CBD has been used in the East since before the West could pronounce the word 'cannabidiol.' Since 2737 BC, the first-ever instance of cannabis-use was reportedly by Chinese Emperor Sheng Nung, who would infuse his tea with cannabis. In Ancient Syria, it's reported that cannabis was used in certain shamanic rituals. In Ancient India, bhanga, a cannabis-infused drink, which is still taken today, was imbibed for similar reasons, all for the sake of that captivating balancing effect that would be used in rituals and help build a sense of community.
Cannabis was no stranger to the ancients. Before colonisation came about (in other words, before the West began to steal resources from the East), cannabis was utilised for its potential to assist in Eastern practices and rituals.
Cannabis In The West
But first, let's discuss how cannabis, or marijuana, became painted in the West. While the East was incorporating cannabis into daily life, the West found itself cultivating industrial hemp for fabric and trade. When cannabis became a recognised drug during colonisation, it wasn't until the mid-twentieth century that recreational cannabis use truly reared its head in the West.
In fact, the vilification of cannabis has become a reasonably modern phenomenon, accompanying 'The War on Drugs' in America, in which cannabis was increasingly demonised as a harmful recreational drug by the mid-20th century. This popularisation sank its claws into the media, science, and word-of-mouth and, with the help of western propaganda, became quickly and effectively associated with Mexican and African-American communities. So deep-rooted was this association with drugs and the disenfranchised that the rhetoric around the 'War on Drugs' started to label 'marijuana'- the Spanish word for cannabis- as an insidious danger to society.
'The War on Drugs' was responsible for the mass incarceration of disenfranchised black and brown people, as well as their disproportionately long prison sentences. Between 2001 and 2010, 88% of imprisonments were due to the possession of marijuana.
But while possible advancements on cannabis' role in the world have been set back by its sullied reputation, so much that it is only recently that small advancements have been made in our knowledge of the individual cannabinoids. The East has since furthered their efforts to incorporate cannabis into a prolific range of avenues, such as spiritually.
This article will focus on two main holistic pathways, both stemming from the East, both rooted in the spirit of balance and centring, aided by CBD's centering effects.
Known as the oldest healing science, Ayurveda in Sanskrit means 'the science of life’. The practice of Ayurveda isn’t just limited to India; all the principles of homeopathy rely on ayurvedic knowledge. But what exactly is involved in an ayurvedic practice?
Well, in Ayurveda, everything relies on balance. When factors such as illness, stress, or trauma hit, they are thought to cause an imbalance of certain theoretical energies in the body, which must be nullified. Once the imbalance is nullified, we are restored to health. This is done by using three modes of energy: vata, pitta, and kapha, which the ancient Indians believed existed in everybody. Any external imbalance in the body or mind is thought to be caused by an excess, or deficiency, in energy. In Ayurveda, it is believed that this is the cause of all ailments.
The Three Energies
Associated with movement, from the pulse of the heart, to blinking, to shifting an arm, to the movement in and out the cell membranes. When in excess, vata is thought to cause an overflow of fear and anxiety, but, when balanced, it is supposed to ensure the individual is creative and nubile.
The body’s metabolic system is thought to be controlled by pitta. So anything to do with digestion, absorption, and excretion is purportedly pitta energy at work. An imbalance of this type of energy can cause anger and irritation. When balanced, it can allegedly make you calm, intelligent, and collected.
Essentially, this energy is the ‘glue’ holding the body together and ensures everything is kept synchronised. It is the lubrication which causes all the cells to function, the bones and tendons which connect and form the body. The reason for good immunity is also reportedly down to a good balance of kapha energy. Imbalance of this energy incites greed, jealousy, and attachment. When balanced, kapha is responsible for love and forgiveness.
Ayurveda relies on the concept that ailments are caused by an excess or deficiency of one or more of these three energies. What’s more, everyone is born with a unique ratio for these three energies. So, Ayurveda doesn’t just resolve to ensure that the energies within the body stay balanced. It attempts to restore the right balance of energies specific to each unique individual. Some people are said to have excess vata, while some might be kapha or pitta types. Ayurvedic texts will point out specific features or habits which might help a practitioner determine which energy, if any, an individual is inclined towards. This will be taken into account in the overall process.
Ayurvedic Practice and Panchakarma
Balancing these energies and, essentially, engaging in Ayurvedic practice, is usually straightforward. The practitioner will assess a patient’s ailment through a series of questions, accompanied by a physical exam. Since Ayurveda is a holistic practice, lifestyle and diet changes are usually the way of ayurvedic treatment. Often, natural herbs and supplements are introduced into the diet- turmeric, ashwagandha, giloy, and even black pepper are all components included in an ayurvedic diet. Lung cleansing and blood purification such as kundalini pranayamas (or yogic breathwork) are often recommended. Yogic Kriyas are also part of an essential introduction to the ayurvedic lifestyle; who knows, you may be incorporating Ayurveda into your life already, without even realising it!
Typically, a five-step procedure known as panchakarma is often recommended, although it often depends on a person’s body type and ailment. This consists of five different methods claimed to purge and purify the body:
Vamanam (for kapha imbalances)
Also known as ‘supervised vomiting,’ which must always be monitored by trained therapists under safe conditions. This method is thought to eliminate excess mucus caused by ailments like bronchitis, psoriasis, and coughs/colds.
Virechanam (for pitta imbalances)
Therapeutic laxatives said to purge the body of stomach ailments.
Asthapana (for pitta imbalances)
A colon insertion of specialised herbs said to relieve gut problems, aid digestion, and prevent or treat constipation.
Nasyam (for vata imbalances)
Inhalation of medicated oils during a sweat-inducing massage. This is thought to detoxify, purify, and aid sinus relief, while also helping to aid in the prevention of migraines and respiratory diseases.
Anuvaasan (for vata imbalances)
An oil enema said to help prevent diabetes, reduce obesity, anemia, arthritis, and restore gut health.
As foreign as these five forms of detox might sound, in ayurvedic practice, they are the main ways to cleanse and purify the body. Many people have reported their own experiences concerning the purported benefits of panchakarma (no doubt many more will follow). These detox methods will usually be accompanied by advice on how to achieve a balanced and harmonious lifestyle. Yoga, a meat-free diet, and supplements, will all be part and parcel of panchakarma (it’s more than just vomiting into a bucket!)
This is where many people find CBD to be particularly useful as a self-care supplement to infuse into their individual lifestyle regimen. Since CBD has the ability to centre and balance the body, skin and mind, the ideologies which link ayurvedic panchakarma (the process of restoring energy-balance) to CBD (which can balance the body and mind) are hefty. We at MANTLE have an easy-to-use CBD oil to infuse into your morning, to assist you with overall balance.
Ayurveda and Cannabis
Since Ayurveda and cannabis have been used and utilised in India for centuries, it makes sense that the two might combine. Cannabis is one of the five essential plants in the Vedas (ancient Indian scriptures) purported to balance and centre the mind and body. Since ayurvedic principles are all about balance, it makes sense that cannabis might be a plant used in ayurvedic practices.
Typically, cannabis is incorporated into three primary ayurvedic forms: bhang, chara, and gangha.
Bhang is a cannabis drink, where the dried up leaves are infused into cow’s milk (or curd, in which case, you have a bhang lassi) with the addition of herbs such as saffron, black pepper, cardamom, and sugar. The drink reportedly comes with some balancing effects. Chara is typically more concentrated, often smoked, and originates from the dried resin on the cannabis leaves. It’s said to help one unwind. Gangha are the cannabis leaves, often chewed, purported to come with some harmonising properties.
Typically, the cannabinoid THC (also found in cannabis), is said to incite an imbalance in vata energy. Debate has circulated over whether the cannabis plant is truly useful in ayurvedic practice, due to its disruptive, psychoactive tendencies. Remember, the effects of cannabis are distinct from those of CBD, as cannabis includes all cannabinoids from the plant, including THC. However, that side of the cannabis plant shouldn’t be of too much concern to us here. Let’s focus on the incorporation of CBD (which, to reiterate, will not leave you intoxicated) in an ayurvedic lifestyle. CBD, and its balancing effects on the body, can potentially aid in recentring.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Another form of Eastern holisticism is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). As with Ayurveda, TCM is centuries old, and is said to have originated in the Shang Dynasty (15th-11th centuries BC) via ancient writings on walls. These writings documented that most ailments were due to a stagnation or deficiency in the flow of qi and xuė in the body. During the 19th century, more Chinese people migrated to the American West for railway jobs, bringing knowledge of TCM to the West, and with it a deeper understanding of what the ancient Chinese (much like the ancient Indians) believed to be deep-rooted energy imbalances which cause illness, depression, and dysfunction.
Much like Ayurveda, TCM is a practice designed to both cure illness and prevent it. Much like acupuncture, TCM works on balancing energies to ensure well being of the body and mind. From cupping, to acupuncture and herbal teas, TCM is a versatile practice; designed to assist with a range of maladies.
The Four Key Principles of TCM
The Body Is a Whole
TCM works with the concept that the mind, body, and spirit are interconnected. It is essentially believed that mental and physical well being are intertwined.
The Body is Self-Healing
Much like how nature can repair itself (think about the ecosystem when humans aren’t tearing it apart), TCM believes that the body fixes itself.
The Body is Connected to Nature
Any change in season, weather, or external circumstance outside our body is represented in our internal state. The body is a part of nature and is reflected as such.
Prevention Is The Best Cure
TCM relies on preventing illness as much as curing it. If the body is susceptible to constant change in the environment, the body’s wellness must be monitored and looked after. Thus, healing is a continuous process.
TCM also relies on balancing the body, attempting to maintain good health instead of simply curing illness when it crops up. This sense of harmonious balance is what the ancient Chinese practice refers to as the harmony between yin and yang.
Yin, Yang, and Qi
A Taoist philosophy, which has formed the building blocks for TCM, the idea of yin and yang can be translated into the duality and balance of energy in the body. Yin-yang essentially means dark-bright in English, and it relies on the ancient idea of opposite energies needing each other in order to work properly. There are four states of imbalance: excess/deficiency of yin, and excess/deficiency of yang. Typically, yin is found in the lower body, and yang in the upper body.
Everything which is yin relates to everything which is yang, but without Qi (energy) nothing can exist. Qi is believed to be energy in the body, which shifts and manifests into literally everything. Qi is responsible for yin-yang and, when it isn’t flowing properly, it can manifest into disharmony.
TCM in Practice
There are a few main practices thought to regulate balance between the body and surroundings. As in Ayurveda, these treatments are dependent on the individual, but typically involve:
The most typical and popular form of TCM, acupuncture is thought to regulate yin-yang in the body. Acupuncture typically involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin with fine needles in order to promote the flow of Qi. It is believed to hold a host of benefits, including easing chronic pain, joint pain, migraines, and various other musculoskeletal conditions.
Another popular form of TCM, cupping therapy, is believed to be a way to stimulate the flow of Qi in the body by carefully suctioning the skin. It can be used as a way to promote blood-flow for massage and self-care purposes, but has been purported to ease inflammation and chronic pain.
This is a specific type of acupuncture, which involves heating specific points of the body by burning herbs close to the skin. Usually, this herb will be mugwort, said to promote aches and pains by stimulating the flow of blood and qi. Typically, this method has claimed to ease tension, promote digestion, ease fatigue, and boost the immune system.
Other forms of TCM include tai chi, massage, herbal remedies and teas, and certain other movement exercises (yin yoga typically relies on pushing and moving Qi to the connective tissues by holding long, deep stretches).
TCM and Herbs
Modernity suggests the same is true in TCM: the psychoactive nature of THC promotes imbalance, which is everything that TCM goes against. Furthermore, a holistic practice which promotes perceptive response to the external world might not agree with the numbing, psychological effects THC can have on the senses.
However, the research field has sparked some interesting harmonies between CBD and acupuncture; both promote balance in the body, with some experts stating that the two might even complement each other when it comes to centreing the body and mind. Similarly, taking CBD with some traditional Chinese herbs (thought to promote blood flow and provide the even flow of Qi in the body) such as ginseng, ginger, cinnamon, and astragalus have purportedly had the potential to balance and centre the body and mind in the same way that a few drops of CBD in your morning latte have been proven to do.
Eastern Medicine and Herbs
CBD and holistic Eastern medicine, in principle, seem to go hand-in-hand due to their mutual promotion of balance and centering of the body and mind. There is no isolated approach to Eastern therapeutic practice; the body and mind are seen as a whole, a collected, spiritual vessel. Above all, CBD, TCM, and Ayurveda prioritise a sense of self- you can switch up your CBD dosage to suit your needs, and incorporate the right kind of ayurvedic or traditional Chinese practice (be it pranayama, acupuncture, yoga, cupping, herbal teas, or panchakarma) to restore yourself accordingly- holistic therapy isn’t a ‘one size fits all.’ And whether you agree or disagree with Ayurveda, TCM, or CBD, it’s hard to dispute the worldwide balance that CBD has been credited with bringing across cultures.
Since the West is beginning to discover more facts about the centering properties of CBD, as well as the balancing effects of Eastern holisticism, it begs the thought: perhaps there’s more to Eastern practices than what meets the eye.