September 23, 2021

Delivering on the promises of cannabis

As science’s understanding of cannabis evolves, commercial products are now targeting specific health and wellness goals By Will Brendza - September 23, 2021

Cannabis has always made big promises as a medicinal supplement: pain relief, reduced anxiety, increased appetites, better moods, sharper focus, and surer sleep. But for a long time, knowing what specific strains could offer which of those benefits was the only way to shop by effect. For a clear, focused high, you’d ask your dealer or budtender for something like Sour Diesel or Black Jack; if you needed a strain that would make you ravenously hungry, you’d seek out something like Lemon Kush or Head Cheese; and for issues falling asleep, you’d maybe ask around to find Hundu Kush or some equivalent. 

It wasn’t an exact science, but there was a science behind it. Different terpenes and cannabinoid varieties specific to those strains were working together, in concert, enhancing one another’s unique properties: the ballyhooed “entourage effect” at work.  

Now, in the era of commercial cannabis, companies are cracking the code behind that chemical phenomenon and fine-tuning it to create products with distinct properties: cannabis products specifically for working out, or for stimulating the appetite, focusing creatively, or for falling fast asleep. 

It’s the whole idea behind Wana’s new Optimals line, according to Mike Hennesy, the vice president of solutions at Wana. 

“Not everybody understands what strains and what formulations are going to be right for them,” Hennesy says. “So, Wana Optimals was designed to achieve different health and wellness goals for consumers by formulating them in [a specific] way.”

The Fast Asleep gummy is the first product launched in this new line of cannabis creations, and one among many in an industry-wide push to make and market products that are optimized for a specific purpose, like sleep. Steve’s Goods offers CBG isolate PM gummies and CBN AM gummies. Stratos offers a line of emulsion tinctures sold as “Energy” (1:1 CBD/sativa THC), “Relax” (1:1  CBD/sativa and indica THC), and “Sleep” (1:1 CBD/indica THC). And Veritas Fine Cannabis has even started detailing each of their flower strain’s terpene profiles and specific effects on their labels (read: “All About Those Terpenes,” Boulder Weekly 5/27/21).

What’s different about Wana’s new Fast Asleep gummies, though, is their cocktail content of different terpenes, cannabinoids and hormones. According to Hennesy, they used both scientific data and consumer feedback to chemically craft the ideal cannabis sleep-aid gummy. 

“The newest research shows that higher doses of CBD can be sedating and relaxing, while lower doses of CBD can end up being alerting and awakening.” So they wanted to make sure to use a higher dose of CBD, Henessy explains. “Interestingly, THC is sedating, however, if you take too much, it can actually damage REM sleep.”

The key then, he says, was to use a high dose of CBD and a low dose of THC. But they didn’t stop there–they took the entourage effect one, perhaps even two steps further: adding CBN and CBG (two lesser-known cannabinoids) to the mixture to help alleviate the two most common sources of insomnia and sleeplessness.

“CBN has been shown to be pain-relieving, and CBN has shown to be stress-relieving,” Hennesy says, citing a Johns Hopkins study that identified those as the most widespread causes of sleeplessness. “And again, when taken with CBD, they work in this ‘entourage effect’ where they’re [more potent] together than each individually.”

The Fast Asleep gummies also contain over 30 different specialized terpenes in the formula. 

And the final ingredient they added was melatonin—a hormone that naturally helps regulate a person’s sleep, and is the most widely-used over-the-counter sleep aid in the country. But melatonin is not without its own critics. 

“There’s some criticism because [melatonin] can lead to grogginess and some other side effects the next morning,” he says. The reason is most over-the-counter melatonin products include five to 10, even 20 milligrams of the hormone. “Our research has shown that to be too high of a dose to be used effectively. Especially alongside cannabis.”

The end result of all this is a gummy that contains 10mg CBD (for calming and relaxing effects), 2mg CBN (which can lower stress, relieve tension, and alleviate physical discomfort), 2mg CBG (for its relaxing and anti-inflammatory effects), 2mg THC (which works with the CBD to help regulate the body’s circadian rhythm), and just 1mg of melatonin to top it all off.

“Paired with the cannabinoids, I really think it just helps the product be that much more functional,” Hennesy says. 

The Wana Optimal Fast Asleep gummies are just one cannabis product in a new wave that will likely change how consumers view and use cannabis. No longer is cannabis going to be relegated as some unwieldy medicinal flower, or an inconsistent edible—going forward, people will be able to use cannabis as a functional dietary and medicinal supplement that can be used to achieve a variety of very specific goals. 

“What we were trying to do with the Optimal line is simplify things for the consumer,” Henessy says. “We’ve heard that [cannabis] helps with anxiety, that it helps us sleep, and it has so many good benefits for different individuals. We’re trying to deliver on the promises of cannabis.”

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