Charas is a cannabis extract that originated in southern Asia. The word charas comes from the Persian term for a piece of leather.
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A late-nineteenth-century article explains that charas derived from cannabis was stored in leathern bags. It can also be called "finger hash." And if you’re in Asia, you may hear it referred to as hash or hashish.
The confusion stems from the Western idea that charas specifically refers to hand-rubbed cannabis resin and hashish refers to sieved resin. In Asia, the word charas is often used to describe cannabis resin in general. In fact, hash, hashish, and charas can be used interchangeably in some situations.
As usual, when it comes to cannabis, there is no international standard for the language referring to its strains or products. So for the purpose of this article, charas will refer to an extract that is made by hand-rubbing the resin from a living plant that is still 2-3 weeks away from maturation.
A ball of charas. Source: Public Domain
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Charas is made by rolling the resin from trichomes so that the resin separates from the plant matter and melts into a sticky, malleable, tar-like substance. The final product can look like a stick or a ball. When rolled into a ball, charas can be called a “temple ball.”
Charas can be smoked in a chillum, a special conical pipe used traditionally by Hindu monks and holy men in India. Alternatively, it can be rolled into a spliff or joint, smoked out of a bowl, or dabbed.
The Religious Significance of Charas
In the Hindu religion, cannabis is closely associated with Lord Shiva, one of Hindu’s three major gods. Examining one of Shiva’s names—Soma—may explain why weed is one of the god’s most well-known accessories. The name Soma means intoxication.
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However, it is not believed that Shiva requires weed to be intoxicated. Rather, Shiva is the symbolic manifestation of intoxication. He represents mindful bliss. Some say that mindful cannabis use can allow people to experience that type of enlightenment.
During festivals celebrating Shiva, cannabis is often consumed. Bhang, a drink made with milk and cannabis is a featured in these celebrations. Charas is also frequently smoked out of a chillum by holy men. Many of these pot-smoking holy men are ascetics.
While some may associate cannabis use with a certain degree of pleasure-seeking, even hedonism, Hindu ascetics who consume pot do so to ward away desires for the worldly possessions they have given up as a part of their spiritual practice.
How Charas is Made
The process of making charas is long and messy. It can be a meditative experience for those who are willing to slow down and truly enjoy the tactile experience and the burst of aromatics released during the rubbing process. However, it is not an ideal extraction process for those who are afraid to get their hands dirty. Charas is made by covering the hands with cannabis resin.
It takes many plants to make just a gram of charas. In India, charas makers will simply head to a field where wild cannabis runs rampant. It isn’t necessary to pull the plants out of the ground, though that may make the process more convenient. Ideally, young plants are selected.
The buds of cannabis plants that are 2-3 weeks away from maturation tend to contain higher levels of THC.
The leaves of the young plants are removed from the stems so that only cannabis buds remain. Then, while still attached to the stem, the buds are rubbed between the palms. Imagine picking a handful of flowers, stems and all, placing the bouquet in between your palms, and rubbing the flowers and stems into your palms. That’s what rubbing cannabis buds to make charas looks like.
The buds will disintegrate and fall to the floor as they are rubbed, but a sticky, dark green or nearly black substance will begin to coat the palms.
This is the resin separated from the trichomes on the flower, and it is loaded with cannabinoids and terpenes. The smell is powerfully fragrant. The more resin collected on the palms this way, the more charas can be made.
Once the palms are coated with a thick layer of resin, a sheet, newspaper, towel, or other clean surface is placed on the charas maker’s lap or work table. The resin is rubbed off of the hands and onto the surface as the palms are brought together in a forceful, circular motion.
Tiny flecks of dark brown, green, or black resin will collect on the surface. Once all of the resin has been removed from the hands and deposited on the surface, the charas maker can squeeze and roll the pieces together to begin to form a ball or stick.
How to Consume Charas
Charas can be smoked in a chillum or a bowl. It can also be rolled into a joint along with a well-ground cannabis flower. Including cannabis flower in the joint will ensure a slower and more even burn. Alternatively, it can be rolled into a spliff. Those who wish to avoid smoking charas can vaporize it with a dab rig the way that any cannabis concentrate can be dabbed.
Charas is a concentrate, so it will pack a powerful punch. If the charas was made from cannabis strains containing high levels of THC and myrcene, it will likely produce a powerful body high.
If consuming charas for the first time, go low and slow. To avoid overconsuming THC, use a small dosage of the extract and give yourself a couple of hours in between each dose.
Record how the dose you chose made you feel so that you aren’t tempted to smoke more than your body can handle or so that you can increase the dosage if you weren’t satisfied with the effects.