Cannabis is a big and complicated topic. Many of us find that it raises many more questions than it answers. What’s CBD? How do cannabinoids work? Why do I need to know about terpenes?
Fortunately, we can help. We’re deeply committed to providing authoritative, easy-to-understand and above all helpful information. Let’s dive into this quick guide to help find the right strain for you.
How to Find the Right Strain for You: Cannabis Terminology
Because cannabis is a plant, there’s not just one type, but many: These are called strains. Botanically speaking, there are two major subtypes: Indica and sativa; many cannabis strains are actually hybrids of the two, but they can still be described as indica-dominant or sativa-dominant. Broadly speaking, these correspond with specific effects.
Many people find that indica-leaning strains impart a deeply relaxing body-centered experience associated with strongly relaxing or even sedative effects. By comparison, sativa-leaning strains tend to be more cerebral, energizing and stimulating. There’s some debate in the cannabis community over exactly how useful these botanical labels are, but we feel they’re useful in helping to classify different strains of cannabis.
One of the things that makes cannabis work so well with our bodies is that it’s not a single medicine, but many. Two of the most important kinds are called cannabinoids and terpenes.
Cannabinoids are a group of natural compounds that occur in various amounts and ratios in the cannabis plant. What’s unique about them is that they’re plant-based matches of endocannabinoids, compounds produced within our own bodies. Whether they come from cannabis or our bodies, they bond with receptor cells in our neural system for specific effects, such as fighting inflammation caused by injury or imparting the euphoria associated with THC.
That’s a perfect lead-in to the two most abundant cannabinoids, THC and CBD. THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol; in addition to being the only cannabinoid responsible for a euphoric psychoactivity—the sensation of “being high”—it’s powerful pain-fighting medicine.
That said, some people find being high distracting or even uncomfortable. That’s where CBD comes in. Short for cannabidiol, it’s often used to help treat anxiety, insomnia and pain. Though it can be taken by itself—for instance in cannabis with a very low THC content—for many people it works best in balance with THC.
But cannabinoids aren’t the only game in town. Cannabis also includes a class of fragrant hydrocarbons—that’s another way of saying “essential oils”—called terpenes. Terpenes occur throughout nature—in plants, foods, and countless other natural products—and they contribute specific aromas and flavors wherever they’re found.
But many researchers now believe that terpenes do much more than that. Citing studies on isolated terpenes such as myrcene and limonene, they argue that these compounds help fight inflammation, boost our mood, act as anti-microbial and anti-fungal agents and much more.
We believe that terpenes play a big role in determining what kind of experience you’ll have with any particular strain or type of cannabis. And that leads to the main point of this article: How do you find the right strain for you?
How to Find the Right Strain for You: What’s Your Desired Effect?
Having read this far, you actually know a good amount about cannabis. Now the question becomes: How do we use that information to find the right strain for you?
Perhaps the most helpful clue to the effects of any particular cannabis is the ratio of those two cannabinoids we discussed earlier: THC and CBD. The more THC, the more psychoactive and euphoric the cannabis will be. On the other side of the equation, once the ratio of CBD to THC exceeds about 10 to 1, the psychoactivity will decrease; at 20 to 1, it’s almost nonexistent.
Knowing a particular cannabis subtype—indica or sativa—can also help. Remember that indicas tend to have a heavier “body-centered” effect, while sativas are more cerebrally stimulating and “buzzy.”
There’s much more, of course. If you have questions about specific terpenes, strains, or anything else about cannabis, stop by our Oakland dispensary. We’d be happy to help!