Whether you prefer to consume cannabis via a one hitter, vaporizer, or the ol’ reliable joint, learning about what you’re smoking can be as dry as the herb you’re using. People start tossing around italicized words like Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, but when they throw in terpenes, hybrids, hemp, cannabidol, tetrahydrocannabinol, you might feel your attention waning. All of these new words can be a little overwhelming – especially when you just want to know what you should smoke to feel a certain way.
Here’s a brief (but thorough) break down of the important words you should know regarding strains and hybrids so that you can make the best choice for your next smoking session.
Cannabis sativa versus Cannabis indica
When you see marijuana’s full name in italics (like above), it is referring to the botanical name of the type of plant. Cannabis is the plant’s genus, and either sativa or indica is the species. Both of these species have different purposes for smokers, though they have been bred together so much, you’d be hard-pressed to find a “pure” version of either plant.
When growers label herb “sativa,” it generally means that it will give you a buzz. Sativas are known to have high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC or the chemical that makes you high). Sativas are also credited for helping you stay focused on a task and for giving you a boost of creativity. Hybrids that are heavily sativa, are often called “wake and bake” varieties because they should be used first thing in the morning to get you jazzed for the day.
For the most part, the Cannabis sativa plant is tall and skinny, and it has those stereotypical thin leaves that look like fingers on a hand.
Cannabis indica strains, on the other hand, typically have lower amounts of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (also known as CBD or the chemical that relaxes you). People tend to use indicas for their calming effects, to reduce inflammation and help with insomnia and anxiety.
Unlike its tall and skinny cousin, Cannabis indica tends to be a short, dark-colored plant with fat, broad leaves.
So what is hemp?
Technically hemp is Cannabis sativa, but its extremely low THC levels make hemp mostly suitable for industrial uses like fabric, plastics, furnishings, building materials, and insulation. The seeds are very nutritional, and the buds and leaves can be processed to yield CBD for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. Due to its low THC content, hemp is often legal even when other marijuana products are banned, though you should check with your state’s laws before purchasing or using anything in the cannabis family.
Now, let’s talk about hybrids.
One important thing to remember when you’re researching strains is this: It’s not as simple as indica versus sativa.
That’s right, all the stuff you just learned about indica and sativa can take a backseat because there are a million different hybrids out there with a million more being developed each day. Cultivators have been perfecting marijuana strains for years now in an attempt to meet individual needs.
Just because a hybrid is predominantly a sativa, doesn’t mean that it can’t have calming effects on the body. Similarly, a hybrid that is mostly indica can be rejuvenating and help boost creativity and social skills. To botanists, indica and sativa still describe how the plant looks, but to users, “indica” and “sativa” provide a baseline for predicting an outcome. Since hybrids are a mix of indica and sativa, a better way to think of your weed is whether it is balanced THC/CBD, THC-dominant, or CBD-dominant.
How do I shop for hybrids?
When you’re looking at hybrids, and you have a particular goal in mind, the best thing you can do is look at the THC and CBD content as well as the dominant terpenes. Terpenes are herb’s version of aromatherapy, and researchers aren’t quite sure exactly how they work – just that somehow two hybrids with similar THC/CBD levels will offer different experiences based on the types of terpenes present.
THC is a pretty potent chemical, so if you’re sensitive to it, you should look for hybrids with lower levels. Too much THC for your experience, genetics, and tolerance levels, and you could be looking at paranoia, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and a panic attack.
If your goal is to have a powerful high, you should scout out hybrids with a higher THC content. It’s worth noting that THC works best when it’s balanced with CBD, so looking for a hybrid that’s completely THC probably isn’t in your best interest.
Similarly, if you’d like a more relaxing experience, look for hybrids with a high CBD level and low THC. A balanced CBD/THC hybrid will give you a bit of a high but also leave you feeling relaxed. What you choose is dependent entirely on your preferences.
Even though indica and sativa are thrown around like they actually mean something, you’re better off looking at terpenes and THC/CBD percentages to help you achieve your preferred experience.