What is a cannabis strain?

A strain is a genetic variant of cannabis. Most cannabis strains can be classified as either Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica – two variations of the same basic species of cannabis. These two classes of strains tend to have very different effects on the consumer as further detailed below. Today we regularly see the influence of hybrid genetics that combine both indica and sativa varieties.

Over the years, countless numbers of hybrid strains have been created through genetic cross-breeding programs to develop plant profiles that are meant to take the best attributes of both parent strains – you’ll only need to go to your registered dispensary to see the assortment of strains that have been created over the past decades with a variety of cannabinoid profiles.

Indica vs. Sativa

Form and structure: Indica plants tend to be short and stocky, while sativa varieties are tall and lanky. The leaves of indica plants are broad and chunky, whereas sativa strains exhibit thin and pointy leaves. It should be noted, it’s not always easy to quickly identify the different species solely by their appearance. The variation in form is primarily due to the different geographical regions in which each originate — indicas from the mountainous regions of Asia and the Middle East and sativas from more equatorial regions around the world.

Efficacy: The efficacy, or effect, of indica and sativa strains can be very different. A pure sativa will likely have a powerful uplifting/energizing effect. Sativas can promote focus and productivity – making them preferable for day-time use. However, strong sativas can cause a person’s mind to race and cause users to feel anxious or paranoid.

Indicas traditionally promote relaxation and general calming. Often, indicas are thought to be very beneficial for pain relief, anxiety and sleep disorders. Strong indicas might not be the best option for morning-use and wanting to stay productive. Likewise, consuming a sativa in the evening isn’t necessarily recommended.

That said, these expectations are sometimes over-generalized. Two types of cannabis compounds – cannabinoids and terpenes – hold most of the influence when it comes to evaluating the effects of the cannabis plant. In this way, cannabis strains are the sum of smaller parts that are passed on genetically from plant to plant.

As mentioned above, hybrids are simply a mix of sativa and indica, providing the pros and cons of each species. Hybrid strains that are more indica than sativa are called indica-dominant. Likewise, sativa-dominant strains have mostly sativa traits, but are buffered by some indica influence.