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What Is Charas Cannabis Concentrate?

April 4, 2017
(Flickr Creative Commons)
Cannabis, also known as ganja, grows wild throughout Northern India, with particular prevalence along the foothills of the Himalayas. Although it is considered illegal in most parts of the world, certain forms of cannabis, most notably bhang, a cannabis and milk mixture, are sold in government-sanctioned shops with great popularity.


What Is Bhang? A History Lesson and a Recipe

The Cultural Significance of Charas

Another popular form of cannabis, known as “charas,” plays an important cultural role in India. In the Hindu religion, the god Shiva is known for his love of cannabis, and cannabis is widely used during the Hindu festival of Holi. Shaivs, a sect of Hinduism devoted to worship of the Lord Shiva, smoke charas freely as part of their religious practice.

In modern practice, young professionals and sadhus, or religious ascetics, continue to use charas regularly, usually by smoking it out of a small clay pipe called a chillum. Before lighting the pipe, they will often chant the many names of Shiva. The Shiva sahasranama is a “list of a thousand names” exalting Shiva in his many forms.


A Gift From the Gods: The History of Cannabis and Religion

Unlike the edible cannabis-based drink bhang, charas is a hand-rolled form of hashish that is smoked rather than ingested in a drink. One of the similarities between the two most popular forms of cannabis available in India is that they both require freshly harvested cannabis vs. cannabis that has been dried and cured, as is the standard in Western culture.

Charas is similar to hash in that they are both concentrated forms of cannabis, but hash is generally created with dead, dried cannabis flowers, while charas is created using fresh cannabis buds a few weeks from full maturity.


5 differences between cannabis concentrates and flower

The Origin of Charas

View of Parvati Valley.

The cannabis acquired to create charas is usually sourced from Northern India, typically in the Parvati Valley, Malana, and Kashmir regions, where ganja plants grow wild in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.

From the Parvati Valley, a local hashish known as Malana Cream is known for its high THC content and requires at least twice as much time to create the same amount. Malana Cream commands a high price in India, not only for its potency, but also due to the inaccessibility of Malana cannabis. Malana is in the Himachal Pradesh region, which is known for its abundance of cannabis. However, due to the area’s lack of access roads, cannabis must be gathered and transported by hand or mule, making it a prominent cash crop.

Another well-known charas is Kerala Gold, also known as Idukki Gold or “Neelachadayan,” famed for its high-potency content. Idukki Gold became famous after a 2013 Indian film of the same name, which follows five friends who set out on a journey to find Idukki Gold, the first strain of cannabis the friends tried in their youth.

In reality, Idukki Gold is no longer as prevalent as it once was in Kerala region. Crops were burned in police raids, and what cannabis was left has been crossbred with local plants to create a new strain, “Sheelavathi,” which is more suited to grow in the region’s climate. The local strain may be sold as Idukki Gold, but the quality is inferior and yields low-potency cannabis containing about eight percent THC.


The Cannabis Origin: What Is a Landrace Strain?

How to Make Your Own Charas

To make your own charas, the process is quite simple, albeit a bit messy:

  • From a cannabis plant that is 2-3 weeks from full maturity, pick a handful of cannabis flowers
  • Trim the excess leaves from the cannabis buds, but leave a portion of the stem
  • Slowly begin to rub the buds between your palms.
  • As the flower releases oils and THC, gradually increase your hand motions
  • Use your thumb to press the oils against your palm
  • The plant material will secrete a black, tar-like substance
  • Continue rolling the charas ball until it stops secreting oils

The highest quality charas requires much patient and slow, careful hand movements. The faster you rub the charas between your hands, the more resin will be lost in the process. During hand-harvesting, one might easily make 8-9 grams of charas in a day, but if you want the highest quality charas, it’s necessary to go much slower.


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The process is sticky and resinous, and your hands will likely become blackened with resin. If you’re hoping to avoid sticky hands, you might consider wearing latex gloves, or you can easily clean the mess off your hands with heavy-duty dish soap.

Once you have formed a ball of charas concentrate, it can be either placed in a pipe or chillum to be smoked, or it can be mixed with tobacco and rolled into a spliff, another popular form of cannabis consumption in India.

Have you ever tried charas concentrate? Would you consider making charas from your own cannabis plants?

Lisa Rough's Bio Image

Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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  • James Tripp

    If this is made from a raw plant that has not been cured, then there is
    very little THC in the chara due to the fact that the THCa has not been
    decarboxylated into Delta9 THC which would occur during the smoking
    process and is probably why they do not eat this particular form of

    • Two Bears

      Not true. It is better to decarboxolated but you can get high as a kite without decarboxalation.

      Bhang drink famous in India

      I put a dose of MMJ in my smoothie with fruit juice, whey protein and frozen berries. This was fresh ground buds 0 decarboxalation but in 20 minutes i was walking funny.

      I have heard that lecithin some times causes decarboxalation but everything in the smoothie was ice cold

  • Glen Urquhart

    Charas = Finger Hash

  • Alan479 Martin

    The name charas is hardly used these days in northern India Himachal. Hashish is still the name that all resins go under. Prices can still be high if you don’t bargain hard. Hashish from the Himachal is highly prized in areas south like Goa.and it can fetch good prices from the tourists there as it’s considered the luxury smoke.

  • Dee

    Clean off with heavy dish soap…..hahahahahaha.

    • Steven

      Butter works better. Works to remove pine resin as well.

  • Joe

    Hay they are running out stories to write, so now we are ready recycle stories with the alternative names of marijuana. Fact no one can get higher that the limits of his brain. When you hit you limits one of two things will happen, you consumer marijuana and nothing else happen it is you limit or you fall to sleep and may wake up with a mayor headache. So concentrate marijuana is just as strong as the person resistance. By the way cheap low quality marijuana take more marijuana to make a concentrate the will be worth buying. That mean high THC marijuana make stronger concentrate with less marijuana. That mean creating concentrate from low quality(low THC) cost more. So do not believe that anyone will spend more to get less. The THC content is the key to quality product creation.

    • Two Bears

      Not all people use Marijuana to get high.

      I have a love/hate relationship with the plant.

      I love that it controls the curse (Crohns duseasee) but despise getting high.

      The first few times i smoked or vaporized it for Crohns i got hellish trips as if i was at tge bottom of a well and the well was being filled burying me alive. Since then i HATE the high.

      Now i mske tinctures out of shatter or kief, and micro dose the minimum cannabinoids to keep my gut healthy.

      I only use 13.2-16.5 milligrams a day.

      If you enjoy getting high. Thats your thing.

      My thing is keeping the curse much like the crazy relative that only gets to come out 3-4 times a year

      • You should consider trying CBD. It could be worth looking into since you don’t like the high.

        • Two Bears

          I did get a CBD tincture it helped. But CBD with low to moderate thc helps much more.

          • Ah bummer. Being high at the wrong time definitely can be annoying. I hate being high during the day. I get nothing done

          • Two Bears

            I found micro dosing to be the solution.

            13-16 mg is all I need to keep my gut health in line (MMJ PATIENT FOR CROHNS) my micro dose is enough to keep me healthy but dont get high. I am just calm and relaxed for 60-90 minutes and can go about my day

  • Danny Hall

    This is a waste, obviously curing and drying the weed is the way to go, I dont need to say anything else…