POST CATEGORY: Highly Likely

Chinese Emperor Shen Nung: Cannabis Pharmacologist?

December 03, 2015 | PacerStacktrain

Over 4,000 years ago, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was a pharmacologist long before the term existed.

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In this burgeoning, amazing age of Cannabis legalization in America, it can be easy to forget just how taboo it was to admit to being a consumer of this plant even a few years ago. That’s why we want to highlight amazing Cannabis pioneers throughout history.


Some 4,500 years ago, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung (or Shennong) was considered to be both the founding father of Chinese agriculture as well as herbal medicine. Nung wrote some of the oldest known records of herbal medicine and is called the Father of Chinese medicine.

highly-likely-dec-2015-quote.jpgOf course, the herb we’re most interested in here would be Cannabis. And no matter which way you twist it, the earliest written records of human consumption of Cannabis resides with Shen Nung in “The Herbal,” which is the earliest Chinese text concerning human use of herbs for medicinal application. Cannabis is referenced in “The Herbal” for the production of textiles, paper, rope and more. Nung was a pharmacologist long before the term existed. He experimented on himself and others using cocktails derived from hundreds of different herbs. The emperor is often depicted clothed in herbs and plant matter (ie: this emperor did wear clothes. Made of Cannabis!). 

But how did the ancient Chinese consume Cannabis? A Cannabis tincture or tea, which Shen Nung named Ma’, is also referenced in “The Herbal.”  Nung saw Ma’ as a unique elixir because of its male and female traits, which correlated directly to the concept of Yin and Yang in Chinese traditional dogma. 

Eventually, Nung found that the Yin (female) side of Cannabis was most therapeutic, and thus, began cultivating female-specific crops for his medicine.  Ma’ was made from a mixture of hot water and Cannabis flowers and leaves, and Nung recommended it for more than 100 illnesses including digestive ailments and absent-mindedness.  The emperor was also known to accept Cannabis as payment for services.

Unfortunately, Nung’s life ended in tragedy. According to legend, he turned green and died after test-consuming poisonous herbs. If only he’d stuck to Cannabis…

highly-likely-dec-2015-book.jpgWhile it’s amazing and somewhat mind-boggling to fathom what life must have been like in China some four millennia ago, one thing is for sure: Cannabis has been with us a very long time. Shen Nung is just the first person to have written down a record of its usage. Artifacts demonstrate that Cannabis has been used in fiber-making and ceremonies as far back as 10,000 years ago.  No matter what, we can all say thanks to the wisdom and pioneering spirit of an ancient Chinese emperor for his work on the subject.

If only we’d listened sooner. The fact is, in modern China, the mere possession of Cannabis can result in time behind bars. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the wisdom of Shen Nung.

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