If you’ve ever wondered how to pick a cannabis strain you are not alone. Gone are the days where cannabis consumption means smoking whatever you get given from a friend or having a random puff at a party. We now have the knowledge and regulated access (area dependent) to make educated decisions to optimize our cannabis experiences.
Through trial and error and a dose of knowledge I have found myself better able to pick the right cannabis strain for the experience I desire.
What is a Cannabis Strain?
First off, what is a cannabis strain? Well first of most cannabis scientists will argue that they are not actually ‘strains’ they are cannabis varietals.
To clarify Cannabis strains are either hybrid or pure varieties of the plant genus Cannabis, which includes the species Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis.
Variety names are typically chosen by their growers, or in legalization renamed or branded to allude to a certain feeling. The names often reflect properties of the plant such as taste, color, smell, or the origin of the variety.
Sativa and Indica are the varieties that we are able to access in legal cannabis stores. There are physical differences to the eye when comparing a sativa and indica strain however it’s the effects when consumed that I’m most interested in.
As a complete generalization, an indica strain has a reputation of being sedative and sativa strains are notorious for a heady energetic high.
However, it’s not that straight forward. Let’s look at the main two factors I consider when choosing a strain, the terpene profile and the THC vs CBD ratio.
Stop and Smell the Terpenes
Stopping to smell the flowers takes on new meaning in a cannabis store. It turns out what gives each strain it unique effects is it’s individual terpene profile. You may already be familiar with using terpenes in aromatherapy, specifically, extracted oils known as essential oils.
Different terpenes will have different therapeutic benefits, for example, the terpene limonene, commonly found in citrus fruits, is known for its mood uplifting effects, whereas linalool, commonly found in lavender, is known for its relaxing effect and as a sleep aid. There are hundreds of terpenes found in the cannabis plant and thousands of variable terpene combinations, often referred to as the terpene profile.
When I’m looking for a strain for the evening, for relaxation and better sleep, I’m favouring a strain that is high in myrcene and linalool. I find these mostly in indica strains however there are some indica strains that leave me creative and giggly and a closer look at their terpene profile shows a decent presence of the terpene limonene.
I do personally find sativa strains to be more creative and energetic and I usually reserve them for social settings and daytime experiences.
Sometimes I go out on a ledge from the science, following my nose and trying a new strain simply because I love the smell. Perhaps this is my bodies way of telling me it would like a dose of that essential oil profile similar to how we crave certain foods over others.
Choosing a THC and CBD Ratio
Besides the terpene profile the most important factor for me in choosing a strain is the ratio and strength of the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). While there are up to 100 different cannabinoid compounds in cannabis, THC and CBD are the most prevalent and generally well listed during a strain purchase.
The THC is widely known for it’s euphoric effects and CBD has become a star for is anti-anxiety calming effects.
Cannabis strains can generally be categorized into 3 different ratios. These include:
- High THC with low CBD
- Balanced THC and CBD
- High CBD with low THC
I consume these three different ratios for different reasons including:
- A high THC strain I enjoy for pain relief and relaxation in the evening. This ratio creates a stronger head high however, I usually blend in some high CBD flower to smooth out the experience of the THC.
- A balanced THC and CBD ratio strain is my go to for social events. This way I get the effects without being overwhelmed by THC, dependant on the amount I consume.
- High CBD ratio strains are my go-to daytime strains for anxiety and mild pain. I consider myself a light consumer with a low tolerance so even with a Charlottes Web strain that is 21:1 CBD:THC I can ever so lightly feel the uplighting effects of THC while being calmed by the CBD.
Quantity and Consumption Method
The experience that I have with the cannabis strain that I choose is also dependant on the amount that I consume and the way that I consume it.
I usually vaporize or smoke the cannabis flower that I purchase. I find vapourizing to be a more functional way to consume cannabis over smoking. By this I mean I usually feel less of a head high when vaporizing cannabis versus smoking. This is most likely because the adjustable vapourizer heating is allowing me to inhale less compounds than if I lit and inhaled the plant material.
Whether vaporizing or smoking the strain, the amount I inhale will affect my experience. If I am consuming a high CBD strain I will likely consume more than if I’m having a high THC strain. This helps me to avoid feeling overwhelmed by THC.
Side Effects of Choosing the Wrong Strain
If I do get the strain choice wrong and over consume cannabis I am ready to balance out the effects.
The main effects that I experience from over consumption of THC include anxiety, usually accompanied by shaking and sedation when that was not the intention.
My main strategy to reduce these side effects is to consume a CBD oil under the tongue. If it’s the evening I also find music or a TV show can take me away from my anxious feelings.
I have come to recognize that most of these anxious feelings that I experience with over-consumption of THC are often feelings or thoughts that I am uncomfortable with because I have suppressed them or not addressed a situation in my life. When this happens I try to make some notes in my notebook, acknowledge the feelings and move onto other more positive thoughts.
Please enjoy cannabis responsibly, start low and go slow.
Disclaimer: The information shared in this post is for educational purposes only and is not to be considered medical or legal advice. Please consult with a cannabis educated health care practitioner and seek legal counsel on the cannabis laws in your area.
Disclosure: Flower & Freedom and Stashlogix have a paid educational partnership to collaborate on creating education on safe and responsible cannabis storage. Bethany and the Flower & Freedom team have been using Stashlogix cannabis storage solutions since November 2016.
Author Bethany Rae is the founder of Flower & Freedom. She is a cannabis education advocate and fitness enthusiast. She inspires honest, experience-based conversations to guide awareness around healthy cannabis consumption. Follow Bethany Rae on Instagram here.
Written by Bethany Rae for Flower & Freedom in partnership with Stashlogix.