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opium vs marijuana

Opium vs marijuana

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United Nations

Office on Drugs and Crime

Use of opium and cannabis in the traditional systems of medicine in India

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Author: Shri C. DWARAKANATH
Pages: 15 to 19
Creation Date: 1965/01/01

Use of opium and cannabis in the traditional systems of medicine in India

Introduction

Opium and cannabis have been employed as therapeutic agents by the Ayurveda and Unani Tibbi systems of medicine for over ten centuries. There is no direct evidence to show that these drugs were recognized by Ayurveda prior to the eighth century A.D. However, a reference in Vartika and Ashtadhyayi of Panini by Katyayana shows that bhang (cannabis) was known in India as early as the fourth and third centuries B.C. The uses of this drug have not been referred to in any contemporary works on medicine. Sushruta (surgeon, about the fourth century B.C.) stated that sura (alcohol) should be used before a surgical operation to produce insensibility to pain. Charaka – the internist prescribed the administration of one or the other of the alcoholic drinks-viz., sura, sidhu, arishta, madhu, madira or asava – to a full-term pregnant woman, after the extraction of a dead foetus, with a view to making her insensible to pain. There is no reference in the works of these authorities to the use of cannabis or opium as analgesics. This leads to the conclusion that even though bhang (cannabis) was known during the contemporary period, it was not recognized as a therapeutic agent by surgeons and physicians of those times. References too pium are not available in the Vedas, Puranas and early Ayurvedic medical classics such as Charaka Samhita (third to second century B.C.), Sushruta Samhita (fifth to fourth century B.C.), the twin works of Vagbhata (fifth century A.D.) viz., Ashtanga Hridaya and Ashtanga Samgraha.

References to both cannabis and opium appear in veterinary and medical works belonging to the twelfth to thirteenth centuries A.D. onwards. Jayaditya, in his work, Ashwavaidyaka – a treatise on the treatment of horses-makes a reference to opium. This work is considered to have been written some time during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries A.D. Sharangadhara Samhita, a compendium of therapeutics (thirteenth century A.D.), has included medicaments titrated with the fresh extract of bhang. Authoritative Ayurvedic works on materia medica such as Dhanwantari nighantu (eighth century A.D.), Madanapala nighantu (1374 A.D.) and Rajanighantu (1450 A.D.) have described the properties, actions and indications of both cannabis and opium. Bhavamishra (fifteenth century A.D.), a contemporary of Paracelsus, has in his compendium on medicine and therapeutics, Bhavaprakasha, described the properties, actions, indications and formulations of both cannabis and opium. Much later, Ayurvedic medical works have given increasing importance to these two drugs and included them in a large number of formulations.

The foregoing notwithstanding, Indian legends and traditions have associated cannabis and opium with the Shaivite and Shaktiya cults. Sadhus and yogis belonging to these cults have been known to use either cannabis or opium or both to induce concentration of mind towards meditation on the supreme being. Even so, bhang in particular, prepared in different forms, has been utilized in religious rituals by certain sections of people. In some parts of India, bhang prepared in the form of a syrup is consumed on such festive occasions as Holi and Shivaratri.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Use of opium and cannabis in the traditional systems of medicine in India Sections Details Author: Shri C. DWARAKANATH Pages: 15 to 19 ]]>