Meg Hartley for Leafly
Published on September 23, 2020
They say the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is as unique as a fingerprint, and cannabis affects us all differently. Company EndoCanna Health is exploring this by offering a DNA test that will show your body’s genetics and suggest a cannabis profile accordingly, as well as products for that profile.
This tool wouldn’t be with us today without a real Bob Ross of a happy accident—the moment Len May, CEO of EndoCanna Health, accidentally found an effective way to manage his ADD. According to May:
“I was kind of hanging out with some older kids, and they asked me if I wanted to smoke a cigarette—and I was like, yeah, you know, I’m dabbling with cigarettes, I’m gonna be cool—and the cigarette was actually filled with weed instead. After I got done coughing, I went back to class, and the windows in my head [referring to what it’s like to think with ADD] they sort of slowed down, and I could focus. So I found my medicine, it was mine.”
After getting kicked out of the house for cannabis—ironically, his parents now use his cannabis formulations—he became a cannabis activist and started working in medicinal genomics, which eventually led to EndoCanna Health, and the ability to use cannabis on a truly personal level.
How does EndoCanna Health’s DNA test work?
While receiving the $199 test can take a month or two, taking the test is a matter of seconds: carefully swab the inside of your cheek, then pop the swab into a tube. After registering your test into their HIPAA-compliant, fully anonymous portal, seal the swab and tube in a plastic bag, pop it into the provided paid envelope, and send ‘er off to the lab. If you have DNA data already, it’s faster and only costs $49.95.
Once your results are ready, log into your profile, which will have an itemized breakdown of your report and suggestions for types of cannabis. The report is broken down into:
- Cognitive function & behavior
- Drug dependence
- Drug metabolism
- Musculoskeletal & immune
- Pain, nausea, & neurologic
- THC side effects
Digging into my report
Clicking through the various reports shows how cannabinoids interact with your genetic profile in specific ways. For instance, clicking on “Anxiety” brings three more reports: “Fear Extinction,” “PTSD,” and “Stress Reactivity.”
Under “Fear Extinction,” for example, is this summary of my specific DNA marker findings, as well as suggestions for types of cannabis to use:
In this case, it suggests I start using high-CBD ratio products, as well as cannabis with terpene profiles that include linalool and beta-caryophyllene. These responses are called “formulations,” and my report suggests seven different ones for specific needs.
Also, the Personalized Wellness Plan links to relevant scientific studies and provides a link to products that match the formulation.
CEO May explained that although EndoCanna Health does sell terpene blends used in some recommended products, they don’t profit directly from sales of products recommended on the Wellness Plan: “We look at certificates of analysis from different product manufacturers and run them to a matching algorithm, and we look for several things: Number one, we look for the percentage of CBD, THC; Secondary, terpene profile; and then some others, like essential oils.”
How to use your cannabis DNA test results
“The best way to get the most out of your results is to understand what your genetic predispositions are to avoid an adverse effect and then to understand which products you can actually take,” said May.
With your test results, you’re equipped to treat symptomatic conditions based on specific genotypes in your body. “If you have a predisposition to anxiety or stress reactivity, you will know that there are certain cannabinoid and terpene profiles that can actually turn that genetic expression on,” said May.
For example, if you have a marker associated with not producing endocannabinoids when anxious—as the body ought to—you’ll be able to know what kind of cannabis can be substituted effectively.
And it’s a living document as well, meaning it will evolve as research does. “We have a HIPAA-compliant portal that is dynamically built with lifetime updates, meaning that if there is any research that is happening now that gets published, we provide that as an update to your report on a lifetime basis. And we’re fully secure and anonymized. All the data resides on Amazon’s AWS; it’s fully encrypted,” said May.
May continued to speak on what’s ahead: “The future is this whole feedback loop: It’s the ability to be able to get a response from people, how you know product ‘A’ is really working for you, learn from your experience, and then be able to produce better individualized products.”
EndoCanna Health is a research lab as well, working on studies all over the world. The company is also looking into expanding the use of epigenetic data and using biomarkers, like Fitbit info, to create a dashboard that will further personalize your experience.
Is the test worth it?
My take is probably obvious by now: I think this is a fantastic resource. I love that it breaks down which cannabinoids and terpenes will help various aspects of my body makeup. As a medical cannabis user, I find this especially relevant—it also confirmed I’m high-risk for flu severity—but these reports will also be helpful for anyone without any medical issues because we all have different bodies and cannabis will interact with each body differently.
EndoCanna Health is also looking to collaborate on research, even with competitors, because “the only way to remove this ridiculous stigma is through science,” said May.
I love it. Let’s science our way from being disregarded as just stoners to having data to improve specific conditions or for overall health, and knowing how best to use cannabis for those specifications.
And all this magic started with a teenager trying to smoke a cig, and failing. C’est la vie, eh?