Bhang is an edible mixture made from the buds, leaves, and flowers of the female cannabis, or marijuana, plant.In India, it’s been added to food and drinks for thousands of years and is a feature of Hindu religious practices, rituals, and festivals — including the popular spring festival of Holi.
Bhang also plays a role in Ayurvedic medicine and is promoted as a remedy to various ailments, including nausea, vomiting, and physical pain.
This article reviews bhang, including its potential benefits and safety.
What is bhang and how is it made?
Bhang is a mixture made by drying, grinding, and soaking the buds and leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant to form a paste that’s added to food and drinks.
Bhang has been consumed in India for centuries. Though cannabis is considered illegal in most parts of the country, the sale and consumption of bhang seem to be tolerated.
This may be especially true in religious cities, where bhang-infused food and drinks can be purchased both from street vendors and government-approved shops.
However, the Indian National Policy on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances only permits the addition of the leaves and no other parts of the cannabis plant .
One common way to consume bhang is blended with curd and whey — the solid and liquid parts of milk that separate when milk is coagulated — to make a beverage called bhang lassi.
Another popular option is bhang goli, a drink consisting of freshly ground cannabis mixed with water.
Bhang can also be combined with sugar and ghee — a clarified butter commonly used in India — and used to make sweets.
How does bhang work?
Bhang is known for its psychoactive effects, or its ability to affect the way your brain and nervous system work.
Cannabinoids — the main active chemical compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant — are behind these effects. There are several different types of cannabinoids in bhang, but the two best-researched are :
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The main psychoactive compound in cannabis, which is responsible for the “high” people experience after consuming foods and beverages containing bhang.
- Cannabidiol (CBD). A non-psychoactive cannabinoid thought to be the main compound behind the health benefits linked to bhang.
Both CBD and THC have a molecular structure similar to compounds your body naturally produces — known as endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids bind to your body’s cannabinoid receptors and are involved in activities like learning, memory, decision making, immunity, and motor function .
Due to their likeness in structure, THC and CBD can also bind to your body’s cannabinoid receptors — impacting the way your brain relays messages between its cells.
Smoking or vaping dried parts of the cannabis plant causes blood cannabinoid levels to peak within 15–30 minutes.
In contrast, cannabinoids consumed as part of a food or drink are released into the bloodstream a lot more slowly — peaking around 2–3 hours later .
How marijuana affects the body
Marijuana smoke can cause many of the same respiratory problems experienced by tobacco smokers, such as increased daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses such as bronchitis, and a greater instance of lung infections, according to NIDA.
While it had been thought that there was a connection between marijuana smoking and increased risk of lung cancer, even those who are heavy marijuana users do not appear to be at greater risk for lung cancer, according to a study by Dr. Donald Tashkin, UCLA professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine.
A study by the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia found that those who used marijuana were 26 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who did not use marijuana. Those studied were also 10 percent more likely to have developed heart failure.Advertisement
Marijuana can also raise heart rate by 20 percent to 100 percent shortly after smoking and the effect can last up to three hours, according to NIDA. Marijuana also can reduce sperm production in men and disrupts a woman’s menstrual cycle, according to NIDA.
While it is widely thought that marijuana is not addictive, about 30 percent users may have some degree of marijuana use disorder, according to NIDA. Long-term marijuana users who try to quit experience cravings, irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite and anxiety — some of the same physical symptoms of those trying to quit other types of drugs or alcohol.
A study found a link between certain genetic markers and symptoms of marijuana addiction, suggesting that some people may have a genetic predisposition to marijuana addiction. That same study showed some overlap between the genetic risk factors for marijuana dependence and the genetic risk factors for depression, suggesting a possible reason why these two conditions often occur together, the researchers said.
You might not think marijuana and quizzes go together, but on the assumption that you arrived at this quiz sober, we pose some serious questions that will require your utmost attention and critical thinking skills. Good luck.
When a person smokes marijuana, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it. In that case, they generally feel the effects after 30 minutes to 1 hour.
THC acts on specific brain cell receptors that ordinarily react to natural THC-like chemicals. These natural chemicals play a role in normal brain development and function.
Marijuana over activates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of these receptors. This causes the “high” that people feel. Other effects include:
- altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
- altered sense of time
- changes in mood
- impaired body movement
- difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
- impaired memory
- hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
- delusions (when taken in high doses)
- psychosis (risk is highest with regular use of high potency marijuana)
Marijuana also affects brain development. When people begin using marijuana as teenagers, the drug may impair thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. Researchers are still studying how long marijuana’s effects last and whether some changes may be permanent.
For example, a study from New Zealand conducted in part by researchers at Duke University showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing marijuana use disorder lost an average of 8 IQ points between ages 13 and 38. The lost mental abilities didn’t fully return in those who quit marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana as adults didn’t show notable IQ declines.
In another recent study on twins, those who used marijuana showed a significant decline in general knowledge and in verbal ability (equivalent to 4 IQ points) between the preteen years and early adulthood, but no predictable difference was found between twins when one used marijuana and the other didn’t. This suggests that the IQ decline in marijuana users may be caused by something other than marijuana, such as shared familial factors (e.g., genetics, family environment). NIDA’s Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, a major longitudinal study, is tracking a large sample of young Americans from late childhood to early adulthood to help clarify how and to what extent marijuana and other substances, alone and in combination, affect adolescent brain development.