According to some experts, more than 700 unique cannabis strains exist in the world. That’s a lot of different kinds of marijuana. And while that strain variety is definitely great from a consumer’s perspective, it can make dispensary trips a little confusing.
That’s why we put together this guide to the types of marijuana. Once you understand the different marijuana strains out there, you’ll be on your way to becoming a cannabis connoisseur.
Understanding Cannabis Types: A Guide to Marijuana Strains
Essentially, the term “strain” applies to a specific varietal of marijuana. Just like there are different varietals of fruit within the same family (Sun Gold versus Brandywine tomatoes, for example), there are different varietals of cannabis and over time they have come to be commonly called “strains.”
Two plants are the same strain if they have the same parents, giving them the same genetic potential. This doesn’t mean that all plants of the same strain will be the same, however. Cultivation techniques and environment will shape how the plant evolves and the chemical profile it produces, too.
The cannabis plant produces over 500 active chemical compounds, and as of right now we have identified cannabinoids (like THC, CBD and CBG) and terpenes are two of the most plentiful and important groups when it comes to effects and experience.
How a particular strain makes you feel or the benefits it offers comes down to the specific chemical profile of that particular plant or product, and each strain will produce a chemical profile based on its genetic coding coupled with environmental factors like temperature, humidity, light and so on.
So while it’s not unreasonable to stick to a particular strain you like, you might notice subtle differences in experience and effects when buying the same strain from different growers or processors, and even from crop to crop from the same grower. The effects of a particular strain or product will depend on its unique chemical profile and the synergistic effects of its active compounds (a theory referred to as “the entourage effect”), and since cannabis is a living plant this varies from plant to plant, crop to crop and product to product.
Sativas, Indicas, and Hybrids: The Different Kinds of Marijuana
Although there are hundreds of strains out there, they are generally put into one of three categories: indica, sativa, or hybrid.
Historically these categories have referred to different genetic families of cannabis. Modern day breeding techniques have blurred the lines between these groups considerably, however we still use indica, sativa and hybrid as shorthands for categorizing strains.
First stop on this journey through the different kinds of marijuana: indica strains. Originally hailing from Central Asia, indicas enjoy a reputation in the cannabis world for being relaxing and soothing strains. As a result, recreational and medical customers alike employ them for many uses.
For recreational consumers, they’re perfect for kicking back and unwinding at the end of a long, hard day. They can borderline sedating, melting anxiety away and replacing it with a warm, calm feeling. Are your thoughts feeling rushed and jumbled? Inhale some indica and wait a few seconds to feel them become more manageable.
Indica strains may possess some particularly helpful traits for medical marijuana patients as well. A survey of medical patients discovered that they tend to prefer indica strains for alleviating chronic pain and sleep problems.
Next up we’ve got sativa strains. Sativas are world travelers, and you can find them growing in the wild on every continent except Antarctica. In contrast to indicas, sativas have a reputation for being uplifting and euphoric. That’s made them popular for some different reasons than indicas.
Adult-use cannabis enthusiasts like sativas because they’re a perfect “daytime strain.” Heading out on an adventure? Sativas are your friend. Going to a party? Bring a sativa strain with you, as they are also known for being a great strain for socializing. Sativas are even great for making mundane tasks more fun, like cleaning your house or doing yard work.
Researchers discovered that medical marijuana patients prefer to use sativa strains for different ailments than indicas. Where sativas really excel, patients say, is with enhancing energy and inspiring euphoria.
While indicas and sativas are two of the original subtypes that grew wild before humans began cultivating the plants, that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones out there. Like we do with all things, humans have played with the marijuana plant’s genetic makeup. By crossing indicas and sativas, we effectively created a third category of genetics: hybrid strains.
Hybrid strains typically offer the type of effects that you’d suspect from an indica/sativa cross. For some, this means having certain “indica” traits and certain “sativa” traits. For example, a hybrid strain may make you feel both energized and relaxed.
In other situations, the effects on one side of the gene pool help to moderate the properties from the other. So if you have a plant that’s mostly sativa (called a sativa-dominant hybrid), it may have more balanced properties than a pure sativa strain.
Cannabis Strain Guide: Wrapping Up
We hope you’ve found this introductory guide to cannabis strains helpful! As we’re sure you’ve come to appreciate, we’ve only scratched the surface of this fascinating topic.
Come visit your local Mission dispensary to learn more and discuss different strains with our friendly and knowledgeable team. They’re happy to point you to some of our most popular strains or they can guide you through the wide variety of strains we carry to help you find just the right strain for you. Of course you can always peruse the online menu of your local Mission dispensary from the comfort of home, too. Either way, we look forward to serving you!