Fast Five Q&A: Dr. Swathi Varanasi, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Element Apothec

fast five q&a dr. swathi varansai

Cannabis brands often provide the first touchpoint for those exploring the wide world of weed. Packaging, product presentation, and education are the way many people connect to the plant.

Dr. Swathi Varanasi does not take this fact lightly. As the co-founder and chief scientific officer of wellness brand Element Apothec, Dr. Swathi has made it her life’s mission to educate people about the powers of the cannabis plant. She believes in setting the bar high, leading by example through the use of clean ingredients, stringent standards, and accessible information.

Dr. Swathi answered GreenState’s fast five questions, sharing her personal wellness journey, musing on the importance of transparency in cannabis, and offering tips on how people can explore cannabis for themselves.

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GreenState: How did your journey in the cannabis space begin?

Dr. Swathi Varanasi: I grew up using Ayurvedic herbs as often as over-the-counter and prescription medications, so I always viewed wellness as a multifaceted, multi-prong approach spanning many modalities of health, wellness, and healing. 

Throughout my Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) training, I found one of the only pharmacists in the country with an integrative health specialization, Dr. Pam Tarlow. I resonated with her mentality–working with a patient should be executed as a team effort while keeping in mind a range of options (like nutrition, cannabis medicine, movement, therapeutic aromatherapy, homeopathy, mindfulness, etc.) that work with the patient’s treatment goals and lifestyle. 

After graduation, we joined forces to start the first-ever training program for pharmacists interested in pursuing this unconventional path. I did not know much about cannabis from a scientific or medical perspective until delving into it with her to become the first post-doctoral trained pharmacist in integrative medicine and preventative health in the United States. 

Between learning about the depth of the endocannabinoid system and fielding the many inquiries about the potential role of medical cannabis from practitioners and patients alike, I found an unmet need where I could be of service. 

GS: Element Apothec is all about clean ingredients and transparency in its manufacturing processes. Why is this important to the brand and to the cannabis industry as a whole?

SV: The supplement, skincare, and cannabis industries are (unfortunately) not known for their transparency. We at Element Apothec want to change that. Our care for the consumer’s health and the frustration with the lack of integrity in other wellness products drove us to do things better and incorporate modern technologies. 

The safety, efficacy, and quality of our products have always been a top priority. Every product has been formulated with clean, high-quality ingredients that have been selected for their therapeutic properties, which will provide the greatest impact on health and well-being.

While this may seem like a straightforward approach, selecting the right suppliers who use approved testing methods and are equally committed to sustainably sourced ingredients is paramount. 

As we continue to grow, this process can become complex as we closely monitor tests, certifications, and samples. This is why we decided to go above and beyond the minimum standards and partner with platforms like ClearForMe and TagOne to utilize their systems that demonstrate supply chain and ingredient transparency. 

GS: You do a lot to educate consumers and healthcare professionals about the endocannabinoid system (ECS). What is the inspiration behind that, what motivates you?

SV: Most consumers and patients are not aware that the ECS is not taught in most healthcare professional curricula. Once I learned about it as a postdoctoral resident, I knew that once others learned about it, they too would realize its power and importance in comprehensive treatment regimens for many conditions. 

The scope of healthcare around the world is constantly evolving, so staying on top of the newest research–in this case, on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system–is what is going to make the most difference in changing people’s lives.

I am motivated by impact. We all can improve the world in our own way–for me, I do it through evidence-based medicine, research, and education. 

GS: What advice do you have for people who may be considering trying cannabis for wellness?

SV: If someone is interested in trying cannabis for wellness, it is important to keep in mind that cannabis is not safe for everyone. This means that there are possible drug-herb interactions or side effects that could play a role in a patient’s outcome. 

To figure out whether it is the right choice, I always recommend speaking with an integrative practitioner or healthcare professional with specialized training in medical cannabis who can evaluate how to incorporate cannabis in a safe and effective way.

If you are interested in connecting with me or someone from my medical team at Element Apothec, sign up for a complimentary 1:1 introductory consultation using this link.

GS: What are your hopes for the industry as we move forward toward legalization?

SV: As the industry forges forward, I hope that there is 1) increased accessibility of scientifically-driven education on the use of natural medicines, like cannabis, 2) heightened product ingredients, manufacturing, testing, and quality standards, and 3) an elevated focus on patients and their personalized needs to live healthy lives.

Dr. Swathi Varanasi is a pharmacist who is passionate about the intersection of wellness, innovation, and sustainability. Dr. Swathi has paved the way for healthcare professionals to pursue non-traditional career paths in natural medicines through creating postdoctoral training programs, industry internships, and online courses. She co-founded and serves as Chief Scientific Officer of the international award-winning wellness brand, Element Apothec. 

The answers given by Q&A subjects do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GreenState, Hearst, or its subsidiaries. The subject is solely responsible for the views stated in this piece.

Rachelle Gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist and Editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, Cannabis and Tech Today, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter