Medicinal Importance Of Bhang (Cannabis Sativa)

Bhang is the ancient medicinal herb, famous with names of Marijuana Indian hemp, Ganja. The scientific name of the plant is Cannabis Sativa.

By Ammara Akhtar, Athar Mahmood     


It belongs to the Cannabaceae family. Bhang is known to be an annual herb with erect stem grows up to 3 to 10 feet or more than this and slightly branched with greyish green hair. The current climatic and economic scenario pushes toward the use of sustainable resources to reduce our dependence on petrochemicals and to minimize the impact on the environment. Plants are precious natural resources, because they can supply both phytochemicals and lignocellulosic biomass.

Cannabis as a narcotic:

Cannabis and its constituents are subject to the Narcotics Act, i.e. ownership, cultivation, dealing, import and export are prohibited. The main ingredient THC (Dronabinol) as a medicine licensed or as a prescription drug for the treatment of nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss for cancer and AIDS patients. The Federal Ministry of Health announced a reclassification of cannabis extract as a prescription drug for 2004 but later decided against it. Thus, the contradictory situation persists that the main component (THC) which is almost exclusively responsible for the addictive qualities of the plant, is legally available as a prescription drug whereas preparations from the whole plant (Cannabis) are not.

Herbal Cannabis Products in Medicine:

Several pharmaceutical drugs based on cannabis, in purified and standardized form, have been made available for medical use. However, the use of herbal cannabis in medicine remains highly controversial. In part because of the lack of standardization among products to ensure safe and consistent dosing and in part because of disagreement over legalization. In the United States, for example, while the cultivation, possession, and consumption of cannabis is illegal, some states have enacted laws that legalize the use of herbal medical cannabis specifically. Examples of products were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration includes cannabidiol (CBD), an active ingredient in cannabis, and certain synthetic cannabis-like drugs, namely dronabinol and nabilone. While the use of herbal medical cannabis is permitted in some European countries, it is illegal in the United Kingdom. The latter does, however, permit the prescription of a cannabis-based drug known as nabiximols (Sativex).

Use of Medical Cannabis:

Medical cannabis as the use of cannabis under ongoing medical supervision, with an established diagnosis of the target symptom-disease complex.  In conjunction with, or in consideration of, other pharmacological and nonpharmacological approaches and with the goal of reaching prespecified treatment outcomes herbal cannabis is used.  The results of randomized clinical trials have suggested that cannabis may be useful in the management of a variety of conditions, including pain, spasticity, nausea, anorexia, and seizures.

Effectiveness of Medical Cannabis:

Medical cannabis is most frequently administered either by smoking or vaporization or in the form of edible preparations. The effectiveness of edible cannabis preparations has not been evaluated in clinical trials. Smoked cannabis has been evaluated in a small number of randomized controlled trials involving patients suffering from neuropathic pain conditions. In each of the trials, patients experienced a reduction in pain intensity at THC concentrations of 3.9 percent or higher. As the placebo condition  a zero percent THC dose have been used. This formulation was created with cannabis from which all cannabinoid substances had been removed by alcohol extraction. Adverse events from these studies were mild to moderate and included drowsiness, dizziness, and dry mouth. No serious or severe adverse events were reported.

Medical Precautions:

A major safety concern associated with medical cannabis is the possibility of medical use encouraging or transitioning into recreational use, which is associated with side effects that range from acute to chronic. Acute effects include intoxication, impaired cognition and motor function, elevated heart rate, anxiety, and psychosis in predisposed individuals. Chronic effects include bronchitis (from smoked cannabis), psychological cannabis dependency, loss of motivation, and cognitive deficits. By and large these effects seem to disappear on abstinence. Medical cannabis users have advised by physicians not to use tobacco, either alone or mixed with cannabis. They also have advised not to drive or operate machinery while initiating or changing doses and if impaired by the drug.

Authors:  Ammara Akhtar, Athar Mahmood  University of Agriculture Faisalabad

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