This British Colonial Report Offers a Rare Glimpse Into India’s Historic Cannabis Cuisine
THICK, SUGARY, AND CREAMY, RICH with saffron and almonds, bhang thandai is so sweet that at first it’s hard to pinpoint the drink’s secret ingredient. After a sip or two, however, the telltale taste lingers: spicy and slightly musky, it’s the signature whiff of cannabis. After a few minutes, the high comes, dreamy as the rainbow play of Holi colors. An Indian festival staple, drunk especially during North Indian Holi celebrations, bhang thandai is part of a long history of South Asian cannabis culture.
William Brooke O’Shaughnessy could have given you a bhang recipe or two. In early 1830s England, O’Shaughnessy, a young Edinburgh graduate, had gained recognition as a clever chemist. But when he found himself unable to acquire his license in London, he followed in the footsteps of many a young British lad unsure of his next step, and hightailed it to the colonies.
At that time, India was still controlled by the East India Company; it wouldn’t be officially “transferred” to the British crown until 1858. But in the colonial capital of Calcutta, British elites, often in collaboration with elite classes of Indians, had embarked on a grand scholarly mission. Their aim was to learn everything possible about the subcontinent, from its history and languages to its flora and fauna, in order to better understand—and thus, better control—the Indian population. O’Shaughnessy, the bright, young Irish physician, was no different. Upon his arrival in Calcutta, he took up a post at the Medical College Hospital, where he turned his attention to studying a unique aspect of Indian medical and culinary culture: cannabis.
At the time, cannabis use was uncommon in England, and British colonials regarded the drug with suspicion. They had long feared that cannabis could cause madness, and 19th-century colonizers considered its use a threat to colonial power. “Murderous assaults by individuals under the influence of Indian hemp have been somewhat frequent,” declared one Bombay newspaper in 1885. As a result of this violent influence, an Allahabad newspaper opined, “The lunatic asylums of India are filled with Ganja smokers.” This was true, but not necessarily because the drug caused madness. Instead, officials running “native-only” colonial asylums sometimes admitted Indian people suspected of being habitual ganja smokers for the mere fact that the system regarded them as unruly.
But British colonials were interested in anything that could yield knowledge about the colonized population. So in the 1830s, O’Shaughnessy set out on a rigorous program of research, detailing his inquiries in his 1842 The Bengal Dispensatory. Drawing from interviews with Indian colleagues, The Bengal Dispensatory provided—among descriptions of hemp plants and hemp-related literature in Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian—several cannabis recipes detailed enough for an ambitious home chef to attempt today.
The success story of one woman who replaced her pills with plants.
Sharmila Clee; Photograph by Ceasar Ron
After drug use caused Sharmila Clee’s parents to lose custody of her and her siblings in 1998, Clee said she was squarely against anything related to drugs or alcohol, including cannabis.
“An anti-drug and alcohol mantra became my identity for years,” she said.
Once her parents and extended biological family’s rights were terminated, Clee and her siblings were put up for adoption. She and her sister were separated from their special needs brother, who needed extended care.
“It was difficult finding a home willing to take in three children with a history of trauma,” Clee shared. “My experience started my passion to become the best social worker in the world, and help other children like us.”
Her brother was eventually returned to her biological parents; Clee started experiencing panic attacks soon after.
“I was barely managing, receiving calls in the middle of the night from my brother, with reports of our dad drunk and violent,” she recalled. “I was three hours away at college and felt powerless, but it propelled me to move forward with vengeance and purposes, after witnessing so much social injustice—in the world, then through the eyes of my brother.”
Clee learned to push down her feelings of panic and anxiety by numbing herself with a Valium habit that began in the Fall of 2001 while at graduate school. She was diagnosed with latent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She remembers it disrupting her studies with random visions of her turbulent childhood, yet, she says, she managed to pull A’s in all subjects.
Her goal of climbing the corporate ladder was achieved. But she found that her new bureaucratic life was not all she had hoped for. She dreaded the monotony of wearing suits, the grueling commute, and her life in a cubicle.
Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Southern California
Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states as of November 2018. Yet the federal government still insists marijuana has no legal use and is easy to abuse. In the meantime, medical marijuana dispensaries have an increasing array of products available for pain, anxiety, sex and more.
The glass counters and their jars of products in the dispensary resemble an 18th century pharmacy. Many strains for sale have evocative and magical names like Blue Dream, Bubba Kush and Chocolope. But what does it all mean? Are there really differences in the medical qualities of the various strains? Or, are the different strains with the fanciful names all just advertising gimmicks?
I am a professor in the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy. I have lived in California a long time and remember the Haight-Ashbury Summer of Love. While in graduate school, I worked with professor Alexander Shulgin, the father of designer drugs, who taught me the chemistry of medicinal plants. Afterwards, while a professor at USC, I learned Chumash healing from a Native American Chumash healer for 14 years from 1998 until 2012. She taught me how to make medicines from Californian plants, but not marijuana, which is not native to the U.S. Currently, I am teaching a course in medical marijuana to pharmacy students.
If there is one thing about marijuana that is certain: In small doses it can boost libido in men and women, leading to more sex. But can marijuana really be used for medical conditions?
What are cannabinoids?
New research is revealing that marijuana is more than just a source of cannabinoids, chemicals that may bind to cannabinoid receptors in our brains, which are used to get high. The most well-known is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana is a particularly rich source of medicinal compounds that we have only begun to explore. In order to harness the full potential of the compounds in this plant, society needs to overcome misconceptions about marijuana and look at what research clearly says about the medical value.
The FDA has already made some moves in this direction by approving prescription drugs that come from marijuana including dronabinol, nabilone, nabiximols and cannabidiol. Dronabinol and nabilone are cannabinoids that are used for nausea. Nabiximols – which contain THC, the compound most responsible for marijuana’s high and cannabidiol, which does not induce a high – are used to treat multiple sclerosis. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is also used to treat some types of epilepsy.
Marijuana, originally from the Altai Mountains in Central and East Asia, contains at least 85 cannabinoids and 27 terpenes, fragrant oils that are produced by many herbs and flowers that may be active, drug-like compounds. THC is the cannabinoid everyone wants in order to get high. It is produced from THC acid – which constitutes up to 25 percent of the plant’s dry weight – by smoking or baking any part of the marijuana plant.
THC mimics a naturally occurring neurotransmitter called anandamide that works as a signaling molecule in the brain. Anandamide attaches to proteins in the brain called cannabinoid receptors, which then send signals related to pleasure, memory, thinking, perception and coordination, to name a few. THC works by hijacking these natural cannabinoid receptors, triggering a profound high.
Tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid, another cannabinoid, can constitute up to 10 percent of the dry weight. It is converted to another compound that probably contributes to a high, tetrahydrocannabivarin, when smoked or ingested in baked goods. Potent varieties like Doug’s Varin and Tangie may contain even higher concentrations.
Medical properties of marijuana
But not all cannabinoids make you high. Cannabidiol, a cannabinoid similar to THC, and its acid are also present in marijuana, especially in certain varieties. But these do not cause euphoria. The cannabidiol molecule interacts with a variety of receptors – including cannabinoid and serotonin receptors and transient receptor potential cation channels (TRP) – to reduce seizures, combat anxiety and produce other effects.
Many different varieties of marijuana are on the market and are alleged to treat a range of diseases. The FDA has no oversight for these claims, since the FDA does not recognize marijuana as a legal product.
Strains of marijuana are grown that produce more THC than cannadidiol or vice versa. Other varieties have abundant monoterpenoids. How do you know that the strain you choose is legitimate with probable medical benefits? Each strain should have a certificate of analysis that shows you how much of each active compound is present in the product you buy. Many states have a bureau of cannabis control that verifies these certificates of analysis. However, many certificates of analysis do not show the monoterpenoids present in the marijuana. The analysis of monoterpenoids is difficult since they evaporate from the plant material. If you are looking for a strain high in myrcene or linalool, ask for proof.
Marijuana can improve several conditions, but it can also make others worse and can have nasty side effects.
As recreational use has become more widespread, marijuana hyperemesis syndrome is becoming more of a problem in our society. Some people vomit uncontrollably after smoking marijuana regularly. It can be treated by rubbing a cream made from capsaicin, from chili peppers, on the abdomen. Capsaicin cream is available in pharmacies.
For some of these conditions, studies show that eating or topically applying marijuana products rather than smoking is recommended.
Clearly, more research is needed from the scientific community to help guide the appropriate, safe use of marijuana. However, the FDA does not recognize the use of medical marijuana. This makes funding for research on marijuana difficult to find. Perhaps the cannabis industry should consider funding scientific research on marijuana. But conflicts of interest may become a concern as we have seen with drug company-sponsored studies.
Jesus Christ healed the sick using medical marijuana, researchers claim
“Entheogen – a term coined by Professor Ruck – refers to any substance used to induce spiritual experiences. The use of entheogens such as cannabis, peyote and psilocybin mushrooms has been linked to the formation of nearly all the world’s religions, so it’s perhaps no surprise that cannabis likely played a role in the birth of Christianity.”
(NaturalNews) Although some may find the idea a bit challenging to their traditional religious beliefs, there is ample historical and scientific evidence that Jesus Christ was a cannabis user and that he used the plant to heal the sick.
In 2003, High Times published an article written by Chris Bennett titled “Was Jesus a Stoner?” which explored the likelihood that cannabis was a key ingredient in the “anointing oil” used by Jesus and his followers in rituals and for healing purposes.
Bennett’s argument was backed by scholarly works that provided scientific evidence supporting his assertions. Since the article appeared, other researchers have examined and debated the theory, with many agreeing that it has merit.
From the original High Times article:
“Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah.” In modern English, this term would be translated as the “anointed one.” The title “Christ” was only placed upon he who had “God’s unction upon him.“
This holy anointing oil, as described in the original Hebrew version of the recipe in Exodus (30:22-23), contained over six pounds of kaneh-bosem, a substance identified by respected etymologists, linguists, anthropologists, botanists and other researchers as cannabis, extracted into about six quarts of olive oil, along with a variety of other fragrant herbs. The ancient anointed ones were literally drenched in this potent mixture.
Kaneh-bosem = cannabis?
Kaneh-bosem certainly does sound like the modern day term cannabis, and there is little doubt that hemp was widely used by the Hebrew culture in those times.
As reported by High Times, Carl P. Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University, wrote:
“There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion…. There is no way that so important a plant as a fiber source for textiles and nutritive oils and one so easy to grow would have gone unnoticed… the mere harvesting of it would have induced an entheogenic reaction.”
Ritual and medicinal use of cannabis
Entheogen – a term coined by Professor Ruck – refers to any substance used to induce spiritual experiences. The use of entheogens such as cannabis, peyote and psilocybin mushrooms has been linked to the formation of nearly all the world’s religions, so it’s perhaps no surprise that cannabis likely played a role in the birth of Christianity.
It’s easy to understand the role, considering the near-miraculous healing properties of the plant. We are now beginning to rediscover the myriad medicinal uses for cannabis – remedies that have been known for thousands of years, but which have been forgotten amidst the government-created anti-marijuana hysteria that has existed in the United States for more than half a century.
Fortunately, those attitudes are changing now, and the Christ–cannabis connection debate is perhaps an example of an overdue reexamination of some of our collective beliefs that have been clouded by propaganda.
What would Jesus do?
Those familiar with the history of the outlawing of marijuana in the U.S. are well aware that this was a direct result of pressure by corporate interests. Then later, of course, the failed War on Drugs went into full swing, and punishing marijuana users and dealers became big business for law enforcement and run-for-profit prisons.
Cannabis and the hemp plant in general offer us a cheap, effective and renewable source of a great number of beneficial products – some with almost miraculous properties – but since there is little profit in it for Big Pharma and other big business interests, the progress toward legalization has been slow and met with bitter opposition every inch of the way.
One might wonder, what would Jesus think about that?
From The Guardian:
Quoting the New Testament, Mr Bennett argues that Jesus anointed his disciples with the oil and encouraged them to do the same with other followers. This could have been responsible for healing eye and skin diseases referred to in the Gospels.
“If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient anointing oil _ [sic] and receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians, then persecuting those who use cannabis could be considered anti-Christ,” Mr Bennett concludes.
Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii’s democratic congresswoman and one of many entrants in the crowded 2020 presidential race, is already turning heads thanks to her anti-interventionist foreign policy approach and progressive stance on a variety of issues, making her an outlier among establishment Democrats.
If her pre-campaign messaging and campaign launch speech are any indicator, the potential presidential contender has no intention of backing down – especially when it comes to her strong advocacy of medical marijuana and harsh criticisms of the criminal justice system and pharmaceutical industry.
Declaring her formal entrance into the Democratic Party presidential primaries, Gabbard issued a rousing call to end the for-profit prison industry, which has seen private corrections corporations rake in profits while shirking prisoners’ and immigrant detainees’ food, health care, and other essential services while exploiting incarcerated people as essentially slave labor.
“We must stand up against private prisons, who are profiting off the backs of those caught up in a broken criminal justice system,” Gabbard said.
Continuing, she added that “a system that puts people in prison for smoking marijuana while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma, who are responsible for the opioid-related deaths of thousands of people, to walk away scot-free with their coffers full.”
Purdue Pharma, the company responsible for making the OxyContin narcotic pill, was recently exposed in court filings by the Massachusetts attorney general to have deliberately conspired to mislead doctors and patients about the dangerous and addictive nature of the opioid in hopes of maximizing company profits.
“This so-called criminal justice system, which favors the rich and powerful and punishes the poor, cannot stand.”
Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran and member of Congress since 2013 who previously served as a state legislator in Hawaii and city council member in Honolulu, has long been a supporter of progressive cannabis laws and opponent of federal prohibition laws.
Last year, pro-legalization political advocacy committee National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML PAC) hailed Gabbard as a leader in the fight for criminal justice reform and the decriminalization of marijuana on a federal level.
In their endorsement of the congresswoman from Hawaii, the group laid out her extensive work demanding sensible cannabis policies:
Gabbard has also drawn a sharp nexus between the demands of Big Pharma lobbyists and continued prohibition laws. Last year, she shredded then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for rescinding the Obama-era Department of Justice memo, or Cole Memorandum, that instructed federal prosecutors to not enforce federal prohibition laws in states that legalized marijuana, characterizing the move as one which would “exacerbate an inhumane, ineffective system that tears families apart.”
“Sessions’ actions to protect the bottom lines of the for-profit private prison industry, and Big Pharma whose opioids and drugs flourish in part due to the marijuana prohibition, while trampling on states’ rights and turning everyday Americans into criminals is an injustice,” she wrote on Twitter.
And in a 2017 statement calling for an end to federal prohibition, Gabbard demanded that the government “work for people like veterans and healthcare advocates instead of pharmaceutical lobbyists who will continue to push dangerous and addictive painkillers even amidst an opioid epidemic.”
Gabbard isn’t the only contender to call out the pharmaceutical industry’s role in stalling marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform.
Recent entrant and New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillebrand has also blasted Big Pharma, noting:
“To them, it’s competition for chronic pain, and that’s outrageous because we don’t have the crisis in people who take marijuana for chronic pain having overdose issues … It’s not the same thing. It’s not as highly addictive as opioids are.”
I cover AI, cybersecurity, culture, drugs, and more.
May 8, 2017
Despite your average Shaggy and Scooby-style stereotypes, researchers believe that cannabis could actually help to sharpen our minds later in life.
Researchers at the University of Bonn and Hebrew University have discovered that low, regular doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the main active ingredients or cannabinoids found in marijuana, may help to keep our brains from ‘slowing down’ as we get older. Published today in the journal Nature Medicine, the German study revealed that while younger mice suffered a performance drop under the influence of THC, the psychoactive chemical gave older mice a considerable performance boost, even putting them on par with younger mice who’d abstained.
To test the chemical’s effect on brains of different ages, researchers put mice that were two months, one year, and 18 months old on a daily regimen of THC over the course of a month. The mice were then tested on their abilities to recognize familiar objects, and to navigate a water maze in known and new configurations.
As has been similarly observed with humans, younger animals excelled at the tests when ‘sober’ but tended to struggle significantly under the influence of THC. “Mature” and “old” mice, on the other hand, struggled with tasks as consistent with their brain ages at first, but saw a huge increase in performance with THC infusions that raised their skill level up to young-mouse (drug free) standards and continued for weeks afterward. Meanwhile, The Guardian reported, “None of the mice displayed the strange effects one might expect from doses of THC.”
“The fact that Big Pharma has been a driving force behind marijuana prohibition is hard to ignore — especially when it comes to the number of opioid manufacturers that have spent thousands of dollars fighting against medical marijuana.”
The fact that Big Pharma has been a driving force behind marijuana prohibition is hard to ignore — especially when it comes to the number of opioid manufacturers that have spent thousands of dollars fighting against medical marijuana. The plague of opioid addiction has struck the United States hard, leaving countless numbers of overdoses, deaths and destroyed families in its wake. And yet, the people who pushed these highly addictive drugs onto the unsuspecting public are suddenly playing martyr, spending nearly a billion dollars to keep opioids on the market and fight cannabis legalization, under the alleged pretense of public safety. It just doesn’t add up, does it?
Studies have shown that medical cannabis can help reduce opioid abuse and save lives, but to Big Pharma, profits are always more important than people. Indeed, if the pharmaceutical industry was actually concerned about human health, as they proclaim to be, lobbying and bribing politicians wouldn’t be at the top of their agenda. As Allen Frances, Professor Emeritus at Duke University, contends, “Recent history makes clear that Pharma owns Washington and also many state capitals. It invests twice as much on marketing and lobbying as it does on research and is much better at buying politicians than producing better products.”
In addition to helping people overcome their addiction to opioids, research has shown that medical cannabis can help prevent more addiction by providing pain patients with a safer alternative to begin with.
It’s obvious that Big Pharma has more than just keeping marijuana illegal in mind, however. Awareness about the addictive and dangerous nature of opioids is growing — and as more people wake up to the fact that Big Pharma’s opioid painkillers are deadly, the industry is undoubtedly looking to find a new cash cow.
There are many indications that Big Pharma is looking to take over the cannabis market. For example, Insys Therapeutics — an opioid manufacturer that’s come under fire for their unscrupulous marketing and sales tactics — secured DEA approval for synthetic marijuana in March.
Further, Insys Therapeutics spent $500,000 last summer to fight cannabis legalization in Arizona. Over a nine-year period, the pharma industry as a whole spent $880 million to fight cannabis reform and keep opioids flowing freely. If they actually opposed legalizing marijuana, why are they trying to patent a synthetic? The company doesn’t care about cannabis; it cares about protecting their profits.
And it’s not just Insys Therapeutics; countless companies are looking to secure their place in the marijuana market. Corporate behemoths like Monsanto and Bayer are also reportedly looking to patent cannabis.
It’s no secret that legal weed is immensely profitable; as Waking Times reports, the state of Colorado reported that their yearly sales had already topped $1 billion in October — and those sales are expected to rise dramatically as the holiday season draws near.
The race to take over the cannabis market is on and Big Pharma is doing their best to lead the charge — especially when it comes to synthetics. But, there is no synthetic that can even come close to the real plant; in fact, Big Pharma’s bogus synthetic versions of the plant may even be dangerous.
Big Pharma has had their hand in preventing cannabis legalization for years — and now, they’re trying to take over the marketplace. [Related: Read more stories about medical marijuana at CBDs.news.]
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone