The 23andMe of Cannabis Tailors Strains to Your Exact DNA Profile
EndoCanna Health goes way beyond the “indica or sativa” situation
Let’s set a familiar scene: while hanging out with friends a joint gets passed around. Why not get a little fuzzy? Calm, euphoria and relaxation ensue — no wonder California made this stuff legal! — and the rest of the day is a lovely haze. Those anti-drug campaigns couldn’t have been more wrong; marijuana is a welcome addition to your life!
Unless … it doesn’t go down like that. Because for some people, it’s a nightmare instead of a daydream. The paranoia and anxiety set in, every bad thing that’s ever happened comes rushing into your brain. You’re too anxious to be around other people and head home to lie in the dark and stare uneasily at the ceiling until it passes. Why does this happen?
EndoCanna Health knows the answer, and they want to help you understand it, too. Not by looking at weed itself, but working backward and looking inward: at your DNA. Named after the endocannabinoid system, which research shows functions as a sort of “universal regulator” maintaining homeostasis between all of the body’s other systems, their emphasis on personalized results helps consumers avoid uncomfortable or unreactive experiences with marijuana.
Solving that anxiety problem — and plenty of other cannabis-related concerns — is exactly what EndoCanna has set out to do. Their DNA testing kit, available for a cool $199, gives a rundown of everything in the user’s genetic makeup that might cause an adverse reaction, along with the potential upsides of using weed medicinally. Using weed proactively for preventative care and to disrupt America’s for-profit healthcare system is part of EndoCanna’s mission, and part of their appeal.
Operating similarly to DNA tests like 23andMe or AncestryDNA, which use their results to focus on genealogy, EndoCanna’s test highlights certain genetic predispositions that might interact with cannabinoids, or cannabis compounds. (The two most common cannabinoids are THC, a psychoactive chemical, and CBD, an anti-psychoactive compound that moderates the “high” caused by THC.)
“Certain DNA is locked in — our hair color, skin color and eye color,” explains EndoCanna’s CEO, Len May, who has a Masters of Medical Cannabis, along with 25 years of cannabis-related experience. “The other parts of our DNA we have the control to turn on and off like light switches. Certain cannabinoids, nutrients, vitamins, how we live our life and even our mental state can help express those genetic predispositions and turn those switches on. We’re telling you the genetic blueprint and giving you the GPS to navigate it.”
Just because you have a genetic predisposition to certain conditions doesn’t necessarily mean they will manifest — it simply means the potential for them to flare up is there. After taking the DNA test earlier this month, one of the first things that popped up under my results was in the anxiety section, where my DNA revealed the presence of multiple variants for fear extinction, PTSD and stress reactivity. Fear extinction is the brain’s ability to fade memories of traumatic or aversive events, but when these memories aren’t extinguished, they can linger and pop back up, which is the anxiety loop that cannabis use can trigger.
“The report gives you a color-coded summary of different symptomatic conditions and what your genetic predisposition is,” May says. “Green means there’s no variant detected — there’s no genetic risk associated with that condition. Yellow means there’s a variant detected; you have a slight genetic risk. Red means that you have multiple variants detected, and you have an exponentially higher risk of that genetic predisposition expressing itself.”
For my fear extinction variant, which fell into the red level of multiple variants detected, EndoCanna recommends a CBD to THC level of 20:1, along with specific terpenes, or aromatic plant compounds found in high concentration in cannabis, that will react positively with the condition, and finally, links out to products that fit within those parameters. It’s not quite a prescription, but it’s a much closer and more precise way of using marijuana than hitting a friend’s joint at a party, or buying whatever catches your eye at the local dispensary. The realization that a negative reaction to weed, and an uncomfortable amount of paranoia isn’t my fault at all, but is literally in my DNA, takes the pressure off.
As our knowledge base about marijuana continues to grow, May predicts people will become more interested in terpene profiles than strains or designations like indica and sativa. “The secret sauce to finding the right product is the cannabinoid ratio, but also terpene profiles,” May says. “It’s the essential oils the plant produces, and in cannabis, these essential oils interact with cannabinoids to produce an effect. Indicas are heavy with myrcene, which is sedative when mixed with cannabinoids and sativas are high with limonene, that boost dopamine, and give you that boost up.”
Of course, the anxiety-inducing element of a certain THC ratio is a relatively simple problem to fix with EndoCanna’s DNA testing. For people who are using cannabis for severe medical issues, or combining it with other prescription drugs, the information from this kind of genetic testing can be instrumental for overall health. The report takes a look at other elements, like potential interaction of prescription drugs with cannabis, digestion, sleep, mood, cognitive function and metabolism. But particularly in the case of drug interaction and cannabis, the reports EndoCanna is offering are cutting edge.
“Very few people are talking about drug interaction with cannabis,” May says. “If you’re taking an SSRI or antidepressant, cannabinoids can actually inhibit the efficacy of your SSRI. Especially CBD, which will limit the efficacy of your SSRI, suppressing how the SSRI is supposed to work. If you want to scale back on your SSRI, don’t consume them at the same time. Work on that balance under medical supervision. That doesn’t mean you can’t take cannabis with an antidepressant. It usually means don’t take it together at the same time, stagger your consumption and speak to a healthcare professional about that.”
For frequent cannabis users who plan to keep consuming it for the foreseeable future, investing in EndoCanna’s testing is a great way to ensure you’re getting the right weed for the right occasions — and for your genetic makeup. Even if you don’t live in a state or country where weed is legal, since the company itself doesn’t market or sell cannabis products, the DNA test is available globally. And every single purchase comes with a concierge session with a DNA specialist who can point out the important and relevant variants in the report.
“Cannabis is the safest medicine we’ve ever had,” May says. “And it’s personalized, so you have to understand these things about yourself. The more you know about yourself, the more action you can take. Our for-profit health system isn’t going to support us like we want it to — we have to be a lot more proactive about our health, and preventative health. A lot of times we rely on a for-profit health system that’s not here to cure us — that’s what we’re here to disrupt.”
This article was featured in the InsideHook SF newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Bay Area.
Suggested for you