Bhang Safety | Bewitched by Currants

posted on Dec 13, 2011
Rooturaj Pattnaik
CEO of Nth Dimension. I am a programmer by profession and I lead the Internet Marketing di...


This note is for spiritual and recreational users of bhang, a traditional Indian female-cannabis-plant-based drink.  In India, where bhang is legal because of its cultic uses, it is popular during a number of Shiva festivals and especially during Holi. It is also used as a sleeping aid, as an appetite-inducer, and as an ingredient in various ayurvedic medicinal preparations.


Indeed, it is not uncommon to make bhang from various ayurvedic brands available on the market.  The question that I asked myself is, is this stuff safe? Here is what I copied down from the wrapper of one of them: नये होलो पैक में श्री भोला मुनक्का मोहित आयुर्वेदिक औषधि घटक : मुनक्का २०% शुद्ध विजय (भांग) २५% काली मिर्च ४% पिपली ४% सोंठ ५% काला नमक ५% सेंधा नमक ५% जीरा सफ़ेद २% चित्रक छाल ३% बड़ी इलायची ३% आंवला ३% हर ३% बहेड़ा ३% नीबू रस १% अश्वगंधा ४% शक्कर ५% चांदी वर्क ५% | My translation: Sri Bhola [brand] – Bewitched by Currants – Ayurvedic medicine. Contents: currants 20%; pure cannabis (bhang) 25%; peepul 4%; dried ginger 5%; black salt 5%; rock salt 5%; white cumin 2%; plumbago bark 3%; black cardamom 3%; emblic myrobalan 3%; हर (?) 3%; terminalia bellirica 3%; lemon juice 1%; withania somnifera (“Indian ginseng”) 4%; sugar 5%; silver leafing 5%. (Any insights re. हर (har)? Suggestive of हरा, green? "Verdure"?! Let me know!)


Notice the use of "vijaya" (literally, "victory") for cannabis. This usage is due to Himalayan Tantrikas (Indian and Nepali) who adhere to cannabis as the only recommended aphrodisiac. Tantric couples are ritually transformed into Shiva and Parvati, the divine couple, by consuming bhang. 


As you can see, most of the ingredients in the Sri Bhola brand are herbal, as befits ayurvedic preparations in general, but some are also mineral. Incidentally, some ayurvedic practices also include "rasa shastra," the practice of adding "purified" yet extremely dangerous metals to herbal preparations -- and this is a major source of safety concerns regarding Ayurveda, especially since in a couple U.S. studies, according to Wikipedia, roughly 1/5 of the ayurvedic concoctions tested revealed dangerous concentrations of toxic heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic). Having tried bhang myself and also given it to friends, one of whom is a kidney patient and another a liver patient, I felt compelled to verify whether this particular brand was safe to drink. Especially the "silver leafing" component -- listed as 5% of the whole -- aroused my suspicions. This is the silvery stuff often used as icing on traditional Indian sweets. Its safety has been questioned in the past.


To make sure that the brand contained no toxins, I asked a friend of mine, Deblyn Palella, to analyze the elemental composition of the potion with a cutting-edge analytcal instument: a Niton xl3t X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer.  This contraption gives you the elemental breakdown of pretty much any material within mere seconds. The results of the analysis are highly reassuring: the stuff is chemically safe!


Specifically, a total of 11 elements were detected (and silver is not one of them!).  The readout below shows the parts per million value with the statistical error.  The material looks very clean (don’t worry about strontium, sulfur and the rest: those types of elements are in your over-the-counter vitamins, too).


Duration Units Mo Mo Error Molybdenum

300 ppm 6.38 2.4

Zr Zr Error Zirconium

25.06 2.62

Sr Sr Error Strontium

36.79 1.86

Rb Rb Error Rubidium

23.97 1.68

Zn Zn Error Zinc

20.66 4.39

Fe Fe Error Iron

2086.08 55.16

Sc Sc Error Scandium

109.73 33.54

Ca Ca Error Calcium

29290.85 335.37

K K Error Potassium

25059.58 419.16

S S Error Sulfer

1333.11 139.5

Ti Ti Error Titanium

357.23 39


Below are elements that are "nondetect," which means if there is anything at all, it is below the limit of detection for the instrument:

Pb Pb Error Lead

3.01 2.54

Se Se Error Selenium

0.28 1.19

Th Th Error Thorium

2.26 1.84

As As Error Arsenic

-1.33 1.78

Hg Hg Error Mercury

2.78 2.44

W W Error Tungsten

-28.44 10.85

Cu Cu Error Copper

9.55 6.59

Ni Ni Error Nickel

-20.21 15.18

Co Co Error Cobalt

8.42 18.56

Mn Mn Error Manganese

17.96 16.72

Cr Cr Error Chromium

-54.59 13.67

V V Error Vanadium

2.41 6.98

Ba Ba Error Barium

-820.04 19.27

Cs Cs Error Cesium

-668.01 15.09

Te Te Error Telerium

-415.51 12.69

Sb Sb Error Antimony

-236.6 8.33

Sn Sn Error Tin

-191.6 7.76

Cd Cd Error Cadmium

-34.27 2.3

Ag Ag Error Silver

-19.93 1.99

Pd Pd Error Palladium

-13.73 1.74

U U Error Uranium

-3.25 3.1


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