Whether you’re a patient seeking relief from your symptoms or a recreational customer looking to enjoy the psychoactive effects of weed, choosing the right cannabis strain for you should be an exciting process.
If you’re new to cannabis, you should know that consuming weed isn’t a simple “on/off” between stoned and not stoned. The incredible variety of cannabis strains out there each going to produce their unique signature effects. And they can be pretty different!
But even if you already know your way around sativas and indicas, this guide can help you tailor your selections for the mood or the occasion. Sometimes, a heavy couch-locking indica is just what you want for your rainy day movie marathon. Other times, an uplifting sativa is the perfect choice for enjoying a sunny day outside. So whether you’re a beginner or a connoisseur, here’s a simple process to help you find the right strain for you, no matter what you’re looking for.
Step 1: CBD or THC?
The first thing you should think about when choosing the right strain is the cannabinoid profile. Cannabinoids, if you haven’t heard of them, are the active compounds in the plant that interact with your body’s tissues.
There are 113 different cannabinoids that make up the parts of the plant you’re going to smoke or otherwise ingest. Scientists are still learning a lot about how they interact with our bodies (and with each other), but there are 6 that are the most important cannabinoids.
Of those 6, there are two that every cannabis user should know about. There are tetrahydocannabinol and cannabidiol. Since those are a mouthful to say, we use the abbreviations THC and CBD, respectively. Picking the right strain involves deciding, first and foremost, between strains that offer more of one or the other. Or, a perfect balance of both.
Recreational Users: Pick A Strain With High THC
The right strain for recreational users is any strain with a rich supply of the THC cannabinoid. That’s because THC is the only “psychoactive” cannabinoid out of the hundred-plus in the plant. In other words, this is the cannabinoid that’s responsible for giving you the euphoric psychological and physical sensations of being “high.”
So go with a THC-rich strain if you’re a recreational user looking for all the wonderful feelings of being high, like giggling at everything, marveling at the beauty of things, stimulating your creativity, or heightening your senses of smell, touch, taste, hearing.
Medical Cannabis Patients: Choose A Strain With High CBD
On the other hand, if you’re a looking to use marijuana as part of a wellness regime or to treat the symptoms of a variety of disorders, the right strain for you is a strain rich with CBD.
Unlike THC, CBD isn’t psychoactive. So if you smoked a strain of weed with zero THC, like the famous medical strain Charlotte’s Web, you wouldn’t feel high at all. And that’s a good thing for medical patients who need to medicate during the day yet still perform at a high level at work or completing other tasks.
Most importantly, however, is the fact that studies continue to identify CBD as the primary cannabinoid responsible for the medicinal effects of cannabis. CBD has a number of incredible properties. It’s a neuro-protectant, which means it actually protects and heals your nervous system.
Additionally, CBD can counteract the intoxicating effects of THC. That’s good news for recreational users who may consume cannabis frequently. And it’s also important for medical cannabis patients who want to balance the healing powers of cannabis with its other effects.
Step 2: Sativa or Indica or Hybrid?
Now that you’ve decided whether you want a THC-rich strain or a strain with a high CBD content, now it’s time to think about genetics. Genetically, there are two — okay, actually three — subspecies of the cannabis plant. There’s Cannabis indica, and Cannabis sativa. (The third doesn’t have much to offer so we’ll ignore it).
The two subspecies we’re interested in, sativa and indica, came about through the process of evolution. Different strains genetically adapted, to their environment. So while there’s still considerable variety between strains within a particular subgroup, sativas and indicas still have distinct characteristics.
When it comes to choosing the right strain, you should think two things. First, how do you want your high to feel? And second, what do you want to do (or not do!) after you smoke up?
Sativas Are The Right Cannabis Strain For Activity!
If you’re someone who wants to be or remain active after smoking cannabis, then sativas are right for you. Generally speaking, sativas are mind-dominant cannabis strains that stimulate creativity and activity. They provide an overall uplifting feeling of energized alertness.
You’ll notice a more cerebral effect when you smoke sativas that can kick the wheels in your brain into a higher gear.
Sativas will crush anxiety and tamp down depression, helping you overcome inhibitions or other concerns standing between you and your goals. If quick, alert, creative thinking is a must, sativas can help enhance your mental state.
Because of all these factors, choose a sativa if you’re going to consume cannabis during the day or before an activity.
Indicas Are The Right Cannabis Strain For Chillaxing!
In many ways, indicas are the inverse of sativas. Where sativas are mind-dominant, indicas are body dominant. Where sativas are stimulating, indicas are sedating.
Since indicas provide a high that feels more like a relaxation and a release of tension, you should choose an indica strain for winding down at the end of a busy day.
Indicas will help you get sleepy and fall asleep. They’ll stimulate appetite. But most folks choose indica cannabis strains because of the intense body high they provide.
Cannabis is well-known as a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medicine. So much so, in fact, that many are beginning to turn to it as an alternative to dangerous and addicting prescription pain meds.
So whether you suffer from chronic pain and want to use cannabis as a treatment, or just to relax and soothe achy muscles after working out, indicas are the right cannabis strain for you.
Whereas sativas have gained a reputation for sparking upbeat, motivated activity, indicas will increase your dopamine production, lulling you into a restful, relaxed state. Medically, indicas are extremely useful for reducing nausea and relieving pain. Recreationally, they create extremely pleasing body effects.
Choose Hybrids for the Best of Both Worlds!
Of course, sometimes you don’t want to have to choose between sativas or indicas. And you don’t have to! Indeed, some of the most successful and popular strains of cannabis to be produced in the past few years have been hybrids.
Expert growers cross different parent strains of indicas and sativas to create hybrid combinations that offer the best of both worlds. So energetic body highs are just as possible as relaxing states of alertness and creativity. Hybrids tend to be either sativa- or indica-dominant, so you can dial in the right balance of effects.
Step 3: Which Terpene Profile?
Deciding between THC and CBD-rich strains and sativas, indicas, or hybrids are the biggest choices you have to make when deciding on the right cannabis strain for you. Genetics and cannabinoids are the two major factors shaping your cannabis experience. The rest is up to personal preference.
What smells and flavors do you want to experience when smoking or cooking with marijuana? The answer to that question all comes down to the particular cannabis strain’s terpene profile.
Terpenes are the chemical compounds that give plants their unique, signature palette of scents and tastes. Even more exciting, new research into medical cannabis has suggested that terpenes play an active role in the effects of the plant’s cannabinoids. From a medical perspective, terpenes can even produce their own medicinal effects.
The composition of the different terpenes, as well as their relative concentrations, account for the tremendous variety of strains of cannabis. And that’s due to the environment and soil conditions in which growers cultivate their plants. Certain nutrients, for example, will cultivate higher or lower levels of certain terpenes.
The overall result when it comes to picking the right cannabis strain essentially boils down to the kind of flavor you want out of your smoking experience. Somewhat comically, whoever named the terpenes had weed smokers in mind. Their names tell you all you need to know about the flavors.
Pinene for Earthy, Piney Flavors
For those who want their smoking experience to recall a hike through the ancient redwoods of northern California, cannabis strains with high concentration of the terpene pinene are going to deliver.
Remember, all plants have terpenes. And the resemblances between cannabis and other familiar plants in terms of smell and taste comes down to the terpenes they share. Pinene is also found in pine needles, rosemary, basil, and other aromatic herbs.
Limonene for Citrus, Sour Flavors
Limonene is a terpene you can find in the rinds of citrus fruits and, of course, weed with sour, citrus, and fruity flavors. The candy-like taste of cannabis strains with limonene terpenes make them extremely popular choices, especially for vaping.
Any strain can be the right cannabis strain for you, depending on your needs, desires, and the situation. It’s all a process of picking your cannabinoid profile, your ideal genetics, and your ideal flavors. With so many strains, you’ve got some exploring to do!