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Finding the right strain of marijuana can be tough, especially if you’re looking for a particular kind of high or a medicinal property. The decision can be downright daunting, as new strains are bred practically every day. This marijuana strain guide is designed to help you find the right weed for you, without experiencing the frustration of trial-and-error (or at least a lot less of it).
If you ask an avid marijuana consumer to compare the Bubba Kush strain (Indica) to a Sour Diesel strain (Sativa), they wouldn’t tell you about the physical plant. Instead (unless they grow it themselves) they would probably talk more specifically about the different ways those strains affect you. And, if they have personal experience, they’ll probably tell you how those strains affected them. While these anecdotes and bits of knowledge can be helpful, keep in mind that every stoner experiences every strain in a different way.
With that, this guide will focus mainly on the type of high each strain (or group of strains) can provide you. If you’re looking for a growing guide, or a how-to-identify-based-on-appearance guide, this isn’t the article for you--sorry! This guide will also steer you in the right direction for choosing a suitable strain for your weed-smoking goals.
Visiting any dispensary in the states where marijuana is legal can be ridiculously overwhelming. There are hundreds of different strains (yes, hundreds!), and that variety has created a whole new class of marijuana smokers. The stereotypical stoner is rapidly fading from reality, instead being replaced by rather picky and sophisticated, or even pretentious, consumers of cannabis (don’t call them stoners--they hate that).
To be completely honest, I can totally see their point. The classification of cannabis is becoming more intricate than it has ever been, and marijuana is now being treated like fine wine by many connoisseurs. Every strain has history, a specific way of growing, aroma, taste, type of high, etc. just like wine or beer. And so, just like there are wine-nerds and beer-dorks, there are weed-geeks (that’s what I like to call them, at least).
These different cannabis strains shed a whole new positive light on the plant, which is fantastic news for fans and consumers. We here at MonroeBlvd think it's essential to give everyone some basic knowledge so that you can figure out what you like and don't like. Of course, you’ll also need to do some experimenting to personalize your high. Remember, this plant should serve you, not the other way around!
Related article: 7 Key Tips to Break the 'Irresponsible Stoner' Stereotype
Every strain offers different physical characteristics like smell and taste, and different effects on your brain and body. Even if strains are from the same species (such as Indica or Sativa), they’re all a bit different. We will go over the three main cannabis species and their differences a little later, don’t worry.
The reason that each strain is different is mostly due to the different percentage levels of THC and CBD. THC and CBD are the most common cannabinoids that your body processes--different levels of them give you a different high, as your nervous system processes them differently.
It's important to remember that cannabis is a natural plant with naturally produced chemicals--sure, you can buy synthetic shit, but the real stuff is way better for you and your body. Because cannabis is a natural substance, everyone’s body processes it differently. The same strain has the possibility to reduce anxiety in one person, and cause it in another, for example. Finding the perfect strain for you is a personal journey, one that we’re here to help you on.
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 need to ask yourself (and answer, of course):
Once you’ve asked and answered these questions, you can start thinking about what strain best suits you.
The word cannabis is the Latin name for marijuana, which is, of course, the plant we’re all about here. Cannabis 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 those hybrid species that everyone loves.
We know what you’re thinking: how am I going to find the right strain? Availability is the main problem most stoners deal with, which is why we won’t be discussing super-specific strains like Lemon Bean or Candyland Cookies (that’s what our podcast, One Strain At A Time, is for). There are both legal and financial barriers that people deal with when buying their weed, so we’ll be discussing strains in a broader sense. Knowing the differences between Sativa, Indica, and hybrid strains is cannabis101, and it’s important knowledge to have no matter where you’re purchasing your product. As you start becoming a regular marijuana user, you’ll start to notice the physical differences of the product as well as how different strains make you feel.
This is truly cannabis101. Understanding the differences between Indica, Sativa, and hybrid strains is vital in having a happy high. Again, side effects vary from person to person, but the ones listed below are pretty run-of-the-mill.
1. Cannabis Indica Strains: An Indica strain is the type of cannabis that will give you the infamous body high. Some people describe it as "couch lock." It's perfect for relieving mild anxiety, sleep deprivation, nausea, chronic pain, muscle spasms and more. It can also give you “the munchies” --try Nutella drizzled over popcorn the next time you smoke Indica. It’s divine.
From a recreational perspective, Indica provides physical sedation and relaxation effects. Sometimes smokers feel a tingling sensation in the whole body, aka a "body high." Some Indica strains can provide a “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 strains kill my social anxiety, but can also make my mind race. It all depends on the day, my mood before smoking, and the individual strain.
As for the flavor, Indica strains tend to taste sweet or fruity, so if you hate bitter flavors, this is a good option for you.
Again, these are the most common side effects of smoking Indica, but it truly varies from person to person. You need to just try it out to really know what it’s like.
Our Favorite Indica Strains:
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, or “couch-locked.” It's perfect for patients who seek daytime relief from chronic pain, nausea, or fatigue.
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, in my experience, makes life just seem good, no matter how bad it actually is. This heady strain makes you laugh abundantly, which is great for certain occasions but not so much for others. For example, don’t smoke this if you’re about to go to a funeral (I've been there, I've done that. A story for another time).
Side Note: Sativa strains may give the feel of having racing thoughts and wanting to share them with others. In other words, it can really help with having deep conversations, especially with people you already know and are comfortable with. Some Sativa strains can completely knock out your social anxiety and that’s actually one of the many reasons I, personally, smoke weed.
However, Sativa strains can be associated with anxiety attacks, because it’s possible to start overthinking negative thoughts. Again, it's hard to pinpoint the exact effects of Sativa on you as an individual, since everyone reacts differently.
At the end of the day, it depends on the type of person you are. Be patient and take it slow while you explore different Sativa strains to find the right one for you.
Related article: 7 Tips For Your First Time Smoking Marijuana
Sativa can also trigger your analytical self and creativity (writing, painting, etc.). I wouldn't be surprised if Cannabis Sativa is popular among artists, musicians, and philosophers. I know some writers who swear by it when they have writers block. In general, it can really heighten your experience of life--colors are brighter, food tastes better, movies are funnier, etc. Time can also seem to slow down, which can be good or bad depending on your mindset and what you're doing.
As for the flavor, Sativa strains tend to be earthy or musky, such as pine.
Our Favorite Sativa Strains:
3. Cannabis Hybrid Strains: Hybrid strains are crosses between Indica and Sativa. They can be heavily Indica or heavily Sativa, or a near-perfect blend of the two. There is a wide range of Hybrid strains, with more seemingly every day as breeders mix genetics to create new strains.
Hybrids can be broken down into three basic categories:
Once you’ve 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. Finding your perfect strain is a giant process of elimination.
Side Note: At pretty much any dispensary, they color code each strain group to make it easier for customers to find what they're looking for. Keep an eye on color-coding to narrow down your search.
Also keep in mind that you should look into the percentage levels of THC and CBD in every strain you try out. Even strains from the same species can have different effects based on their THC/CBD content.
Our Favorite Hybrid Strains:
Ruderalis is a subspecies of cannabis that was initially found in the mid-1920s in central Russia, so it’s relatively new as far as cannabis goes.
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, no matter how much light it gets.
The reason for the autoflowering nature of Ruderalis is thought to be due to the harsh environment of central Russia, where the growing season is pretty 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. As this breeding has taken place over many years, a lot of progress has been made to overcome Ruderalis’s low THC content. 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 all kinds of plants. 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. By crossing it with other strains, you can grow hybrids with a shorter growth period, and less fuss about light cycle. This, in general, makes the growing process both easier and faster.
I highly recommend checking out our article on THC and CBD, and the Entourage Effect before reading the rest of this article. Understanding how CBD and THC interact with each other and our nervous system is super important when choosing a strain. Here’s a quick overview of the differences between THC and CBD:
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, diametrically, have relatively high levels of CBD and low levels of THC.
Comparing THC to CBD percentage level is like comparing apples to monkeys, though. A "high THC percentage level" is any percentage that surpasses 20%, but it can go down to less than 1% depending on the product. 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.
Important Note: since CBD is considered a non-psychoactive component, I was under the impression for quite some time that it didn’t matter. For a while I only chose strains with a high THC content, but I was wrong!
Things have been changing quickly though, as more money is going into research and development of new cannabis products. Because of the rapidly growing nature of this industry, a variety of marijuana strains have been coming out on practically a daily basis. 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 benefits of marijuana without experiencing strong psychoactive effects, but don’t want a pure-CBD product.
Making sure you buy quality marijuana is vital in staying safe, so here are some tips on choosing a quality product:
That's all for now folks. Now get out there, start experimenting to find your perfect strain, and stay toasty.