If you’re just getting into the legal cannabis scene, you’re probably pulling your hair out wondering how the f$%k to choose a cannabis strain. Well – nobody’s judging you for that confusion. There are still a lot of frequent cannabis users that choose strains based on a whim — and this is even more true in countries where cannabis hasn’t been completely legalized yet.
Until not that long ago, choosing a strain was non-existent. You showed up where your dealer told you to show up and you took what you were given. This probably explains the confusion and misunderstanding surrounding cannabis strains and how to choose them.
The legalization of cannabis gives you the chance to completely personalize your cannabis experience. No more taking what you’re given from the dealer. Now you can choose what your cannabis might feel like, how you want to consume it (vape, smoke, or edibles?), and even the ratio of cannabinoids in it (say what).
For someone who’s new to cannabis, walking into a dispensary could spark a reaction like what happens in the brain of a child who enters the ice-cream aisle. We understand the confusion, and how hard it can be to choose.
Choosing a strain is about a few things — like what you might like to use cannabis for, and what time of the day you want to use it. You have the freedom to move between different strains for different purposes. In this guide, we’re talking all about how to choose a strain, so you can have a completely personalized cannabis experience.
Choosing between indicas, sativas, and hybrids
A good place to start when deciding which cannabis strain you want to use is whether you’re looking for indica or sativa — or maybe even a hybrid.
OK — there’s a lot of debate over what indica and sativa actually mean.
These terms are the “byproducts” of centuries of confusion over cannabis taxonomy. Now, these terms don’t really have any scientific basis, but they are loosely thrown around as a way to categorise cannabis strains.
A person can differentiate between indica and sativa in two ways: the first is the growing pattern of the plant, and the second is in its effects.
For example, indica strains tend to grow short and bushy, covered in resinous trichomes, and typically have a physical and sedative effect. Sativa strains tend to grow quite tall, with long, narrow leaves. Sativa effects are usually more cerebral and energizing than indica strains.
Then, there’s hybrid strains. Actually, most strains available in dispensaries are hybrids of some sort. This means they are neither purely indica nor purely sativa, but a combination of the two. This combining of indica and sativa can happen at virtually any ratio, which is why some strains are 50/50 hybrids, while others are 80% indica/20% sativa.
In general… (and with the biggest grain of salt)
In general, indica strains are used at night time to combat symptoms such as insomnia, pain, anxiety, and stress. They have a tendency to induce laziness and sometimes stupor. They are strong, heavy, and conducive to sleep. Check out our range of indica strains here.
Sativa strains are better suited to daytime use. They give the user energy, perhaps some creative inspiration, sometimes even sexual arousal. They are typically used to combat symptoms such as laziness, depression, and demotivation. Using sativa strains during the day helps to get motivated for certain tasks, or even just to bring a certain level of creativity to the task. Check out our range of sativa strains here.
It’s really important to take this with a grain of salt. As we’ve mentioned, there are so many different hybrid varieties that there’s always more to consider than just the indica/sativa ratio. Certain anomalies happen in cannabis breeding sometimes too, where an indica dominant hybrid will give the user sativa-like effects. Check out our range of hybrid strains here.
With all of that in mind, knowing whether you want something that makes you sleepy or awake is a good starting place for choosing a strain. Plus, indica and sativa are commonly used words in the world of cannabis strains, so it pays to know what they mean.
As you’ll discover, the indica/sativa debate plays a lot into how strains are categorized, although the effects of each strain aren’t always so clear cut.
Choosing a cannabis strain for a purpose
Another way to go about choosing a cannabis strain is to think about what your purpose for using it is. Don’t think too hard about it — any purpose is fine. If you’re using it for recreation, sleep, creativity, work, relaxation, or for love-making, there is a cannabis strain that fits the bill.
The purpose can affect a huge variety of things, the most important of which is probably cannabinoid content and ratio. For example, somebody who’d like to use cannabis to curb anxiety might not benefit from high levels of THC. If another person wanted to use cannabis for nausea, THC would be the golden ticket.
So if you know why you want to use cannabis, it really helps to narrow down the search criteria for the perfect cannabis strain. If you’re using cannabis recreationally, well, you’re going to have a lot more choices.
If you’re buying cannabis from a dispensary, you always have the chance to ask the budtender what strain he or she recommends for “X” (where X is what you want to use cannabis for). Otherwise, the web is full of strain reviews that you can check out, and learn which strain might be best suited to you.
There are a few common purposes for using cannabis — like fun, sleep, pain, and anxiety. So we’ll go through some of the best strains for these few things. Remember to check out our blog, as we’re always updating it with different cannabis strains and product suggestions.
A few cannabis strains for sleep
As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to cannabis strains for sleep, you should opt for heavy indica, with high THC. If you are THC sensitive, you can use high doses of CBD to induce drowsiness, and we’ll get into that in a minute.
Science shows that THC decreases sleep latency (the time it takes to get to sleep), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good to use it in the long term. Long-term THC use might disrupt your overall sleep quality after a while. So, you could consider alternating between THC and CBD.
Here are a few strains, straight from the pantry, that we recommend for a good night’s sleep.
Best used at night, Violator Kush is an ally on sleepless nights. 80% indica and 20% sativa genetics make this an indica heavy strain that relaxes the mind and body in preparation for sleep. When sleep does come, it stays all night long, with no cannabis hangover in the morning.
Another indica heavy strain, Death Bubba has strong physical effects. It sends the body into a sweet kind of laziness that makes relaxation and sleep come much easier. This strain is especially useful for those who spend nights awake with racing thoughts — Death Bubba is a good strain to calm the mind, too!
Although Gorilla Glue is a bonafide hybrid (50% indica, 50% sativa), its effects are extremely sedative. Gorilla Glue is strong, and not really recommended for newbies. However, it’s a perfectly sedating strain for the night time, inducing sleep and drowsiness.
A few cannabis strains for anxiety
To be honest, using cannabis for anxiety is a little bit taboo. There’s a big debate over whether cannabis actually calms anxiety, or whether it just makes things worse. Well, we don’t claim to be doctors, but we do know that a lot of the “cannabis makes anxiety worse” claims are exaggerated. Yes, THC has the ability to exacerbate symptoms of anxiety for some people. But for most, this can be mitigated by using CBD, which can counteract many of the negative effects of THC for those with anxiety.
Those who are using cannabis for anxiety should consider multiple options and should be conscious of their reactions to cannabis. If high-THC strains have a tendency to exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, it’s important to choose lower-THC strains, or simply swap to CBD altogether. We’ve included a range of different options in our strain suggestions.
Blue God is a strong, heavy hitting indica strain often used to battle anxiety. It produces a strong body high, dragging users out of any mental calamity they might be experiencing. Because this strong is heavy on the body and indica-dominant, we recommend using this Blue God at night times and before bed. However, be mindful that Blue God has a high THC content.
Some say that the smell alone of Sour Diesel is enough to scare away anxiety and sadness. Strong, pungent, and aromatic, Sour Diesel is a staple among cannabis users. With 80% sativa, 20% indica genetics, Sour Diesel is best used to arrest anxiety during the day time, and to get motivated for the rest of the day’s tasks. Be mindful that Sour Diesel is notorious for high THC levels, so be mindful when dosing.
White Siberian boasts something many other strains of cannabis can’t — up to 15% CBD content. This strain has a near perfect 1:1 THC:CBD ratio, making it ideal for those who would like to offset THC effects with CBD effects. It’s a perfect strain for managing pain, and an even better one for reducing symptoms of anxiety, especially in THC-sensitive users.
A few cannabis strains for pain
The most commonly reported reason to self-medicate with cannabis is pain management. And there are a myriad of ways that pain can be managed with cannabis — it can be used internally (such as smoking, edibles, tinctures, etc.) and externally (as is the case with topical cannabis balms). The mechanisms by which cannabis is analgesic aren’t’ properly understood, but user data continues to mount for cannabis’ pain-killing powers.
Let’s check out a few strains well known to combat pain.
When muscle aches and joint pain get in the way of a good, comfortable sleep, Lindsay OG has something to say about it. Lindsay OG is popular for its sleep-inducing abilities and its ability to unwind knots and pains in muscles. Use at night time, though, because this one’s pretty sedating.
Do-Si-Dos is the perfectly balanced hybrid cannabis strain with 50% sativa genetics and 50% indica genetics. The effects are energizing, making it perfect for daytime pain management. However, when the effects start to wear down, Do-Si-Dos can really immobilize the user, so be mindful of that! Perfect for use in the early to late afternoons.
Don’t let the name of this strain fool you — Zombie OG will not turn you into a flesh-eating monster. However, this strain is renowned for its strong, medical powers. It’s a pain-blitzer as well as a bringer of sleep. We recommend this strain for night time use, as sleep tends to come onto the agenda pretty quickly after using.
A few cannabis strains for having fun
With all the talk of medical cannabis, we often forget about those who simply love to use cannabis for fun. The modern world of cannabis often requires people to have strict reasons for using the plant, but there is no strict reason. Wanting to use cannabis because it makes you feel good, makes you laugh, and brings you closer to your friends are totally acceptable reasons.
Between friends, cannabis can turn an average afternoon into an awesome one, it can spark creativity, and it can instigate beautiful memories. Plus, the laughter and joy we experience when spending quality time with friends is medicine, all on its own.
Here are some of our favourite recreational cannabis strains from the pantry.
Some of you may have heard of Moby Dick before, and this strain might lead you down wackier adventures than the writings of Moby Dick himself. This strain is the king of psychedelic cannabis, and is a powerful cerebral stimulant. Enjoy strange ideas and curious wanderings into your mind — perfect for sharing funny, creative moments with friends.
LSD is one of our favourite recreational strains, and when you try it, you’ll know why. Like its namesake, it takes users on a psychedelic journey that always ends in weird storytelling and hours of giggling. If that isn’t the best way to create memories with friends, we don’t know what is.
Finally, Sour Lemon is the kind of strain that turns any boring or mundane task into a full-blown adventure. Sour Lemon takes mountain hiking to the next level, or gives a whole new meaning of fun to video games. If you’re hanging out with friends and want to make it even more exciting, the energetic rush of Sour Lemon adds a dash of extra fun to any task.
Choosing a cannabis strain based on cannabinoid content
Finally, the last way you can choose a cannabis strain is based on the cannabinoids that you are looking for. You may have come across some information that leads you to believe a certain cannabinoid is good for you. For example, if you are using cannabis to combat pain, you might be searching for strains high in CBD. There are even cannabinoids out there that might be able to help regulate blood glucose levels for diabetics.
Searching for a strain using this method also usually means that you have to know which cannabinoid you’re looking for. To learn more about cannabinoids and their uses, you can have a look at our comprehensive Cannabinoids 101 article.
In this section, we’ll share a few common cannabinoids and some strains that are rich in those cannabinoids.
Choosing cannabis strains high in THC
THC is the much-loved psychoactive cannabinoid present in cannabis. It’s what’s responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis. Aside from this, it also has many therapeutic indications, such as:
Most cannabis strains have a high THC content, because the majority modern strains are grown with THC in mind. For that reason, you won’t struggle to find cannabis strains with a high THC content, and you can make your decision based on other variables (such as those aforementioned like purpose and indica/sativa).
Choosing strains high in CBD
CBD is quickly becoming just as popular as THC. It is non-psychoactive, making it appealing to those who want the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the intoxication. It also has marked therapeutic indications, such as:
It was once pretty difficult to find high CBD strains, because cannabis wasn’t grown for the purpose of maximizing CBD yield. But now, more than ever, geneticists are focusing on growing cannabis plants with high CBD concentrations.
Hemp is the primary source of CBD-only cannabis products, as hemp typically yields much higher amounts of CBD. However, for consumers looking for high CBD cannabis flowers for smoking, we recommend White Siberian, which we mentioned earlier in this article.
Alternatively, for high CBD products, you can opt for a vape cartridge or other oral CBD products such as tinctures and edibles. Here are a couple of CBD products from our pantry:
Indica 3:1 CBD:THC drops by Twisted Extracts
These Indica 3:1 CBD:THC drops contain both THC and CBD, but much more CBD than THC! For those looking for a product with higher CBD content, Twisted Extracts cannabinoid drops offer balance and convenience. Simply drop them under the tongue! We recommend using this one at night time, as it may induce drowsiness.
CBD Balance Cartridge by FeelCBD
The CBD Balance Vape Cartridge can be enjoyed by anybody looking to get more CBD in their life. It’s also made with essential oils to bring balance and calm. This one can be used any time of the day that requires some extra balance.
Choosing strains high in THC-V
THC-V is a lesser known cannabinoid found in cannabis. It is psychoactive, like its counterpart, THC. However, it may have some extra therapeutic benefits that THC doesn’t. A few examples include:
- THCV may suppress appetite for those looking to lose weight
- THCV may help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics
- THCV may help to reduce panic attacks
- THCV might be useful in Alzheimer’s
If you’re looking for strains high in THC-V, its best to ask the budtender at your local dispensary. They usually have the complete low-down on their available strains and the cannabinoid content of those various strains.
Here’s one high-THCV strain from our pantry.
Yeah, that famous strain from South Africa, Durban Poison, has levels of THC-V rarely seen. That means that this might be one of the few strains of cannabis that actually suppresses the appetite. On top of that, it’s a delicious sativa that delivers an energetic high that’s worth more than a few coffees.
Choosing strains high in CBG
CBG is another lesser-known cannabinoid, although it’s constantly drawing more attention to itself as a potent “anti-stress” molecule. There’s still a lot of speculation about how CBG works, but it’s thought to reduce stress by regulating serotonin release. It also has a role to play at the adrenoreceptor, which regulates adrenaline and noradrenaline release. These compounds all have a part to play in how we experience stress and stressful situations.
Aside from this, CBG may be able to reduce pain, nausea, and inflammation, especially if those symptoms are related to the bowels.
My Supply Co. is the home of one of the best, high-CBG strains on the market.
Alien OG is a good source of… well, everything. It’s high in THC, CBG, and CBN. Alien OG is a strong, hard-hitting strain that’s equal parts of physical relaxation and cerebral stimulation. We still recommend using Alien OG in the mornings or early afternoons, because it usually comes with a rush of energy. Alien OG is strong, and not for the novice or newbie to cannabis!
Now all that’s left is to choose how you consume cannabis
Although it’s a topic for another day, you still have to choose how you’d like to consume cannabis. Because that’s the thing about the modern world of cannabis — once you’ve chosen your strain, you can even choose your consumption method.
Most strains are available in a wide range of consumption options — it might be available as a flower, a vape cartridge, and an edible. And it’s entirely up to you which way suits you the best.
If you want the low down on consuming cannabis, and which way might be the most suitable for you, you can check out our comprehensive article on Cannabis Consumption Methods.
Choosing a cannabis strain isn’t all that difficult — and it’s OK if it takes a little time to find your perfect strain. Finding your true love of cannabis is no easier than finding your true love of shampoo. Sometimes you have to spend time searching and trying before you find the one that’s best. And then sometimes, you just have to change it up and search for something awesome all over again.
Finding your perfect cannabis strain means trying a few different ones. And after all, that’s a fun project, right?
We’d love to know what some of your favourite cannabis strains are and how you came to know about them. Let us know in the comments!