The majority of licensed retailers and dispensaries offer a wide assortment of cannabis strains which can feel a bit overwhelming or even daunting when you’re first getting to know the products. The point of this article is to try and answer common questions about cannabis strains, their different characteristics and which ones might be worth trying.
What are cannabis strains?
Although researchers believe cannabis started in Central Asia, over time the plant travelled around the world, where it was planted and cultivated. These plants acclimated to their new environment over many centuries which produced changes to their physical and chemical traits. Today, we refer to these plants as landrace strains.
Not surprising that over time, people began experimenting and crossbreeding different combinations of male plants and female plants which ultimately created new hybrid strains. This experimentation was the birth of many of the most popular and widely known strains in existence today. These plants are referred to as varieties strains.
Unfortunately the vast majority or cannabis cultivation has happened while the plant has remained illegal which means many classifications are not as clearly defined or documented as other botanical industries like for example beans or tomatoes.
What in cannabis makes the strains unique?
There are a number of different factors that can impact the strain’s profile, however three key elements are:
Cannabinoid content. This is really the point of using cannabis in the first place. The plant’s cannabinoids are chemicals that impact the endocannabinoid system producing a variety of effects. This “high” can manifest differently depending on the concentration and dominance of THC, CBD or CBG. For example strains high in THC can be intoxicating whereas strains high in CBD can produce relaxation without the feeling of intoxication.
Terpene content. These are the molecules or compounds found in many organic materials including cannabis that produce flavour and smell. However research is showing that certain terpenes can play a role interacting with the endocannabinoid system to produce physical and cerebral effects.
Environmental conditions. Often the most overlooked factor is where and what conditions the plant grew under which can have serious impacts on the profile of the strain. Nutrients, soil, light and pests all play a role in creating the final make-up of the plant.
Difference between indica, sativa and hybrid
If you’ve been around cannabis for more then 15 seconds then no doubt you’ve heard other people use the terms indica, sativa and hybrid. However there’s a good chance what you’ve heard about them is actually incorrect.
You see, the majority of people seem to think indica, sativa or hybrid describe the strain’s effects meaning sativas produce an uplifting, cerebral high; indicas more sedated, relaxed, mellow, and sleepy; and hybrids are a balance of the two.
However in reality, the flower’s classification as indica, sativa, or hybrid does NOT tell you anything about it’s particular effects. All this describes it the physical characteristics of the plant, which is obviously very helpful for growers but not so much for users.
I’m not saying it’s not good to know, but when it comes to choosing the right strain of cannabis, don’t let that alone drive your buying decision.
How to decide which cannabis strain to try
Although everyone might have their own different criteria, here are some basic guidelines to consider when deciding which strain you should try.
Smell and flavour profile. As mentioned above, the terpene profile can produce strong or subtle tastes and smells in cannabis. Pick something that sounds appealing to you, so if you don’t like lemons then avoid citrusy strains.
Effects. Even though cannabis affects everyone differently, you should still think about the type of experience you want to have before picking a strain. For example, if you want a heady intoxicating effect, then it makes sense go with high THC content. But if you’re looking for a more relaxing experience, you might try a strain with linalool, since it’s reported to have stress-relieving properties.
Potency. Are you looking for an intense, couch-locking experience or something lighter that is uplifting and almost feels energetic? Depending on the answer you should select a strain with an appropriate potency level.
Growing method. This comes down to personal preference but some people only smoke weed that has been grow outdoors or indoor hydroponically. If this matters to you then you need to be aware of this criteria when buying.
Budget. Here’s another major criteria to consider because, just like alcohol, cannabis price ranges are all over the board. If you’re on a tighter budget, that can affect what strains are available to buy.
How to choose a strain that is right for you
Like most things in life there is no such thing as “one-size-fits-all”. I can speak from experience that many strains my friends love I do not feel the same and vice versa. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder which means it’s really important to have a general idea of what you like (and don’t like) so you give yourself a great chance of finding a strain you’ll love. If nothing else, at least you know some defining characteristics and how to evaluate them. Now get out there and start experimenting until you find something that hits your sweet spot.