One of the first things you probably learned about cannabis is the (purported) difference between indica, sativa and hybrid varieties. Although these distinctions are prominently displayed on cannabis products, they don’t have as dramatic an impact on your experience as you may think. Join us as we take a step beyond the conventional wisdom to illuminate the science behind these strains and what they mean for you.
Understanding Cannabis Strains
“Strains” are a slang term for the many varieties of cannabis plants. Each strain offers its own unique smell, flavor, appearance and experience. New strains emerge as breeders selectively cross strains with one another; there are thought to be more than 700 distinct strains out there today.
Strains are shaped by the plant’s genetics. Although there’s some variety from harvest to harvest in a strain’s cannabinoid and terpene content, you can generally expect a similar experience when consuming a particular strain.
But, there’s more to this! While “strains” is the slang term, the scientifically correct term is “chemovar” or “cultivar”. Wait what? A chemovar is a cannabis plant variety that has been selected for its chemical composition — specifically, the ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes present in the flowers. A cultivar is the same thing, but based on physical characteristics like size or shape.
Different chemovars and cultivars can have differing effects. For example, one strain might be more uplifting while another might make you feel relaxed — all because of different ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes present in each strain! Furthermore, these different ratios may be tailored to suit your individual needs — whether you’re looking for something to make you feel energized and focused or something that will help you wind down after a long day.
This is why it’s important to know the difference between these terms when it comes to cannabis products. Knowing the correct terms can help ensure that you get the right product!
For now though, we’ll refer to cultivars as strains to keep it a little more streamlined in the conversation.
Why Do Strains Matter?
Understanding the strains available at your cannabis dispensary can help you decide which is best for the experience you want. If you’re looking for pain relief, the strain you choose may be different than if you’re chasing a creative breakthrough.
It all comes back to the cannabinoids and terpenes found in each strain, which are tied closely to a plant’s cultivar and the environmental conditions in which they were cultivated — not necessarily whether it’s an indica, sativa or a hybrid.
Indica Vs. Sativa Vs. Hybrid Strains
These terms refer to the origin of the cannabis plant. Today, most strains are hybrids, the result of crossbreeding indica and sativa genetics for generations.
Historically, the indica, sativa and hybrid designation was used to characterize the effects of the strain. Conventional wisdom suggests that sativa strains are uplifting and energizing while indica strains promote relaxation and restful sleep.
However, the reality is a bit less clear-cut. The real indicator of how a strain might make you feel is its cannabinoid and terpene content, not its species. Despite understanding more about how precisely cannabis works in our brains and bodies, the old indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid distinctions carried over from decades of Prohibition, where they were commonly used.
Here’s a closer look at each cannabis variety and what makes it distinct.
A Detailed Look At Cannabis Indica
Indica plants have been popular with consumers since ancient civilization, appearing in Chinese, Egyptian and Roman societies. Indica plants originated in the Eastern Hemisphere, specifically in places like the Hindu Kush mountains and the Asian subcontinent.
Indicas get their name from French botanist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who brought samples of indicas to Europe from India and named them after the country. These varieties of cannabis were known for their intoxicating, psychoactive effects and were used by local populations for recreational and medicinal purposes.
Indica Plant Characteristics
Indica plants tend to be short and bushy, with broad fan leaves and stubby, tightly-clustered branches. These strains tend to grow around a thick stem with a thin layer of bark, making them less suitable for the industrial uses associated with hemp, a type of Cannabis sativa plant. Indica flower tends to be denser than sativa as well.
Indica strains tend to contain higher levels of delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than their pure Cannabis sativa counterparts. However, the proportion of THC to other cannabinoids, like Cannabidiol (CBD) and Cannabinol (CBN), tends to be more balanced in indica strains than in sativa strains.
Common Effects And Medical Uses
Indica strains are associated with a body high and deep relaxation. Notably, that may be due to the high myrcene content associated with many of these strains. These characteristics make indica strains good options if you’re evaluating strains for pain relief, relaxation and deep, restful sleep.
Examples Of Indica Strains
You may come across some of these popular indica strains when you visit a Commencement Bay Cannabis dispensary.
- Ice Cream Cake: A cross between Gelato #33 and Wedding Cake, Ice Cream Cake offers sweet, creamy flavors reminiscent of brie cheese. Expect an uplifting and giggly experience that may leave you with the munchies. It’s a great choice for a fun night in experimenting with new recipes or kicking back and playing a game.
- Granddaddy Purp: For a heavy body high, try this cross between Purple Urkle and Big Bud. Granddaddy Purple offers a potent experience that’s ideal for plopping down on the couch and relaxing into a soothing, meditative state. Trouble falling asleep? Granddaddy Purp may have you ready to doze off in no time.
- Platinum Apricot: Developed by Blue Roots, Platinum Apricot blends the characteristics of its parents Irene Apricot and Platinum GSC to deliver a sweet treat that’s sure to please. Expect a soothing, chill experience and a comforting body high that cradles you away into an evening of calm relaxation.
A Detailed Look At Cannabis Sativa
Cannabis sativa’s roots can be traced to Asia and, later, Europe, where low-THC varieties of hemp were plentiful. Historically, Cannabis sativa was a popular crop for hemp seed oil and hemp fiber production.
Sativa Plant Characteristics
Sativa plants tend to be tall and stalky, unlike their short and stout indica counterparts. The branches grow farther apart as the plant grows and the fibrous stalk lends it well to industrial uses like textures, ropes and construction materials, its historic use for centuries. Today, hemp can be used to produce biofuels that are better for the environment than the use of fossil fuels.
Common Effects and Medical Uses
Sativa strains are associated with a “head high” versus the body high that indicas are associated with producing. Although Cannabis sativa strains tend to contain lower levels of THC than Cannabis indica, they are still consumed for euphoric and therapeutic effects.
Sativa Strain Characteristics
These sativa strains make frequent appearances at Commencement Bay Cannabis dispensaries.
- Sour Diesel: One of the most popular sativa strains around, Sour Diesel or Sour D, is a cross between Chemdawg and Super Skunk. Expect heady, cerebral effects from this well-known strain, a great boost to your energy and creativity. True to its name, the tastes and aroma associated with this strain lean toward a pungent blend of diesel and gas.
- Acapulco Gold: If you’re looking for a landrace sativa strain native to North America, Acapulco Gold should top the list. Its energizing and uplifting effects are unmatched. The golden appearance of these buds makes clear where it gets its name, along with its origins in Acapulco, Mexico. Expect a savory and sweet combination reminiscent of toffee.
- Jack Herer: Named for famed cannabis pioneer Jack Herer, this strain is a cross between Northern Lights #5 and Shiva Skunk. Its sweet flavor is underscored by spice and citrus for a complex flavor profile. Expect equal parts head and body high with this sativa strain, leaving you feeling energized, creative and happy.
A Detailed Look at Hybrid Cannabis
Hybrid strains aren’t a recent development in cannabis. For thousands of years, breeders have crossed countless types of cannabis plants to produce new strains. Literally everyday there’s something new – whoa!
Today, sativa-dominant hybrids contain much higher THC levels than their pure sativa forerunners and indica-dominant hybrid strains may be taller and more stalky than those that grew naturally. It’s all thanks to the selective breeding that continues to this day, leading to the development of more strains suited for specific purposes.
Hybrid Strain Characteristics
Hybrids have highly varied characteristics depending on their genetic lineage, a cornucopia of strains in all shapes, sizes and compound profiles. They are tailored for specific effects, like pain relief or a super potent high. Same goes for tailoring them for terpene content, flavor, and aroma (especially when it comes to concentrates). Others cross the traits of parent plants for the way they grow, maximizing yields and protecting the plant against all manner of pests and diseases.
Common Effects And Medical Uses
The effects and medical uses of hybrid strains are as varied as the strains themselves. Some act more like sativas while others take on the traits of indicas, while others yet have new characteristics all their own. With a working knowledge of cannabinoids and terpenes — as well as helpful recommendations from our dispensary staff — you can bring home a hybrid strain that meets your needs to a T.
Examples of Hybrid Strains
These hybrid strains are among those you’ll find on the shelves at Commencement Bay.
- Blue Dream: This Northern California-bred hybrid strain is a daytime favorite due to what consumers describe as its energizing, yet calming effects. A sativa-dominant hybrid, Blue Dream’s genetics come from parents Blueberry and Haze. This strain is ideal for socializing, as it won’t leave you feeling drained or overwhelmed.
- Strawberry Kush: This cross between Strawberry Cough and OG Kush grants a deeply relaxing experience true to its indica-dominant roots. Expect an even balance between heady effects and a body high. Strawberry Kush is quite potent, so consume with care, especially if your tolerance is lower.
- Guava Runtz: As the name suggests, the Guava and Runtz strains come together to create a tropical, fruity experience that leaves you chatty, giggly and happy. Guava Runtz is a great choice if you’re looking to alleviate stress, inducing a euphoric state that melts your troubles away.
How to Choose the Right Strain For You
When choosing the right cannabis strain for you – and deciding between indica, sativa, and hybrid strains – it’s important to take a holistic approach. Follow these tips to make sure you pick the right type of cannabis flower for your needs.
1. Consider Your Goals
Choosing the right one starts with knowing how you want to feel. The choice you make for managing stress and anxiety, for example, may be different than the one you make if you want to sleep. Many strains can fulfill more than one role, but it’s important to know your “why” before visiting the dispensary.
2. Understand Compound Profiles
While knowing the differences between indica, sativa and hybrid cannabis is a start, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The entire compound profile of a strain, including cannabinoid content (not just THC percentage) and terpene profile, is key. Each compound works together to produce unique experiences, so keeping an eye on each and determining which blends work best for you is an important part of making an informed buying decision.
3. Mind Your Tolerance
Your genetics, how often you consume and your environment are just a few of the factors that influence your tolerance. By knowing your tolerance, you can choose a product with the right THC levels for the experience you want to have. Even if you expect a product will suit your tolerance, you should always start with the lowest effective amount and gradually increase your dosage over time. This will help you avoid unpleasant experiences and unwanted side effects.
4. Try A New Strain
When you think you’ve found the right strain, nothing confirms it quite like giving it a shot. Whether or not a new strain works out how you think it might, that session provides insight into what types of cannabis and compound profiles work (or don’t) for your needs.
5. Keep Notes On Your Experience
It’s hard to remember your experience if you don’t write it down. Keep a journal about your session and note what you liked and disliked about the strain you chose. Over time, these notes can serve as a guide to help you make more informed choices. These notes don’t have to be full-length journal entries — a few bullet points on each strain can be enough to help future hunts for more strains to try.
Shop Your Favorite Strains at CBC
When choosing between indica, sativa, or hybrid strains, it’s essential to understand the general differences between each species. However, these distinctions should be viewed as a starting point rather than definitive rules. Many strains don’t neatly fit into these broad categories. The effects and experiences associated with a strain are often influenced by its chemovar or chemotype, which refers to the specific combination of cannabinoids and terpenes it contains.
Cannabinoids and terpenes play pivotal roles in shaping the effects of a strain. For example, THC (a cannabinoid) is known for its psychoactive effects and is largely responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis. CBD, another cannabinoid, is known for its therapeutic properties and doesn’t induce a high. On the other hand, terpenes, which are aromatic compounds found in various plants including cannabis, influence the aroma and flavor of the strain. Moreover, terpenes such as myrcene (which can promote relaxation) and limonene (associated with uplifting effects) can enhance or modify the overall effects of cannabinoids.
Given the vast number of strains and their unique chemotypes, the best way to gauge how a specific strain might affect you is by trying it firsthand. Keep track of your experiences with each strain, and in no time, you’ll have a curated list of favorites tailored to your preferences.
If you’re not sure where to start, talk to the team at Commencement Bay Cannabis. We pride ourselves on providing expert advice that can help you make the best choice, every time. So stop in today and review our wide range of indica, sativa and hybrid strains. We guarantee you’ll find something you love!