Having a hard time finding the right cannabis options for you? Try getting your DNA tested.
Cannabis can be a life-changing medicine with a wide range of potential medicinal uses and positive effects. But what makes cannabis so versatile can also make it complicated when it comes to finding the right cannabis for your needs. With so many different strains of marijuana, consumption methods and doses, the options are almost endless.
Is there a way to know which types of cannabis will give you the effects you’re after? And which types will leave you with unpleasant side effects, like paranoia or an intense psychoactive high? Normally, this means going through trial and error. But now some scientists say they have a short-cut: testing your DNA to reveal your ideal cannabis type.
What Exactly Is a DNA Test?
Genetic testing services are nothing new. These tests look at your DNA, the hereditary information passed down from your parents, and tell you what it means for different aspects of your life.
Starting out as a way to test for potential medical issues, DNA tests made their way to the larger public when companies like AncestryDNA and 23andMe began offering tests designed to help people discover their ethnicity. Participants send in cheek swabs of their DNA and receive an analysis telling them where their ancestors came from.
Now the market is full of genetic tests offering to tell you how your DNA influences everything from health and diet, to sleep and athletics. There are even DNA tests to guide you when buying wine, and ones that’ll make unique art based on your DNA base pairs.
And now, cannabis is also on the DNA test list. New cannabis-specific DNA tests like those from MelixGx and Toronto-based AnantLife are popping up. These promise to test your DNA and provide you with personalized recommendations for important factors like
- Marijuana strain
- Method of consumption
- Cannabinoid ratios
These tests use your genetic markers to predict how you’ll react to certain cannabinoids, terpenes and other chemicals in cannabis.
Genetic Testing for Your Ideal Cannabis Strain
We spoke with the co-founders of MelixGx to learn the details behind this interesting new technology and find out how it can help patients. One of their main motivations in creating MelixGx was to help those using opiates find a safer alternative.
“A lot of people have misconceptions of marijuana and the effects from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol),” explained one of MelixGx’s co-founders and chief operation officer, Stu Campbell. “So, we wanted to show them that you don't have to be scared to take it. We'll tell you which product you should actually take and how your body breaks down and metabolizes cannabis based on your genetic makeup.“
These suggestions, if accurate, could help bypass the uncomfortable trial and error phase at the beginning of many people’s journey with cannabis.
How Does DNA Testing for Marijuana Work?
It all starts with a test. As with most genetic testing services, cannabis DNA tests will send you a kit: You take a cheek swab to collect genetic material; then you send it back for testing. From there, scientists go to work testing your DNA and looking for specific genetic markers that correlate with how cannabis affects you.
The MelixGX test, called Cannacogentics, was developed by Molecular Testing Labs. The project was led by Dr. Charles Sailey. During the course of his research, he found that certain genetic markers could help identify how your body metabolizes and reacts to cannabis.
Marijuana is made up of many active chemicals, called cannabinoids and terpenes. These interact with each other to provide cannabis’s medicinal effects. And the different chemicals and their ratios mean there’s a wide variety of outcomes when you take marijuana.
To make this even more complicated, people vary in their ability to metabolize these different chemicals, which can completely change how a particular strain effects one person versus the next.
For example, someone may metabolize THC slowly, but cannabidiol (CBD) rapidly. These folks are likely to be particularly sensitive to the effects of THC, and so may be more likely to experience its negative effects. For these people, strains with low levels of THC and higher levels of CBD are likely to be the best fit. But for those who metabolize THC quickly, higher levels of THC may provide the best results.
By looking at the genetic markers for cannabis metabolism and how they correlate with cannabis’s differing effects in individuals, MelixGx’s test can predict what options are likely to work best for you.
These predictions are then put into an easy-to-understand guide that explains the genetic testing results in layman’s terms and makes specific suggestions about what marijuana strains, ratios, methods and dosing are ideal for you.
The personalized guide even includes a sheet with information for your doctor, so they can learn about your specific genetic profile with cannabis and make better recommendations themselves.
“The education is just not there for the physician to give the proper guidance,” explains Anthony Pellegrino, MelixGx’s co-founder and chief marketing officer. “So, we want that first-time user or that existing user of medical cannabis to understand how their body reacts and what they should take.”
Taking a Genetic Test for Cannabis
If you’re interested in getting your DNA tested to find your best cannabis options, it’s a very easy process. You just buy a test online, follow the instructions for sending in your DNA sample, and then wait for your personalized recommendations to arrive. And yes, MelixGx ships to Canada.
Or course, there are a few things you should know:
- These tests can be a little pricey. The MelixGx test is listed at US$299.99. But bypassing the uncomfortable process of trying marijuana products that can give you negative effects may be worth the initial investment.
- Cannabis DNA tests are designed for those who are new to marijuana. If you’re a regular cannabis consumer, it’s likely that you’ve already built up some tolerance to the effects of the different cannabinoids and terpenes present in marijuana. Your level of tolerance to cannabis’s many different cannabinoids isn’t something that DNA tests can check, so recommendations for dosing or ratios may be less accurate than if you were starting with no tolerance at all. While this test may provide interesting information for long-time cannabis consumers, it won’t be as helpful as it will be for new cannabis patients, or those who’ve only consumed marijuana in small or infrequent amounts in the past.
So, what does your DNA say about your cannabis consumption? There’s only one way to find out.