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Things to consider

The two main types of cannabis, sativa and indica, are used for a number of medicinal and recreational purposes.

Sativas are known for their “head high,” an invigorating, energizing effect that can help reduce anxiety or stress and increase creativity and focus.

Indicas are typically associated with full-body effects, such as increasing deep relaxation and reducing insomnia.

Although research examining these effects is limited, it appears these plants have more in common than previously thought.

In other words, the category, or type, of cannabis may not be the greatest indicator of the effects you’ll experience.

Here’s how to find the right plant for your needs, strains to consider, potential side effects, and more.

What should you look for to understand strain effects?

The often-applied rule of thumb is that sativas are more invigorating and energizing, while indicas are more relaxing and calming — but it isn’t really that simple.

Individual plants produce varying effects, even among the same type of cannabis. It all depends on the plant’s chemical composition and the growing technique used.

Instead of looking at the type alone — sativa or indica — look at the description the grower and dispensary provide.

Oftentimes, the plant types are broken down into specific strains, or breeds.

Strains are distinguished by their individual cannabinoid and terpene content. These compounds are what determine the strain’s overall effects.

Cannabinoids

Cannabis plants contain dozens of chemical compounds called cannabinoids.

These naturally occurring components are responsible for producing many of the effects — both negative and positive — of cannabis use.

Researchers still don’t understand what all of the cannabinoids do, but they have identified two main ones — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — as well as several less common compounds.

These include:

Terpenes

A great deal of attention is paid to the amount of THC and CBD in a given strain, but newer research suggests that terpenes may be just as impactful.

Terpenes are another naturally occurring compound in the cannabis plant.

The terpenes present directly affect the plant’s smell. They may also influence the effects produced by specific strains.

Common terpenes include:


 

Sativa in-depth

Sativa Leaves


 

Indica in-depth

Indica leaves


 


 

Hybrid in-depth

Hybrid leaves

Each year, cannabis growers produce new and unique strains from different combinations of parent plants. These cannabis hybrids are often grown to target specific effects.


 

Ruderalis in-depth

Ruderalis leaves

A third type of cannabis, Cannabis ruderalis, also exists. However, it isn’t widely used because it usually doesn’t produce any potent effects.

Potential side effects and risks

Although cannabis use is often associated with potential benefits, it can also produce unwanted side effects.

This includes:

Most of these effects are associated with THC, not CBD or other cannabinoids. However, any cannabis product can produce side effects.

The method of use may increase your risk for side effects, too.

For example, smoking or vaping cannabis can irritate your lungs and airways. This may lead to coughing and respiratory problems.

Oral cannabis preparations, such as gummies or cookies, are less likely to affect your overall respiratory health.

However, the effects are felt more slowly and typically aren’t as strong.


 


 

Strains to consider for certain conditions

Strain

Category

CBD

THC

Conditions

Acapulco Gold

Sativa

0.1%

15-23%

Fatigue, stress, nausea, pain

Blue Dream

Hybrid

<1%

30%

Pain, cramps, inflammation, insomnia, mental fog, PTSD

Purple Kush

Indica

<1%

17-22%

Chronic pain, muscle spasms, insomnia

Sour Diesel

Sativa

<1%

20-22%

Fatigue, stress, acute pain, mental fog, anxiety, PTSD

Bubba Kush

Indica

<1%

14-25%

Insomnia, acute pain, nausea, low appetite, PTSD

Granddaddy Purple

Indica

<0.1%

17-23%

Low appetite, restless leg syndrome, insomnia

Afghan Kush

Indica

6%

16-21%

Acute pain, insomnia, low appetite

LA Confidential

Indica

0.3%

16-20%

Inflammation, pain, stress

Maui Waui

Sativa

0.55%

13-19%

Fatigue, depression

Golden Goat

Hybrid

1%

23%

Depression, anxiety, mental fog, low energy

Northern Lights

Indica

0.1%

16%

Pain, mood disorders, insomnia, low appetite

White Widow

Hybrid

<1%

12-20%

Low mood, mental fog, social anxiety

Super Silver Haze

Sativa

<0.1%

16%

Stress, anxiety, mental fog, low energy

Pineapple Express

Hybrid

<0.1%

23%

Mental fog, acute pain, social anxiety

Supernatural

Sativa

<1%

22%

Migraine, glaucoma, headaches, low moods

How to choose the right product for you

When you’re looking for the right cannabis product for you, keep these considerations in mind:

Legality

Cannabis isn’t legal everywhere. A few years ago, all cannabis products were illegal in most parts of the United States. Today, many states have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, or both.

CBD laws are also evolving. Some states allow it for medicinal purposes, but they heavily regulate the source in order to prevent THC-laced CBD products.

Before you attempt to purchase or use cannabis, you should know the laws for your state. Keep in mind that cannabis is still illegal under federal law. If you don’t know the laws where you are, you could face legal consequences.

You may be subject to different laws if you live outside of the United States.

The bottom line

If you’re curious about how cannabis might help you, talk with a doctor or other healthcare provider.

They can discuss its potential positive and negative effects on your individual health and help you find something that suits your needs.

Then, you can begin to explore your options. Finding the right option for you may take time. You may also find that you don’t tolerate cannabis well.

If you live in a state that has legalized cannabis, you can visit a dispensary and talk with a trained staff member. They may be able to recommend specific strains or other products to suit your individual needs.