The cultivation of cannabis has always been an important practice in South Asia, including vast parts of India, Nepal, and other areas surrounding the Himalayan mountains.
In the north of India, cannabis is mostly known by the name ganja. While the raw cannabis plant is grown and consumed widely in this area, the most popular form of distribution is the countless extracts, mixtures, and concentrates.
For example, there is bhang, a recipe that goes back to the second millennium BCE, consisting of ground cannabis leaves added to a milk-based drink and often topped with spices and fruit for taste. Despite strict government regulations surrounding cannabis products, dedicated “bhang shops” are still allowed to operate in India and sell this delicacy due to overwhelming demand and respect for the cultural tradition.
Charas is another one of these cannabis-based concentrates. You might have heard of it – it’s been making the rounds in the Western cannabis scene lately. But what is Charas, and why should you give it a try? Learn more about this concentrate in this blog.
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What is Charas?
Charas is one of the most ancient cannabis concentrates in the world. It’s similar to hashish in many ways and has been known as “India’s hash,” among other monikers. However, unlike hashish, charas is made from fresh, live cannabis.
Making charas is deceptively simple, and it mostly involves rubbing a bundle of fresh buds or flowers between your palms, extracting the oils and resin until you get a sticky, black consistency. The resulting charas is usually bundled up into the shape of a ball (unlike hashish, which is usually sold in cubes or blocks) and ingested using a small pipe called a chillum.
What Does Charas Smell Like?
Charas carries a strong and highly distinctive aroma, often described as very earthy and musky. It’s not too different from most other cannabis concentrates, though some might find the smell a bit overbearing or off-putting.
Can You Eat Charas?
Healthwise, it should be perfectly safe to consume charas orally. However, this is highly ineffective for recreational use, as the THC and other active compounds within the charas need to be subjected to high temperatures to activate. Therefore, to get a potent high, you need to smoke charas.
Charas is a highly concentrated form of cannabis. As such, it presents numerous health effects that will be somewhat familiar to users in their form, yet can be unexpectedly powerful in their intensity.
Charas is an excellent relaxant and is capable of providing relief for various kinds of chronic pain. Research has shown that this might also help those suffering from chronic depression or anxiety in managing their symptoms.
THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, is known for being an effective companion treatment in the fight against cancer. THC exhibits some anti-tumor properties of its own, but it is also capable of managing the side effects of conventional cancer treatments by lessening inflammation, pain, and nausea.
Charas Side Effects
Because of its uniquely high concentration, compared to regular marijuana and other mixtures like hashish, those prone to negative side effects of THC should steer clear of charas.
In some individuals prone to certain psychoses, like schizophrenia, the THC found in charas can cause seizures, panic attacks, disorientation, vertigo, and other undesirable symptoms.
Charas is also known for causing feelings of excess tiredness or fatigue, cramps, and autoimmune issues in parts of the population. Some report sudden increases in appetite (the “Weed Munchies”), though by and large – as with most of the other side effects of charas – the presence and severity of these varies a lot from person to person.
How to Smoke Charas
There are plenty of ways to consume charas, but by far, the most authentic is to smoke it via a chillum, the traditional instrument used for this specific purpose for thousands of years.
When using a chillum, the charas is clumped into a small ball and placed at the bottom of the chillum pipe, where there is a slightly flared bell section. This is also called the chillum bowl, and by holding the chillum with the ball of charas in it carefully and igniting a small flame simultaneously, you can safely inhale the resulting vapor.
Of course, you don’t have to smoke charas purely the traditional way. Some may find the ergonomics of the chillum tricky to get used to, while others simply won’t be able to find any for sale where they live.
Thankfully, charas is physically very malleable, and with an ounce of creativity, you can smoke it in a joint or a blunt, with or without the addition of tobacco.
Is Charas Legal?
Despite its centuries-long history, it might be surprising to hear that the law on charas in its native India is still pretty tough.
The Narcotics, Drugs, and Psychotropic Substances Act, a landmark law passed in 1985, is the most recent legal precedent on recreational drug use in the country, and it explicitly made concentrates like charas illegal nationwide.
Almost all cannabis products fall under the law’s definition of a prohibited psychotropic substance, except for raw cannabis leaves and seeds.
Some cannabis mixtures and concentrates, like the bhang mentioned earlier, represent an exception and continue to be sold in government-sanctioned stores. However, charas is not one of these.
Cultural Significance of Charas
It’s not just the practice of making and consuming charas alone that is one of India’s most ancient traditions. The concentrate also has amassed serious levels of cultural capital, being intertwined with religious and folkloric practices and rituals from the very beginning.
Hindus, which number about a billion people, or 80% of the Indian population, associate the god Shiva with a holy love and appreciation for ritual cannabis consumption. Some Hindus who choose to devote themselves to the worship of Shiva specifically consume charas as part of their religious rites.
During Holi, one of the most ancient Hindu holidays still celebrated today, consuming potent cannabis derivatives like charas is commonplace and is in fact encouraged to lift the spirits and encourage a festive mood!
Types of Charas
While all charas is distinctive thanks to its appearance, aroma, and uniquely high potency, not all charas is the same. In fact, there are many different varieties and types of charas, and in this section, we will explore some of the most noteworthy ones to give you a clean and helpful overview.
Kerala Gold, or Idukki Gold
It’s not just two: this charas variety goes by many different names, including Neela and Mahadevan. However, its most well-known moniker derives from its origin in the Idukki province of the Indian state of Kerala.
Kerala Gold’s notoriety comes from its high potency, with a THC content of over 35%. In the decades leading up to the 1985 Narcotics Law in India, it was widely smuggled both within the country and across borders, lending it international prestige.
In recent years, Malana Cream has become more than just the most sought-after strain of charas – at this point, it’s basically a synonym for any high-potency charas recipe worldwide. The Parvati Valley, where Malana Cream originates, has become a mecca of sorts for cannabis enthusiasts worldwide.
Malana Cream generally exhibits a THC content of about 40 to 42%, extremely high than most other variants. However, some distinct types of Malana Cream have evolved over the years, each with its own distinctive tastes, strengths, and weaknesses.
In the high altitudes of the Himalayas, the cultivation of cannabis is easier and more widespread than nearly anywhere else in the world. Here, in the small village of Rasol, a particular type of Malana Cream charas has been developed, which is notable for its reddish color and fruity taste.
Grahan Cream is greenish and often a bit chewier than other charas varieties. Despite a THC count in the twenties, lower than many other kinds of Malana Cream, it remains potent in other ways.
Grahan Cream is often advertised as a stimulant and is said to exhibit more of the mood-lifting properties of cannabis than many other strains. At festivals and parties, Grahan Cream may be combined with other cannabis products at festivals and parties to induce a state of euphoria.
Tosh Ball is a charas strain of medium potency that has a nearly pitch-black outward appearance with patches of green or brown on the inside. It’s mostly used as a relaxant and provides a calming effect to the user. Some find Tosh Ball difficult to consume as it is somewhat strong in taste and can be harsh on the throat and lungs.
Nagaru Cream has drawn lots of fans through its distinctive appearance alone – despite the misleading name, not many other varieties of Kerala Gold actually look like a block of brilliant precious metal, but this one does!
Compared to other strains, Nagaru is quite potent, being very high in oils and resins, and is known for causing strong hunger attacks.
At first glance, Waichin Cream, with its greenish sheen and smooth appearance, might remind you of a block of some kind of lozenge – and you wouldn’t be too far off, actually! Whereas other strains of Malana Cream can be quite harsh to ingest, Waichin Cream clears up the throat and lends an aura of freshness to the taste of charas.