What is a Marijuana Strain?

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Barbara Arranz

You've probably also heard the terms "indica", "sativa" and "hybrid" when discussing cannabis strains. What is Strain?

5 minutes read

Cannabis is a fascinating plant genus best known for its medicinal and mind-altering properties. Its use and cultivation date back to the written language itself, and its therapeutic and spiritual utility spans many cultures around the world throughout history.

But despite its ubiquity, you may not fully understand what cannabis is or why there are thousands of different-named strains flooding markets across the world. Here, we'll take a deep dive into how the plant is defined, how cannabis was used, and why it has taken so many forms since its earliest uses in human society.

What is Marijuana used for?

Today, cannabis use is generally divided into two main uses: recreational and medicinal. Recreational cannabis users can use cannabis for a variety of purposes, such as entertainment, stress relief, and creative stimulation. Medical consumers use cannabis to alleviate symptoms such as pain, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite and more.

Cannabis contains hundreds of active compounds (e.g. cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids) that provide a range of medical benefits. THC and CBD are two of the most well-known compounds in cannabis, although there are many more that offer a unique range of effects.

The cannabis plant is also an important agricultural resource. Strong hemp fibers have been used to make rope, clothing, fabrics, building materials, and more. It also produces nutritious consumable seeds, full of essential amino acids, proteins and other valuable minerals. Cannabis by-products can also be turned into cooking oils and can even work as a sustainable biofuel.

Getting to know the Marijuana plant

Cannabis is an annual flowering plant that exhibits both male and female reproductive organs, meaning that a male must pollinate a female to create seeds (unless the plant expresses rare hermaphroditic traits).

A female plant that does not receive pollen in its reproductive cycle is often called  sinsemilla  , a Spanish term meaning "seedless". These seedless females produce the large resinous buds that are commonly smoked, steamed, or processed into oils.

Hemp refers to a different subspecies of cannabis most commonly grown for its fiber and seeds. It also produces a modest amount of CBD that can be made into cosmetics, oils, and other consumables.

What is a Marijuana Strain?

Cannabis is believed to have originated in Central Asia, but over the millennia, conquest and exploitation would bring the plant to virtually every continent. Growers selectively cultivated their plants to meet the needs of their communities.

Over many generations, variations within cultivars began to develop in every pocket of the world where cannabis had taken root. These variations became known as local breed strains.

Many of these local varieties were collected from their native habitats and brought west, where they were crossed by horticulturists looking to exploit the plant's potential. This hybridization process – crossing different males with different females – gave rise to the thousands of named varieties that we consume today.

You've probably also heard the terms "indica", "sativa" and "hybrid" when discussing cannabis strains. These three types mainly refer to the various forms and structures of plants, important characteristics for growers. Consumers have long thought that indicas have sedative effects, sativas promote energy, and hybrid effects fall in between. However, research has largely debunked this effects-based classification.

Today, cannabis classification operates roughly in the following categories:

  • High-THC, low-CBD (more euphoric)
  • High-CBD, low-THC (lighter)
  • Balanced CBD and THC (slightly euphoric)

Each of these three “chemotypes” offers unique medical benefits and effect profiles. Learn more about how CBD and THC strains differ here, and try experimenting with different strains and potencies to find what works best for you.

Strain names often describe a strain's lineage, an important aromatic component, or a possible effect. As a result, strains are often marketed based on the traits their names advertise. Both Afghani and Kush are strain names denoting their origins (Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush mountain range, respectively), Tangie and GSC (more commonly known as Girl Scout Cookies) allude to their respective aromas, and Calm by Canndescent is intended to convey how tension will make you feel.

OG Kush, for example, is one of the most popular varieties in Southern California and can be found in almost every dispensary. But the effects of an OG Kush from one dispensary to the next can be completely different. The characteristics of a strain can vary greatly from producer to producer. Different growing, harvesting and processing conditions inevitably result in varying levels of cannabinoids and terpenes. So your best bet for finding the flower that works for you is to buy it based on the chemical composition of the flower and the possible effects described by the brand or grower that made it, not just the variety name.

If you need more information about Hemp Vegan or about medical cannabis, just get in touch . We have a team ready to answer your questions!