Our endocannabinoid system (ECS) is claimed to be as individual as our fingerprint or iris, with different cannabis ingredients affecting us all differently. This begs the question: could a DNA test give a clue to what medicinal cannabis products might sit best with our individual biology?
According to a handful of biotechnology companies, including Santa Monica-based Strain Genie and Burbank-based Endocanna Health, the answer is yes. Both companies are offering consumers the chance to mail in a sample of DNA (from a simple mouth swab), which they will analyze and use to create a recipe bppl of cannabis medications for you.
Endocanna Health co-founder and Chief Executive Len May says there are two main reasons cannabis compatibility testing using DNA is becoming popular. “As more states become legal, more boomers and other people who stopped [consuming cannabis] and want to get back into it, want to avoid having a negative experience,” he told the LA Times. “[Also] the healthcare system’s focus on COVID has made more people turn to biohacking to improve their quality of life.”
The tests work on the basis that variations in your genetic makeup can affect how your body interacts with the two most abundant cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, THC and CBD.
One of the most useful aspects of the test is learning how your own individual genetic predispositions may create different reactions to cannabis — for example whether you are at risk from a “bad” THC high, or if you are subject to psychosis with chronic cannabis use.
Your report will also break down which cannabinoids and terpenes will help various aspects of health such as sleep, mental health, pain and so on.
But is it scientifically sound? According to Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, a Cambridge, Mass.-based physician who serves as the medical director of the American Journal of Endocannabinoid Medicine , the answer is yes — with a caveat that genetic testing is just the starting point. “What are you going to do with that information? This is just one piece of the puzzle,” she says.
Even with limitations around how the results are applied, ventures like this help destigmatize cannabis use Dhanabalan adds, ultimately creating a better doctor-patient relationship.