There are hundreds of cannabis strains available to consumers and it can be confusing to choose the one that will work the best and achieve the desired results. This process can take the most experienced cannabis user years to achieve.
Each cannabis strain is a unique profile of terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids, in different ratios, which produce the effects a user experiences. All individual strains have different smells, tastes and effects, depending on their genetic make-up, and fall into one of two generalized categories: cannabis indica or cannabis sativa.
All types of cannabis fall within the genus of flowering plants under the family name Cannabacae, and there remains ongoing debate about whether there are two are three different species within the cannabis sativa genus. These species include cannabis indica, cannabis sativa and cannabis ruderalis, although cannabis ruderalis is typically classed under cannabis sativa.
Cannabinoids and Terpenes
Cannabinoids and terpenes are two individual compounds found in both the cannabis indica and cannabis sativa varieties. Cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two of the more widely known cannabinoids found in cannabis, although there are over 100 different cannabinoids that are also contained within the plant.
Terpenes are the essential oils in cannabis that give each plant its unique smell and taste. Terpenes are also partially responsible for the different effects of each type of cannabis. For example, pinene is one of the most common terpenes in the world and boasts anti-inflammatory properties. Pinene, and other terpenes, are found in many plants and not just cannabis.
Cannabis Indica vs. Cannabis Sativa
Cannabis has been genetically bred for thousands of years, with growers combining the genetics of various plants to achieve new cannabis strains and varieties. Therefore, it is very uncommon to find a plant that is a “pure indica” or “pure sativa” variety, rather the genetics have become a combination of both indica and sativa genetics and are referred to as hybrids.
Indica dominant cannabis is well known for its couch-lock effects and produces feelings of drowsiness, calm, and relaxation. Indica strains are also common for medical users as they help to manage symptoms such as pain, tense muscles, nausea, edginess, decreased appetite and feelings of depression. Indica strains act to increase dopamine production in the brain which is a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure control.
Indica plants tend to grow short and bushy, with smaller internodal spaces as compared to sativa plants. Indica plants also tend to yield more flowers and bigger buds. Indica strains tend to contain higher amounts of CBD and lower amounts of THC, although the amount of THC is more dependent on the individual strain rather than the indica or sativa genetics of the plant.
Indica strains tend to be more appropriate for night time use as their effects are sedative and produce an overall body buzz. Indica strains are extremely helpful in cases of insomnia and include strains such as Afghan Kush, Northern Lights, Blueberry and Blue Mystic.
Sativa plants tend to grow tall and thin and have smaller yields compared to indica varieties. The internodal spaces are larger and plants tend to look like thin pine trees.
Sativa varieties are known for their ability to produce euphoric and energizing effects. Sativa strains are great for daytime use as they stimulate creativity and do not have the sedative properties of indicas.
Medically, sativas are used to treat the symptoms of depression and chronic pain and are generally lower in CBD and higher in THC, although pure sativas may also bring on feelings of anxiety, so use with caution (or choose a hybrid!)
Sativas increase serotonin levels in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that controls the regulation of learning, mood, sleep, anxiety and appetite.
Knowledge is Power
When choosing to consume cannabis it is important to find the strain or strains that will achieve the desired results. It’s possible that some first-time users have a negative experience because they choose the wrong variety of cannabis for their individual needs.
For instance, an individual who experiences chronic anxiety and associated muscle tightness and headaches, may prefer the relaxing effects of an indica to relieve their symptoms. Someone with chronic pain and depression will likely prefer the uplifting effects of a sativa.
The best way to find the best strain for your needs is trial and error. Do your research first and select strains that have the desired effects, then give it a try! It can be helpful to keep a strain journal to track the different effects experienced with each strain. This will allow users to choose cannabis strains that are tailored to their immediate needs, which may change day to day.
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