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By Ayad Maher
How to choose marijuana strains and how to find the right strain for you can be a dilemma especially if you're using marijuana for specific purposes. This marijuana strain guide is enough to provide you with all the information you need to make an informative decision.
If you ask an avid marijuana consumer to compare the Bubba Kush strain (Indica) to a Sour Diesel strain (Sativa); she or he won't tell you how tall the plant is or the shape of the leaf. Instead, they will mostly talk specifically about the differences in the strain effects. Also, the overall positive and the negative effects they have personally experienced. Keep in mind, compare weed strains vary from a person to another, so trying multiple strains is a key.
Having said that, I will stay away from the physical attributes, the growing techniques, and locations for each group. My main focus is the feel and the type of "high" each strain or group of strains may provide. As well as, guiding you in the right direction to choosing the right strain. However, at the end of this post, you will find an infographic that elaborates about the main two breeds, Indica and Sativa, their physical attributes, and more.
Visiting any dispensary in the states where marijuana is legal for medical purposes or recreational can be overwhelming with an elaborate range of marijuana strains. The hundreds of possibilities (yes, hundreds!) have created a whole new class of marijuana smokers. Who turned from stereotypical stoners into rather picky and sophisticated, or even pretentious.
To be completely honest, I can totally see their point. The classification of cannabis is becoming more intricate than ever has been. The last couple of years marijuana has been treated like a fine wine by most connoisseurs. Every strain has history, a specific way of growing, aroma, taste, type of high, etc. just like wine or beer.
These different classes of Cannabis strains shed a whole new positive light on the notion of getting high, therefore, we think it's essential to give our fellow stoner friends some sort of guideline so they can compare and contrast what they like and what they don't like; steer them to experimenting and personalizing their own "high experience."
Nevertheless, when you have hundreds to choose from, it's highly doubtful you will find your "perfect" strain from the first time.
Related article: 7 Key Tips to Break the 'Irresponsible Stoner' Stereotype
Each Cannabis strain varies with different physical characteristics and different effects to the brain and body. Even if they were from the same species such as; Indica, Sativa or Hybrid. We will go over the three main cannabis species and their differences a little later.
The difference in your "high" is mostly due to the different percentage levels of the two prominent components in marijuana which are THC and CBD. Also, the unique and personal way they interact with each other and our nerve system.
It's important to remember that cannabis is a natural growing plant with naturally-produced chemicals; meaning cannabis affects every individual differently. The same strain has the possibility to work great for one person and then not work at all or not as well for the next person. This is a personable journey between you and finding your perfect strain.
So to make it a little less overwhelming for the consumer to choose the right marijuana strain for her or his specific lifestyle or needs, the cannabis industry breaks down those strains into three main groups: Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis Hybrid.
Related article: THC and CBD, and the Entourage Effect!
Before you jump into choosing the type of strain you want to smoke, you need to plan your smoking session, there are two questions you wanna answer first:
Once you decided, let's get into finding the right strain for you...
Cannabis is from the Latin origin name for Marijuana. Which comes in three major species or types, Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the two most popular species grown and found in dispensaries: Sativa, Indica and everything in between (hybrid).
We know what you’re thinking. Availability is the main problem most stoners deal with. We do realize that most people don't have accessibility to different strain groups mainly due to regulatory or financial barriers. Regardless, understanding the differences between the different types of marijuana and their effects are becoming a common knowledge among the cannabis community. As you start becoming a regular marijuana user you will start paying a little more attention to the physical differences as well as "high" differences among those three marijuana groups.
This one of the key matters you need to look into to compare strains of weed. This might get confusing little since some of the effects over lap and they completely different from a person to another. So bear with me.
1. Cannabis Indica Strains: An Indica strain is the type of cannabis that will give you the infamous prominent body high. Some describe it as "narcotic-like" or "couch lock." It's perfect for relieving mild anxiety, sleep deprivation, appetite stimulation, nausea, chronic pain, muscle spasms and more.
From a recreational perspective, Indica provides physical sedation and relaxation effect. Sometimes smokers feel a tingling sensation in the whole body or, what so called, a "body high." Some Indica strains can provide a full-body, or “couch-locked” effect which makes it perfect for watching a movie or just having a relaxing evening in. Most stoners prefer Indica strains after a long day at work to relieve stress because it provides full-body pain relief, and helps them fall asleep at night. From personal experience, indica dominant strains kill my social anxiety, and give me that racing thoughts Sativa strains give to some people, but that's just me.
As for the flavor, Indica strains tend to be sweet or fruity, such as blueberry and strawberry flavors. Again, Cannabis strain comparison and effects vary from a person to another. it's all trial and error.
2. Cannabis Sativa Strains: Sativa is known for its ability to get you high whilst still being able to go about your daily life without feeling too relaxed, "exhausted", or “couch-locked.” - It's perfect for patients who seek daytime relief.
This type of strain will give you that refreshing, uplifting and cerebral feel that can be coupled with physical or social activities. Prominently, Sativa delivers a stimulating and energizing high as it affects your mind more than your body.
Sativa also makes you feel that life just got a lot better no matter how bad or good it really is. This heady strain makes you laugh abundantly which is great for certain occasions but not so much if you were at a funeral (I've been there, I've done that. A story for another time). So try to avoid that situation, just saying.
Now, this is interesting; Sativa strains may give the feel of having racing thoughts and wanting to share those thoughts, in other words, helps with conversations especially with those you're comfortable with. Some Sativa strains can completely knock out your social anxiety, it's actually one of the many reasons I, personally, smoke weed. It helps to engage in in-depth conversations about any subject you run into, creating a better conversation flow.
However, they, sativa strains, can be associated with anxiety attacks, because you may start overthinking negative thoughts. Again, it's so hard to pin point the affect on you, because everyone seem to be different.
At the end of the day, it depends on the type of person you are though. You have to be comfortable with being high in public places and among strangers which is a skill that can only be developed over time. So be patient and take it slow, otherwise, you may end up in a bit of an embarrassing situation.
Related article: 7 Tips For Your First Time Smoking Marijuana
Sativa will also trigger your analytical self and creativity (writing, painting, etc.). I wouldn't be surprised if Cannabis Sativa is popular among artist, musicians, and philosophers. Furthermore, it enhances your physical senses as well as your intuitive senses if you are in-tune. In result, everything will get better; colors, food, music, movies, etc. Time will get a lot slower, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depends on your mindset and what you're doing.
As for the flavor, Sativa strains tend to be earthy or musty - such as pine.
3. Cannabis Hybrid Strains: Hybrid strains typically fall between Sativa and Indica spectrum. Depending on the attributes the strain handed-down from the parent strains. There is a wide range of Hybrid strains. Experts are becoming very creative in terms of mixing the genetics from the Indica strains and Sativa strains. They have come up with new Hybrid strains with a variety of effects from each type of strain and are still creating new Hybrid strains.
Hybrids can be broken down into three basic categories:
Once you narrowed down your choices based on which cannabis species is perfect for you, you will have a lower number of strains that you can choose from, kinda like a process of elimination. By the way, usually at any dispensary, they color code each strain group to make it easier for customers to find what they're looking for.
Now you need to look into the percentage levels of THC and CBD in every strain of the desired category. Keep in mind, as I mentioned earlier, even if the strains were from the same species they will still have different effects that you can play with.
Ruderalis is a subspecies of cannabis that was initially found in the mid-1920s in central Russia. It was found by D.E. Janichevsky, a Russian botanist. So what makes Ruderalis different from Sativa and Indica? Well, it has smaller club shaped leaves, and fewer of them. It also differs by the way in which it flowers. Ruderalis is ‘autoflowering’ meaning it does not depend on the amount of light it receives each day to begin flowering. Most cannabis will begin to flower when it receives 12 hours of darkness. Ruderalis only needs about one month of growth prior to beginning the flowering process.
The reason for the autoflowering nature of Ruderalis is thought to be due to the harsh environment it was exposed to in nature where the growing season was short. Some dispensaries may offer Ruderalis for sampling, or seeds are available at various sources online. A lot of efforts have been put in to breeding Ruderalis with other types of cannabis to facilitate strong hybrids that are more vigorous. As this breeding has taken place over many years, a lot of progress has been made to overcome the low THC nature of Ruderalis. Now there are many strong hybrid strains available which have Ruderalis as part of their genetic makeup.
At one point in time, I grew hundreds of grapevines in my life. Through that life experience, I learned about the benefits of hybrids. In many cases, hybrids, can offer synergistic benefits or allow plants to thrive where not otherwise possible. That seems to be the case with Ruderalis. A shorter growth period, with less fuss about light cycle seems like it makes the growing process easier.
Before you jump into this part of the post, you will definitely need to take a thorough look on our blog post THC and CBD, and the Entourage Effect to understand how those components interact with each other and our nerve system. Here is a quick overview of the differences between each component.
As a rule of thumb, with only a few exceptions, Sativa strains normally have a medium to high THC content and a relatively low CBD content. Indica strains, nevertheless, have relatively high levels of CBD and low levels of THC.
Comparing THC to CBD percentage level is like comparing apples to monkeys. A "high THC percentage level" is any percentage surpass 20%, but can go down to less than 1%. However, a "high CBD percentage level" usually can only reach 1% potency (and goes down to 0.6% or 0.5%) - with a few exceptions.
This is an important point here; since CBD is considered a non-psychoactive component, I was under the impression for quite some time that I'd be better off with strains that have the highest THC and never cared about CBD percentages. Wrong! For two reasons:
Despite the low levels of CBD comparing to THC's levels, CBD can independently provide many medical benefits. Collaboratively along-side with the THC molecule, however, it can improve your overall high experience. CBD can only achieve the "body high" effect when it interacts with THC. So, if you're looking for that enjoyable body high, as I occasionally seek, truthfully you probably won't get much of it if you only get the type of strain which has high THC but very lowest CBD.
Changing it up among different strains with different THC and CBD percentages can help you manipulating your tolerance as well as discovering an optimal everyday treatment for your mind, body, and soul. (Check out our blog post: 5 Quick Helpful Tips for Taking a Marijuana Tolerance Break)
Things have been changing fast though, as more and more money is going into research and development a variety of marijuana strains have been coming out on daily basis. Such rapid growth in knowledge is causing a disruption in the natural medicinal form of this treatment and at this point, science has taken over. For instance, very high levels of CBD are being developed, up to 7.5% and very low THC (less than 0.6%). Such strains will be useful for those who want to experience the benefit out of marijuana without experiencing strong psychoactive effects.
That's all for now folks. Stay toasty my friends...
Ayad Maher is a Cannabis Industry Entrepreneur, Blogger & Activist. eCommerce Specialist and Owner of a 420 Life Style Website; Monroe Blvd, an online smoke shop; 421Store, and an online CBD store; GoodyCBD.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2017 and has been revamped and updated as needed for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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