When deciding on your cannabis needs, one of the first things any user should consider is what type of strain will best suit their needs. What brought you to the dispensary website – was it a medical need, like chronic pain, anxiety or depression? Are you having trouble sleeping at night? Are you trying to stay more alert while remaining relaxed during the day? Or are you just plain curious?
All these questions – and a heck of a lot more – are questions you should be asking yourself before you make a purchase. But another way to make a good decision is to know your way around the various strains of cannabis.
Wait. What’s a strain? Cannabis strains are, put simply, different varieties of weed. A good way to think of strains is to compare them to wine, which comes from a spectrum of grape varietals, or beer, which comes in many different styles. So asking your dispensary for, say, an eighth of XJ-13 is just like asking a sommelier for a glass of sauvignon blanc, or a Cicerone for a glass of oatmeal stout.
And all strains fall into three basic, major categories: Indica, Sativa and Hybrids. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on Hybrid strains, but before we can discuss those, you’ll need a quick primer on Indica and Sativa – since all Hybrids are hybrids of those two!
As cannabis was originally domesticated, only Indica and Sativa existed. After generations of crossbreeding – hundreds of years, or even more – it’s rare to find a strain that is either pure Indica or pure Sativa; in fact, the two may even be different species entirely, though the final verdict on that is up for debate. Most strains, though, are either extremely Indica-dominant or Sativa-dominant, to the degree that for the purposes of most cannabis consumers, it won’t confuse matters to refer to each strain by its most dominant category of weed.
But! But! You should know that those two major categories are distinctly different from one another. Indeed, this is where the alcohol comparison stops. While the active ingredient in beer, wine, gin, whiskey and rum is ethyl alcohol – a molecule that looks and behaves the same no matter what its delivery liquid – different strains of cannabis are very chemically distinct, both in their appearance and in the impact they have on a user’s state of mind.
The origins of Indica aren’t known for sure, but it’s believed to originate in India or Afghanistan. Indica plants typically appear darker in color, with short, wide fan-shaped leaves. The plant itself is shorter and denser, with more of a “fireplug” look to it.
From an experiential perspective, Indica is generally considered more of a sedate, relaxing category of weed. Indica-dominant strains typically produce a high that’s more chill and more physically soothing. Indica is perfect for nighttime use, for winding down after a long day, and for getting to sleep at night. Indica is also typically used for pain relief.
Sativa has a preference for warm, most growing conditions with plenty of light, leading many researchers to believe they originate in equatorial regions of the globe. Individual plants tend to be thin and tall – some can even reach as much as 12 feet! Leaves are serrated, and longer and thinner than Indica leaves.
Sativa gives users more of a daytime high – cerebral, optimistic and slightly euphoric, with greater energy overall than Indica. Someone using Sativa might present an image quite contrary to the typical couch-bound, slack-jawed stoner as portrayed in movies and television. Depression sufferers and people with diminished executive function might benefit from a Sativa strain. (Though, as always, it’s a good idea to talk to a physician before using cannabis medicinally.)
A good way to remember the difference between Sativa and Indica? You might take Sativa at sunrise, and Indica at the end of the day.
Hybrid strains are combinations of the two categories, and each individuals strain will have different ratios of the two, and represent a variety of blends of specific strains of Indica and Sativa. There are so many hybrid strains, designed to achieve such a broad array of effects, that it might be impossible to catalog them all.
So why use hybrids? Does it even matter? Of course it does! If you do enough internet research and confer with enough budtenders, you’re sure to find a strain that suits your particular needs – and it’s pretty likely that strain will be a hybrid. Or more likely, more than one hybrid, since your needs can and may change from day to day or week to week depending on your circumstances.
Here’s a quick list of some of our favorite hybrid strains.
Purple Starburst. This strain provides a slow-burn physical sensation, that begins at the top of your head and reverberates right down into your toes. You’ll remain clear-headed with a tranquil, euphoric buzz.
Wedding Cake. A calming, Indica-dominant strain with an energizing flavor. Some users report a feeling of strong sensory attenuation, perceiving the world around them in higher definition than usual.
Larry OG. With its high THC content, Larry OG is a great strain for experienced users, since it packs a wallop that may seem overwhelming to newbies. Its potent buzz has a strong physical presence, with a motivating edge that allows users to get things done but still relax. Larry is a popular, award-winning strain.
Sin Mint Cookies. A slow-burning strain, Sin Mint might sneak up on you – but the impact will be a profoundly mood-lifting one. But this is an Indica-heavy blend, and by the time the cannabinoids run through your system, you may find yourself a bit too physically relaxed to do much other than enjoy your high.
Gorilla Glue. This is not a daytime strain, as the “glue” part of Gorilla Glue’s nomenclature refers to the aspect of its high that adheres you to the sofa. This is a good strain for a rainy Sunday where your only obligation is to order dinner and binge a really engrossing police procedural drama.
Double Cup. With its herbal and fruity aroma, Double Cup hits you with a heavy mental and physical euphoria. Some describe its effects as energizing; others describe it as sedative.
Quest By Source. This one has a 30 percent THC content, so, uh… buckle in. Great for soothing bodily aches and helping overcome insomnia.