What Is Bhang? And Why Do People Consume It?

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Added 23 May 2022

Lord Shiva drank bhang to concentrate during meditations and boost his powers according to Hindu mythology. It is believed that he descended to earth and gifted human beings bhang so we could enjoy its benefits, too. 

Even today, bhang is consumed in India to pay respects to Lord Shiva, along with various other cultural and religious beliefs. Typically, most people consume it during Holi — a festival of vivid colors that aims to shun negativity and bring out positivity. It's not uncommon for people to forget about everything, consume bhang, and dance to their heart's content without a care in the world during Holi. 

You may not have heard of bhang — although it is pretty popular on the other side of the planet — but you're probably using it as we speak. 

Because bhang, regardless of how different the name sounds, is good ol' cannabis. 

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about bhang (and a couple of recipes so you can make your own, too).

What is Bhang?

Bhang goli

Bhang is essentially an edible cannabis preparation, most commonly a beverage, made from the leaves and buds of female cannabis plants (with some exotic spices). 

The cannabis leaves and buds are first dried, ground up, and soaked in milk or water to form a paste called bhang. This paste is then added to various drinks and foods, primarily lassi (a blend of yogurt, fruit, and sugar), milk, or thandai (a combination of dry fruits and cold milk) to create the edible. 

Bhang originates from the Indian subcontinent and has been used for over 3000 years. Various cultures in India have been using it in foods and beverages since 1000 BC. In addition, it is an essential feature of Hindu religious practices, festivals, and rituals. 

If you have ever visited India or have an Indian friend, you might have heard of the famous Holi drink — bhang. It is freely distributed across the country even today during Holi or Maha Shivratri festivals.

According to ancient Ayurvedic texts, it is also considered an essential medicine, where it is promoted as a remedy for ailments like vomiting, physical pain, depression, etc.

Cannabis is still illegal in most parts of the country. However, due to a loophole in the drug law, bhang is still produced and sold in various regions, especially religious sites, where even government-approved shops sell it.

You can consume bhang in various ways. The most common form of consumption is a lassi, but people mix it with other beverages or foods, too. For example, it can be combined with clarified butter and added to sweet dishes or added to thandai along with other exotic spices and dry fruits.

How Potent is Bhang?

bhang in india

Ask any Indian about bhang, and he'll probably share a few anecdotes about his experience. But, of course, there's always someone that gets too high and giggles for hours. Simply put, bhang is super potent, but it depends on how you make it. 

Bhang works like any other edible. It contains various cannabinoids, including THC, the primary psychoactive substance in cannabis. 

During bhang preparation, the cannabis leaves and flowers undergo decarboxylation, where THCA is converted into THC — the latter can get you high. In addition, THCA loses one carbon atom due to heat during this process, making it easier for THC to bind to the CB1 receptors in your brain and get you high.

However, unlike smoking a joint, THC does not directly bind to the CB1 receptors in your brain. Instead, the THC is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC by the liver when you consume bhang, which is way more potent than regular THC. 

So, like an edible, bhang is potent and gives you a solid high that lasts for a long time. 

How is Bhang Culturally Important?


You are probably hearing about bhang for the first time, but in the Indian subcontinent, people have been using bhang for thousands of years, as mentioned above. Let's get into a bit of detail.

In Atharvaveda, an ancient Vedic text, bhang (or cannabis) is mentioned as one of the five sacred and vital plants. Even in Ayurvedic traditions, bhang is used as a potent medicine that can cure various diseases.

Historically, warriors in the subcontinent would also consume bhang before setting out for a battle as it would help them steel their nerves and fight better.

And many cultures for ages use bhang during the first night of the wedding. Bhang is believed to increase libido, so newlyweds tend to drink it post their wedding.

In rural India, bhang is also used to cure various diseases like sunstroke, fever, dysentery, cough, etc.

Hindus also hold bhang as a sacred preparation used during various festivals. During Holi, the festival of colors, or Maha Shivratri, the celebration of Lord Shiva, bhang is consumed across the country.

Is Bhang Legal?

Despite being so culturally significant, bhang is illegal in India. 

During the British occupation of India, the rulers conducted a massive study, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report of 1894, to study the importance of cannabis and if it should be banned. 

The researchers performed over 1000 standardized tests across 30 cities, studying bhang's moral, mental, and physical effects. They concluded that bhang is not a social or health hazard when used in moderate quantities. Moreover, banning it could lead to backlash from the communities as it was an important cultural and religious element.

However, after the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) act of 1985, cannabis was banned entirely in India. But they did not include cannabis leaves in the act, so bhang was still somewhat illegal.

Today, most states in India restrict or control bhang distribution, but some states allow bhang to be consumed. For example, you can buy bhang from various government-approved stores in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Rajasthan.

So, if you are visiting India to consume bhang, check out the local bhang laws and only choose government-approved bhang shops.

You can prepare bhang even at home since it's easy, but you'll have to visit India for authentic bhang. If you prepare it at home, though, don't forget to share it with your buddies!

What are the Benefits of Bhang?

Ayurvedic practitioners in India respect bhang — it is sacred for them due to its various health benefits. Here are some significant health benefits of bhang.

Prevents Nausea and Vomiting

Bhang's high THC content means it could be used to help with nausea. So far, research regarding this benefit is only limited to subjects undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, but the results look promising. 

Reduces Inflammation and Pain

Another major benefit of bhang is that it can help you deal with pain and inflammation, like many other cannabis products. Various studies support this benefit. For example, one such study states that bhang's compounds can help reduce inflammation and pain associated with several diseases.

Reduces Seizures and Muscle Spasms

On the other hand, bhang is quite effective at helping people deal with seizures, especially if they don't respond well to other treatments. So, bhang can be used to alleviate seizures and muscle spasms.

Improves Sleep

People consume bhang during festivals so they can sleep fitfully at the end of the day. Improved sleep is a common side effect of bhang because bhang's cannabinoid content creates a sedative entourage effect.

If you suffer from sleep disturbances like sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis, pain, or fibromyalgia, bhang can help you fall and stay asleep easily. 

Increases Appetite

Similarly, bhang is also infamous for inducing strong munchies. It can be a bad thing for some, but for those who want to maintain or gain weight, bhang is a terrific way to get you to eat more. 

Bhang is famous for various other health benefits. For example, it is touted to help with anxiety, PTSD, depression, dementia, irritable bowel syndrome, and Parkinson's. However, these claims are mostly anecdotal and lack enough scientific evidence. 

However, since it is a cannabis product, it carries various health benefits of weed. So, there seems to be some truth to these anecdotal claims.

Is Bhang Safe to Consume?

From Hindu priests and sadhus to old grandmothers in rural India, all sing praises of bhang. However, there are a few risks associated with bhang, such as the following.

Difficult to Judge Potency

Bhang is a cannabis edible, so the THC gets absorbed slowly by the body, and it may take up to two hours to show effects. Thus, it can be difficult to judge the dose and adjust intake. The lack of adequate regulations and infrastructure means the bhang you get may be too potent. 

Higher Risk of a Bad Trip

It is easy to over-consume bhang because it takes a long time to work, but it has high THC levels. This can lead to a bad trip, especially if you consume too much of it too quickly. 

Consuming too much bhang can lead to various symptoms of a bad trip, like depression, panic or fear, paranoia or psychosis, and irregular heartbeat or low blood pressure.

Not Safe for Pregnant Women

Experts also don't recommend bhang for pregnant or breastfeeding women, as it can lead to premature birth, poor brain development, or a low birth rate. So, consuming bhang during pregnancy or breastfeeding can be dangerous for the baby.

Otherwise, bhang is generally relatively safe to consume. You will be safe as long as you consume it in moderation and don't get impatient with the effects. 

How to Prepare Your Own Bhang?


You can prepare bhang in various ways. In the traditional way of preparation, you have to use a mortar and pestle to crush cannabis leaves and buds and mix them with other ingredients. In this process, the cannabis is decarbed when the mixture is cooked on a stove.

However, if you want to decarb your cannabis beforehand, you can do that. Here is how you can decarb your cannabis in an oven:

  1. Break apart the buds and leaves so that they heat up consistently
  2. Preheat the oven to 250°F (or 121°C)
  3. Then, evenly spread the cannabis pieces on a baking paper
  4. Bake the cannabis pieces in the oven at 250°F for half an hour

Once the cannabis turns from green to light brown and dry, it is ready to be crushed and mixed with other ingredients. Remember to let it cool off after taking it out of the oven.

Below are a couple of recipes for preparing a bhang beverage for yourself.

Bhang Milk 

Ensure you use full-fat milk for this recipe. THC and other cannabinoids are fat-soluble. When you cook it, the cannabinoids from cannabis detach from the plant material and need something to bind. Fat comes into play at this point and binds to the cannabinoids. 

On the other hand, low-fat milk may not hold so many cannabinoids, making the beverage less potent. Plus, you will be wasting a lot of the cannabinoids. 

Another point you must factor in is the dosage, which depends on your tolerance and strain. 11-hydroxy-THC is more potent than THC, so do not use the same amount you would roll into a joint. Generally, 2 to 4 grams of cannabis for a liter of milk is enough for a potent bhang milk beverage.

Follow this process to prepare your bhang milk:

  1. Infuse and decarb cannabis. For this, place the milk on medium heat and let it simmer. Ensure it does not boil.
  2. Then, add crushed cannabis powder into the milk and stir it while maintaining medium flame, and let it simmer for an hour. Stir occasionally.
  3. Now, use a cheesecloth or muslin cloth to strain the milk and remove the cannabis residue. Pour the milk into an air-tight container and set it aside to cool.

Once the milk is cool, it will be good to consume. You can also add any flavoring of your choice. Perhaps, some chocolate, strawberry, or mango? The possibilities are endless.  

If you want to store the milk for some time, keep it in the fridge and do not drink it beyond its expiration date. The milk and cannabis products may degrade.

Follow the same process if you have already decarbed your cannabis in an oven. First, let the milk simmer (not boil), add ground up decarbed cannabis to the milk, and let it sit on the stove on low flame for half an hour. 

Bhang Thandai

If the milk is too plain for your Mary Jane, you can even prepare thandai. Thandai is a traditional Indian drink prepared with a mix of various seeds, spices, and dry fruits. It is an explosion of flavor — like most Indian dishes — but in the form of a beverage. 

To prepare bhang thandai, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Canna-infused milk (like prepared above)
  • Almonds
  • Pepper 
  • Watermelon seeds
  • Rose petals 
  • Saffron
  • Fennel seeds
  • Anise seeds
  • Sugar

You don't need all the ingredients listed above. Just choose the ones you like. The recipe is quite flexible, so you can experiment and try with different ingredients. 

Follow these steps to make bhang thandai:

  1. Boil some water in a vessel.
  2. Once boiled, remove the vessel from the stove, add cannabis flowers and leaves, and let them steep in the water for around seven minutes.
  3. Then, use a muslin cloth to strain the cannabis residue from the water. To get all the cannabinoids out, squeeze the cannabis residue to remove all the water from it and set it aside.
  4. Now, put the cannabis leaves and flowers into a mortar with a couple of teaspoons of warm milk.
  5. Gently pestle the mixture for some time, and then use another muslin cloth to squeeze and extract the milk. Continue this process until you have half a cup of extracted milk and set it aside.
  6. Chop some almonds, rose petals, pistachios, or other garnishes of your choice and add them to the mortal with some warm milk and pestle the mixture to make a fine paste.
  7. Now, combine the extracted water, milk, and paste in a container. Add a quarter teaspoon of ground ginger, garam masala, fennel seeds, and half a teaspoon of anise seeds, cardamom, and rose water.
  8. You can also add honey, jaggery, or sugar to taste.
  9. Mix the drink well and let it cool for some time in a refrigerator.

Thandai is best served chilled, so refrigerate it for a couple of hours before serving it.

Other Bhang Dishes and Beverages

Apart from these you, you can make many other dishes and beverages. For example, a bhang goli is the solid version of bhang. Bhang golis are little balls of bhang, which can either be spicy or sweet, and they contain other ingredients like dates or jaggery. However, they are pretty difficult to be made, so they are best left to the professionals.

You can also make bhang lassi — a beverage similar to a milkshake. Here, yogurt is churned, mixed with canna-milk, and churned again. The churning process can occur up to four times until the beverage is ready. You can add other garnishes to the lassi too, like cashews, pumpkin seeds, or almonds. 

Apart from that, you can create your own bhang concoctions. Just prepare the canna-milk as mentioned above and see where you can mix it. Maybe you can add bhang-milk to pannacotta, custard, or ice cream. 

What are Some Tips for Making and Consuming Bhang?

While you are a regular cannabis user, bhang is still a new experience for you. So, you need to keep a few things in mind when making and consuming bhang, such as the following:

  • Bhang is prepared to be consumed when it's fresh, so we don't recommend storing it for longer than a day. It's best to consume bhang when it is fresh as the cannabinoids and milk can degrade over time.
  • If you have recently trimmed your cannabis plant, it's good to prepare some bhang for yourself. It's a nice experiment and an excellent way to use all the unwanted cannabis leaves.
  • Instead of fresh cannabis leaves and buds, you can also use dried and cured buds. But remember, this bhang will be more potent, so adjust the quantities accordingly.
  • If you are vegan, you can still make bhang. Replace dairy milk with any vegan milk of your choice, but ensure it is high in fat content, like coconut milk.
  • Avoid consuming bhang alone. Like edibles, it can be too potent for some and can induce a bad trip. Having someone around can help you deal with a bad trip.
  • If you are visiting India and want to try bhang, avoid buying it from random sellers. Only choose government-approved shops as other vendors may sell laced or synthetic cannabis, which is quite common in India due to the lack of legalization.
  • Be wary when consuming bhang, it is not the same as smoking a joint. The effects of bhang take long to occur and can last for long, so do not be hasty.
  • Avoid consuming bhang on an empty stomach and drink plenty of water as it may cause nausea due to consuming too much THC at one go.
  • Never mix bhang with alcohol or caffeine — both can have adverse side effects and ruin your trip and day.

Summary: What Is Bhang? And Why Do People Consume It?

Bhang is an intrinsic element to the Indian culture and has been consumed for thousands of years in the Indian subcontinent. So whether you want to pay your respects to Lord Shiva, celebrate Holi, or just want to get high, you should try out bhang. 

Bhang is an excellent preparation that gives you a glimpse into the other side of cannabis — the cultural, religious, and traditional side — and should be on every cannabis enthusiast's bucket list. 

And if you are visiting India any time soon, be on the lookout for government-approved bhang shops. They are pretty inexpensive, and you will enjoy your trip (pun intended). 



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