Botanical Name: Cannabis sativa
Indian Name: Bhang or Ganja
Origin. Distribution and Composition
Indian Hemp is a robust, tall, erect, annual herb, I to 5 metres high, usually with male and female plants in roughly equal numbers. It has angular stems bearing palmately or hand shaped divided leaves with greenish flowers. The hemp plant provides three products, namely, fibre from the stems, oil from the seeds and narcotic from the leaves and flowers.
The hemp plant was originally a native of Western and Central Asia. It has been cultivated since ancient times in Asia and Europe. The plant is said to have reached China more than 4,500 years ago. It spread to the New World in post-Columbian times.
In India cultivation of this plant is controlled and permitted only in the districts of Almora, Garhwal and Nainital (excluding the Tcrai and Bhabar) in V.P. To a small extent it is also cultivated in Kashmir, Travancore and Nepal. The chief constituents of Indian hemp are cannabinol, pseudocannabinol and cannabinin. It also contains cannin. a resin. The biological activity of cannabis-is-due- to alcoholic and phenolic compounds. The resin contains a crystalline compound, cannin.
Healing Power and Curative Properties
Preparations of Indian hemp have been in use as intoxicants in Asiatic countries and Africa from time immemorial. Bhang, ganja and charas have been habitually used in these parts of the world. Its narcotic and anodyne properties were appreciated by Western medical men in the early years of the last century and was incorporated in the British and United States pharmacopoeias.
The leaves of the plant are used as a drug to reduce excitement, irritation and pain as well as to induce deep sleep. They are also used as a drug to counteract spasmodic disorders, to increase the secretion and discharge of urine and arrest any secretion or bleeding. As a sedative and anodyne, they are given in doses of 2.5 grams.
Three types of narcotics are produced from the hemp plant, namely bhang or hashish which constitute the dried leaves and flowering shoots of male and female plants has a low resin content. Ganja which is the dried unfertilized female inflorescences of special varieties grown in India and charas, which is the crude resin collected by rubbing the tops of the plant with the hands or beating them with a cloth. In all these drugs, the active principle is a resin from the glandular hairs on its leaves, stems and inflorescences.
Diarrhoea and Dysentery
The leaves are beneficial in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery. Two grams of dried leaves can be taken with sugar and black pepper.
The leaves help in insomnia. They can be administered to induce sleep where opium cannot be used. Charas which is the active principle of hemp, as well as ganja, are effective drugs to induce deep sleep.
Bhang or hashish is considered useful in digestive disorders like dyspepsia and other bowel complaints. It also acts as an appetizer when taken in small doses.
Charas is of great value in periodical headaches, migraine, acute mania, insanity and delirium, nervous vomiting, nervous exhaustion, convulsions and neuralgia. It should be taken in 1.5 to 6 centigram doses.
The seeds of the plant are not narcotic. Their infusion is useful in gonorrhoea. Bhang or hashish can also be taken in this disorder.
The juice of Indian hemp removes dandruff and head lice.
A paste of the fresh leaves is useful in resolving tumours.l The powder of the leaves serves as a useful dressing for wounds and sores. Ganja is externally applied to relieve pain in itchy skin diseases.
Precautions: Excessive consumption of hemp is physically and mentally harmful. If consumed for long time, it causes loss of appetite and gastric derangment. Hemp drugs act chiefly on the cerebrum wherein they resemble the action of alcohol or opium.
Poisoning: The smoke from burning ganja is inhaled as an antidote to poisoning by orpiment, an arsenic mineral used as yellow dye and artist's pigment.
As a narcotic, hemp is consumed by itself or as a beverage. It is more often used for smoking for euphorbic purposes. Excessive smoking is harmful and may cause' insanity. Hemp seed is used for the production of a drying oil and the fibre is used in making ropes.