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The Hemperor: Man or Myth?

Emperor Shen Nong

We know the medicinal use of cannabis originated in ancient Asia, but what if I told you the person to discover its healing properties might not even be real?

In China around 2700 BCE, Emperor Shen Nong spent his life studying plants and agricultural practices. For example, he invented tools like the plow, and taught his people how to irrigate and fertilize their crops. He was also known for his research with plants, which earned him reverence as the "Father of Chinese Medicine."

The emperor became a gifted herbalist, and was so devoted to his work that he experimented on himself. Shen Nong would ingest whatever he was studying in various ways and record the effects it had on him. This is how he came to discover tea, antidotes.. and the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant. When the emperor tested cannabis, he identified that it had analgesic, sedative. and anti-inflammatory properties. It was then integrated into the lives of his people through inhalation, tinctures, topicals and many of the forms we are still familiar with today.

Shen Nong may have also determined that female cannabis plants were the most fruitful. He then drew the conclusion that they must be meant for treating women's ailments.. and in turn, cannabis became a solution for symptoms of the menstrual cycle.

Now here's where things get complicated. Emperor Shen Nong is legendary not only for his research and inventions, but for the legends that surround his existence. Despite brief mention in ancient texts and everything that's accredited to him, there's little evidence supporting he was more than a myth or pen name.

For starters, "Shennong" translates to "divine farmer." He was said to be a kind ruler, born the son of a princess and dragon. He had the body of a man, head of an ox, and transparent stomach that helped evaluate the effects his experiments had on the human

body. He then taught his people everything he learned. However, eventually, Shen Nong's passion for plants got the best of him. Stories say he met his match evaluating an herb that ruptured his intestines before he was able to take the antidote. Regardless of who or what Shen Nong was, we can agree his story ends in a scientifically heroic manner.

So, if Emperor Shen Nong isn't real... where did all this ancient research come from, and who

produced his pharmacopeia, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing? (The Divine Farmer's Materia Medica)

He could be a glorified version of an emperor from the Zhou or Xia dynasties, but the most widely accepted theory is that Shen Nong was not just one person. It's likely that the deity was chosen to take credit for the collective efforts of multiple people through time. Regardless of who or what Emperor Shen Nong was, I think we can agree that his work has helped our species evolve. and in respect to his studies on cannabis, heal.


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