Ah, cannabidiol. You’ve likely seen CBD on various roadside signs, like your physical therapist’s office or at a farmer’s market. Perhaps you’ve been drinking water infused with CBD or gotten a CBD shot added to your morning coffee. These days, you can get just about anything infused with CBD, including bath bombs, deodorant, face masks, mascara, lip balm, and hair pomade for your elegant evening out, and then rinse it all away with soaps, salves, creams, lotions, shampoo, toothpaste, and mouthwash. There are CBD rolling papers (infused with a medley of other botanicals), toothpicks, nasal sprays, lubricants, patches, strips, foods, beverages, and pet products. You can cook with CBD-infused coconut oil while drinking a CBD-infused beer and toking on full-spectrum CBD vape pens. I’m out of breath… are you?
While we may like options, imagine a list of 99 India Pale Ales on draft. How do you make your selection? And what if each beer has a page of marketing speak jockeying for your attention? How can you possibly decide? This analogy may be silly unless you’ve been to a place like Al’s of Hampden/Pizza Boy in Harrisburg, but it (hopefully) highlights a point. Although most normal people could just pick 1 of the 99 beers and be content, when it comes to your health and well-being, how can you know that your selection is right for you? Luckily, there’s guidance available.
I spoke with Stuart Titus, Ph.D., and Len May, representing Medical Marijuana, Inc., and Endocanna Health, respectively. Medical Marijuana, Inc. was the first publicly traded cannabis company in the United States and the first company to sell CBD across state lines. Endocanna Health has developed a novel DNA testing kit to better educate cannabis users on how specific products may interact with their bodies. The two companies have recently entered into a strategic partnership.
“EndoCanna Health provides experience and expertise in reading and interpreting data from human genetic sequence testing,” Stuart explained. “They have become involved in the cannabis and cannabinoid space with recommendations of products for people with specific genetic types. We believe they can also develop CBD-based products that may optimize benefits for those who have certain profiles.”
Like many individuals within the cannabis industry, Stuart believes that the future of the industry resides in customized formulas, but he takes this concept a step further. “Although the science is at a very early stage, we do believe that developing customized formulas for each individual, with their unique body chemistry and needs, will be the future of the nutritional and dietary supplement industry.”
Regarding the “CBD craze,” Stuart believes that while many proselytize on how it’s getting out of hand, some of the early science makes sense. “Many of us are cannabinoid deficient, and here is a way to supplement the largest self-regulatory system in the human body with CBD,” he commented. “People are experiencing elevated levels of health and wellness by using CBD products; thus, CBD is on its way to becoming the greatest dietary supplement ever — surpassing that of even Vitamin C.”
But it all goes back to knowing which products to spend your money on. Although the CBD market is still in its infancy, Stuart pointed to a 2016 study in the Journal of Regulatory Science that reviewed 24 CBD products.  “I am happy to report that HempMeds [a Medical Marijuana, Inc. subsidiary] products met label claims for all three that were tested,” Stuart noted. “Many competitors didn’t have the CBD levels that they claimed, and some had zero CBD, but had other ‘feel good’ compounds in their products.”
Stuart discussed the industry’s cognition of these issues and the desire to make products more trustworthy. “A Hemp Roundtable group has formed, consisting of industry leaders who are interested in providing quality-assured products,” he explained. “Members are looking to get ahead of any potential federal regulations that will be imposed. The Hemp Roundtable’s US Hemp Authority now has a seal of approval for CBD manufacturers who have met requirements for quality manufacturing with tested and certified products.”
No consumer of cannabis or hemp products is exempt from doing some of their own research. Consumers can look for certificates of analysis, toxicity testing, or heavy metal tests and decide if the manufacturer meets their own qualifications. “In the end,” Stuart advised, “it’s about how well certain products work for the consumer — how they make them feel. Some may do well with CBD isolate, others with broad or full spectrum. In sum, be sure the products are tested, try a few recognizable brands and see which one(s) fit your needs.”
Sifting through a myriad of products can be a daunting undertaking, though. How can you know if the product is going to work for you prior to spending lots of money on products that seem medicinal? Stuart suggested multiple pathways for consumers to traverse, including looking for companies that have clinical research or early-stage observational studies on their products, looking to see where the product is sourced, or looking for referrals from satisfied customers. “A number of factors may be at play, including origin source of CBD, concentration, and delivery method,” Stuart added. “If you believe that CBD will work for you and improve your health, you should spend some time reviewing manufacturers, their products, delivery methods, and how much CBD daily is optimal for you. Differing delivery methods may provide what you’re looking for.”
Enter Endocanna Health, who have developed tests meant to help users reduce some of the trial and error needed to determine what does or doesn’t work. “Your genetic propensity, as it relates to traits or symptomatic conditions like anxiety, depression, pain, sleep, cognitive and metabolic function, and dependence, is based on genotype,” Len explained. “We guide you through the process of avoiding adverse effects like psychosis or anxiety. We also provide a personalized ratio of cannabinoids/terpenes that best aligns with your genetic profile and suggest matching products. Think of Endocanna as your scientific matchmaker for cannabis.”
The DNA test kits use a Food and Drug Administration-approved buccal collection device which essentially is a big Q-tip. You order the kit from the website or purchase in a retail location, and the box is delivered to your home. You swab the inside of your mouth and put it back in the tube. Next, you put it in the self-addressed postage paid box and ship it to the Endocanna lab. The results take approximately four weeks, but if you already have a 23andMe, Ancestry, Family Tree or any other DNA service, you can upload your raw data to the site and Endocanna will use that. “That process takes less than 30 seconds,” Len added. “The caveat is that the information is only as good as the data the other companies use, so it has some limitations.”
“All the information we provide has an essay attached that’s been peer-reviewed,” Len continued. “We give more weight to studies that are conducted as part of human trials, but we also consider animal studies. We use AI and deep learning to adjust for feedback and new studies. Therefore, you have lifetime updates of your report. We have tremendous research and feedback that involve certain markers being triggered, like for anxiety and psychosis as well as metabolic function which explains method of consumption challenges. For example, some people are poor metabolizers of THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] through their digestive system, so they can have an adverse experience with an edible.”
I was curious about what their results have specifically shown. “We have seen results from people who consumed cannabis for a long time and all of the sudden started to experience panic attacks and couldn’t consume their much needed ‘medicine.’ One woman had a genetic predisposition, but that gene was dormant until it was expressed through high THC use. Once we provided a suggestion of a more balanced ratio with a different terpene profile, she expressed gratitude by saying she can finally be herself again.”
Traditional medicine is going the route of the individual. As the cannabis and hemp industries progress, it’s apparent that professionals within these domains seek to rewrite the rules and utilize science early and often to exponentially hasten the pace to the global adoption of this revolution. Cannabis embraces the individual while helping remediate our collective well-being.
Reference Ruth, A. et al. “Consistency of Label Claims of Internet-Purchased Hemp Oil and Cannabis Products as Determined using IMS and LC-MS: A Marketplace Survey”, Journal of Regulatory Science, Volume 4(3), 2016, Pages 1-6. [journal impact factor = N/A; cited by 3]