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Sunday, October 24, 2010
WHAT IS BHANG? WILD MARIJUANA: BENEFITS AND USE OF BHANG
Cannabis sativa or marijuana is widely known and much has been written about it. It grows wild in Iran, Pakistan, Northern India and Southern Siberia, and probably in other countries too. In Pakistan and India a drink is made from it called Bhang; this is also the name of the weed that can be seen on any piece of waste ground, even in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad. At the end of September through to the middle of October the air is pungent with the smell of the flowers of bhang and there’s a particularly good crop on some waste land that has not yet been developed in the Diplomatic Enclave close to the British High Commission and The Iranian Embassy (which are opposite each other).
Hemp as it was known in Britain used to grow wild, and I remember a good story reported in the press in the early seventies of an elderly lady in Swansea, South Wales, who was worried about her hedge. The hedge was very old and well trimmed, but had begun to look a little threadbare in places, she informed the court. She said that she had no idea what it was, but unfortunately for her, the police knew what cannabis sativa was when they saw it. Luckily for her she was merely fined and the hedge ordered to be destroyed.
In Ayurvedic treatments it is used to reduce pain, stop nausea and vomiting and weight loss caused by debilitating diseases. It is also used to help sufferers of neurologically induced motor problems, as it relaxes muscles and stops twitches and spasms. In appropriate quantities it is used to cure fever, dysentery and sunstroke, to clear phlegm, aid digestion and increase appetite. It is frequently combined with other herbs to treat different diseases. Application of a paste made from the leaves can help rough or chapped skin. It is believed to help cure deafness caused by noise pollution in cities and the juice extracted from the leaves and stems is used to destroy head lice and cure dandruff problems.
Preparations of bhang are sacred to the Hindu gods in mythology and it is believed that Lord Shiva was particularly fond of this plant because he discovered its transcendental qualities. He is sometimes referred to as the Lord of Bhang. Of course the Beatles, famously, also discovered its transcendental qualities in the 1960s (listen to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album again! They were probably also influenced by other hallucogens).
In 1,000 BC bhang was used in India as an intoxicant according to the Athar Veda where it is described as a herb that “releases anxiety.” Saddhus use it to achieve transcendental states and it is also said to aid Sufis in their bid to find spiritual ecstasy.
You can soak the leaves in water and grind them to a fine paste and mix well with spices of your choice. Then blend this with milk and drink it. But beware. They say that if you are depressed you will become even more so and stay that way for some time. If you are happy though, you will be on a high for 24 hours.
As you can see from the picture, bhang is perfectly legal in India and Pakistan, with street sellers dispensing the drink. It is also one of the ingredients on offer for paan, the tobacco variety. Unlike the nutmeg it is halal, although the nutmeg is only haram and banned in Saudi Arabia.
In Pakistan there are tales of pakora sellers spiking their wares with bhang, especially to sell to women who have complained about the price or quality of pakoras being sold. Typically they are sold during the morning when only the women are at home, they eat a few and become more talkative then usual then sleep, which will annoy their husbands when they get home as food will not be cooked etc. You can put fresh pounded leaves or dried into pakoras too in the recipe we have given you.
You can use it in our Serdai recipe and add leaves that have been pounded to a paste and blend them with fruit, water or milk; add ice and drink – but remember it’s very potent and can be dangerous to your health.