When browsing cannabis strains you may notice strains are commonly broken up into two distinct groups: Indica and Sativa. Most consumers have used these two cannabis types as a standard for predicting effects:
- Indica strains are believed to be physically sedating, perfect for relaxing with a movie or as a nightcap before bed.
- Sativas tend to provide more energizing, uplifting cerebral effects that pair well with physical activity, social gatherings, and creative projects.
This belief that indicas and sativas deliver distinct effects is so deeply rooted in mainstream cannabis culture that budtenders typically begin their strain recommendations by asking you which of these two types you prefer. If you’re smoking cannabis for medicinal benefits, using this rule of thumb can leave you wanting. So, how are you supposed to know which strain is best for you? The answer is cannabinoids and terpenes, two words you should put in your back pocket if you haven’t already.
The effects of any cannabis strain depend on a number of different factors, including the product’s chemical profile, your unique biology and tolerance, dose, and consumption method. Understand how these factors change the experience and you’ll have the best chance of finding that perfect strain for you.
The cannabis plant is comprised of hundreds of chemical compounds that create a unique harmony of effects, which is primarily led by cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD (the two most common) are the main players of cannabis’ therapeutic and recreational effects:
- THC makes us feel hungry and high and relieves symptoms like pain and nausea.
- CBD is a non-intoxicating compound known to alleviate anxiety, pain, inflammation, and many other medical ailments.
Cannabis contains over a hundred different types of these cannabinoids but start by familiarizing yourself with these two first.
Instead of choosing a strain based on its indica or sativa classification, consider basing your selection on these factors instead. Terpenes are aromatic compounds commonly produced by plants and fruit. They can be found in lavender flowers, oranges, hops, pepper, and of course, cannabis. Secreted by the same glands that secrete THC and CBD, terpenes are what make cannabis smell like berries, citrus, pine, fuel, etc. Like essential oils vaporized in a diffuser, cannabis terpenes can make us feel stimulated or sedated, depending on which ones are produced. Pinene, for example, is an alerting terpene while linalool has relaxing properties. There are many types of terpenes in cannabis, and it’s worth familiarizing yourself with at least the most common.
We recognize the need for patients to be able to experiment with different strain types in order to find the one best suited for you. National Compassion offers *Sample Packs* which include 3.5 grams of each strain type- One of Indica, Sativa and a Hybrid. Some patients may also find it useful to keep notes about their dosing to keep track of the effects of each strain.
Below is a chart that very loosely categorizes the two different plant types aforementioned