How to Choose a Cannabis Strain
Stepping into a cannabis dispensary and seeing all the canisters on the wall can petrify anyone but the most inveterate cannabis smokers. But if you educate yourself on the types of strains, the way they are grown and harvested, and most importantly your own preferences, you can have an exhilarating experience akin to a bright-eyed child at a candy store.
First, ask yourself what you’re using Cannabis for. Are you using it for creative inspiration? (I’ve found that one or two quick puffs can eliminate writer’s block in all of its various forms). Are you using it socially, at a party? Are you using it athletically? Spiritually? To help you sleep, or to relieve pain? To help arthritis? These questions will narrow your candidates down by at least 30%.
There are 3 genetic categories of cannabis to be aware of: Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid. Within each of these 3 categories, you can expect a high probability of a certain effect. Sativas tend to have less THC, the active ingredient which gets you stoned, and more fruity terpene profiles. They are considered good at increasing mental energy, alertness, and creativity. Indicas tend to have higher THC and smell more earthy and skunkish. These will generally couch-lock you into a euphoric trance–the “body high” effect. Hybrids are cross breeds between the two. While the commonly understood difference between the two is that one is energizing and the other is sedating, the names only indicate the plant’s place of origin and growth structure. In fact, all “Indica” means, is “native to India.” The Indica plants in their unharvested form have seven broad leaves and grow in bushy, low hanging formations. “Sativa” just means “Cultivated.” These plants are native to the middle east: Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan. Sativas often grow over 10 feet tall and have nine thin, serrated leaves. Before going forward, I want to expel the myth that there is a fundamental difference in Indica and Sativa other than cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Save yourself getting lost on Leafly looking for the perfect combination of desired effects in a herb. The biggest predictor of a bud’s effects is its THC content, and whether or not it has had CBD bred out of or into it. Most strains these days have CBD bred out of them, and most indicas are higher in THC.
For this reason, I generally recommend that people start smoking Indicas. This way, if you’re smoking a joint, the ratio of psychoactive THC to incinerated plant matter you’re inhaling is higher, getting you higher and keeping your lungs cleaner. Not only that, but you’ll get more bang for your buck at the counter since you’ll be paying by the gram. But if you’re looking for something lighter because you like the act of smoking, or you don’t want to risk smoking too much, then a Sativa might be for you. Not only that, but they tend to come in tastier flavors, like Blueberry, Pine, or Cheese. Again, Indicas are generally skunky and earthy, which might not appeal to everyone (but appeals greatly to others).
If you’re looking to relieve pain, you will want to look for a bud with a high CBD/THC ratio. CBD (Cannabidiol) has similar pain-relieving effects as THC, but without the high. Just ask your budtender, or look at a strain’s cannabinoid profile if it is available.
The next important tip is to choose a strain which smells good to you. If a certain strain smells good, it might be revealing a nutritional deficiency in your body which you are not aware of. For example, limonene (lemon smell) can have anti-depressive effects by stimulating dopamine re-uptake in the brain. The smell of the bud also determines the taste and odor of the smoke. Smelling the bud will also reveal if it is moldy, or has been cured properly. If it smells musty to you, like laundry that has been left out too long before being dried, then you shouldn’t buy it.
Speaking of dryness, another piece of advice is to feel the buds for moisture content. An ideal, properly cured bud is the perfect combination of moist and dry. Too moist and the bud will get moldy and won’t smoke well; too dry and it will grind into an unmanageable powder and be difficult to roll into a joint.
Finally, once you’ve found a strain that works for you, try to stick with it. It’s useful to try many strains to figure out what works for you, but once you’ve found it, it won’t do you any good to fumble around, trying to find one that is 10% better. Mix it up on occasion, but know your staple.
And that’s how to choose a strain. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below and I will get back to you.