Understanding Different Marijuana Strains

(…what are the best weed strains out there?)


Even if you wouldn’t exactly consider yourself a cannabis connoisseur, or maybe you’re a little green to the world of medical marijuana, you still might know that there are different types or strains of weed out there. Generally, when it comes to cannabis that has recreational and medicinal value, there are two major marijuana strains or plant subspecies—called indica and sativa. There is a third class of strains, or variety, of marijuana called hybrid, which is cultivated by crossbreeding and selectively mixing the distinct genetic makeups of the indica and sativa strains.

Under the three main categories of weed strains are many different marijuana strains besides, varying by grower and geography, which result in a unique profile of characteristics and traits for each type of plant. Marijuana plants of different strains can vary by their effect, flowering times, yields, inflorescence and morphology (having to do with flower and plant appearance, respectively), flavor of the bud when smoked, and its smell.

More than weed strains, though, there are a seemingly limitless number of weed names—Wild Cherry OG, Northern Lights, Sour Diesel, Lemon Haze, Sensi Kush, and Dragon Berry Cheddar—so named for their taste, origin, effect and appearance. At times, it can also seem like there are as many names for weed as people smoking pot. Fancy, elaborate names for certain kinds of bud, and multiple names for the same or very similar strains, have been thought up and passed around by marijuana users long before the inception of the medicinal cannabis industry, and certainly before the popular movement (and progress) for legalized marijuana.


Of course, a loosening up of medical marijuana regulation and law has encouraged an even greater proliferation of weed names. Home growers, storefronts and marijuana retailers (where legal) have all contributed to the profusion of pot monikers within cannabis culture. Marijuana strain researchers and licensed producers of cannabis also develop their own strains in order to compete and meet high demand in a burgeoning commercialized cannabis industry. (For a more exhaustive list of weed names and strains of weed see our sources at the bottom of the page, Marijuana Dictionary and Strains Guide.)

 The goal, of course, on the part of many commercial growers and licensed producers, is an added appeal for their targeted market: an illustrious name can bring a boost in popularity of certain marijuana strains among the casual user, especially if the strains in question have similar effects or comparable therapeutic value. Dogged bud lovers or long-time smokers who have developed an affinity for one strain over the other are probably harder to fool. But in any event, the difference between indica, sativa, and hybrid strains is real, and many people do ultimately develop either a preference for one or two or several strains, or for a specific kind (name) of bud that best suits their needs.


Effects of Marijuana and Different Types of Weed

Indica strains of marijuana originally came from higher altitudes, most often cultivated in the mountainous regions of countries in Africa, the Middle East (such as Afghanistan), and upper latitudes of Western Asia and Central Europe. The plants themselves are usually short and bushy (approximately 3 feet tall) and ideal for growing indoors.

Better known indica strains are Afghan Kush, Afghan skunk, Alien OG, Blueberry, Hindu Kush and Purple Kush.

When it comes to the effects of the indica strain, it tends to ground you in more of a low-key high, with full-body effects that leave you “sofa-bound” or “couch-locked,” and forgetful of anything besides how good you’re feeling at the moment. Video games and gazing toward the ceiling are popular activities while high on an indica. It isn’t a bad idea, either, to use an indica at nighttime, before bed, or if you have nothing pressing to do. The analgesic effect of indica medical grade cannabis is very high—strong. A top-tier indica strain will help with insomnia, general anxiety, muscle and nerve pain, as well as spasms.

Sativa strains were first grown at lower latitudes and in warmer climes than those of the indica. Historically, sativa cultivation took place around the equator and in countries located in Central and Latin America, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa. The plants tend to be tall (about 6 feet) and thin. Good for growing outdoors.

Some of the more popular sativa strains are: Alaskan Thunderfuck, Amnesia, Charlotte’s Web (which is high in CBD), Haze, Candy Jack, Sour Diesel, Black Diesel and Jack Herer (a sativa-dominant hybrid).

The high that comes with sativa strains is often characterized as cerebral—a head high that can be as spiritually uplifting as it is energizing. A sativa’s buoyant effects will often act on both mood and sense of creativity, so be prepared. (Artists, go wild.) Because sativa strains do not sap energy or ultimately leave you feeling enervated after smoking, compared to indica strains they are great for daytime use, from morning into the afternoon, as well as whenever you’re in need of an energy boost. Unsurprisingly, they are great for treating depression, fatigue, and mood disorders; as well as Attention Deficit Disorder.

Hybrid strains of marijuana came about later than both sativa strains and indica strains. Since hybrids are grown by interbreeding sativa and indica plants—thus mixing their genes together—the resulting offspring has a combination of the sativa and indica parent plants’ morphology and effects. Hybrids are usually considered well balanced, combining euphoric elements and effects of the indica and sativa strains.

 Several popular and commonly recognized hybrid strains are: Ak-47, Bubblegum, Earwax, NYC Diesel, Cheesel and Epsilon Haze.


Usually there are dominant properties of either the sativa or indica parent strains within a hybrid marijuana strain. This means that some characteristic effect or trait (such as the type of high or plant appearance) will likely be more prominent than the other. Licensed cannabis producers and commercial retailers will be able to supply clients and customers with a percentage breakdown of the parent strains in the hybrid, a ratio of sativa to indica. (You can also ask about a percent content of THC and CBD compounds).

Although dominance of a hybrid strain can vary, some growers strive for a 50-50 balance of the sativa strains to the indica. Take, for example, the growers who produced the prize-winning and eponymously named Jack Herer strain, after the cannabis decriminalization activist. Hybrid highs can retain the cerebral effects of the sativa strain and layer in the sensations of the strongly felt body high.


Marijuana Effects and Chemical Composition

What is THC? Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive chemical compound in marijuana that causes people to get high. THC acts on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Common effects of marijuana highs and user-described experiences are an overall sense of euphoria; pseudo-hallucinogenic sensations related to auditory, olfactory and the visual senses; an enhanced sense of taste, increased appetite (more frequently referred to as “the munchies”), relaxation, pain relief, and sometimes fatigue.


The THC in marijuana is also known to significantly reduce nausea and the urge to vomit, making it a choice alternative medicine for cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapies, to naturally and effectively combat the adverse side effects of treatment.

According to medical marijuana regulation within Canada, licensed producers of medicinal cannabis must limit THC content of dried marijuana between 2 percent and 12.5 percent. One Ontario medical marijuana company was identified as mislabeling the pot it sold, with the actual percentage of THC higher than indicated on the product label. The cannabis company has since recalled the product—though so far they’ve received no complaints.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is another chemical compound, a cannabinoid that is present in marijuana. CBD is of particular interest to researchers and doctors treating patients who suffer from epilepsy or other more severe forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet Syndrome. Marijuana strains high in CBD but low in THC can be bred and cultivated as medication for young children who need the seizure-preventing, lifesaving effects of CBD, but not the high that comes with elevated amounts of THC. The CBD-rich marijuana is often turned into an extract, and then administered in liquid form.

Terpenes and flavonoids are the chemical compounds primarily responsible for the different flavors and odors associated with different types of weed. Taste and smell of marijuana can vary widely too, for cannabis experts and casual smokers alike. Common flavor profiles range from light and fruity (in sativa strains) to those types of cannabis with a harsher ammonia scent and smell (more sativas). There is also the highly distinctive skunky odor (indica) that quickly stinks up the immediate vicinity and tends to break free from even the most “airtight” containers.

Of course, cannabis connoisseurs and reviewers frequently use their pot-sensitive palettes and wide-ranging experience to take descriptions of what they smoke to new levels. Denver, Colorado critics compare the flavor experience of their marijuana to everything from neutral and clean, to popcorn, to lemon peels.

Of course, you shouldn’t just take their word for it.













Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol, addictive behaviour

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