Consuming Cannabis can be a lot of fun and beneficial to your health, but to maximise your experience – whether recreational or medicinal - it is important to understand the nuances between the different varieties of strains offered by most Coffeeshops.
If you’ve just walked in one of our Coffeeshops, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the long list of strange and exotic names on the menu. While it may seem confusing at first, fear not! – This guide is here to teach you the basics and help you find the right match for your needs and wants.
Understanding what makes a Cannabis strain unique
There are well over a thousand different strains of Cannabis, while new strains are made daily, some go extinct quietly, some are renamed for various reasons and some simply aren’t practical or popular enough for people to have a desire to cultivate or breed them.
No two strains are exactly alike, to understand what makes a Cannabis strain so unique, we need to look at the chemistry of the plant. While hundreds of different compounds can be found in any given variety, the cannabinoids and terpenes are what significantly impacts how a strain makes you feel.
What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are the most active compounds of the plant, and exert their effects by interacting with specific cannabinoid receptors present on the surface of cells. Some of them are responsible for the euphoric high you get while consuming Cannabis, while others are responsible for the physical effects such as muscle relaxation and appetite stimulation.
Two of the most important cannabinoids in Cannabis are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol).
THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis that gives users the “high” feeling and helps with sleep and stress. In high dosage, it can also induce feelings of paranoia, so it is important to know your tolerance before trying strains with high THC content.
Strains high in CBD are preferable for those who want to avoid the high, as CBD is non-psychoactive and is known to counteract the psychoactive effect of THC, helping with regulating mood and alleviating pain.
While strains high in THC are more often sought after by recreational users, CBD strains are perfect for medical users who do not want to get high while still taking full advantage of the benefits of consuming Cannabis.
What are Terpenes?
Despite cannabinoids like THC and CBD getting much of the attention, other compounds in the flower are essential as well, one of them to receive its fair share of attention in recent years is terpenes.
Terpenes are organic compounds that give a strain its specific taste and aroma, as well as some of its therapeutic benefits. While known for flavours and aromas, terpenes also protect the plant from sunlight and other factors. Secreted from glands of the cannabis plants, just as THC and CBD are, these aromatic oils can be found in several other plants, such as conifer trees and many other natural sources. There are many types of terpenes (over 200 have been identified in the Cannabis plant!), and it takes a little time and experience to become familiar with how they can benefit you. Here are eight of some of the most prominent and talked about terpenes in Cannabis:
Linalool: Floral flavour; also found in lavender; it’s reported to promote pain relief and relaxation.
Myrcene: Earthy flavour; it’s the most abundant terpene found in cannabis; commonly believed to have sedative and muscle-relaxing effects.
Pinene: Pine flavour; also found in rosemary and many other herbs; it has been studied for its anti-inflammatory effects and may combat short-term memory impairment from THC.
Humulene: Woody flavour; reported to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Caryophyllene: Spicy and peppery flavour; rodent studies have shown that it can act as an anti-inflammatory, relieve pain, and may even treat anxiety and depression.
Limonene: Citrus flavour; rodent studies reported have shown that it can provide relief from anxiety and stress.
Ocimene: Sweet flavour; commonly used in perfumes; reported to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Terpinolene: Fruity flavour; reported to have antibacterial and antifungal qualities.
Indica vs. Sativa
Now that we are familiar with the chemistry of the plant, one last thing to look at is whether the strain you want to smoke is from the Indica or Sativa specie of Cannabis.
Indica flowers are known to get you stoned - also known as a body high - and is associated with feelings of deep relaxation and sleepiness, while Sativa flowers will give you an energizing head high, and will leave you feeling uplifted and creative.
Most people prefer to use Indica strains at night time for its relaxing properties while keeping the Sativa strains for day time use for its invigorating high. If you’re scared to mix them up, one simple saying should help you remember: “Indica puts you in “da” couch, Sativa activates your mind!”
Sativa strains are known to help with migraines, chronic pain, glaucoma symptoms, nausea and low appetite, meanwhile people often choose Indica strains to relieve the symptoms of insomnia, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, chronic pain as well as arthritis.
Sativa strains usually contain a higher THC content than Indica strains, so keep that in mind when choosing the right strain if you have a low tolerance to Cannabis.
Hybrids are strains that are crossed between Indica and Sativa strains. They are typically very potent and can offer a blend of therapeutic properties found in both strain categories. Most of the cannabis you find at dispensaries are Sativa-dominant or Indica dominant hybrids. Generations of cross-breeding have made it pretty rare to find a true Indica or Sativa these days.
Finding the right strain
In conclusion, finding the right strain for you can take a bit of work and experimenting by trial and error, but understanding the basics of how Cannabis work will stir you in the right direction.
- Understand how Cannabinoids and Terpenes affect you
- Define what you want to get from consuming Cannabis, are you looking to get high, or do you want to use it for its medicinal value?
- Be mindful of your tolerance, if you are new to consuming Cannabis, start with low THC strains and work your way up!
- Research the different strains online to find one that matches your expectations.
- Check the availability of the strains in your area, or ask at one of our Coffeeshops for the strain you’re looking for, if we don’t have it, we might have something similar! (Remember that there are over 1000 different strains, most Coffeeshops only keep an average of 20 different varieties)
- Keep a Cannabis Journal to record and keep track of your experiences with each strain.
- Experiment and have fun!
Remember that what works for your friends might not work for you and vice-versa, as Cannabis affects each individual differently. Keep in mind that if you’re not familiar with the strains offered at our Coffeeshops, you can always ask our experienced dealers for help and recommendations!
written by Pierre Laurent