Shen-Nung: Father of Medical Cannabis

By Manny C.
The medical properties of Cannabis were first documented by Emperor Shen-Nung

Medical cannabis consumption and patient support has grown exponentially over the past two decades in America despite the ongoing “War on Drugs”, various anti-cannabis campaigns, strict regulation, and constant federal threat. This resilience is part due to the long history that the cannabis plant has of being used for medical treatments, and most of the origins of this knowledge is credited to Emperor Shen Nung. Emperor Nung is known to many as the “Father of Chinese Medicine”, and ruled ancient China around 2700 B.C.E.. Legend has it that the Emperor usually tested his remedies on himself, often consuming different toxins and poisons along with his home made remedies and antidotes. His self experiments led to his most famous writings, a medical encyclopedia unlike anything else that existed at the time, the Pen Ts’ao. The Pen Ts’ao compiled various “drugs” derived from plants, animals, and minerals, including “ma” - the cannabis plant.


Emperor Shen-Nung

For the Chinese the cannabis plants were exceptionally unique, and represented a special balance between the yin (feminine) and yang (male) because the cannabis plant forms are both male and female. The ability for yin and yang to work in balance represented to the Chinese and Emperor Nung, that both the mind and body were balanced in harmony.  Both the male and female plants were used throughout ancient chinese civilizations for various purposes in a variety of situations and innovations.

Emperor Nung dedicated his research around cannabis to mostly it’s medical uses, especially the female Ma plant which is higher in delta-9 THC. In his studies of the female plants the Emperor attempted to balance the yin and yang aspects of a person, the female plants were seen as a means to treat the absence of the yang and vice versa. Centralizing around this idea, Ma (cannabis) was used in attempts to treat various physical ailments.



The results of Emperor Nung’s studies and trials were the world's first documented (yes, literally documented) findings to show that cannabis can used to treat medical issues. Emperor Nung’s findings found that cannabis was especially useful for menstrual cramps, malaria, the pain of surgery, constipation, gout, rheumatism, and even absent-mindedness! Written on hemp paper, the Emperor’s Pen Ts’ao became one the region's most respected medical works and his teachings quickly spread throughout the empire. As the centuries carried on, his works have been referenced time and time again to show the healing nature of the cannabis plant and it’s historical contributions to medicine.  

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About the author: Manny C.

Cannabis Activist, industry blogger, and founding member of Illinois Citizens Responsible Regulation.