All medical cannabis is not the same. There are a wide number of varieties coming from many areas of the world. These varieties are called ‘strains.’ Different strains have different traits. This is important to consider in terms of cannabis used for medicinal purposes. The specific characteristics of different cannabis strains give them unique properties that have the potential to benefit those with differing illnesses and conditions. In other words, one strain may work well for someone who is suffering from a neurological disorder while another will provide greater benefits for someone with PTSD.
A July 10, 2014, article in the Los Angeles Times refers to 779 strains on file. Whether that total is up to date or not, clearly, there are too many strains for us to reasonably discuss them all here. Instead, we’ll focus on an overview of strains and their parent types.
The wide variety of strains are generally traced back to the following subspecies of cannabis:
- Indicas Hazes
This variety of the cannabis plant grows the tallest, reaching heights of 20 feet, but is difficult to cultivate. They primarily grow in Equatorial regions, such as Colombia, Mexico and Southeast Asia. The plants are thin, with narrow leaves that are light green in color. It can take as many as 16 weeks for a Sativa plant to reach maturity.
Their flavors are often described as sweet, fruity and/or earthy. In their pure form, they can cause paranoia among users and irregular heartbeats. Some have described the same hyper sensation someone may feel if they’ve had too much caffeine. On the other hand, thy can provide relief from depression, fatigue, pain, nausea or an overactive appetite.
Pure Indica is a shorter, denser plant with broad leaves and darker green in color. They originally came from the central Asian region of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tibet. They generally mature within 8 weeks. They also grow well indoors.
They can also have sweet and fruity flavors but some have a strong and unsavory aroma. They can help fight pain and insomnia. They have powerful sedative properties.
Ruderalis originates in Russia and has very low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). However, it is a very hearty plant and has a very high level of CBD (cannabidiol). Rather than flowering based on seasons, it flowers according to its age, which is called autoflowering. Crossbreeding with sativas and indicas can produce autoflowering hybrids with the medicinal benefits of those plants.
By crossbreeding different varieties of cannabis, developers have created strains that have a wide range of medicinal benefits. Continued efforts to refine these strains have resulted in newer strains that have greater potential for growers and end users who seek the healing and pain-relieving traits of medical cannabis. The strains come in a plethora of colorful names, from Charlotte’s Web and Girl Scout Cookies to Strawberry Cough and Bubba Kush. Whatever the name, the different strains have varied benefits that offer great promise for those with different illnesses and conditions.
Crossbreeding different varieties of cannabis strains develop hybrids. Hybrids are created to take advantage of traits found in different strains and to increase or limit the characteristics of those strains. In this way, developers can create strains that retain or increase positive medicinal benefits while reducing or eliminating unwanted side effects. They can also create strains that have positive attributes with an ability to grow faster.
The indicas and sativas are the types of cannabis most commonly grown. The prior is generally found in the tallest cannabis plants. Ruderalis is typically the shortest. Ruderalis also, typically, has the lowest levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and can flower in seasons when the other types are generally dormant. Therefore, by crossbreeding a sativas or indicas with a ruderalis, developers hope to create a more effective hybrid with a longer growing cycle.
Sativas and Indicas have higher ratios of THC to cannabidiol (CBD) – 200:1, on average. While higher THC levels may increase a strain’s appeal among recreational users of cannabis, it doesn’t necessarily provide greater medicinal benefits. For this reasons, strains of sativas and indicas have been developed that focus on their medical benefits even if, and sometimes because, they have lower THC to CBD ratios.
THC is the chemical compound that creates a high with the use of cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, does not come with a high for the user. Still, this isn’t to say that, medicinally, we want THC-free cannabis. Cannabis with THC can also have distinct medicinal benefits. And, together, THC and CBD can create a potent medicinal cocktail
The actual names of different strains vary. What is most important is the genotype and environment of the cannabis plant and the amount of THC vs CBD each strain contains. Remember that all cannabinoids, whether psychoactive or not, can provide major medical benefits to patients who need them.