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Beginner’s Guide to Marijuana Strains

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Cannabis use is on the rise in the United States. A 2018 study notes that, while cannabis use among teens has decreased, American adults are increasingly using cannabis on the daily.

According to Forbes, the global cannabis industry is estimated to be worth $7.7 billion. It’s projected to hit $31.4 billion by 2021.

The industry is booming in part because cannabis can be a versatile form of medication. A number of research studies have found that cannabis has the potential to help with a variety of medical conditions, including anxiety, chronic pain, and epilepsy.

But, as any recreational or medical marijuana user can tell you, not all cannabis is created equal. Different strains of cannabis produce different effects, and thus can be used for different reasons.

If marijuana is legal in your state and you’re looking to try it, but not sure which strains best suit your needs, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to marijuana strains below.

If you’ve read a little about marijuana, or if you enter most dispensaries, you might see the words indica, sativa, and hybrid. Generally, most people divide marijuana into these three categories.

Indica, which originates from the Hindu Kush mountains of India, is believed to have a relaxing effect on the user. Sativa has a more energizing effect, while hybrid is a combination of the two.

Many industry experts, however, are reconsidering the indica, sativa and hybrid categories. According to Amos Elberg, head of data science at Confident Cannabis, these terms are more or less meaningless.

“We see samples of all cannabis products tested through our partner labs, and when we look at all the data, particularly of the chemical makeup of flower, we see no identifiable characteristics that are consistent with indica, sativa, or hybrid,” he explains.

“Essentially people are using these terms as catchalls for effect, but they’re not all consistent with those effects. Some indica makes some people wired, not couch-locked, for instance.”

In other words, people shouldn’t be alarmed if a reportedly energizing sativa strain has more of a mellowing effect, or if an indica strain makes them feel more bubbly and excitable.

Beyond indica, sativa, and hybrid, dispensaries might divide the types of cannabis they have into strains. Strains are essentially different breeds of cannabis, and they’re bred to have specific effects on the user.

But if the terms indica, sativa, and hybrid are essentially useless categorizations, are strain names also meaningless?

Not exactly, says Elberg.

“Not all seeds that are sold under the same name are genetically identical, or even necessarily related. Some producers may choose to create a strain name essentially as a branding exercise, or to identify their product with an existing name because they believe the product matches characteristics the market expects from product sold under that name,” Elberg explains.

There are, however, still consistencies among product sold under specific strain names, Elberg adds.

“In general, for the less common names, product sold by different vendors tends to be pretty consistent,” he notes. “For the most common strain names, however, a wider variety of different products are sold.”

If you purchase product from a quality source, the strains should be more or less consistent. Bear in mind, however, that every person reacts differently to cannabis.

The strain you choose depends on what effect you desire. As mentioned earlier, cannabis has a range of medical uses, but some strains are better for certain conditions than others.

It’s also worth researching the potential adverse effects of the strain. Many of the more common strains, which you can find below, list dry mouth, dry eyes, and dizziness as possible side effects. Marijuana also has the potential to interact with medications you might be taking. Do not operate machinery when using marijuana.

Check with your doctorIf you’re interested in trying cannabis, and you’re looking to help treat a medical condition or currently taking any medications, speak with your doctor first.

According to user reviews on Leafly, here’s what people might expect from a few of the most popular marijuana strains.

Acapulco Gold

Originating from Acapulco, Mexico, Acapulco Gold is a well-known and highly praised strain of cannabis. It’s noted for its euphoria-inducing, energizing effects. It’s said to reduce fatigue, stress, pain, and even nausea.

Blue Dream

Blue Dream is relaxing and soothing, but it isn’t a total sedative. This makes it perfect for easing pain, cramps, or inflammation for when you can’t afford to fall asleep. Plus, it’s said to lift your mood and give you a feeling of euphoria.

Purple Kush

Purple Kush is great for inducing a state of bliss so that you feel relaxed, happy, and sleepy. It’s often used for reducing pain and muscle spasms. Its sedating effects means it can be used to reduce insomnia.

Sour Diesel

A highly energizing, mood-lifting strain, Sour Diesel is great for giving you a burst of productive energy. It also has notable destressing and pain-relieving effects.

Bubba Kush

Bubba Kush is a relaxing, sleep-inducing strain. It’s perfect for helping you fight insomnia and get some shut-eye. It also offers pain-reducing, stress-relieving results.

Granddaddy Purple

Granddaddy Purple is another highly relaxing strain. It’s often praised for its insomnia-fighting and stress-reducing results. Users also note that it can make you feel euphoria and increase hunger, which is great if you’re experiencing a lack of appetite.

Afghan Kush

Originating from the Hindu Kush mountains near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Afghan Kush is super relaxing and sleep-inducing. This, too, can help you feel hungry if you’re experiencing a lack of appetite, and can relieve pain.

LA Confidential

LA Confidential is another relaxing and sleep-inducing strain that is often used to soothe insomnia. It’s also said to have noticeable anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects, which makes it a favorite among people with chronic pain.

Maui Wowie

Maui Wowie can help you feel super relaxed, yet energetic and creative. It reduces fatigue, too, making it great for days when you need to be productive.

Golden Goat

Golden Goat is notable for making users feel euphoric and creative. It’s also great for reducing fatigue and stress while lifting your mood.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights is another relaxing, sleep-inducing strain. It’s also known for its mood-lifting effects, and it can be used to relieve insomnia, pain, stress, and depression.

White Widow

White Widow improves your mood, gives you energy, and relaxes you all at once. It’s said to help reduce pain and stress, as well as feelings of depression. If you’re feeling fatigued, White Widow might help you stay energized and alert.

Super Silver Haze

Another energizing strain, Super Silver Haze is said to produce feelings of euphoria, relieves pain and nausea, and lifts your mood. This makes it excellent for stress relief.

Pineapple Express

Made famous by the 2008 eponymous movie, Pineapple Express has a pineapple-like scent. It’s relaxing and mood lifting, but is also said to give you an energetic buzz. This is the sort of strain that could be great for productivity.

Fruity Pebbles

Fruity Pebbles OG, or FPOG, is associated with inducing euphoria and relaxation, which could make it great for stress relief. It often makes users feel giggly, helps reduce nausea, and increases appetite.

If marijuana is legal in your state and you’re interested in trying — or even growing — different types of cannabis strains, there are a number of products that can make your life a little easier.

Growing Laws Legislation around growing marijuana differs from state to state. Before you decide to grow, make sure you’ve done your research.

Volcano Vaporizer

Some people might prefer inhaling cannabis over smoking it through a pipe, bong, or joint. This desktop vaporizer heats up cannabis and expels the vapor into a balloon. The person then inhales the air from the balloon.

The vaporizer can be used with dried herbs or liquid concentrates, and can be purchased here.

Magical Butter Kit

Cannabutter — or cannabis-infused butter — is the basis of many edibles. Unfortunately, making cannabutter can be a lengthy and labor-intensive process.

This butter kit, however, makes it easy to infuse herbs into butter. It has its own heating unit and thermostat, which ensures that the product and butter are at the ideal temperature throughout the process.

tCheck Dosage Checker

The tCheck Dosage Checker tests the strength of cannabis-infused liquids — like alcohol-based tinctures. It can also test cannabis-infused olive oil, ghee (clarified butter), and coconut butter, which will help you determine how strong your edibles are before you indulge.

Unfortunately, it only checks liquids, not dried herb.

Palm Mincer

Grinding up cannabis can be time-consuming, so the Palm Mincer can be quite useful. It fits perfectly into your palm, and it can be used to chop up cannabis quickly and efficiently. What’s more it’s dishwasher safe, so it’s easy to clean off the sticky cannabis resin. You can buy it I here.

Harvest Starter Kit

If you want to start growing your own cannabis, this convenient starter kit contains everything you need to harvest it.

The grow kit includes a trimming tray, a microscope for examining the buds to determine whether they’re ready for harvest, three types of pruning shears, a disinfecting spray for your tools, a drying rack, and gloves.

Note: Even if marijuana is legal in your state, it continues to be illegal under federal law.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance writer and journalist based in Grahamstown, South Africa. Her writing covers issues relating to social justice and health. You can reach out to her on Twitter.

Last medically reviewed on September 26, 2018

Not all cannabis is created equal. Different strains of cannabis produce different effects, and thus can be used for different reasons. If marijuana is legal in your state and you’re looking to try it, but not sure which strains best suit your needs, we’ve got you covered with this beginner’s guide.

What is ‘Kush’ cannabis?

Cannabis can be classified in many different ways. Typically, this resinous flower is categorized as sativa, hybrid, or indica, based on the morphology of the plant. But cannabis can be further categorized through a vernacular defined by the popular culture, such as Kush, Haze, and Purple. These terms refer to types of cannabis characterized by distinct smells, flavors, effects, and/or geographic regions.

What characterizes ‘Kush’ cannabis?

Kush is a particular variety of cannabis that descends from the Hindu Kush mountains. This mountain range spans the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and is one of the few geographic regions where the cannabis plant grows natively.

Having strong Kush genetics usually means a strain will have a few of the following attributes:

  • Appearance: Your strain may exhibit deep green colas and leaves with hints of purple. Pistils (hairs) can look orange, bronze, or rust colored. Buds are dense, chunky, and knotted, coming from squat, thick plants.
  • Smell: Aroma can vary between earthy, floral, pungent, pine, incense, sweet fruit, hash spice, pepper, citrus, gas, and herbs.
  • Flavor: Smoke or vapor should be smooth and herbaceous, tasting of flowers, grape, diesel, citrus, and earth.
  • Effects: The effects are typically heavy and sedative. OG Kush crosses are usually coupled with a bright euphoria that puts a smile on the couch-locked consumer. Introspection or internal reflection is a common effect of Kush as well. These cerebral effects make a strong case for Kush as a meditative variety of cannabis.

Keep in mind that these attributes can vary from Kush strain to Kush strain. How a strain is grown and its unique genetic expression (referred to as a “phenotype”) naturally affect a strain’s attributes.

Among strain breeders, Kush varieties are popular candidates for backcrossing and in turn, stabilizing hybrid genetics. As with many landrace strains, Kush genetics present natural resistance to certain elements native to their land of origin. This includes hardy stocks and vegetation that can survive colder, harsher climates and moderate water consumption, allowing the plant to endure somewhat parched terrain. In addition to their natural resilience, many growers choose to grow Kush strains for their heavy yields and manageable height.

What are the most popular Kush cannabis strains?

A simple search of “Kush” will yield hundreds of strains with an Afghani ancestor, but let’s start with the five most popular:

1. OG Kush

The most famous of all Kush varieties, OG Kush hits the sweet spot on the indica-dominant hybrid scale. This strain’s comfortable yet potent sedation coupled with an uplifting euphoria make it the perfect strain to just feel good with.

2. Bubba Kush

Bubba Kush is stoney and sedative, weighing the consumer to couch as though they were wearing cement boots with a matching cement tracksuit and stately cement trench coat. Bubba Kush may also ignite your appetite; just try not to fall asleep in front of the fridge while spooning a box of Eggo waffles.

3. Purple Kush

Purple Kush has purple foliage and will generally have an earthy, grape flavor, as well as sleepy effects.

4. Master Kush

Master Kush is another Kush classic that inherits attributes directly from Hindu Kush. With a mixture of sleepy, happy, and relaxing effects, Master Kush earns its title. This strain is an excellent alternative to Bubba Kush.

Which Kush varieties are your favorite? Share them in the comments section below!

Learn what "Kush" cannabis means, the attributes that characterize a plant with strong Kush genetics, and find the most popular Kush strains.