Choosing a cannabis strain that’s right for you is important. The cannabis plant contains hundreds of molecular compounds that work together to produce each strain’s unique properties and effects. It’s easy to get confused by the fancy names and numbers associated with each particular type of cannabis, but there are a few facts you can equip yourself with that can help you make an informed choice, and find the type of experience you’re looking for.
What’s the difference?
Even newcomers to cannabis have probably heard of the two basic categories of strains: Indica and Sativa. Here, we’ll look at the differences between the two, and some of the myths associated with them.
You may think you know the difference between Indica and Sativa strains of cannabis… but the reality is a lot more nuanced than you may have been told. The real difference between the two has to do with the appearance and preferred growing conditions for each of these cannabis types.
- Sativa strains of cannabis grow naturally in warmer climates with a longer growing season. They are taller in stature than their indica cousins, growing up to twelve feet tall outdoors in the wild. Their leaves are very narrow and spear-like.
- Indica strains grow naturally in colder climates with shorter growing seasons. They are shorter, just half the height of their sativa cousins, and are bushier and fuller-looking plants with broader leaves.
Conventional wisdom tells us that Indica strains are more sedative and relaxing (“Indica equals ‘in-da-couch’” as the saying goes), and Sativa strains are more uplifting, energetic and sociable. The reality isn’t so simple. The fact is that, while these general categories may be helpful in selecting the right strain for you, it’s a distinction that isn’t always true.
Not all indica strains are relaxing.
Not all sativa strains are uplifting.
Every strain is unique
In fact, it’s the complex relationship between cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and the terpenes that work with them that gives each type of cannabis its own personality.
A high percentage of THC coupled with a low concentration of CBD, for example, will deliver a much more powerful high than the opposite, whether it’s an Indica or Sativa strain that you’ve ingested. A high-CBD strain will probably feature more relaxing, anti-anxiety properties than a strain with little or none.
Terpenes, the aromatic oils produced in plenty by the trichomes of the cannabis plant also affect your high. A strain that’s high in the terpene pinene, for example, will probably produce a more alert and sociable effect. The terpene linalool will probably produce a relaxing and sedative high. It’s the complex dance between all of these compounds that make your cannabis unique.
So how do you know which strain is right for you?
You can start with the basic Indica/Sativa distinction when shopping for the right strain of cannabis, but that’s just the beginning.
Beyond that, here are two tips to keep in mind:
- Shop with your nose
The blend of more than a hundred terpenes found in the cannabis plant give each strain its unique aroma, as well as the particular effects you’ll feel when you ingest it. Some people believe that the scent you are most attracted to is a sign that your body is telling you the right type of cannabis for you. Whether that’s true or not, terpenes are the main factor in determining the smell and taste of every strain. Choose one your nose enjoys.
- Ask an expert
An experienced “budtender” will be able to answer your questions. Tell them what particular effects you are most interested in, and ask questions about the potency of the strain, and levels of THC, CBD and various terpenes. They’ll point you in the right direction.
New users of cannabis may want to start with a strain with lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD for a well-balanced high that isn’t too intoxicating.
So, while the distinction between Indica and Sativa strains of cannabis may be a helpful organizing principle as you explore, the reality is far more complex. In the end, the right cannabis for you is simply the one that you most enjoy.