When choosing a Cannabis strain to purchase, many make their choice based on three names that have dominated Canna-Culture for years: Indica, Sativa and more recently Hybrid. As more is learned about the complexities of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and phenotypes, it becomes clearer that predicting a high based solely on a plant’s physical attributes may soon be a thing of the past.
Sativa and Indica are the names of two Cannabis species and describe the physical characteristics of a plant; Indica being short, broad-leaved and originating from Pakistan’s mountainous regions, and Sativa being tall, bushy and hailing from tropical climes. New research suggests that using a plant’s physical features to predict its psychoactive effects is likely not as effective as we once thought. Board-certified neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher Ethan Russo has stated, “You cannot tell the effects a plant will have based on its shape—the shape of its leaflets, its size, or how tall it is. What we really should be homing in on is the chemical composition of the plant.”
Different strains produce different effects, which are then impacted by factors such as mood and body chemistry, making it difficult to guess how an individual’s body will react. That is likely why using the plant species (Indica and Sativa), has become such a popular method of grouping plant types. New scientific research suggests that other identifiers can provide a more well-rounded prediction of effects, which is where terpenes come in.
Terpenes are aromatic oils that come from the glands, also known as trichomes, of a Cannabis plant that also produce cannabinoids like THC. There are several factors that can influence terpene production including climate, fertilizers and soil type, leading to a myriad of possible terpene combinations. Terpenes interact with other compounds in the plant, like cannabinoids, and influence the way an individual reacts to a strain.
Currently, there are over 200 terpenes found in Cannabis, coming in a wide variety of flavours and smells. One example is limonene and can provide an energizing and uplifting effect, while myrcene can produce a more sedative and relaxing effect. While terpenes also interact with each body differently, consumers can be aware of the terpene profile of strains they enjoy most and then look for those when trying something new. Rather than starting a conversation with the classic “Indica or Sativa” Cannabis concierge can ask, “What scents are you drawn to and what desired effects are you looking for?” or “Are you searching for Sativa-like or Indica-like effects?”
Whether trying a new strain or returning to an old favourite, be mindful of their terpene profiles and how they interact with your body. See if you can find correlations between researched effects and your personal opinions.