If you’re up to date with mainstream cannabis news, you already know that predicting the effects of different strains based on the sativa-indica classifications of cannabis is just erroneous. There’s no correlation between cannabis plant types and typical effects that consumers seek in their flower.
Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid labels are extremely popular and one of the most common ways consumers discuss their cannabis preferences, so we don’t blame you at all if this is news to you.
Indica strains are widely believed to induce more calming, full-body, and sedative high, sativa strains are commonly thought to give the user more invigorating, uplifting, and head-focused effects. But in all honesty, the only people that should really care about Indica and Sativa classifications of cannabis are botanists — not average consumers.
So how do you move past this inaccurate system and what measurements should you use to predict the effects of your strain?
Continue reading to find out.
Moving Past the Sativa-Indica Classifications of Cannabis: Opinions from Experts
Dr Ethan Russo, one of the most esteemed cannabis researchers and former Senior Medical Advisor for GW Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical company whose cannabis-derived drug was recently approved by the FDA, blows the sativa-indica classification wide open.
When asked about the common system of predicting cannabis effects, Dr. Russo said:
“There are biochemically distinct strains of Cannabis, but the sativa/indica distinction as commonly applied in the lay literature is total nonsense and an exercise in futility. One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given Cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology. We would all prefer simple nostrums to explain complex systems, but this is futile and even potentially dangerous in the context of a psychoactive drug such as Cannabis.”
In essence, the sativa-indica classification of cannabis should only be used to discuss the plant’s height, branching, leaf morphology, and geographic origins. In other words — everything that botanists or cultivators typically care about.
Predicting the Effects of Cannabis Are Largely Dependant on Their Terpene Content
Let’s get back to our example of predicting the effects of one’s weed. For example, indica dominant strains are believed to have a clear pattern of making people feel drowsy, which is often referred to as the “couch-lock” effect.
In response to that specific instance, Russo explains:
“The sedation of the so-called indica strains…is attributable to their myrcene content, a monoterpene with a strongly sedative couch-lock effect that resembles a narcotic.”
The terpene “myrcene” is responsible for the tranquilizing effects of cannabis, but that doesn’t mean that all indica-dominant strains will result in a full body melt. For example, a sativa strain with a high myrcene content will likely produce similar effects. On the other hand, when a terpene like Limonene is prominently present, it will cause you to experience the aforementioned invigoration.
Other important predictors of cannabis effects include:
- The strain’s cannabinoid profile
- Your body’s unique chemical makeup
- Your tolerance to THC
- The dose of THC in a single serving
- Consumption method
The most important aspect of classifying cannabis strains — aside from their terpene content — is the ratio between THC and CBD, which we’re going to cover in the next section.
Classification of Strains by Their Cannabinoid Profile
There are over 113 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, all of which create a unique synergy of effects, also known as “the entourage effect.” THC and CBD are the two predominant and best-researched cannabinoids. They are also responsible for the lion’s share of the medical and recreational effects of cannabis.
Here’s a brief overview of the main two cannabinoids in cannabis strains:
This cannabinoid is what makes cannabis consumers feel “high,” including feelings of deep relaxation, euphoria, increased sensitivity to environmental stimuli, improved appetite, and a happy state of mind. On the medical note, THC is known for relieving symptoms such as pain, anxiety, inflammation, sleeplessness, and more.
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, so you can’t get high off of it. You can, however, use it to alleviate anxiety, stress, pain, seizures, inflammation, skin conditions, and other health concerns.
So, instead of basing your next choice on the sativa-indica classification of cannabis, consider using the following system instead:
These are the most popular strains among recreational consumers because they produce psychoactive effects. Medical cannabis patients use them for dealing with anxiety, insomnia, cancer, depression, eating disorders, and bowel disease. Remember that THC-dominant strains work well for people who can manage the psychoactive effects of this cannabinoid. If you’re sensitive to these effects, consider choosing a strain with higher levels of CBD.
CBD-dominant varieties carry high concentrations of CBD with smaller ratios of THC. They’re widely used by people seeking the medical benefits of cannabis but without getting too high.
Some cannabis flowers, both indica and sativa, come with balanced ratios of CBD and THC. Such strains combine moderate euphoria accompanied by significant symptom relief. If you’ve never used cannabis before and want to see what marijuana’s signature high feels like, then balanced buds are the best.
How Dispensaries Can Help Consumers Move Past the Sativa-Indica Classification
That’s pretty simple and it involves taking two steps.
First, dispensaries could start displaying the exact THC%, CBD%, and prominent terpenes to make a customer aware of what effects they should typically expect from such a strain. Most of the time, the content list would include an average of 4-7 displayed highlights.
Some strains contain more than one prominent terpene that needs to be shown on the list. There are also varieties that have higher concentrations of some minor cannabinoids, such as CBN or CBG. Not only would such a system do a great favor to novice consumers, but it would also make the User Experience better for seasoned users who just want to get a quick skim through the most important traits of their strain.
Secondly, and most importantly, consumers should educate themselves on the importance of cannabinoids, terpenes, and their ratios. Sometimes, the effects of a given strain can be different between batches due to changes in its growing environment, so if we say that everybody reacts differently to cannabis, this isn’t an overstatement. If you want to start exploring strains by their cannabinoid and terpene profiles, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the entourage effect concept.
How do you choose your strains? Are you using the sativa-indica classification of cannabis or have you already moved past that system?