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What are cannabis strains?

From a treatment perspective, cannabis is rich in potential. That fact is perhaps best illustrated by the breadth of strain options available to patients. From varieties that possess absolutely no psychoactive properties, to others that have upwards of 30% THC, the plant is incredibly robust. For that fact, perhaps, cannabis has become a significant alternative therapy option for millions of people across the globe.

The names – Afghani, Sour Diesel, Kush, Strawberry Cough, Sour Diesel – are, quite literally, as varied as the properties they possess. These strains contain a different terpene profile and cannabinoid distribution, for instance 20% THC and 3% CBD, and every variety induces in patients and consumers a unique set of effects.

Where one strain, say Sour Diesel, has a fuel-like smell and stimulates activity, another, Kush, effectuates a powerful sedative quality. Because of the extreme versatility of the strains – literally thousands – available to modern cannabis consumers, the plant has grown its loyalty exponentially over time, as more and more strains have been bred.

Cannabis products will almost always come with at least three pieces of identification: cannabinoid content, grouping, and strain name. The individuality of each strain remains the same even as a concentrate, making understanding the basic difference between varieties something of a pre-requisite to navigating an online or retail cannabis experience.

In the context of group name, cannabis strains are typically categorized along the lines of sativa, indica and hybrid. While some experts argue these groups are culturally, not scientifically, relevant, the fact remains that almost all cannabis products list the strain as either an indica, sativa or hybrid. Though the notion that indicas possess one set of properties, and sativas another, is something of an exaggerated fact, there is nonetheless some truth to distinctions.1

While indicas are notorious for possessing sedating qualities, sativas generally provide a sense of euphoria. Hybrids, as the name would suggest, have both characteristics, with the strain usually being dominant in one or the other group. Cannabis products will usually list the strain as sativa, indica, or hybrid. Knowing that one typically induces a low, one a high, and the other a mix of the two, makes an informed purchase that much easier.

  1. “The cannabis sativa versus cannabis indica debate: an interview with Ethan Russo, MD.” https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/can.2015.29003.ebr

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