The plant continues to grow in popularity.
Cannabis and Ayurveda are two words you may not think go together, however, they are closely linked.
Whilst negative feelings may spring to mind concerning cannabis, there is much to uncover about the plant that reveals its beneficial history.
It has been used for thousands of years for its therapeutic and medicinal benefits in the Indian Ayurvedic system.
Though it has been given a bad reputation, it has remained popular across the world with it spreading beyond Ayurveda and into a common pastime and activity.
DESIblitz looks at how cannabis has transformed over the centuries and its origins in the Ayurvedic world.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is a naturally produced type of flowering plant that has often been recognised by two main species, Sativa and Indica, although there are hybrid species as well.
It is also commonly accepted that flowering plants originate from the continent of Asia.
In modern society, there are many names that cannabis has been affiliated with, including weed, marijuana, kush and pot, to name a few.
Though these names are often used interchangeably, the term cannabis is often used in a different way and context than marijuana and weed.
This is because cannabis refers to the actual flowering plants that belong to the Cannabaceae family, whilst weed, marijuana and pot are terms more likely to be used regarding the actual intake of cannabis.
Cannabis is most typically consumed by smoking, vaping, eating or even in a topical manner through beauty or healthcare products.
However, the use of cannabis continues to be a topic of thorough debate across medical fields, government bodies and the general population of society.
Despite its many uses cannabis is not widely well-received in the western sphere and is considered a dangerous drug despite individuals continuing to enjoy its recreational uses through smoking and vaping.
The recreational use of it has been banned and outlawed in some countries like the UK yet championed and encouraged by others like Canada where it is legal medically and recreationally.
Its medical use has also been a point of debate across several countries with places like Sri Lanka legalising its Ayurvedic medical use for health reasons as opposed to recreational use where people use it for their daily enjoyment.
Ayurvedic Origins of Cannabis
Whilst it is commonly accepted that cannabis has an ancient history with humans, many individuals won’t be aware of the extent to which cannabis is involved with Ayurveda.
Ayurveda places importance on natural and plant-based formulas to live a healthy lifestyle and is an alternative medicine system with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent for over 3000 years.
Therefore, ayurvedic medicine draws heavily on the medicinal benefits of organic and naturally produced herbs grown and found in the natural world around us.
The connection between Ayurveda and cannabis, therefore, lies in the medicinal value cannabis holds and the spiritual history it has in India.
The earliest recorded mention of cannabis in India is believed to have been around 1500BC in the ancient Indian scripture, Atharvaveda which is one of the four Veda’s in Hinduism.
The Atharvaveda refers to cannabis as ‘Bhang’ and describes it as “one of the five sacred plants, which release us from anxiety.”
Bhang has also been mentioned across many other ancient Indian texts about Ayurveda including the Sashruta Samhita, Rig Veda, Chikitsa Sara Sangraha and many other medical ayurvedic scriptures.
Herbal ayurvedic healers in India have reportedly used bhang to treat things such as chronic pain, digestive issues, and certain mental illnesses, and as an aphrodisiac.
Have Western Ideals Vilified Cannabis?
Over the centuries, cannabis has become controversial since being a vilified subject in the media and thus criminalised across different countries.
Since being introduced to western medicine in the 19th century, cannabis has undergone an intense amount of scrutiny by the media and government, turning it from an eastern medicinal staple to a demonised drug.
Whilst cannabis was grown mainly in places like East Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the introduction of colonisation brought about the massive import of spices, tea, cannabis, and opium from the east to the west.
British authorities in India had taken an interest in cannabis’ medicinal benefits and used it similarly to treat symptoms of illnesses, however, concerns came about surrounding its moral dangers.
Whilst it was initially used medically, the increase in its recreational use combined with political and racial factors caused a rampage against the drug.
Once more people had taken to using it for enjoyment as opposed to medically, the plant turned from a natural medicine with a vibrant history to a drug that promoted a negative outlook.
Media and news outlets commonly associate cannabis with negativity, creating stereotypes based on those who use cannabis and framing it as a bad, illegal and dangerous habit.
The negative portrayals of cannabis also exist in the portrayal of cannabis users on television.
For instance, the popular cult film Pineapple Express is known for spreading the ‘stoner’ stereotype through satirical means.
The stereotypes in this movie fuel western misconceptions that cannabis can mislead individuals and implies that people’s lives are fated to revolve around the addictive nature of cannabis.
However, the movie and the western media fail to acknowledge the rich, cultural history associated with the plant.
Whilst there are indeed negative outcomes to continued cannabis use, western media often does not consider the positive aspects that are rooted in cannabis’ ayurvedic and spiritual history.
The Rise of Hemp Use
Despite the increased restrictions on cannabis use by governments and the media, there has been a massive increase in the use of cannabis-based products such as hemp-based products in recent years.
Hemp is a type of cannabis; however, it contains considerably lower levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than most cannabis forms.
The lower THC levels of hemp mean it is less likely to get you high and can be infused more widely in different products.
There have even been multiple hemp cafes and businesses opened around the world, celebrating cannabis’ multitude of uses in food, beauty products and stress relief.
For instance, Off Limits is India’s first hemp café, located in the hills of Kosal, Himachal Pradesh and uses hemp seed oil in all their food to try and harness the natural cannabis grown in the Indian environment.
The owners of the café, Omair Alam and Mayank Gupta, want to destigmatise cannabis use to create a hemp ecosystem and highlight its potential in boosting the economy.
In an interview with VICE, Omair Alam spoke about his motivations for opening a hemp-based café, saying:
“By introducing hemp infusions into our coffee and food, we are trying to educate people about its many benefits and normalise the culture so it gains more social acceptance.”
This café is just one example of the growing use of hemp across the world, starting in India where there is an abundance of naturally cultivated hemp.
Many businesses across the world have jumped on the key benefits of hemp to create quality products that can cater to different types of people, targeting different areas, from men’s grooming products to cramp-relieving products.
There is no doubt that cannabis holds both positive and negative aspects.
Its origins in India as an ayurvedic medicine still hold relevance for many individuals who still practice Ayurveda using cannabis leaves, seeds and oil extracted from the plant.
Whilst laws may ban its recreational use, the plant continues to grow in popularity both medically and recreationally and its history cannot be forgotten nor misinterpreted.
Regardless of the negative western influence and contradicting laws, the cannabis plant remains a sacred plant in Indian ayurvedic medicine, playing an essential role in spirituality, medicine, and culture.