Online strain databases include listings for hundreds of unique cannabis strains. But, are strains like “Blue Dream” and “Girl Scout Cookies” really all that different?
It’s not uncommon to hear an occasional consumer mention that “weed is just weed” or that most strains “just do the same thing anyway.”
Further, dispensaries, dealers, and misinformed growers can market a flower under a trendy name. Yet, there are virtually no safeguards to let consumers know that the strain they have purchased is, in fact, the strain they believe they are buying.
With so many strains on the market these days, are flowers really that different from each other? Is all cannabis really “just cannabis?” Do different strains actually matter?
The short answer to this yes, different strains do matter. But, the reasoning might be a bit different than you think. Here are three things you should know about cannabis strains:
1. Strains are unique “chemovars”
Technically, calling a family of cannabis flowers a “strain” is incorrect. Bacteria come in different strains, the cannabis plant comes in different chemovars.
A chemovar refers to a group of related plants that produce unique phytochemical profiles.
The cannabis plant, for example, has three overarching chemovars. The first is high in THC, the second is high in CBD, and the third contains a mixture of both. More chemovars may be created as the plant continues to be bred and hybridized.
Seems simple enough, right? Well, it gets more complicated.
Different cannabis chemovars also express different aroma molecules. These aroma molecules are called terpenes, and they are the chemicals responsible for the famous cannabis smell.
While every individual plant can create its own unique smell, the ability to produce different terpenes in combination with different cannabinoids (cannabis compounds like THC, CBD, etc.) comes from genetics.
Just like you inherit traits for hair and eye color from your parents, individual cannabis plants inherit the ability to produce different smells and effects from its family.
So, not only are different families of cannabis strains (like the Girl Scout Cookies family) important, but each individual plant is also unique. Every individual crop might be different, but strain families can pass along unique traits.
When it comes to cannabis, this uniqueness matters.
2. Unique strains have unique effects
Even though the term “strain” may be technically incorrect, for the time being, the term is here to stay. Different strains matter because distinct chemovars produce different effects on the mind and body.
A cannabis strain high in cannabidiol (CBD), for example, does not cause an intoxicating “high”. A cannabis strain that contains high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will produce a strong psychoactive experience.
A cannabis strain that contains a mixture of both THC and CBD may produce intoxicating, psychoactive effects, but they may be more mild than those produced by strains high in THC alone.
Looking at the average levels of bud samples from a particular strain family, such as the Blue Dream family, can give you a sense of what type of psychoactive experience it provides. For the record, plants in the Blue Dream strain family tends to produce between 17 and 25 percent THC.
3. Aromas matter
Knowing how much CBD and THC are in your flower will give you a good start in discerning what that strain will feel like. However, terpenes are where the magic really happens.
Wondering what differentiates an indica and a sativa? It’s those smelly terpenes. Plants classified as sleepy indicas tend to produce higher levels of a hypnotic compound called myrcene.
Myrcene provides a musky, lemongrass smell to cannabis plants. It is known to be a muscle relaxant and a sedative. Cannabis strains that contain higher levels of myrcene are more likely to cause that couch-locking drowsy effect.
In contrast, plants high in terpenes like pinene may be more energizing and alerting. Pinene is known for its ability to expand airways in the lungs and as an anti-inflammatory. Pinene has a crisp pine aroma.
Myrcene and pinene are just the beginning. The cannabis plant can produce well over 400 different chemical constituents. While not all of these are present in one plant at a given time, this provides insight into how important different strains actually are.
When combined together in unique ratios and combinations, each plant and strain family can produce wildly different effects.
So, yes, strains do matter, simple as that.