Cannabis exists in many varieties and sub-species. Cultivators and farmers have long been breeding different varieties with certain characteristics to create hybrids and specific strains.
Each cannabis strain has a different concentration of the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), as well as other compounds.
Producers grow the plants to have a certain look, taste, and effect on the user and brand them accordingly.
Currently, reports on the effects of different cannabis strains come predominantly from people’s experiences. Although researchers are studying the effects of a variety of cannabis strains on a range of medical conditions, there is still a long way to go in this area.
Keep reading to learn more about cannabis strains, and which are the most popular.
What are cannabis strains?
All strains of cannabis derive from the Cannabaceae family of plants. Some experts consider that Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa are the two main subspeciesTrusted Source, although some people think they are separate species.
To create a strain, cultivators select a variety of traits to produce the effects they want. This is a similar process to how breeders create particular characteristics in dogs.
People often describe cannabis strains as being indica, sativa, or hybrid. Hybrid refers to a strain created by combining both indica and sativa strains.
Many producers crossbreed cannabis plants to develop new strains with specific characteristics. Experts suggest that there are over 700 strainsTrusted Source of cannabis.
One of the most important characteristics of a cannabis strain is the THC content. Some rules exist on naming each strain, but many producers do not name their products according to these rules.
Despite these classifications, hybridization and crossbreedingTrusted Source has meant that people cannot tell exactly how much THC is in a particular plant by simply looking at its physical features.
Experts suggest it is impossible to guess the composition of a cannabis plant by looking at its height, branching, or leaf appearance.
The only way to know the chemical composition of a cannabis-derived product is to analyze it in a biochemical assay.
THC vs. CBD
So far, most researchTrusted Source into the medical benefits of cannabis has focused on THC and CBD.
However, researchers and scientists remain unsure of the ideal quantities of THC and CBD that people should use for various medical conditions or recreation.
Although both THC and CBD are cannabinoids, they act differently in the body because they target different areas in the brain.
According to a 2020 articleTrusted Source, people who use products with a higher THC content may experience psychoactive effects, such as euphoria and a greater sensitivity to things such as color and taste. However, THC also can lead to anxiety and paranoia.
CBD, on the other hand, is non-intoxicating. Some people report mild physiological effects, such as reduced anxiety when using CBD.
Animal studies suggest CBD may help improve vomiting, nausea, pain, and offer neuroprotective effects on the brain.
However, since CBD can affect mood, some expertsTrusted Source describe it as a non-intoxicating but psychoactive compound.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approvedTrusted Source some cannabis-related products including:
- two synthetic THC medications for the treatment of anorexia associated with AIDS
- another synthetic cannabis-related product for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatment
- cannabis-derived CBD for children 2 years and older who suffer from rare seizure disorders
Studies Trusted Sourceare ongoing to determine whether CBD has other physiological effects. Preliminary human data suggests CBD could benefit conditions, such as schizophrenia and even opioid addictionTrusted Source.
- Origin: Cannabis sativa is found primarily in hot, dry climates with long sunny days. These include Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia, and portions of Western Asia.
- Plant description: Sativa plants are tall and thin with finger-like leaves. They can grow taller than 12 feet, and they take longer to mature than some other types of cannabis.
- Typical CBD to THC ratio: Sativa often has lower doses of CBD and higher doses of THC.
- Commonly associated effects of use: Sativa often produces a “mind high,” or an energizing, anxiety-reducing effect. If you use sativa-dominant strains, you may feel productive and creative, not relaxed and lethargic.
- Daytime or nighttime use: Because of its stimulating impact, you can use sativa in the daytime.
- Popular strains: Three popular sativa strains are Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, and Durban Poison.
- Origin: Cannabis indica is native to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Turkey. The plants have adapted to the often harsh, dry, and turbulent climate of the Hindu Kush mountains.
- Plant description: Indica plants are short and stocky with bushy greenery and chunky leaves that grow wide and broad. They grow faster than sativa, and each plant produces more buds.
- Typical CBD to THC ratio: Indica strains often have higher levels of CBD, but the THC content isn’t necessarily less.
- Commonly associated effects of use: Indica is sought after for its intensely relaxing effects. It may also help reduce nausea and pain and increase appetite.
- Daytime or nighttime use: Because of its deep relaxation effects, indica is better consumed at night.
- Popular strains: Three popular indica strains are Hindu Kush, Afghan Kush, and Granddaddy Purple.
Each year, cannabis growers produce new and unique strains from different combinations of parent plants. These cannabis hybrids are often grown to target specific effects.
- Origin: Hybrids are typically grown on farms or in greenhouses from a combination of sativa and indica strains.
- Plant description: The appearance of hybrid strains depends on the combination of the parent plants.
- Typical CBD to THC ratio: Many hybrid cannabis plants are grown in order to increase the THC percentage, but each type has a unique ratio of the two cannabinoids.
- Commonly associated effects of use: Farmers and producers select hybrids for their unique impacts. They can range from reducing anxiety and stress to easing symptoms of chemotherapy or radiation.
- Daytime or nighttime use: This depends on the predominant effects of the hybrid.
- Popular strains: Hybrids are typically classified as indica-dominant (or indica-dom), sativa-dominant (sativa-dom), or balanced. Popular hybrids include Pineapple Express, Trainwreck, and Blue Dream.
A third type of cannabis, Cannabis ruderalis, also exists. However, it isn’t widely used because it usually doesn’t produce any potent effects.
- Origin: Ruderalis plants adapt to extreme environments, such as Eastern Europe, Himalayan regions of India, Siberia, and Russia. These plants grow quickly, which is ideal for the cold, low-sunlight environments of these places.
- Plant description: These small, bushy plants rarely grow taller than 12 inches, but they grow rapidly. One can go from seed to harvest in little more than a month.
- Typical CBD to THC ratio: This strain typically has little THC and higher amounts of CBD, but it may not be enough to produce any effects.
- Commonly associated effects of use: Because of its low potency, ruderalis isn’t routinely used for medicinal or recreational purposes.
- Daytime or nighttime use: This cannabis plant produces very few effects, so it can be used at any time.
- Popular strains: On its own, ruderalis isn’t a popular cannabis option. However, cannabis farmers may breed ruderalis with other cannabis types, including sativa and indica. The plant’s rapid growth cycle is a positive attribute for producers, so they may want to combine more potent strains with ruderalis strains to create a more desirable product.