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An edible mixture made from the buds, leaves, and flowers of the female cannabis, or marijuana plant, bhang has its origin in India. One of the most common uses for bhang is making a drink known as bhang thandai, which also contains milk, ground nuts, and a variety of spices.
Although it has been added to food and drinks for thousands of years, it is more commonly consumed during rituals and festivals — including the famous spring festival of Holi. Bhang also plays a role in Ayurvedic medicine and is promoted as a remedy to various ailments, including nausea, vomiting, and physical pain. Though it may offer some benefits, there are also side effects of bhang you must know about.
To know more about the ill effects of drinking bhang on Holi, HealthShots spoke to Dr Dibyendu Mukherjee, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Anandapur.
After consuming a cannabis-based product, including bhang, a person’s heart rate and blood pressure increases. This is basically due to the plant’s cannabinoids which are chemical compounds. The rise in blood pressure and heart rate is like the increase caused by exercise.
After some time, as the blood pressure lowers, and the blood vessels and capillaries dilate (including the ocular veins). This dilation causes increased blood flow to the eyes, which results in the person’s eyes turning red.
Consumption of excess bhang affects the lungs similarly to tobacco smoke, causing symptoms such as increased cough, sputum, and hyperinflation. It can also cause serious lung diseases, especially if consumed for a long duration of time.
Bhang reduces the amount of saliva produced in the mouth due to its effects on the nervous system. This effect can result in an uncomfortable condition called dry mouth or xerostomia with frequent use. When consumed in large quantities, it can also cause bad breath and mouth sores.
Consumption of bhang by people with cardiovascular disease poses higher health risks. This is because bhang can increase cardiac work, catecholamine levels, carboxyhemoglobin, and postural hypotension.
Bhang withdrawals are not life-threatening and can sometimes make a person irritable. This condition lasts only for a few hours and should not be a matter of concern. Some people compare it to the feeling you get when you try to quit caffeine.
Bhang can sometimes cause learning and memory difficulties such as slowed processing speed and challenges in focusing. These symptoms can often linger for weeks. Other harmful effects of excessive consumption of bhang include insomnia, paranoia and anxiety, loss of control/impulsive behaviour, lack of psychomotor coordination, and psychosis.
In conclusion, Holi is a festival of fun and cheer, and anything that adds to its flavour is welcome. However, if you exercise a little caution and restrain yourself, especially when it comes to consumption of bhang, unfavourable incidents that may affect this enjoyable festival can be avoided.
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