Ayurvedic Cannabis? Does Marijuana have a place in Ayurveda - Ayurveda | Everyday Ayurveda

Ayurvedic Cannabis? Does Marijuana have a place in Ayurveda

By on April 27, 2016
Ayurvedic cannabis

Ayurvedic Cannabis? Does that even exist? What every patient should know about healing with cannabis-

Here in California (pre legalization) we refer to using marijuana euphemistically with words like: medicate or heal. For instance you might say:

I always keep my medicine with me; I never know when I might need to heal

or 

The brownies in the fridge are medicated

It is a bit of a joke for those that use marijuana recreationally, and dead serious for people who use marijuana to manage symptoms of medical conditions. The reality of marijuana as medicine is an interesting one, and considering how widespread marijuana use is, worth consideration from an alternative health perspective.

The legitimacy that marijuana currently enjoys is due to the medical marijuana movement and is both heartening and discouraging to those of us who practice healing sciences. As an Ayurvedic practitioner & marijuana grower I met at an Ayurveda conference said:

Marijuana is a gateway medicine to holistic, especially herbal, medicine!

My clinical practice, consultations with patients of a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco, and personal experience indicate this is a ‘medicine’ that needs some management to actualize its healing potential and justify the medical nomenclature.

Ayurveda says- Everything that exists can be medicine.

Cannabis is no exception. It is considered the least problematic of the ‘intoxicant’ substances; a poison which can be used to great benefit by humans.

It is in the tradition of the great texts of Ayurveda to approach complex and appealing substances first with pages of glowing praise followed by so many warnings and restrictions that only the most intrepid would not be daunted. This is the pattern I will follow in this article.

Vijaya: The Conqueror

Sanskrit synonyms for cannabis imply its potency for transformation:

  • Soother of grief
  • The sky flyer
  • The poor man’s heaven
  • Vijaya or victory in conquest, and a dozen other glowing euphemisms. Cannabis Sativa is indigenous to India; the earliest known cultivation dated 900BC.

The positive qualities of marijuana facilitate conversation, encourage social relationships, support physical awareness, highlight a deep enjoyment of life, and elevate social contact, art, and pleasure above other (perhaps less important) pursuits. These characteristics allows cannabis to be very effective where depression and isolation are primary concerns. As is testified to by the prevalence of cannabis in poorer communities all over the world, cannabis proffers grace to living in adverse circumstances.

Today in India cannabis is used in spiritual practice and rituals, taken as a sacrament on specific holidays, for use on an ascetic path, as a training aid to wrestlers, and until the last century, quite broadly used medically and recreationally by various levels of society.

Cannabis is found in over 80 traditional Ayurvedic formulas, several of which are available in pharmacies in India today. It is effective for:

  • Pain
  • Digestive disorders
  • Dysentery
  • Sexual prowess, and a dozen other medical uses known to ancient Ayurveda.

The Qualities of Cannabis-

The qualities inherent in the herb are responsible for its actions in the body include: heating (ushna), drying (ruksha), and astringent (kshaya–due to it’s bitter taste). It penetrates the tissues quickly (tikshna) and has the quality of lightness (laghu).

  • Heat increases digestive ability and relaxes the tissues to relieve pain and anxiety. But heat can also cause trouble with the blood and liver with long-term effects seen also on skin and connective tissue integrity.
  • Dry and astringent qualities can benefit glaucoma, swelling, and diabetes symptoms, but lead to constipation and dehydration of the skin (and other organs).
  • Dry, hot and penetrating qualities have a long-term negative impact on our reproductive tissue (shukra dhatu) and vitality (Ojas in ayurvedia-ese) —especially diminishing energy levels, ability to heal, and reproductive strength (yes; that means sexual depletion). Overuse can lead to dry, weak, brittle tissues that are no longer are able to do their jobs.
  • Holding (grahi) is a quality that helps the body hold onto nourishment and increases assimilation (useful for IBS etc). This holding quality effects sexual performance in men by delaying orgasm, but at the same time cannabis increases sexual awareness and drive. Perhaps this complex effect on sexuality is due to another quality that encourages the proper flow of liquids in the body (atisara).
  • The qualities of ‘drunkenness’ (madam) and distortions of sense perceptions (moham) are noted.
  • Cannabis is also known to enhance the actions of the herbs it is used with.

Contemporary use extends the list of things that can be treated with cannabis to things like support during chemo treatment, relief from seizures, sleep problems, and PTSD. Weekly I hear of new ways that cannabis can be applied to the ills of the modern world. I find that those who are medicating for physical problems often take a proactive approach to their medicine. They regulate when and how they medicate, and with what sorts of flower strains, concentrates or edibles.

The Bad and the Ugly of Cannabis

In balance-based traditions like Ayurveda, benefits must be supported by proper use. The stronger a medicine the more dramatically its qualities affect the body. Cannabis is strong medicine;  it is considered a poison. Cannabis can be hard to manage medically and is not for everyone. Wise use is based on moderation, processing and delivery methods, and staying alert to its effects both good and bad.

What is not mentioned in the ancient texts is that the cannabis plant is seductive compared to other herbs. Cannabis is enjoyable and compelling in ways that stop the patient from heeding negative effects. A Materia Medica of Indian herbalism published in 1941 does warn of the long-term effects of cannabis use. It is noted that it will lead to:

  • Indigestion
  • Tissue depletion
  • Melancholia and impotence

In large doses it first produces:

  • Mental exaltation
  • Intoxication
  • A sense of double consciousness
  • Loss of memory
  • Gloommess (sic) etc.’

*THE INDIAN MATERIA MEDICA WITH AYURVEDIC, UNANI-Tibbi, Siddha, allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic & HOME REMEDIES. 1941. R.N. Chopra.

Unwanted Effects of Cannabis-

Unsavory effects that I’ve seen in my practice (with chronic users) include problems arising from the blood (and other tissues) being depleted by the drying, penetrating heat and inherent instability of the herb. Symptoms you might look for include:

  • Reddish and dry skin
  • Skin problems (either long term or temporary sensitivity to irritants)
  • Varicose veins
  • Easy bruising, and thinness of skin

On a mental level symptoms include-

  • Over-sensitivity to stimulus
  • Consequent irritability
  • Stubbornness (indicate that Rasa Dhatu is affected)
  • Memory and focus are well known victims to long term use.
  • Sleep and digestive problems can be well managed with cannabis; but can be exacerbated by it too.

These symptoms of misuse can be seen in the short term and are reversible with proper use and herbs, diet and lifestyle that balances these qualities. Long term implications will vary along these lines based on the strengths and weaknesses in individual patients.

Many of these symptoms are made worse by smoking as the qualities of smoke are heating, penetrating, drying etc. Healthy edible forms of cannabis are a good choice.

With classical Indian use of cannabis the herb (in many instances the whole plant and not just the high intensity flowers that we now use) is processed first in water for 24 hours, dried, then ‘decarbed’ in ghee (fried gently). The herb is then used (as with all Ayurvedic herbs) in formulas that balance the nature of marijuana have been used successfully over many generations. Even when used for recreational or spiritual purposes (rather than strictly medical) the herb is taken with other herbs or foods to make it more assimilable and less damaging to the body.

Extensive use will increase doshas or organizing principles of the body (especially Vata & Pitta). There is an easily seen effect of erosion of all tissues (dhatus) when used chronically. In combination these actions will have problematic long-term implications. All sorts of disorders can manifest when the doshas are increased and the tissues are weakened.

Cannabis and the Mind-

Beyond the effects of cannabis on the body are its effects on the mind. There are 3 characteristics of the mind in Ayurveda: tamas (delusion and lethargy), rajas (over-activity), and sattwa (calm, clear awareness). Cannabis increases tamas and rajas when not used properly and ‘clogs’ the mind. This is generally not a permanent condition and can be corrected if you follow a healthy protocol with use.

I urge strong caution to those with mental health challenges or a history of mental health problems in the family. I have seen too many tragedies in this regard. However, I strongly feel that proper and moderate use can have great benefits for some mental health challenges like mild depression (especially based on isolation and social disease), ADHD and related issues. There is increasing evidence that Asperger’s symptoms can be made more manageable with correct use.

Forms used-

Cannabis is taken in 3 different forms in India. As the attitude towards cannabis has fluctuated greatly over time in India (largely due to Muslim and British colonizers) these definitions have morphed over the years depending on what is ‘legal’ and what is available.

  1. Bhang is generally leaves cured in a specific way and typically boiled with milk and spices.
  2. Chara is resin, akin to kif or hash.
  3. Gangha is flowers, usually taken for pleasure but also made into many different medicines. Seeds and roots are used in some formulations as well.

It is good to remember that these forms of cannabis are far less potent than what is easily available in the US either on the street or in state licensed dispensaries.

How to Medicate with Cannabis-

I have cross-pollinated my Ayurvedic knowledge of cannabis with a harm-reduction philosophy and this has lead me to develop a basic guideline to healthy(er) use.  This guide is helpful for those who are medicating regularly for physical complaints, to take the place of more dangerous drugs (both over the counter and illicit), or as a stress relieving measure.

Ayurvedic Cannabis Tips-

  • Balance cannabis with other herbs and foods which have qualities and actions opposite to marijuana. Focus on cooling, moistening, stable, nourishing, mind and Ojas supporting foods and herbs. Avoid ingredients that are too heavy for you to digest. As always, eat what is freshly prepared, cooked, and enjoyed with love and pleasure.
  • Always choose outdoor grown and organic varieties for the best long-term medication. Indoor grown plants are usually full of chemicals and have limited medicinal use.
  • Modest Edibles are best. Medicinal use of cannabis in Ayurveda is always in edible form and often made into a confection. Our body must sustainably processes things that we eat and digest. Keep an eye out for organic healthy edibles or make them yourself.
  • Milk balances the negative qualities of cannabis quite effectively and counters the tamasic (lethargic)  and rajasic (aggressive) qualities with the sweet, conscious, alert quality of a Satvic mental  state.
  • Traditionally bhang is made by boiling leaves in milk with dates, sugar, saffron, cardamom, rose petals, and almond meal. Yum!
  • Ghee (clarified butter) is used in the traditional purification of cannabis. The freshly dried herb is fried lightly in ghee to bring out it’s healing properties. Ghee is the ideal oil: it increases your ability to digest and assimilate nourishment, it supports vitality and reproductive health, it keeps your tissues strong, cool (balances the burning heat of cannabis), protects the eyes and skin, and will give you an appealing glow! In my opinion no one should use cannabis and not have ghee regularly in their diet.
  • Satisfy cravings with grounding, nourishing, and moistening foods: Rice, oatmeal, raisins (counter dryness and constipation) and dates (supports reproductive health), fresh baked breads, cooked veggies, limited meat, and no fast food (or canned, bottled, frozen, dehydrated, microwaved, or left-over foods). The hot, dry, light quality of cannabis is balanced by the grounding, cooling and moistening effect of naturally sweet things like milk, dates, or sweet potatoes. When the munchies strike they tell us something about what our body needs; just remember to give it the healthiest version available!
  • Spices with cooling digestive qualities help your body get the most from what you eat and enhance the experience of eating. Try: cumin, coriander, fennel, cilantro, turmeric, anise, saffron, rose.
  • If you must smoke:  grind your cannabis with a pinch of powdered herbs like fennel, vacha (calamus), sandalwood, jasmine, saffron, licorice, jatamousi (indian spikenard), sasparilla (American or Indian) etc. Western herbs to try are mullein, catnip, or mugwort.
  • Pomegranate Juice is perfect for medicating. It quenches thirst and refreshes but is also great for the digestion and removes waste liquids from the tissues. It is especially good for people who tend to get swollen or bloated or have any history of parasites. Natural grape juice is also a good choice to help you stay hydrated.
  • Coconut water (ideally from an actual coconut) is best for people who’s digestion is strong and perfect for athletes or those who work with their body.

About Eden Tosch

Eden Tosch is a Registered Ayurveda Clinician. She has practiced yoga for over 10 years and is especially inspired by knowledge gained from studying Scaravelli, Shadow, and Kundalini styles. Her practice is informed by undergraduate and graduate studies focused in Cultural Studies and Social Psychology and an abiding interest in spirituality and social justice. Learn more at www.edenayurveda.com

21 Comments

  1. Epblues@rcsaccess.net'

    Edwin

    March 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Good

  2. ay99999@gmail.com'

    Om

    May 6, 2014 at 3:06 am

    Everything you say seems right, the only thing I would like to point out is that there is risk involved in most methods and herbs. The important thing about Cannabis is that it should be used in edible form, and that a person must not eat anything that day before or after. He can drink water/milk, but he must not eat. For most benefit he should hold fast for 24 hours before taking Cannabis in Edible form. But why bother with all this? because Cannabis opens up doors, subtle body, mind, life force are all more perceptible, and thus allows a patient to heal in ways which he has no access to, both physically and mentally, but also psychically.

    • edentosch@gmail.com'

      eden

      May 20, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      interesting. Where is your information from? Is that a yogic tradition? I have not heard of it in ayurved.

  3. rajkamal123@gmail.com'

    Raj Kamal

    June 9, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Very informative ! Could you please elaborate the process of boiling Cannabis leaves in milk? As in quantities of all the ingredients and for how long should we boil it? Is it safe to make its powder and boil it with milk before using it everytime? How much quantity one should take for balancing vata or treating anxiety? How should we take it – with cold or warm milk? Is there any easier way to store it rather than boiling it everytime?p

    • edentosch@gmail.com'

      eden

      May 20, 2016 at 10:38 pm

      HI– There are thousands of bhang recipes floating around the internet. I do not know them well enough to comment on their relative benefits or specific ingredients.

      But from an energetic (Ayurveda & western-influenced) perspective the leaves and flowers of organically grown cannabis can be simmered in whole organic milk for @20 minutes with some nourishing herbs and flavors, a bit of sugar and ghee. Almond and saffron are traditional and ayurvedicaly sensible additions. Rose and sandalwood will also be good. Drink it warm as that will be easiest to digest (and as always follow the milk consumption rules). Boiling it every time is best. Remember that ayurveda says consume all foods freshly prepared!

      CBD strains could be suitable for everyday– but I would avoid doing this on a daily basis with heavy THC strains– it coud actually aggravate your vata/anxiety. Low doses of 2-5 mgs THC are where you should start.
      Some strains are also better than others for anxiety. You will have to try different ones till you find one that works for your needs.

      Cannabis can increase Vata– but that is why you use it with milk and ghee, almonds and mild spices etc.

  4. manuelalejandro272727@gmail.com'

    manuel

    July 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Hola Yo la fumo en la mayoria de veces. Tengo un problema serio con acne. como mejorar? Me ayuda mucho en aspecto psicologico y el dolor de columna por un problema de escoliosis. Pero me preocupa el acne, no me desaparace. ayuda por favor. gracias.

    Hello I smoke it in most times. I have a serious problem with acne. How I can improve? It helps me a lot on the psychological aspect and spine pain for scoliosis problem. But I worry about the acne, not cure me and I’ve tried everything. please help. Thank you.

    • Jacob Griscom

      July 10, 2014 at 11:39 am

      Hola Manuel. Quiero hacer referencia a nuestra clínica socio para ayudar con esto: http://www.everydayayurveda.org/professional-ayurvedic-consultation

    • edentosch@gmail.com'

      eden

      May 20, 2016 at 10:18 pm

      HI Manuel– see the recommendations about protecting your body from the negative aspects of cannabis in my response to Ahlmeirah below. These habits will be good for you. And yes– also talk to a practitioner about specifics for your body.

  5. Pingback: Canna-Coitus A-Go-Go: Research on Sex & Marijuana Stagnate Since the 80s | Cannabis Now Magazine

  6. bhaveshmehta344@yahoo.co.in'

    bhavesh mehta

    December 11, 2015 at 10:24 am

    I wanted to know whether 80 year old person diagnosed with Alzimer decease can be treated with Cannabis oil?….what is the method of treatment? Pls reply it is very urgent…thanks

    • stephenholmes@fastmail.com'

      Stephen

      March 27, 2016 at 4:27 am

      Bhavesh – the 80 Year old with Alzheimer would be best treated for vitiated Vata.

    • shukra69@yahoo.ca'

      s

      April 20, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      YES try high CBD low very low THC edible product

    • edentosch@gmail.com'

      eden

      May 20, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      If it improves the quality of life do it. I agree with s’s comment below– a low dose edible with lots of cbd is a good way to start. But if smoking or vaping suits the patient more try that. There is much more to gain then to lose.

  7. stephenholmes@fastmail.com'

    Stephen

    March 27, 2016 at 4:24 am

    Ayurveda doe’s not look upon Cannabis as positive at all. It imbalances all the Doshas, is toxic to the blood and liver, destroys ones Ojas and historically it was never noted of any importance. A poor mans heaven is not a glowing euphemism – anything but. Many Cannabis users mistake their euphoria for Spiritualism – a false spiritualism that is often derived from an imbalanced mind, body & soul. Little or no attention to diet, lifestyle, Yoga or meditation. Just a few puffs and one achieves instant Moksha (Liberation) – this is what is meant by A Poor Mans Heaven. It is a low energy substance and a great deceiver!

  8. sirisadhanasingh@gmail.com'

    rr

    March 28, 2016 at 11:12 am

    Nice to see an article that has at least some practical advice on cannabis use both recreational and medicinal balanced by dietary and herbal means. I don’t think it is realistic to expect a large portion of people who enjoy cannabis use to quit it, so it is helpful to have health-promoting information, rather than the standard dogma and puritanism seen on Maharishi Ayurveda or Gaia’s articles.

    • edentosch@gmail.com'

      eden

      May 20, 2016 at 10:13 pm

      Harm reduction is the way to go in KaliYuga!

  9. kurt.hansen@yahoo.com'

    Kurt

    April 2, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    Go into more depth by googling CBD vs THC. The article doesn’t mention, but they have quite different effects.

    • edentosch@gmail.com'

      eden

      May 20, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      they do– but it is the western perspective that they can be seperated. They are contained in the same plant and until recently would have existed in similar quantities in the plant (not the hyper-thc strains we get now).

  10. Pingback: Ayurvedic Cannabis? Does Marijuana have a place in Ayurveda? | Just me and my thoughts :)

  11. ahlmeirah8@spamarrest.com'

    Ahlmeirah Ariel Hallaire

    May 20, 2016 at 3:04 am

    I have been taking CBD oil 4% for about 6 months to help me with the symptoms of PTSD: insomnia, high levels of anxiety and emotion, chronic state of being alert. I have found it very helpful. My emotions are more even, I sleep much better and am not feeling stressed all the time.
    Reading this article was a bit worrisome. I had not realised it could be so unbalancing. I have a Vata-Pitta constitution and lead a balanced lifestyle with oil massage, pacifying diet, yoga and meditation and rest. In the last few weeks I noticed some bruising that is arising spontaneously. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can balance this effect? Many thanks

    • edentosch@gmail.com'

      eden

      May 20, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      Easy bruising is related to blood tissue (rakta dhatu) and there is a lot you can do to support Rakta. I would need to know more about your lifestyle and how you eat to really make specific recommendations. But generally if you do the following you will help Rakta to provide liveliness and vitality to the body:
      1. eat only freshly prepared food. Avoid leftovers, and canned, bottled, boxed, or frozen foods. These foods lack prana and will sap the body of strength and energy. Make food fresh (or eat at places where you know the food is made from scratch).
      2. use fresh herbs and spices in your cooking. it doesn’t really matter which ones. Just use them. They assist in digestion in various ways and good digestion will lead to healthier tissues.
      3. Don’t overdo salty and sour or fermented flavors. Sour flavors include lemon, vinegar, any fermented beverages or foods. These flavors are heating and (usually) damaging to Rakta. A light squeeze of lemon over sauteed broccoli is great. A quart of lemonade (fresh or otherwise), a day, is not. Yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, olives, pickles etc are to be used only in small quantities. If you crave these flavors it is a sign that your blood is crying out for help.
      4. Do yourself a favor and find some bitter foods you like. Bitter melon is great sauteed with beef or in chicken soup (don’t cook it in the soup! Saute it and add to the broth.). Endive, collards and many other bitter greens are sooo good cooked with slivers of high quality bacon. Bitter is a flavor lacking in the western palette and it is the one that supports a healthy liver and blood function.

      these recommendations will help your whole body be stronger and more balanced and also balance the specific effects of the cannabis.

      I think it is also interesting to consider what form of CBD are you taking. The process that you put the plant though will effect the qualities your body picks up from it. A process that involves heat in the manufacture or consumption will be more heating to you. Sometimes heat makes things easier to digest/absorb/assimilate due to the addition of agni (or fire). But too much fire can cause trouble and cannabis is already heating and drying and penetrating. Cold water hash, or trim cooked with milk and herbs like they do in India is a much more nourishing form then BHO dabbed. Alcohol tinctures are different again. Alcohol is a visha (poison) too and not the best formula for many (though it’s qualities would be great for those who need more fire). For most people an oil infusion (in coconut oil or ghee) would be balancing (unless the digestive fire is very weak).
      I could go on… let me know if I have not been clear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Receive Everything Ayurveda In Your Inbox. Free!
Subscription and Privacy: Our free weekly newsletter is sent every Wednesday, and it's filled with our newest Ayurveda articles and resources.Your information will never be shared or sold to a 3rd party.
Green Smoothie pop-up
GYAB Webinar pop-up
Non-fat kitchari pop-up
Ayurveda Test pop-up
Ayurveda Test pop-up
VA: Reading Pop-Up
VA: Tutoring Pop-Up
Poop Sheet Pop-Up
GheePop-Up