They say there is a lot in a name– that holds especially true when it comes to cannabis strains. Nine Pound Hammer, Cannasutra, Barack O Bubba, Tom Cruise Purple, King Louis XIII, and Laughing Buddha are just a few cannabis strains with names worthy of a toke or two.
Although no one can say with certainty exactly how many strains are currently in circulation (estimates fall between 800-1,000), new strains are constantly being created. Others simply fall into disuse or are renamed and rebranded.
“Strain names are one of the many interesting things about cannabis culture. And if you’re at all familiar with strain names you know they can be pretty colorful, creative, funny, and weird. You also know there are tons of them. So how many different cannabis strains are there? Turns out the answer to that question isn’t as simple as you might think. And it all has to do with the fact that cannabis growers—amateur and professional alike—are constantly experimenting with new strains”. – Green Rush Daily
With so many different strains on the market, you might get easily overwhelmed. But don’t strain yourself trying to figure it all out, we’ll explain exactly what a strain is and how to pick the one that’s just right for you.
What is a Cannabis Strain?
As you might remember from No two buds are created equal: Why variance is a natural part of cannabis & why it matters, cannabis is a heterogeneous plant and inherently extremely varied. Each cannabis flower or ‘bud’ contains several dozen cannabinoids- chemical compounds that are unique to, and comprise a cannabis plant.
Besides the natural variance of cannabis, different methods of cultivation (location, climate, equipment used, agricultural practices, etc) affect cannabis composition and potency further contributing to the vast differences in cannabis.
The varying compositions and levels of each cannabinoid within a single flower create what we know as different strains, all with varying effects and potencies. Strains help create order and help classify cannabis into more manageable groupings in an attempt to overcome cannabis’ inherent variance and find commonality among the plants.
What are the Features of a Strain?
A strain is usually classified using the following metrics;
1) Pure sativa, pure indica, or hybrid-
Indica has a more relaxing, sedating, and calming effect while sativa provides a more energetic, euphoric high. A hybrid is a mix of both indica and sativa strains. Man-made, hybrids are more balanced combining the effects of indica and sativa. As experimentation with cannabis breeding grows, more and more strains are becoming hybrids.
2) Total THC & CBD count (potency)-
THC is responsible for the psychedelic effect you feel when using cannabis. Depending on the strain, the amount of THC held in a flower can greatly vary from 0.3% in weaker strains to 20% or higher in more potent strains. THC helps with varying types of pain management, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, PTSD, and more.
CBD offers many of the same health benefits as THC without the psychedelic effects.
Flowers & Their Roots
It is important to keep in mind that most of today’s strains are in fact man-made. Cultivators are now able to engineer cannabis crops to create hybrids and strains that simply did not exist even five or ten years ago. The demand for higher THC potent cannabis has also contributed to the rise of genetically modified strains. A lot of the new ability to create strains-galore is due to advancements in technology that have let cultivators’ experiment with lighting techniques, soils, temperate, and other points of breeding.
However, cannabis enthusiasts and those heavily involved in cannabis cultivation will probably tell you some strains do in fact hold esteemed ancestral roots. Certain strains have become beloved and kept unchanged over time with their origins traced back to their inception. For example, the popular strain Afgoo, has quite a colorful backstory.
“Afgoo, also known as Afgooey, is a potent indica strain believed to have descended from an Afghani indica and Maui Haze. Its sativa parent lends Afgoo uplifting, creative qualities, yet this strain undoubtedly takes after its indica parent with relaxing, sleepy effects to go with its earthy pine flavor.”
The hybrid strain blue dream has an equally rich history:
“Blue Dream, a sativa-dominant hybrid that originated in California, has achieved legendary status among West Coast strains. By crossing a Blueberry indica with the sativa Haze, Blue Dream balances full-body relaxation with gentle cerebral invigoration. Novice and veteran consumers alike enjoy the level effects of Blue Dream, which ease you gently into a calm euphoria.
And the list goes on and on.
Wonder if these strains took the 23andMe test?
How to choose the right strain for you
With so many strains out there, there is certainly something for everyone. If pain management is what you’re after, a strain higher in THC is what you should look for. Want to get the benefits of THC without the psychedelic effects? Ask you budtender for a strain lower in THC, but higher in CBD. If you are looking for something to help you unwind after a long day, reaching for an indica will be your best bet while sativa will give you a second wind for those trading in a PJ night for a DJ night.
The Strain Game
Unfortunately, even consistently purchasing the same strain will not guarantee you are continually receiving the same potency, which can result in differing (even if sometimes only slightly perceptible) effects. Cannabis from different cultivators can be marketed as the same strain but in fact, are not in any way genetically similar and vary greatly in their CBD & THC levels from one batch to the next.
When it comes to those turning to cannabis for medical use, relying solely on using the same strain will not guarantee consistent or accurate dosing. Furthermore, some take great liberties with naming strains, naming them with popular names when in reality, they share no similarities with their namesake! It is not uncommon for some sellers to take a simple strain and give it a cool, catchy name to help drive sales. For the most part, its always a good idea to approach strains with a dash of healthy skepticism.
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