Ultimate Guide to Best Weed Strains: Indica, Sativa, Hybrid
This post is part of our Best Dispensary in San Diego series, sponsored by Cannabist.
Now that recreational cannabis is legal in nearly half the country, the retail weed market has exploded with options. Cultivators are constantly experimenting and developing new strains to the delight of customers.
Choosing out of the hundreds of available varieties can be overwhelming, even for the most experienced user. This handy guide breaks down the differences between the three major cannabis types and some of the best weed strains under each category.
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What are Cannabis Strains?
Like any other plant, cannabis can differ widely in its color, appearance, aroma, or form. These differences come from genetic differences between varieties, or strains. The two main strains are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Hybrid strains blend the dominant characteristics of sativa and indica.
Traditionally, sativa and indica have been distinguished by their effects. Sativa strains were believed to have an energizing effect, while indica strains are considered relaxing. In reality, the differences between the two strains aren’t quite so stark. There is considerable variety within each strain, as well as countless hybrids.
Additionally, even the same strain can have some variance. This is because no two plants can be genetically identical, and these small differences can alter the resulting experience. Likewise, physiological differences in people can also influence a strain’s effect. A strain that one person finds relaxing may energize another.
So the strain equals effect equation doesn’t really work. Still, strain classifications are helpful for purchasing decisions. There are also a few guidelines for choosing the best marijuana strains for achieving the desired effect.
THC vs. CBD
One of the most significant differences between strains is the proportion of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC and CBD are cannabinoids or substances that interact with cannabinoid receptors throughout the body.
THC is psychoactive, which means it can alter perception, behavior, and other mental processes. It binds to specific receptors in the brain and nervous system. A THC-dominant strain is more likely to produce the “high” associated with marijuana.
CBD is non-psychoactive and does not directly bind to any cannabinoid receptors. Instead, it can moderate the effects of THC. In fact, high-CBD/ low-THC strains do not produce any type of high in most people.
Since a strain’s CBD to THC ratio can greatly influence its effects, buyers should understand the best ratio for their needs. For example, cannabis for pain or anxiety relief often contains much more CBD. On the other side, frequent cannabis users may have a higher tolerance for THC’s psychoactive effects and gain a much better experience from 4:1, 2:1, or even 1:1 CBD to THC strains.
Best Indica Strains
Indica strains are made from cannabis plants with thick, wide leaves and small, compact buds. The Indica plant itself is shorter and denser than sativa varieties. Indica leaves have a deeper richer color, generally dark green or purple. They are rich in aromatic compounds and typically give off a strong, earthy smell. Indica flavors can range from sweet and fruity to woody and spicy.
Indicas are known for their relaxing “body” highs. Some strains can induce sleepiness, so they are often recommended as a sleep aid. Their high CBD ratio delivers calming effects. Indica is also useful for pain relief and anxiety reduction.
The best indica strains are popular for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Here are a few of the most common varieties and their effects.
Granddaddy Purple- Also known as GDP, this strain is one of the most popular types of indica on the market. Its aromatic profile includes notes of grape, pine, herbs, and pepper. GDP delivers a relaxing body high that can help combat sleep issues like insomnia. Most people also experience an increased appetite.
Northern Lights- A hybrid of Thai and Afghani strains, Northern Lights offer pain and stress-alleviating effects. Despite its moderate levels of THC, it delivers a calming effect.
Purple Kush- This California original is the result of a Hindu Kush and Aghani strain cross. Its colorful name reflects its flavor profile of grape, lavender, and flowery notes. The most common effects are drowsiness, euphoria, and relaxation.
Blueberry- The previous winner of the High Times Cannabis Cup, Blueberry packs a powerful punch within its fruity notes. Like other indicas, blueberry has calming and stress-reducing effects.
Best Sativa Weed Strains
C. sativa, the other cannabis heavyweight, counters indica in many ways. The plants dwarf the average indica plant, reaching up to 6 feet in height. The leaves are also paler, thinner, and longer.
The strain originates from drier climates and contains much higher doses of THC. The strongest strains can contain up to 35% THC. Sativa delivers a mind high triggered by THC’s psychoactive properties. While it is more suitable for daytime use, the mind-altering effects are not compatible with many activities, such as driving or operating heavy machinery.
The strain’s mood-lifting effects are beneficial for people with some mental health disorders, such as depression. Sativa can also enhance focus and productivity and is the ideal choice for creative endeavors.
When it comes to sativa, the best weed strains are desired for their powerful and euphoric highs.
Sour Diesel- This well-known strain has a distinctive diesel smell and produces an intense cerebral high. Its skunky flavor profile is not the most appealing aspect of Sour Diesel. Still, people flock to this sativa variety for pain and depression relief.
Green Crack- These colorful buds have a bit of an off-putting name. The strain is also called Cush to not confuse the strain with stronger drugs. After consuming Green Crack, people tend to feel more focused, productive, and energized. Its aroma is fruity and tropical.
Jack Herer- Named after a prominent cannabis enthusiast, Jack Herer is a Sativa-dominant blend of several varieties. It is highly energizing and commonly used for medical purposes. The flavor profile is a mix of spicy and earthy notes.
Durban Poison- As the name suggests, this strain hails from South Africa. Durban Poison has since become one of the most in-demand sativa strains in the world. Its notable round buds give off an herbal aroma.
Strawberry Cough- Fruity, sweet, and uplifting, strawberry cough is one of the best sativa strains for taking energy levels up a notch. The cough in its name refers to the sensation of “coughing up strawberries” that some users experience. Strawberry Cough produces a balanced high that is suitable for maintaining focus and productivity.
Best Hybrid Weed Strains
Cannabis cultivators have always been an experimental bunch. Hybrid strains were developed as part of the quest to blend the best characteristics of indica and sativa strains. Hybrids can run the gamut when it comes to tastes and appearance. Generally, hybrids will have higher levels of CBD or THC content when compared to purer varieties.
Hybrids dominate today’s cannabis markets. Even some of the best-selling sativa and indica strains are in fact hybrids.
Girl Scout Cookies- GSC is primarily indica and derived from Durban Poison. Its high THC content makes the strain a popular choice for pain relief and appetite stimulation. GSC’s energizing effects are more muted than those brought on by straight salvia strains.
Blue Dream- Drawing its name from its Blueberry sativa parent strain, Blue Dream is a fruity, calming delight. California-born strain is potent and delivers an energizing effect.
Wedding Cake- While its name suggests sweetness, Wedding Cake’s flavor profile also has a slight spiciness. It can also stimulate feelings that improve intimacy. As it is quite high in THC, it is advised for seasoned cannabis users.
Gorilla Glue #4- This Indica-dominant hybrid strain gains its name from its sedentary after-effects. Generally, people do very little after a few hits. GG4’s aroma profile reflects the cross of pungent, sour, and earthy strains in its genetic makeup.
Pineapple Express- This highly energizing strain gained popularity as the namesake of a popular stoner flick. The strain has a tropical flavor profile that fits with its Hawaiian origins.
How to Choose the Best Weed Strain for You
When it comes to weed strains, this guide only scratches the surface. With hundreds of varieties to choose from and new ones entering the market every day, you’ll never be short of options.
Choosing the best strain of weed depends on many factors. This includes the kind of experience you want to have, the time of day you prefer to smoke, and even your own tolerance of THC.
Before heading to the local dispensary, take a deep dive into the different strains. Understand how potency levels and strain dominance can impact your experience.
Get the Best Weed Strains in San Diego
By purchasing weed from a dispensary, you can get all the information you need to find the best weed strains for you. Take a trip to the Cannabist in San Diego with your wishlist in hand.
Our list of best weed strains is far from complete. Not only are there so many varieties to choose from, but each strain’s effects are largely individual. Exploring flavor profiles and different strains is part of the discovery process. Be open-minded, follow the regulations, and test out as many strains as you can.