If you’re new to marijuana, the almost limitless variety of strains available today can be bewildering. In this article, we’ll break down how to choose the best strain for you.
INDICA OR SATIVA?
The cannabis plant comes in two main varieties, indica and sativa. Indicas tend to be more mellow and deliver more pain relief, while sativas tend to be more psychoactive. The reason for these differences lies in the various plant molecules that differ between them, two of which we discuss below.
HOW MUCH THC?
The first matter to consider is the THC content. Tetrahydrocannabinol binds to and agonizes the cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptors in our brains, yielding the downstream dopamine release that is so pleasurable when consuming marijuana. Low dose strains, containing less than 10% THC, were predominant until the mid-1990’s, when work in California and the Netherlands produced high-THC indica and sativa varieties.
Because it binds directly to the cannabinoid receptors and stimulates dopamine acutely, THC can be overwhelming to the uninitiated at high doses. This is particularly true for sativa strains, like the haze varieties, which contain lower CBD content.
HOW MUCH CBD?
Cannabidiol is the other primary cannabinoid that you must consider when picking a strain for yourself. Unlike THC, CBD does not directly agonize the cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptors in the brain. In fact, it weakly antagonizes them – to a degree, blocking THC’s activity. Moreover, due to its effects on some of the enzymes that degrade our natural cannabinoids, like anandamide, it increases natural cannabinoid activity in the brain. CBD promotes neurogenesis (the growth of the new neurons in the brain) and is neuroprotective. It also relieves pain by binding to the capsaicin 1 receptor in the brain – the same receptor that tells us that spicy food is hot, and it binds very weakly to opiate receptors. It also has potent antidepressant and anxiolytic (anxiety reducing, that is) effects that seem dependent on its promotion of neurogenesis.
What this means is that CBD is can relieve pain in the body and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Moreover, it negates some of THC’s activities at the cannabinoid 1 and 2 receptors.
The flavor of the marijuana strain really matters most if you smoke it. With that said, there are a huge variety of carefully cultivated strains with varying flavors. Some taste like bubblegum – really. Others have a blueberry flavor, most notably, DJ Short’s Blueberry. The United Kingdom developed and promoted the cheese varieties. Many of the strongest haze varieties, like Amnesia haze and Supersilver haze, have a taste of spice.
SO WHAT DO I DO?
If you live in a place like Canada, you can buy your marijuana online from the provincial government’s online store. For example,
If you’re in British Columbia: www.bccannabisstores.com
If you’re in Alberta: www.albertacannabis.org
If you’re in Saskatchewan: www.slga.com
If you’re in Ontario: www.ocs.ca
If you’re in Quebec: www.sqdc.ca
Look for a strain that fits your desires and experience level. The more you consume marijuana, the more your cannabinoid receptors downregulate – meaning, the more you can tolerate higher THC strains. If you’re very experienced and want a real high, consider purchasing a strain with a THC content north of 20% that has a low CBD content, since the CBD will counteract some of the effects of the THC. On the other hand, if you mostly want a comforting high with some pain relief, go for a medium THC strain with a higher CBD ratio.
Remember, THC and CBD work in opposing ways on our brain’s cannabinoid receptors. Their balance determines a lot of your experience.