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Michael Wood says in his documentary The Story of India first episode:

Soma is still used as a medicine in Central Asia. The active element in the plant is ephedrine, and the effect that it has, according to the Rig Veda is, well, if you take too much of it, it can cause nausea, it can be frightening, it can give you vertigo, sickness, vomiting. If you take it in the right measure, it enlivens the senses, sharpens you up, keeps you awake. The poets in the Rig Veda compose their songs often at night having drunk Soma, and, of course, Indra, King of the Gods, drinks vast quantities of this perhaps because it's thought to be an aphrodisiac as well. [...] But Soma's not an Indian plant.It doesn't grow in the humid plains. And today, it's no longer part of Hindu religion. It came from outside.

And then afterward in the documentary someone suggested that it can contain also cannabis. Someone on the PBS site asks a similar question:

What exactly was in 'soma'. First you said it was a leafless plant. Then later another man said it was a mixture of poppy, cannabis and ephedra. I am confused.

Is there any historical proof either primary or secondary other than the above mentioned that the Vedic Soma might have contained cannabis or even ephedrine?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Cannabis is just one of the candidates for soma, other candidates including fungi, namely Amanita Muscaria which seems to be the best candidate according wikipedia wisdom, and Papaver. A synonym for soma is Amrita, which is a also a synonym for the ellenic Ambrosia. There is an entire book dedicated to the topic.

There is also a free accessible online article about the complicate question.

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According to the collective wisdom of wikipedia there, Ephedra is currently deemed a much more likely candidate. – T.E.D. Aug 27 '12 at 13:32
FYI - The Indian name for it is Amrutha if that is what you are looking for. might also help you to get some more information. – Jayaram Aug 28 '12 at 17:39
@Jayaram On wikipedia they say that Amrutha is a synonym of soma. Do you know what plant corresponds to it? – Vitalij Zadneprovskij Aug 28 '12 at 19:16
everyone in India knows Amrutha as what god's drink to be immortal, but i'm not really sure where it comes from.. but if you wanna read the vedic story behind it, I can point you to some links – Jayaram Aug 28 '12 at 20:27
Wikipedia - has a good article for the basic story. There are also several versions of the same story in different south asian countries. Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Vishnu Purana although get to the same story, have different reasons why the event took place in history. – Jayaram Aug 29 '12 at 15:15

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