Finding the Right Cannabis Strains for You


When you walk into a cannabis dispensary for the first time, the experience can be overwhelming. There are lots of strain names and product choices and it can make for a confusing experience for a first-time patient. Anxiety is the last thing you need when you go into a dispensary, so here is a basic guide on how to pick the right cannabis strains of marijuana for you.

What is the Difference Between Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid?

Three terms you will see often when choosing cannabis strains are indica, sativa, and hybrid. These terms have been used to classify marijuana strains into three very broad categories, and in many circles are now considered outdated. Still, these terms will be helpful to know when you make purchases and research products to try.

Indica refers to a strain of cannabis that is relaxing and sedative. They are used to help cope with chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia and typically have higher levels of CBD than sativa strains. An easy way to remember indica is by “in the couch” – because that is where you will be if you smoke too much of it!

Sativa refers to a strain of cannabis that is uplifting and energizing. They are used as a daytime treatment for pain, coping with depression, and to help lift the mood. Since sativas are mentally stimulating and can be energizing, sometimes they are best to stay away from if a patient suffers from anxiety, as they can hype them up too much. This shouldn’t shy you away from trying a sativa strain; just because something is labeled sativa does not necessarily mean it will increase anxiety.

This is where hybrids come into play.

A hybrid strain of marijuana crosses two strains, most often a sativa and an indica, but sometimes can be a cross of two sativas or two indicas. Hybrids are an excellent choice for many patients because of their combined sativa and indica effect.

A sativa-dominant hybrid refers to a strain that will be more sativa than indica in effect but is more balanced than a pure sativa strain.

An indica-dominant hybrid refers to a strain that will be more indica than sativa in effect, but more balanced than a pure indica strain.

A 50/50 hybrid is an even balance of both sativa and indica.

For example, if a patient suffers from chronic pain but does not want to be too sleepy throughout the day, they might choose to medicate with an indica-dominant hybrid. A patient who suffers from anxiety and depression might choose a sativa-dominant hybrid to treat their depression because they will benefit from the uplifting effects of the sativa while the indica cross takes away the anxiety they may feel if they choose to medicate with pure sativa.

The terms indica, sativa, and hybrid are only one component of making an informed purchase when you go to a dispensary. Another big factor one needs to consider is terpenes.

right strains single flower

What are Terpenes and What do They Do?

Terpenes are aromatic organic compounds (like essential oils) found throughout nature that give plants their distinctive scent and taste and therapeutic effects. When referring to cannabis, terpenes are responsible not only for taste and scent, but they work together with cannabinoids like THC and CBD in what is called the entourage effect to give cannabis strains their distinctive effects.

The marijuana plant is composed of over a hundred compounds called cannabinoids. While the most popular are THC and CBD, the numerous other cannabinoids and terpenes contribute significantly to how a strain will make you feel. When you cut into a lemon and smell the tart citrus, the terpene responsible for that is limonene. Limonene is one of the most prevalent strains found in cannabis, and is found in cannabis strains like Super Lemon Haze and Mandarin Cookies. Limonene has anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antidiabetic properties and makes you feel happy, focused, and creative.

Another popular terpene found commonly in marijuana is myrcene. Myrcene is also found in mangoes and has sedative properties and is a popular choice treating insomnia and chronic pain.

Occasionally one may come across a strain of cannabis that makes them feel unpleasant. Often this can be traced to a food allergy, such as an allergy to pepper. Since beta-caryophyllene is found in pepper, one should avoid strains with beta-caryophyllene. There are hundreds of terpenes, but the ones most prevalently found in cannabis are myrcene, limonene, pinene, terpinolene, linalool, and caryophyllene.

While the cannabis industry slowly moves away from the outdated terms indica, sativa, and hybrid, some companies are classifying their strains and products by effects like “calm” and “stimulating,” but you are more likely to find strains described by their scents and tastes. The most common you will see are floral, fruity, herbal, earthy, spicy, skunky, gas, and diesel. For a more thorough breakdown of the variety of flavors found in cannabis, click here.


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