Bhang is the traditional beverage of the Indian subcontinent prepared from the leaves and flowers of Cannabis that has been created, consumed, and celebrated for millennia. It has strong spiritual and cultural relevance rooted in Hindu culture since the Vedic times (as far back as 1750 BCE) and is an integral aspect of Indian culture to date.

In both India and Nepal, Bhang is largely distributed during Hindu festivals such as Holi, and consuming it on special occasions is standard practice. Hindu holy men called Sadhus have used Bhang for centuries to boost meditation and achieve transcendental states, while Sufis have traditionally used it to aid in spiritual ecstasy.

Today, Bhang plays a different, though omnipresent role throughout the Indian subcontinent. In sections of rural India, Bhang is believed to have medicinal properties that can cure fever, dysentery, sunstroke, speech imperfections, and lisping, and aid in digestion and appetite. Ayurveda—Hindu traditional medicine that has gained a large Western following as alternative medicine—has utilized Bhang for centuries, and is modernly known for its common use of Bhang in pill form (called Bhang ‘golee’) as a sleeping aid and appetite stimulant.

To prepare the traditional Bhang beverage, the Cannabis buds and leaves are ground into a paste with mortar and pestle. Milk, ghee, and spices are added to the paste to create the drink colloquially referred to as “Bhang thandai,” which is commonly used as an alternative intoxicant to alcohol. The addition of powdered green inflorescence and curd blended with the mixture forms a “Bhang lassi,” which is regarded as a refreshing treat, with large glasses having little intoxicating effect. Both can be found on most vendor streets in India.

Bhang has played an essential role in Hindu and Indian cultures and traditions, enriching spiritual practices and providing relaxation and relief to the continent’s inhabitants for thousands of years. In our current globalized world, it’s time to bring Bhang to the West.

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