Bhang is an edible mixture made from the buds, leaves, and flowers of the female cannabis, or marijuana, plant.
In India, it’s been added to food and drinks for thousands of years and is a feature of Hindu religious practices, rituals, and festivals — including the popular spring festival of Holi.
Bhang also plays a role in Ayurvedic medicine and is promoted as a remedy to various ailments, including nausea, vomiting, and physical pain.
This article reviews bhang, including its potential benefits and safety.
Bhang is a mixture made by drying, grinding, and soaking the buds and leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant to form a paste that’s added to food and drinks.
Bhang has been consumed in India for centuries. Though cannabis is considered illegal in most parts of the country, the sale and consumption of bhang seem to be tolerated.
This may be especially true in religious cities, where bhang-infused food and drinks can be purchased both from street vendors and government-approved shops.
However, the Indian National Policy on Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances only permits the addition of the leaves and no other parts of the cannabis plant (
One common way to consume bhang is blended with curd and whey — the solid and liquid parts of milk that separate when milk is coagulated — to make a beverage called bhang lassi.
Another popular option is bhang goli, a drink consisting of freshly ground cannabis mixed with water.
Bhang can also be combined with sugar and ghee — a clarified butter commonly used in India — and used to make sweets.
Bhang is made by grinding and soaking parts of the Cannabis sativa plant to form a paste, which is used to prepare cannabis-infused food and drinks.
Bhang is known for its psychoactive effects, or its ability to affect the way your brain and nervous system work.
Cannabinoids — the main active chemical compounds in the Cannabis sativa plant — are behind these effects. There are several different types of cannabinoids in bhang, but the two best-researched are (
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The main psychoactive compound in cannabis, which is responsible for the “high” people experience after consuming foods and beverages containing bhang.
- Cannabidiol (CBD). A non-psychoactive cannabinoid thought to be the main compound behind the health benefits linked to bhang.
Both CBD and THC have a molecular structure similar to compounds your body naturally produces — known as endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids bind to your body’s cannabinoid receptors and are involved in activities like learning, memory, decision making, immunity, and motor function (
Due to their likeness in structure, THC and CBD can also bind to your body’s cannabinoid receptors — impacting the way your brain relays messages between its cells.
Smoking or vaping dried parts of the cannabis plant causes blood cannabinoid levels to peak within 15–30 minutes.
In contrast, cannabinoids consumed as part of a food or drink are released into the bloodstream a lot more slowly — peaking around 2–3 hours later (
Bhang contains THC and CBD, compounds that can bind to your body’s cannabinoid receptors and impact your learning, memory, motor, and immune functions.
Bhang may help reduce nausea and vomiting.
So far, its anti-nausea and anti-vomiting effects have been most researched in people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
In a review of 23 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) — the gold standard in research — people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer were given either cannabis-based products, conventional anti-nausea drugs, or a placebo.
Those given cannabis-containing products were close to three times less likely to experience nausea and vomiting, compared to those given a placebo. What’s more, these products appeared to be as effective as conventional anti-nausea medication (
Similarly, other reviews observed strong evidence that cannabinoids — the main active compounds in bhang — are effective at reducing nausea and vomiting, particularly in adults undergoing chemotherapy (
Still, evidence also link heavy chronic use of cannabinoids to abdominal pain, chronic nausea, and heavy vomiting in some people. This is especially frequent in middle-aged men and not easily treated by conventional anti-nausea medications (
Bhang may help reduce nausea and vomiting, especially due to side effects of chemotherapy. However, heavy, long-term use may increase nausea and vomiting in some people.
Pain reduction is one of the most common medicinal uses for cannabis products like bhang (
Several studies support its effectiveness.
For instance, a recent review of 28 RCTs reported that cannabinoids were effective in treating chronic pain and nervous system pain (
Additionally, a study in 614 people with chronic pain showed that 65% of those who used medically prescribed cannabinoids reported improvements in pain (
Cannabis products like bhang may be effective at reducing pain, especially when caused by conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
Bhang may also help reduce muscle spasms and seizures.
For instance, evidence suggests that cannabis products may reduce muscle spasms in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a medical condition that typically affects the brain and spinal cord, often causing muscle spasms.
Cannabis-based products like bhang may also be effective at reducing seizures, especially in people not responsive to other treatments (
A recent review of four RCTs found that CBD-containing products may help reduce seizures in children with a type of epilepsy (a seizure disorder) resistant to drugs (
In another review, 9 mg of CBD per pound (20 mg per kg) of body weight per day was 1.7 times more effective than a placebo at reducing the number of seizures by half in people with epilepsy (
Still, more studies are needed to confirm these effects.
Cannabis-based products like bhang may decrease muscle spasms in people with multiple sclerosis. It may also reduce the number of seizures in people not responsive to conventional treatments.
Bhang may offer some additional benefits as well. The best-researched include:
- May offer some protection against cancer. Test-tube and animal studies show that cannabinoids may destroy or limit the spread of certain cancer cells (
- May improve sleep. Bhang may reduce sleep disturbances caused by sleep apnea, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia (
- May reduce inflammation. Test-tube and animal studies indicate that the compounds in bhang may reduce inflammation common in many diseases (
- Can increase appetite. Increased appetite is one of the most common side effects of bhang. This may benefit those trying to gain weight or maintain it — but may be considered a disadvantage to others (
Bhang is sometimes promoted as a remedy to several health conditions, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Tourette’s syndrome, dementia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Parkinson’s, and schizophrenia.
However, not enough scientific evidence exists to support these benefits, and more studies are needed before strong conclusions can be made (
There’s emerging evidence that bhang may offer protection against cancer, reduce inflammation, and improve sleep and appetite. Still, more research is needed.
Though it may offer some benefits, bhang also carries certain health risks.
It’s mostly known for causing feelings of euphoria, but bhang can also cause panic, fear, or depression in some people (
Plus, due to its psychoactive effects, it may reduce short-term memory, coordination, and judgment, as well as promote paranoia or psychosis when consumed in high doses (
Bhang and other cannabis products should be avoided by children and teens — unless prescribed as a medical treatment.
Heavy or long-term use of bhang — especially when consumed at a young age — may alter brain development, increase dropout rates from school, and lower life satisfaction.
Cannabis products may also increase your risk of certain disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia — especially in people at risk of developing these conditions (
Moreover, consuming it during pregnancy or while breastfeeding can increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and poor brain development in the infant. Therefore, experts strongly discourage use during these periods (
Finally, consuming bhang as a food or drink slows down its absorption, which can make it hard to judge and adjust your intake. This can increase your risk of taking too much — causing irregular heartbeat, very low blood pressure, and confusion (
Consumption of bhang carries a variety of risks. It’s not recommended in childhood and adolescence, during pregnancy, while nursing, or for use in people at risk of certain health issues like depression.
Bhang, a paste made from the buds and leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant, is typically added to food and drinks.
Like other cannabis products, it may offer benefits, such as protection against pain, muscle spasms, seizures, nausea, and vomiting.
Still, its use also carries risks. Bhang should be avoided by people with certain health issues or during vulnerable life stages, such as childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, and while nursing.
What’s more, the legal status of cannabis and products derived from the plant varies between states and countries. Therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with applicable laws in your area before trying bhang or other cannabis products.