Hemp and Cannabis are the same plant; the difference in name is defined by their THC content. In Canada, hemp can’t have more than 0.3% THC, and when it’s higher, it is then defined as cannabis.
Hemp/Cannabis has been used for thousands of years as a food and oil source, for creating fabric and nautical rope, and to enhance recreational experiences. During that time, cultivators of the plant have discovered that it’s possible to produce different strains (more formally known as cultivars), each with a unique blend of cannabinoids and terpenes.
People use cannabis for a variety of reasons; some consume it for recreational purposes, while others may use it to help with medical issues. Based on those needs, particular strains may be more or less suited for one’s desired effects. But how are cannabis strains different from one another, and which one is right for you?
What is a Cannabis Strain?
A cannabis strain is determined by a few key characteristics:
You’ve probably heard of Indica, Sativa, and hybrid cannabis. New cannabis strains are produced over generations with specialized breeding. Cross-breeding plant species results in varying levels and types of terpenes and cannabinoids.
Most people choose strains based on whether they’re an Indica or Sativa; however, the relationship between how cannabis affects an individual and its strain type is much more complicated.
There are hundreds of cannabis strains on the market, each with a unique cannabinoid profile. Depending on the experience that you may be seeking, you might prefer one strain over another. The effects of consuming cannabis vary depending on the number of cannabinoids and terpenes in the bud, as well as one’s own body chemistry.
What are Cannabinoids?
Various strains contain differing amounts of chemical compounds. Cannabinoids, in particular, have a strong effect on how the cannabis plant may make someone feel.
Cannabis exerts its effects by activating the cannabinoid receptors in the body and the brain. These receptors are part of the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates functions like sleeping, eating, and memory. The goal of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis (a stable, balanced environment) in the body.
To date, researchers have identified dozens of different cannabinoids in various strains. We’ve listed a few of the most common ones that you’ll find:
- THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol): When people talk about weed, they often speak of its potency in terms of its THC content. The levels of THC in a strain may cause consumers to report a stronger high. Consumers of THC often report intoxicating effects like amusement, relaxation, and creativity. The more THC that’s present in cannabis, the stronger the psychoactive effects of that strain may be.
- CBD (cannabidiol): When CBD is consumed, people do not often report experiencing a high from it. CBD oil is used as an anti-seizure medication. More research is needed before we can fully understand how CBD affects the human body.
CBN. This cannabinoid is present in weed that’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. It forms when THC oxidizes from heat and light exposure. Some consumers report that CBN makes them feel sleepy.
THC vs. CBD
You may hear a lot about the effects of THC and CBD content in different strains of cannabis. Most products will feature a THC-CBD ratio label on the packaging.
Given that THC is psychoactive, some consumers report feelings of euphoria, pleasure, and relaxation. When people ingest CBD, they sometimes report that it provides relief from symptoms associated with pain, depression, and anxiety. For many consumers, CBD does not produce a high. It is always important to remember that experiences are subjective, and the effects of cannabis often differ from one person to another.
Some theorize that the different effects of cannabinoids are related to the receptors that they activate. In our bodies, there are CB-1 receptors (located in the brain) and CB-2 receptors (located throughout the body). THC binds to both CB-1 and CB-2 receptors, while CBD binds primarily to CB-2 receptors.
What are Terpenes?
Aromatic, flavourful, and distinct—these qualities describe terpenes, which are compounds found naturally in cannabis. If you’ve consumed cannabis before, you might have noticed that some strains have a distinctly fruity smell, while others are more floral, or even musky. This is due to the various concentrations of terpenes in the plant.
Based on the type of terpenes in a given strain, the product will have a distinct smell or taste. Like cannabinoids, they can affect the experience that consumers report when consuming cannabis.
Researchers have identified hundreds of terpenes, but these are some of the most dominant ones:
The specific effects of different terpenes are not yet well understood. Some consumers report that myrcene has a relaxing, sedative effect, while others claim that limonene elevates one’s mood. Terpenes may work together with cannabinoids in an “entourage effect” to create unique experiences.
Depending on how a consumer ingests cannabis, the terpenes may be more or less noticeable. For example, when smoking cannabis, it’s difficult to detect varying flavours due to the high temperature that the flower is heated to. But when cannabis is vapourized or consumed using a dab rig, the flavour profiles become more pronounced.
Still, many of the mechanisms behind the effects of terpenes are unknown. Now that cannabis has been legalized across Canada, we look forward to what emerging studies will reveal about both cannabinoids and terpenes!
Different Types of Cannabis
When you’re shopping for cannabis, you’ll notice that there are a few commonly available strains. From cannabis Sativa to Indica, there are several important distinctions between the strains. What distinguishes one from another, and why do consumers report different effects after consuming them?
With Cannabis Sativa strains, many consumers report feelings of alertness and an uplifted mood. The types of terpenes typically found in Cannabis Sativa produce fragrances that are citrusy and sweet.
Indica strains are commonly reported by consumers to evoke feelings of relaxation, calm, and sleepiness. More of a “body high” than Sativas are, Indicas are often reported to stimulate one’s appetite.
Years of crossbreeding cannabis has resulted in hundreds of hybrid strains. The THC content of hybrid strains varies greatly; some lean more towards being Indica-dominant, while others are Sativa-dominant.
Even if you’re familiar with most types of cannabis strains, you may not have heard of Cannabis Ruderalis, which is wild cannabis that has adapted to extreme environments. It contains only a little (<3%) THC but has high levels of CBD. It is mostly used in breeding programs to increase CBD levels in other strains.
If you want to learn more about Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid, check out our blog post on the topic!
How to Choose the Right One for You
Now that you know more about Indica, Sativa, and hybrid cannabis strains, you may be wondering which one to choose. The answer depends on why you use cannabis and how strong of an effect you desire.
Rather than only checking if a strain is Cannabis Sativa or Indica, you may also want to research what compounds are present in it. Does it have a high THC to CBD ratio? What types of terpenes are present in the buds?
If you prefer to consume cannabis using a vapourizer, the flavours of different terpenes will be more noticeable. Some may be an instant favourite, while others might be too strong for your liking! You may need to try a few different strains to find one that you prefer.
At The Joint, we offer dozens of different cannabis strains for you to choose from. Whether you prefer Indicas or Sativas, THC or CBD, we’ve got the product for you. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions! Check out our selection of Winnipeg cannabis and Saskatchewan Cannabis today, which we update regularly.