Heather Burton and Kenneth Langford03-29-2020
One of the many benefits following the legalization of Cannabis has been the wide range of accessible dispensaries. These shops offer consumers something exciting yet challenging: variety.
With Indica strains to the left, THC percentage in the middle, and endless products on the right, walking into a Cannabis dispensary may seem a bit overwhelming. We like to think that because Cannabis is legal, there are regulations and procedures in place when it comes to strains, but lack of consistency between growers and products in the Cannabis market can make the choice even more difficult when the budtender asks- “What’re you looking for today?”
So, how do you choose the perfect Cannabis strain for you?
Let’s dive right in! Here we are going to cover the basic terminology of Cannabis strains and take a closer look at how to know that the strain you see is actually what you get.
Today, there are well over 2000 strains documented.
In the most basic terms, a strain just means an accepted type of Cannabis that you can expect to be accompanied by certain traits and effects.
Let’s delve into the most common classification of Cannabis strain types – Indica and Sativa.
Every strain developed has its own unique growing traits, effects, aroma, and flavor, and each strain affects you differently. A strain that makes your friend feel alert can opposingly make you feel tired.
Today, research shows that distinguishing Cannabis strains with this method alone is seriously inaccurate and flawed. Right now, there is no genetic evidence that proves Cannabis can be classified into these three categories.
But, that’s how the industry has been well before legalization. With legalization brings dispensaries. Dispensaries offer the closest thing to consistency. But, before you can go to a cannabis dispensary and identify a Cannabis strain (or strains) that’s best for your needs, understanding these terms is important.
Indica-dominant Cannabis strains are known to promote relaxation and physical full-body effects. It’s commonly used to promote sleep and reduce physical pain.
Strains categorized as Sativa tend to produce cerebral effects that boost mood and productivity. Sativa strains are known to increase energy levels and reduce symptoms of depression.
A Cannabis strain classified as a hybrid is a combination of both Sativa and Indica properties. Some strains may produce more Indica dominance than Sativa, and often this is shown as a percentage eg: 60% Indica and 40% Sativa.
Before breeding and playing with genetics was the primary method of creating new strains, Cannabis was pure. Landrace strains are pure Cannabis strains that grow in a specific region. Landrace strains are never crossbred and there’s no such thing as a hybrid Landrace strain.
Even though we have a long way to go before we can make science-based decisions, there are a few things you can do to choose your ideal strain.
Just like with most things, it’s always important to trust your senses. Using your senses, exploring new strains, and taking the time to try them can help you navigate the muddy waters of legal Cannabis.
A survey from 2016 shows that over 50% of respondents say that consumers found a cannabis strain that helped their medical issues within one month.
By visiting local dispensaries and reading online reviews, you may be able to fast-track this process and better understand what strains are more suitable for your liking.
However, over 25% of those that responded said it took more than six months for them to find their perfect Cannabis strain. By trying different strains and taking note of how it affects you, eventually you will develop a preference for certain strain variations over others.
Most strains present the percentage of the main cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
THC is the only compound that is related to the psychoactive effect of Cannabis, mainly appearing as a euphoria feeling. In addition, it is very therapeutic and enhances the positive effects and efficiency of CBD.
For nonfrequent or novice consumers, we recommend choosing a moderate level of THC up until 20%.
If you are looking to consume for medicinal purposes without feeling the ‘high’, we recommend focusing on strains with high levels of CBD and low THC content. Even though CBD doesn’t have psychoactive properties it does affect your body. Therefore, we recommend monitoring your own reaction and being attentive to your body’s needs.
Terpenes. Ah! You may not know the word, but terpenes are fragrant oils produced by plants like Cannabis. The aroma of a strain gives you information about the strain- like Toucan Sam says: “just follow your nose.”
Any inkling of decay, mildew, mold, or rot may produce an offensive aroma and is a sign to proceed with caution or avoid that Cannabis strain altogether.
However, there are some Cannabis strains that are proven to be quite beneficial, even if their smell is not-so-pleasant. Additionally, it is important to note that not all strains’ flavors match their smell.
Until you are an experienced Cannabis consumer or experimenting with a product from a trusted producer, it is best to stick to pleasant smelling Cannabis strains and avoid foul aromas.
If you are just beginning your Cannabis journey, your first step is to do some groundwork. Research and educate yourself on different types of Cannabis strains, your ECS, and the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids are essential.
You can expect some trial and error when it comes to finding your perfect Cannabis strain, but just remember to focus on the experience you are searching for, and don’t be afraid to ask your budtender for assistance!
Do you want a sedating, body numbing experience? Or, do you want a more uplifting, euphoric, cerebral experience?
It is important to keep a clear head and avoid expectations of positive relaxation. Also, keep in mind that if you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, a great way to calm these feelings is to eat something.
Indulging in a pint of ice cream, or keeping your favorite snacks on deck will have you feeling better after just a few bites. When you’re at the experimental stage, it is best to take it slow – less is more.
Titration means taking small doses at a time. Opt for a bong, pipe, or vaporizer and take one puff (dose), and wait between 10 and 15 minutes.
How do you feel? Do you enjoy the effects? Great, you now have a baseline. Now, you have some wiggle room and can start getting into things like aroma and flavor.
Notes like earthy, spice, piney, fruity, citrusy, skunky etc. Remember to follow the steps above regarding titration to see how these differences affect your experience.
If a strain with a pine smell was a good experience, chances are other strains with a similar aroma will work for you as well.
At the beginning of this article, we noted that there are over 2000 strains documented. Strain names have always played a role in guiding a Cannabis consumer.
Recently, we’ve come to realize that not all Cannabis strains with the same names produce the same effects. Original Cannabis strains (before breeding became mainstream) used to have meaning.
For example, White Widow is a strain that you can expect potent tight buds covered in crystal-like trichomes (glands filled with cannabinoids like THC and CBD) that appear like frost on the buds thus giving it its name.
Any true White Widow plants will give you a similar, if not the same, experience regardless of where you get it. However, in reality, the variance is still likely to occur for a plethora of reasons.
One of the biggest reasons is because everyone reacts to cannabis strains uniquely. For some, a fruity and sweet strain is associated with relaxation. Others prefer cannabis strains with a citrus or pine taste.
Even the most experienced Cannabis users struggle to find a strain and dosage size that’s right for them. Once you find something that works for you, it is hard to find it again when you return to get more.
Even strains with the same name may vary between growers. Differences in the chemical composition of the same strain can produce a number of variations.
Consuming Cannabis should be an enjoyable and consistent experience. Consumers should feel confident in the decisions they make. The best way to do that is through lab data and Cannabis chemistry.
Until third-party lab data is part of Cannabis regulation, it is hard to know exactly how the strain will affect you without trying it.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to choose your perfect Cannabis strain without reliable scientific data.
The most studied cannabinoids are THC and CBD. However, other vital phytocannabinoids found in Cannabis like CBN and CBG also impact therapeutic benefits.
The Entourage Effect is a term coined by renowned cannabis to explain Cannabis synergy.
Terpenes, Flavonoids and Cannabinoids work better to restore mind/body balance together as opposed to being isolated.
These variations are what make each Cannabis strain unique. They are the reason why some strains work well to reduce physical pain and other strains work better to elevate your mood.
A strain is a type or name pertaining to a specific phenotype of a particular variety of cannabis. A true strain that produces the same effects on a consistent basis has been inbred with itself to create uniformity among its offspring.
Finding your perfect strain is going to take some education and experimentation on your part.
If you are considering cultivating your own medicine, opt for a clone of a particular plant you like because that is the easier way to ensure you get exactly what you are looking for.
Follow the steps and use your sense of smell to guide you. Be attentive to your body so you can enjoy all the benefits of this amazing plant.