As the world continues to embrace the benefits of hemp-derived products, it’s increasingly important to understand the various strains of cannabis: Indica, Sativa, and Hybrids. Not only does this knowledge enhance your cannabis experience, but it also allows you to make informed decisions about the products that best suit your needs.
The History and Classification of Cannabis Strains
The classification of cannabis as we know it today started in 1785 when French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck recognized the distinct differences between what he named “Cannabis sativa” and “Cannabis indica.”
“Cannabis sativa,” derived from the Latin “sativum,” meaning “cultivated,” is typically a taller, lankier plant. On the other hand, “Cannabis indica,” meaning “from India,” usually refers to a shorter, stouter, and more psychoactive plant. These classifications, based largely on the plant’s physical structure, continue to guide our understanding of cannabis today (source).
Characteristics and Effects of Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid Strains
Sativas are known for their “head high,” an invigorating effect that can help reduce anxiety or stress and increase creativity and focus. They originally grew in warm, humid climates, developing long and lanky structures to adapt to the humidity (source).
Contrarily, Indicas are typically associated with full-body effects, such as increasing deep relaxation and reducing insomnia. They originally grew in cold, northern climates, resulting in a short and dense structure. This characteristic allowed them to be harvested before the onset of the cold and wet fall and winter seasons.
Hybrid strains are a mix of Indica and Sativa strains, offering a combination of their effects. They are bred to balance or emphasize certain desirable traits from each parent strain.
However, it’s essential to understand that the effects of cannabis aren’t solely dependent on whether the strain is Indica, Sativa, or a Hybrid. The plant’s chemical composition and the growing technique used can significantly impact the effects produced by individual plants. This is why the cannabis industry has been moving toward classifying cannabis by “chemovars,” which are distinguished by their individual cannabinoid and terpene content. There are three broad types of chemovars:
- Type I: High THC, low CBD
- Type II: Balanced, or equal parts THC and CBD
- Type III: High CBD, low THC
Understanding the Chemical Components: Cannabinoids and Terpenes
Beyond the broad categories of Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid, the effects of a particular strain of cannabis are largely determined by its unique blend of cannabinoids and terpenes. These are the chemical compounds produced by the plant that contribute to the variety of therapeutic and recreational effects cannabis can produce.
Cannabinoids are the main active components of cannabis, with THC and CBD being the most well-known. THC is the primary psychoactive compound responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis use, while CBD is non-psychoactive and may offer physical benefits such as reducing pain and nausea. Other cannabinoids include CBN (cannabinol), THCA (tetrahydrocannabinol acid), and CBG (cannabigerol), each having potential therapeutic benefits, from easing symptoms of neurological conditions to reducing anxiety and symptoms of depression.
Terpenes, on the other hand, are aromatic compounds found in many plants, including cannabis. They contribute to the plant’s unique smell and may also influence the effects that specific strains produce.
When choosing a cannabis strain, it’s important to look beyond the labels of Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid. While these classifications provide a starting point, the specific effects of a strain are more accurately predicted by its unique profile of cannabinoids and terpenes. Therefore, considering the chemovar’s profile will help you pick the strain best suited for your needs.
The world of cannabis can be complex, but understanding the basics of cannabis strains and their unique properties can help you navigate this landscape with confidence.