Cannabis (bhaïga) is a tall herb with broad, spear-shaped, serrated-edged leaves and which gives off a strong odour. The plant is known to botanists as Cannabis sativa. In ancient India cannabis fibre was used to make ropes, mats and cloth (D.II,350; Vin.III,256). Monks were not allowd to wear robes made out of cannabis.
Smoking dried cannabis leaves or ingesting the resin from its flowering tops, has a dramatic effect on the cardio-vascular and the central nervous systems. In small amounts it imparts a sense of well-being and relaxation and in higher amounts causes sensory distortion, an altered sense of time, short-term memory loss, hallucinations and sometimes toxic psychosis. For centuries, certain sects of Hindu ascetics have smoked cannabis believing that they are able to commune with øiva while under its influence, although taking cannabis for its hallucinogenic effect is mentioned nowhere in the Tipiñaka. From the Buddhist perspective, taking cannabis would be breaking the fifth Precept.
Like many people before and since, the Buddha recognized the medicinal value of cannabis and he recommended it as a cure for rheumatism. The patient should be placed, he said, in a small room filled with steam from a tub of boiling water and cannabis leaves (bhaïgodaka), and inhale the steam and rub it on the limbs (Vin.I,205).See Sauna.