Modern cannabis genetics exhibit an almost impossible array of aromas, ranging from sugary sweet citrus to pungent diesel fuel. What many don’t realize is that the smell an individual flower releases is actually an important clue towards anticipating its effects. These distinctive aromas are created by terpenes, a wide-ranging group of oils produced by the cannabis plant that determine the smell of an individual strain. Like cannabinoids, the terpene content of an individual strain impacts its effects, but with the added benefit of being detectable through flavor and aroma. For example, strains that smell strongly of lemon and pine are exhibiting the terpenes Limonene and Pinene. This tells you that flower is likely to have more energizing, sativa-dominant effects. In contrast, strains with a musky and earthy aroma may be rich in the terpene Myrcene, which is associated with more sedative indica-dominant effects.
Indica strains tend to provide a physical effect, which can be felt throughout the body. These strains are commonly used for reducing pain, relieving muscle tension, increasing relaxation, and helping patients rest. Indica strains are often recommended for nighttime use, because many patients find them helpful for promoting sleep.
Although it is the cannabinoid and terpene profiles that truly determine the unique characteristics of individual varieties, strain names serve as an important reference point on the vast map of modern cannabis genetics. Becoming familiar with the most common strains and educating yourself about your prefered genetics will help steer you towards products that work for you and away from those that don’t. Product names often include valuable clues you’ll want to pay attention to. For example, anything with “Purple” in its name will likely have a more sedative effect, while “Haze” suggests a more energizing experience. Making notes of what you like and sharing that information at the counter will help us customize our recommendations. Learning the history of your favorites will also help you discover other strains with similar qualities.
Darker colors may suggest a more sedative, indica-dominant effect.
But then comes the hard part…how do you know which product is right for you when you’re facing down a dispensary menu with a dozen or more different strains to choose from? It’s a challenge that can freeze even the most experienced cannabis consumer in their tracks. Fortunately, cannabis science offers us a helpful roadmap for navigating this tricky terrain and making informed decisions at the dispensary counter.
Sativa strains tend to produce a more cerebral effect, which impacts mood and emotion. These strains are popular for increasing energy levels, improving focus, and combatting depression. Sativa strains are often recommended for daytime use because many patients find them helpful for providing symptom relief without interfering with daily activities.
While it’s true that relative THC content does provide some guidance towards anticipating the strength of a given flower’s effect, it doesn’t tell you the whole story. THC is just one of several dozen cannabinoids commonly occurring in the cannabis plant, which collectively impact its mental and physical effects. CBD-rich cannabis, for example, is rapidly rising in popularity as a treatment for anxiety, seizures and inflammation, yet lacks the psychoactive effects of THC. Patients seeking symptom relief paired with milder cerebral effects may find that elevated CBD levels are an important indication that a strain will work well for them.
It’s important to understand that these categories aren’t written in stone, but rather offer general guidance based on our experience with the product. They offer a useful reference point for patients seeking a particular experience, but patients often find noticeable differences between strains even within these categories. As we note below, factors such as cannabinoid and terpene content may offer more specific clues towards how an individual strain may affect you.
The first thing you’ll notice about most medical cannabis menus is that they’re often organized into sativa, indica, and hybrid categories. Here’s an overview of these commonly used terms:
Cannabis science offers a helpful roadmap for making informed decisions at the dispensary counter and finding the best products for your needs.