- Relatively unknown until quite recently, the therapeutic properties of cannabis are gaining popularity and acceptance in the Western world.
- In other cultures, however, this plant has been traditionally used as a remedy for several ailments.
- In Ayurveda, for instance, a form of traditional medicine that has been practiced in India for hundreds of years, cannabis is used for healing purposes. Keep reading to find out more!
What is Ayurvedic medicine?
Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of the Indian subcontinent, a therapeutic system that respects the body's regenerative capacity and that, beyond the physical aspect, understands mental health as an inseparable part of the diseases people suffer from. Ayurvedic doctors believe that the physical body, the psyche and the soul of the patient are closely interwoven and influence one another, that is, a holistic approach according to which you can't cure the body if the mind and spirit are not in balance.
Ayurveda is therefore a method that focuses on treating the body, mind and spirit while promoting guidelines on a healthier lifestyle, an essential part of disease prevention according to this ancient system.
Based on ancient healing techniques that rely mostly on the use of plants and plant products such as neem or marijuana, Ayurveda understands people as being dominated by three elements - vata, pitta and Kapha - the balance of which is essential for their health. It is when there is an imbalance in this equation that disease occurs.
Cannabis in Ayurveda
Marijuana is mentioned in Ayurvedic medicine texts dating back to the XVth century. The plant was referred to as 'vijaya' or 'siddhi' and has a long history of use in Ayurveda. Yet it is regarded as a toxic, highly narcotic substance and is only prescribed occasionally and with very clear intake instructions. In fact, Ayurveda believes that continued cannabis misuse coarsens the soul.
As already pointed out, Ayurvedic medicine regards cannabis as a narcotic substance, particularly the resin, which is used to produce a sort of hashish known as 'charas'. But resin is not the only part of the plant used in Ayurveda, the leaves and stems are also a common ingredient of herbal remedies used to improve digestion or as a pain reliever, a sedative, an antispasmodic and even an aphrodisiac.
Which diseases does Ayurveda treat with marijuana?
Ayurvedic medicine uses cannabis - along with other components - to treat various diseases, each of which involves a different form of preparation and administration to enhance the effect:
- Hypertension: The so-called Bhang (a cannabis based beverage) is used as a treatment for high blood pressure. That said, this is a remedy that should be used on an occasional basis only, with Ayurveda contemplating other cannabis free recipes for long-term treatments.
- Glaucoma: Bhang is used to reduce intraocular pressure and for occasional stimulation of the nervous system.
- Cannabis as a diuretic: Cannabis juice is employed to reduce bladder inflammation and for the removal of kidney stones.
- Cannabis as a healing substance: The powder obtained from the dry, mashed leaves of cannabis is applied on open wounds to speed up the healing process.
- Skin infection: Fresh cannabis leaves poultices are utilised for treating skin infections and ailments such as rash, irritation and herpes as well as to provide relief from itchy and painful skin.
- Lack of appetite and digestive issues: in combination with digestive herbs, Bhang is used to ensure the proper functioning of the digestive system.
- Sexual dysfunction: In combination with other aphrodisiac herbs and certain foodstuffs (almonds, sesame seeds…), Bhang makes a powerful aphrodisiac and is often consumed by brides during their wedding night. That said, Ayurvedic medicine makes it clear that cannabis used for such a purpose should be taken in low doses and on an occasional basis only in order to avoid the exact opposite effect.
- Cannabis as an appetite suppressant: As pointed out in other articles, cannabinoids have a bimodal effect or, to put it another way, they exert completely opposite effects when combined with other substances or when administered at different doses. Ayurvedic medicine has been aware of this for hundreds of years, developing recipes that combine cannabis with tobacco and act as appetite and libido suppressants.
- Mental illness: The resin of cannabis is used occasionally to treat psychiatric conditions and the so-called 'charas' are employed as a remedy for insomnia.
Using cannabis the right way according to Ayurveda
Ayurvedic medicine believes that just as cannabis is useful in the treatment of various diseases, misuse leads to the deterioration of the body and soul. According to this ancient system, the long-term use of cannabis alters the three basic forces that govern the body and mind: vata, pitta and kapha. As a result of these imbalances, the cannabis user may suffer from digestive problems, depression, lack of sex drive and tiredness. Interestingly, this traditional medicine has been aware for centuries of many of the facts that are being demonstrated in current scientific studies.
Ayurvedic medicine regards cannabis as being toxic for the body and mind and recommends against its recreational use. Instead, it is conceived as a healing element of therapeutic remedies that should never be administered in isolation, but in combination with other herbs and components. Further, the dosage and the frequency of use must be determined by an Ayurvedic doctor and be strictly followed by the patient.
According to this ancient method, any medicinal substance that is properly used becomes a healing element, whereas if misused it can turn into poison.
Cannabis and the mistaken intellect
The mistaken intellect or 'Pragya aparadh' is regarded as the source of all the illnesses the body can suffer from, that is, an imbalance in the psyche that leads to physical distress. According to Ayurvedic wisdom, when the intellect is in a state of confusion, the body experiences an alteration in the state of 'pure awareness', triggering the disease. Under this theory, the long-term use of cannabis could lead to the so-called 'mistaken intellect'.