1902 Encyclopedia > Bhang


BHANG, an East Indian name for the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, but applied specially to the leaves dried and prepared for use as a narcotic drug. The hemp plant, as cultivated in the Bengal Presidency and the North-West Provinces, yields a peculiar resinous exudation, which is altogether wanting in the hemp grown on account of its fibre in European countries. For this resinous exudation, in which its virtues as a drug reside, hemp is cultivated in Kashmir, Bokhara, Yarkand, and Central Asia generally, besides North India, and in certain parts of East Africa, where, according to Captain Burton, it is grown " before every cottage door." In India the products of the plant for use as a narcotic and intoxicant are recognized under the three names and forms of Bhang, Gunja or Ganja, and Churrus or Charas. Bhang consists of the larger leaves and capsules of the plant on which an effloresence of resinous matter has occurred. The leaves are in broken and partly agglutinated pieces, having a dark-green colour and a heavy but not unpleasant smell. Bhang is used in India for smoking, with or without tobacco; it is prepared in the form of a cake or manjan, and it is made into an intoxicating beverage by infusing in cold water and straining. Gunja is the flowering or fruit-bearing tops of the female plants. It is gathered in stalks of several inches in length, the tops of which form a matted mass, from the agglutination of flowers, seeds, and leaflets by the abundant resinous exudation which coats them. Churrus is the resinous substance separated from the plant. According to Dr O'Shaughnessy it is obtained by men dressed in leathern aprons brushing forcibly through the growing stalks, and the resin which thereby adheres to the leather is scraped off with knives. It is stated that in Nepal the leather covering is dispensed with, and the resin gathered on the naked bodies of coolies, who brush through the standing stalks. Dr Royle says, " the glandular secretion is collected from the plants on the hills by the natives pressing the upper part of the young plants between the palms of their hands, and scraping off the secretion which adheres." The preparation known as hashish among the Arabs is similar to the gunja of India, and is used in the same manner. The use of preparations of hemp among the Mussulman and Hindu population of India is very general; and the habit also obtains among the population of Central Asia, the Arabs, and Egyptians, extending even to the negroes of the valley of the Zambesi and the Hottentots of South Africa. The habit appears to date from very remote times, for Herodotus says of the Scythians, that they creep inside huts and throw hemp seeds on hot stones. The seeds " soon send forth a virulent intoxicating smoke, which fills the close tent, and the people inside, being overpowered with the intoxicating effects, howl with excitement and delight." The observations of Dr O'Shaughnessy on the effects of the drug on the native population of India led him to conclude that it alleviates pain, and causes a remarkable increase of appetite, unequivocal aphrodisia, and great mental cheerfulness. Its violent effects are delirium of a peculiar kind, and the production of a cataleptic condition. Sir Robert Christison says, that "for energy, certainty, and convenience, Indian hemp is the next anodyne, hypnotic, and antispasmodic to opium and its derivatives, and often equal to it." Preparations are used in British pharmacy in the form of tincture and extract prepared from gunja, and it is understood to form an ingredient in the patent medicine chlorodyne.

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