Indian Hemp(Cannabis Sativa)

Botanical Name :Cannabis sativa
Family: Cannabaceae
Genus:     Cannabis
Species: C. sativa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Rosales

Indian name:Bhang or Ganja
Correct name: Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. spontanea (Vavilov) Small & Cronq.
Synonym: C. ruderalis Janisch.
Habitat : The Original plant was native to Western and Central Asia.It has been cultivated since ancient times in Asia and Europe.  Hemp grows naturally in Persia, Northern India and Southern Siberia, and probably in China. It is largely cultivated in Central and Southern Russia. It is sometimes found as a weed in England, probably due to seeds from birdcages, as they are much used in feeding tame birds. The drug that is official in Europe comes from Bogra and Rajshabi, north of Calcutta, or sometimes from Guzerat and Madras. It is called Guaza by London merchants.

Cannabis sativa is an herb that has been used by humans throughout recorded history for its fiber, for its psychological and physiological effects, and for the nourishment of its oil-bearing seeds. Different parts of the plant have different uses, and different varieties are cultivated in different ways and harvested at different times, depending on the purpose for which it is grown.

The plant is 1 to 5 meters high. The hem plants provids three types of products namely : fibre from the stems, oil from the seeds and nacrotic from the leaves and flowers.

The plant is an annual, the erect stems growing from 3 to 10 feet or more high, very slightly branched, having greyish-green hairs. The leaves are palmate, with five to seven leaflets (three on the upper leaves), numerous, on long thin petioles with acute stipules at the base, linear-lanceolate, tapering at both ends, the margins sharply serrate, smooth and dark green on the upper surface, lighter and downy on the under one. The small flowers are unisexual, the male having five almost separate, downy, pale yellowish segments, and the female a single, hairy, glandular, five-veined leaf enclosing the ovary in a sheath. The ovary is smooth, one-celled, with one hanging ovule and two long, hairy thread-like stigmas extending beyond the flower for more than its own length. The fruit is small, smooth, light brownish-grey in colour, and completely filled by the seed.


A multiple-use plant, furnishing fiber, oil, medicine, and narcotics. Fibers are best produced from male plants. In the temperate zone, oil is produced from females which have been left to stand after the fiber-producing males have been harvested. Leaves are added to soups in southeast Asia. Varnish is made from the pressed seeds. Three types of narcotics are produced: hashish (bhang), the dried leaves and flowers of male and female shoots; ganja, dried unfertilized inflorescences of special female plants; and charas, the crude resin, which is probably the strongest. Modern medicine uses cannabis in glaucoma and alleviating the pains of cancer and chemotherapy. More resin is produced in tropical than in temperate climates. Lewis lung adenocarcinonoma growth has been retarded by oral administration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol, but not by cannabidiol. (J.N.C.I. 55: 597-602. 1975). The delta-9 also inhibits the replication of Herpes simplex virus.

Hemp seeds are often added to wild bird seed mix. In Europe and China, hemp fibers are increasingly being used to strengthen cement, and in other composite materials for many construction and manufacturing applications. Mercedes-Benz uses a “biocomposite” composed principally of hemp fiber for the manufacture of interior panels in some of its automobiles. Hemp cultivation in the United States is suppressed by laws supported by drug enforcement agencies, for fear that high THC plants will be grown amidst the low THC plants used for hemp production. Efforts are underway to change these laws, allowing American farmers to compete in the growing markets for this crop. As of 2006, China produces roughly 40% of the world’s hemp fiber and has been producing much of the world’s Cannabis crop throughout much of history.

Hemp (the seed) may be grown also for food. The seeds are comparable to sunflower seeds, and can be used for baking, like sesame seeds. Products range from cereals to frozen waffles. A few companies produce value added hemp seed items that include the oils of the seed, whole hemp grain (which is sterilized as per international law), hulled hemp seed (the whole seed without the mineral rich outer shell), hemp flour, hemp cake (a by-product of pressing the seed for oil) and hemp protein powder. Hemp is also used in some organic cereals. Hemp seed can also be used to make a non-dairy “milk” somewhat similar to soy and nut milks, as well as non-dairy hemp “ice cream.” Within the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) treats hemp as purely a non-food crop. Seed can and does appear on the UK market as a legal food product although cultivation licences are not available for this purpose. In North America, hemp seed food products are sold in small volume, typically in health food stores or by mail order.


Hemp seeds are notable as a high-protein food source, providing 73% of the Daily Value (DV) in a 100 g serving.  Hempseed amino acid profile is comparable to other sources of protein such as meat, milk, eggs and soy. Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score values (PDCAAS), which measure the degree to which a food for humans is a “complete protein”, were 0.49-0.53 for whole hemp seed, 0.46-0.51 for hemp seed meal, and 0.63-0.66 for dehulled hemp seed.[9]

Hemp seeds are also a rich source of the dietary minerals, magnesium (160% DV), zinc (77% DV) and iron (53% DV), and a good source of dietary fiber (13% DV).

Approximately 73% of the energy in hemp seeds is in the form of fats and essential fatty acids, mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids, linoleic, oleic and alpha-linolenic acids.

Harvesting the fiber:
Smallholder plots are usually harvested by hand. The plants are cut at 2 to 3 cm above the soil and left on the ground to dry. Mechanical harvesting is now common, using specially adapted cutter-binders or simpler cutters.
Hemp Stem

The cut hemp is laid in swathes to dry for up to four days. This was traditionally followed by retting, either water retting (the bundled hemp floats in water) or dew retting (the hemp remains on the ground and is affected by the moisture in dew moisture, and by molds and bacterial action). Modern processes use steam and machinery to separate the fibre, a process known as thermo-mechanical pulping.

Hemp seed also contains 20% complete and highly-digestible protein , 1/3 as edestin protein and 2/3 as albumins. Its high quality Amino Acid composition is closer to “complete” sources of proteins (meat, milk, eggs) than all other oil seeds except soy .

The ALA contained in plant seed oils by itself is sufficient for nutrition, as the body is capable of converting it into other fatty acids. However, this conversion process is inefficient, and the broader spectrum of omega-3 fatty acids obtained from oily fish is easier for the body to immediately utilize (see fish and plants as a source of Omega-3).

In India, plants remaining in the field after harvesting for fiber are allowed to set seed. They are cut after the fruits are ripened and dried and threshed for seed collection. Grown solely for seeds, an average crop yields 1.3 to 1.6 MT/ha seed. The world low production yield was 288 kg/ha in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the international production yield was 613 kg/ha, and the world high production yield was 3,842 kg/ha in People’s Republic of China.

Most varieties contain cannabinol and cannabinin; Egyptian variety contains cannabidine, cannabol and cannabinol, their biological activity being due to the alcohols and phenolic compounds. Resin contains crystalline compound cannin. Alcoholic extracts of American variety vary considerably in physiological activity. Per 100 g, the seed is reported to contain 8.8 g H2O, 21.5 g protein, 30.4 g fat, 34.7 g total carbohydrate, 18.8 g fiber, and 4.6 g ash. In Asia, per 100 g, the seed is reported to contain 421 calories, 13.6 g H2O, 27.1 g protein, 25.6 g fat, 27.6 g total carbohydrate, 20.3 g fiber, 6.1 g ash, 120 mg Ca, 970 mg P, 12.0 mg Fe, 5 mg beta-carotene equivalent, 0.32 mg thiamine, 0.17 mg riboflavin, and 2.1 mg niacin. A crystalline globulin has been isolated from defatted meal. It contains 3.8% glycocol, 3.6 alanine, 20.9 valine and leucine, 2.4 phenylalanine, 2.1 tyrosine, 0.3 serine, 0.2 cystine, 4.1 proline, 2.0 oxyproline, 4.5 aspartic acid, 18.7 glutamic acid, 14.4 tryptophane and arginine, 1.7 lysine, and 2.4% histidine. Oil from the seeds contains 15% oleic, 70% linoleic, and 15% linolenic and isolinolenic acids. The seed cake contains 10.8% water, 10.2% fat, 30.8% protein, 40.6% N-free extract, and 7.7% ash (20.3% K2O; 0.8% Na2O; 23.6% CaO, 5.7% MgO, 1.0% Fe2O3, 36.5% P2O5, 0.2% SO3; 11.9% SiO2, 0.1% Cl and a trace of Mn2O3). Trigonelline occurs in the seed. Cannabis also contains choline, eugenol, guaiacol, nicotine, and piperidine (C.S.I.R., 1948-1976), all listed as toxins by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. A beta-resercyclic acid derivative has antibiotic and sedative properties; with a murine LD56 of 500 mg/kg, it has some aritiviral effect and inhibits the growth of mouse mammary tumor in egg embryo (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962).

Medicinal Uses:

Part Used:  The dried, flowering tops of the female, or pistillate plants.

Constituents: Cannabinone or Hemp resin is soluble in alcohol and ether. Cannabinol is separated from it. It is fawn-coloured, in thin layers, and burns with a clear, white flame, leaving no ash. This is the active principle. There is a small amount of ambercoloured volatile oil, one of the linseed-oil group. It has been resolved into a colourless liquid called cannabene, and a solid hydride of this.

It is said that a volatile alkaloid has been found in the tops, resembling nicotine. It also contains alcoholic extract, ash, and the alkaloid Choline.

The principal use of Hemp in medicine is for easing pain and inducing sleep, and for a soothing influence in nervous disorders. It does not cause constipation nor affect the appetite like opium. It is useful in neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, delirium tremens, insanity, infantile convulsions, insomnia, etc.

The tincture helps parturition, and is used in senile catarrh, gonorrhoea, menorrhagia, chronic cystitis and all painful urinary affections. An infusion of the seed is useful in after pains and prolapsus uteri. The resin may be combined with ointments, oils or chloroform in inflammatory and neuralgic complaints.

The drug deteriorates rapidly and hence is very variable, so that it is best given in ascending quantities to produce its effect. The deterioration is due to the oxidation of cannabinol and it should be kept in hermetically-sealed containers.

The action is almost entirely on the higher nerve centres. It can produce an exhilarating intoxication, with hallucinations, and is widely used in Eastern countries as an intoxicant, hence its names ‘leaf of delusion,’ ‘increaser of pleasure,’ ‘cementer of friendship,’ etc. The nature of its effect depends much on the nationality and temperament of the individual. It is regarded as dangerous to sleep in a field of hemp owing to the aroma of the plants.

Non-users may suffer muscular incoordination (9 of 22 persons), dizziness (8), difficulty concentrating (8), confusion (7), difficulty walking (7), dysarthria (7), dry mouth (7), dysphagia (5), blurred vision (5), and vomiting (1), following oral ingestion of THC disguised in cookies (MMWR, October 20, 1978). People working with the plant or the fiber may develop dermatitis. In larger doses, hemp drugs may induce catalepsy, followed by coma and DEATH from cardiac failure (C.S.I.R., 1948-1976).

Narcotic Uses:As a narcotic hemp is consumed as a beverage in India. It is more often used in smoking for euphorbic purposes.

Folk Medicine
Medicinally, plants are tonic, intoxicant, stomachic, antispasmodic, analgesic, narcotic, sedative and anodyne. Seeds and leaves are used to treat old cancer and scirrhous tumors. The seed, either as a paste or as an unguent, is said to be a folk remedy for tumors and cancerous ulcers. The decoction of the root is said help remedy hard tumors and knots in the joints. The leaf, prepared in various manners, is said to alleviate cancerous sores, scirrhous tumors, cold tumors, and white tumors. The plant is also used for mammary tumors and corns (C.S.I.R., 1948-1976). Europeans are said to use the dregs from Cannabis pipes in “cancer cures” (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962).

Few plants have a greater array of folk medicine uses: alcohol withdrawal, anthrax, asthma, blood poisoning, bronchitis, burns, catarrh, childbirth, convulsions, coughs, cystitis, delirium, depression, diarrhea, dysentery, dysmenorrhea, epilepsy, fever, gonorrhea, gout, inflammation, insomnia, jaundice, lockjaw, malaria, mania, mennorhagia, migraine, morphine withdrawal, neuralgia, palsy, rheumatism, scalds, snakebite, swellings, tetany, toothache, uteral prolapse, and whooping cough. Seeds ground and mixed with porridge given to weaning children.

Precautions:Excessive consumption of hemp is physically and mentally harmful.If consumed for a long time , it causes loss of appetite and gastric derangement. Hemp drugs act chiefly on the cerebrum wherein they resemble the action of alcohol or opium.

The information presented herein  is intended for educational purposes only.Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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