of spices.

It is commonplace to drink bhang thandai during religious festivals such as Holi, and doing so is a socially acceptable practice in India. Especially in Northern regions of the country, bhang can still be bought in government-licensed stores.

Bhang Recipes

There is more than one way to enjoy bhang at home! If you like the sound of bhang and would like to make your own refreshing marijuana beverage at home, you’ll be pleased to hear that the process is not too complex.

Bhang Thandai Recipe

In India, it’s simple enough to buy bhang paste and whip it into a latte in your blender. Here in the US, you might have to work a little harder. To make bhang traditionally, you will need to use a mortar and pestle to grind the components and muslin to strain the boiled paste. Or, go modern and use something like a Vitamix!

Here is a simple traditional bhang thandai recipe.

Here is a modern version—you just need a high-speed blender! Just decarb your cannabis first.

Consumption of Bhang: Notes

  • Bhang recipes calls for fresh cannabis flower, so use up unwanted trim in bhang if you like
  • If you’re using nice bud, realize you’re making stronger bhang
  • You always have to activate your cannabis first with heat—otherwise the THC won’t be bioavailable
  • THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids are fat-soluble, so you must use ingredients with high fat content to maximize their absorption, such as full-fat milk
  • Just like any edible, bhang is potent, and can take anywhere up to two hours to completely hit you, so start low and go slow

Images that illustrate bhang

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