What makes a Sativa a Sativa and an Indica an Indica? I mean besides the leaf shape & plant height? What gives each its uniquely Sativa or Indica effects? We know THC & CBD are the major players, but what else?
It's been proven that strain names can't be trusted--that a batch of Strawberry Cough at Dispensary A can have a totally different amount & combination of cannabinoids & terpenes from the Strawberry Cough at Dispensary B. Even the Holy Grail designations of "Sativa" and "Indica" have been called into question by cannabis experts. What's more, the strains we refer to as "Sativa"are actually just "Sativa dominant in the vast majority of cases (likewise for Indicas). There are very few 100% pure cultivars on the commercial market anymore.
So how can you really determine which strains are right for you? One word: terpenes. These smelly chemicals are what give each strain its unique scent & can range from citrusy, astringent Pinesol smells at one end of the spectrum to skunky, earthy & berry at the other end. These aromas can tell you more about a given strain than whether the strain is Sativa, Indica or Hybrid. Here's a breakdown of what a few common terps do:
Limonene - As the name implies, this terp smells strongly of lemon & other citrus fruits. Its effects are generally cerebral & uplifting, making it great for stress & mood elevation.
Pinene - Pinene smells strongly of pine trees...like a giant Christmas tree in your livingroom. It improves mental functioning & alertness while reducing inflammation.
Caryophyllene - Here we have a terpene with a potent smell profile that has no detectable mental effects & a number of beneficial physical effects. It's found in pepper & acts as an anti-inflammatory antiseptic agent that reduces pain & muscle spasms. The smell is spicy & woody.
Linalool - This floral-scented terp is what gives lavender its yummy smell. It has a mild calming & sedating effect, making it best suited for conditions like insomnia, anxiety & pain.
Myrcene - Myrcene is one of the most relaxing of the terps. It has a musky, herbal scent & enhances THC's effects as well as being great for stress & anxiety or sleeping issues.
Once you determine which terpenes you favor, it's much easier to pick strains that are right for you at the dispensary or wherever you shop. Budtenders will ramble on about this or that strain, but just cut to the chase & ask to smell it. I've never cared for weed that's got a lemony/citrus scent for some reason--the stinky stuff that smells of earth & skunk agrees with me more. It took me YEARS to figure this out. Once I did, I stopped wasting money on bud that made me paranoid & anxious for hours and began to actually enjoy cannabis again.
It can be difficult to discern between the different terpenes at first, as they're all blended together & hit your face at once. But by simply paying attention to what your weed looks & smells like, you can learn a lot.
I look forward to the day when complete cannabinoid profiles are listed on every product & strain in every dispensary. But until then, we've got to smell our way to the best weed.
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