Formulations offer a consistent, predictable cannabis experience for health outcomes like pain management or anxiety relief.

Finding cannabis these days is easy. The hard part is finding the right cannabis product for you. On average, a cannabis consumer will try 6 to 8 different products before settling on one that works for them and their desired outcomes.

There now seems to be a product for every possible scenario, but how do you know what will work for your pain or anxiety? Or for your chronic knee inflammation? Your insomnia? The right product is probably out there, but finding it is another story.

To complicate matters, there isn’t just plain cannabis on offer, but a whole range of butters, oils, tinctures and edibles, all of which boast different terpene profiles, cannabinoid concentrations and expected outcomes. How do you choose between the seemingly endless options? 

A first (or second) trip to a dispensary can be daunting, especially when you’re likely to run into what appears to be a long list of classic rock bands.Those would be the strains, varieties of cannabis with names like Purple Haze, Blue Dream, Durban Poison and White Widow. Each strain is meant to have unique qualities and promote different therapeutic effects.

The alternative to strains are formulations, which are combinations of cannabis compounds that have been extracted from plants and combined in very specific ratios. Formulations are designed and manufactured for specific effects, whereas strains are grown, either from seed or through a cloning process. 

Even though strains are selectively cultivated for certain characteristics, there will always be some variation in the end product. Formulations solve this random variation problem by creating ratios that stay constant, affording you a more precise, replicable cannabis experience.

Whether the products you choose are derived from a strain or a formulation, your genetics and physiology are still the keys to finding the best product match for your own unique needs. 

cannabinoid formulations vs strains

Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash.

What’s in a strain name?

There are literally thousands of different strains of cannabis on the market, offering different terpene profiles and varying levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol). Strains are selected and cultivated for these particular characteristics.

Terpenes, the aroma molecules in cannabis, give each strain its special scent. Recent research has also shown that terpenes play an important role in the overall effect and efficacy of cannabinoids.

Differences in cannabinoid and terpene ratios will occur naturally, even within strains. These variations can be attributed to things like strain selection and cloning methods, or growing and harvesting conditions. This makes it nearly impossible to consistently replicate the precise ratio of all the components in a strain from plant to plant and season to season. Different producers, even if they cultivate strains of the same name, will generally produce cannabis with different concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Versions of a strain from different purveyors, or even different plants of the same strain from the same source, can have at least slightly different cannabinoid and terpene ratios.

Research has found significant differences in chemical composition of strains of the same name, which could have “serious implications for patients relying on strains that alleviate specific medical symptoms.” [1]

Key takeaway:

  • Strain names are not a good measure of the exact levels of compounds in cannabis.
  • As a source of cannabinoids for medical or therapeutic purposes, strains can be unreliable. 
  • CBD, THC, and terpene ratio will vary from plant to plant, which can alter its effects and have a different impact on your pain management, inflammation, or working memory.

Cannabis compounds and the entourage effect.

The experience from smoking or ingesting a product made with full flower cannabis will be a product of the dozens (if not hundreds) of compounds contained in that plant. The result is what is known as the entourage effect, a phenomenon where the compounds in cannabis work synergistically to affect you physiologically. They play off each other, producing an effect that is specific to the complex combination of compounds in that particular cannabis plant. [2]

This effect comes from the whole spectrum of a cannabis plant’s compounds together. More than 500 different compounds have been isolated in cannabis, and the presence of unknown components could lead to unpredictable results.

Instead of experiencing the effects of the entire entourage of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other molecules present in a strain, the individual compounds can be combined into a formulation of complementary components. These formulations offer a reliable option for consumers to avoid adverse events and achieve more consistent therapeutic outcomes.

Important reasons why strains are not the answer.

Unfortunately, strains are an unreliable source of cannabis for medicinal or therapeutic purposes. First of all, strains are inconsistent. Its cannabinoid ratios and terpene profile will vary from producer to producer, year to year, and even plant to plant.  

Selective breeding and the growing environment can further impact the plant’s characteristics and be a source of variations in strength and efficacy of the product. Cloning, rather than growing the plants from seed, can cause genetic drift, where the composition of each new copy of a strain can become less and less like the original.

In a strain, you consume all of the potentially hundreds of different compounds, while only a few of them may be desired for  a specific therapeutic outcome. [3]

Finally, controlling the dosage of individual cannabinoids is difficult when consuming full flower products. [4]

Why? Because the presence and level of these compounds is variable, it’s easy to consume the wrong dosage or combination of cannabinoids and terpenes. 

For therapeutic applications or simply for a consistent cannabis experience, strains don’t offer predictability or .

What exactly is a cannabinoid formulation?

Simply put, formulations are ratios of cannabis components that complement each other. For our purposes, the terms formulation and ratio can be used interchangeably.

For example, a ratio of 3:1 CBD to THC in a formulation means that you always get 3 times the CBD as THC, regardless of the quantity consumed. The actual dose depends on how much you take, but the ratio stays constant. Much like doubling a recipe, if you double the dose, you will get twice as much of each of the components, but their relative strength doesn’t change. 

Many formulations also incorporate the terpenes (aromatic compounds naturally found in cannabis) that can serve to support and complement the efficacy of cannabinoids in a formulation.

Key takeaway:

  • Formulations are precise ratios of cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds that complement each other for targeted therapeutic effects.
  • Formulations can be targeted and personalized for your specific needs.

Why cannabinoid formulations could be your answer.

Formulations offer consistency, with none of the natural variation found in strains. They can be aligned to an individual’s unique genetics and health conditions, and there is nothing in a formulation that isn’t designed to be there.

Instead of a full entourage effect from the multitude of compounds in a strain of cannabis, the formulation’s recipe is carefully calculated for a targeted outcome.

Ratios are replicable, which means that once you know the ratio that works for you, you can continue to take that exact formulation for the same effects again and again. Formulations can also be designed for strictly therapeutic outcomes without psychoactive effects, which is unlikely if not impossible when cultivating a plant. Furthermore, because the ratio of components in a formulation stays constant, dosing is precise and easier to control.

Ultimately, personalized medicine works best with formulations because they can be reliably matched with an individual’s unique characteristics for consistent, replicable health outcomes.

Are cannabinoid formulations right for you?

Most people will try numerous different different cannabis products before finding a match for their desired outcomes. If the product has a combination of cannabinoids and terpenes that doesn’t align with an individual’s genetics and health conditions, consuming that cannabinoid product can lead to an adverse event.

These negative experiences can result from consuming cannabis products that interact with unknown genetic predispositions or personal health issues.

Our DNA can lead us to the right formulations.

Humans share 99.9% of our DNA, and it’s that 0.1% of difference that accounts for all the genetic variations between individuals. Clearly, 0.1% is a lot. It contributes to our obvious physical differences, like hair and eye color, and our more subtle physiological differences, like predispositions to diseases or our metabolic characteristics. Your endocannabinoid system, through which the body and brain process cannabinoids, is also unique and will have its own particular relationship with cannabis.

Strains, however carefully selected, will always have variation. Targeted, personalized formulations that cater to your genetic characteristics are both more consistent and more effective for supporting your individual health and wellness outcomes.

Endocanna Health have created 14 different formulations of carefully paired cannabinoid and terpene ratios that align to different genotypes and phenotypes. Our formulations are evidence-based and underpinned by peer-reviewed scientific research.

We leverage our unique technology to determine how your genotype aligns with our formulations. This information, combined with your health survey, will lead you to the formulations that can best help you achieve your health and wellness goals.

Endocanna Health is a biotechnology company committed to helping consumers find the right cannabinoid products to enhance their health and wellness. Using our breakthrough DNA test, Endo·dna, we empower you to take control of your health with access to over 55 different health reports that include suggestions for the best CBD and cannabis products that match your unique genetic code. Visit us here to find out more!