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What is a Cannabis Strain? Banner
What is a Cannabis Strain? Banner

What is a Cannabis Strain?

What are cannabis strains, and do they even matter? Traditionally, cannabis has been divided into two categories: indica and sativa. The common knowledge espouses that indica-dominant strains provide a more mellow, couch-dwelling high, while sativa-dominant strains are associated with a more cerebral, clear-headed high. However, a growing body of evidence shows that this may not be true, and that the sativa vs. indica debate may have been a flawed categorization system to begin with.

 

OLO sublingual cannabis strips disrupt the need for consumer strain hunting by combining the perfect blend of cannabinoids and terpenes to induce four different consumer experiences. When walking into a dispensary, many people naturally gravitate towards sativa or indica dominant strains due to the associations with each. More experienced users even seek out their favorite strains like Blue Dream, Jack Herer, Sour Diesel, or countless others, due to their positive experiences in the past. However, increasingly, consumers are finding themselves disappointed when purchasing strain-specific varieties of cannabis. This is due to a variety of factors, not the least of which is the arbitrary categorization systems that many cannabis brands are using.

The distinction between indica and sativa originally came about purely based on the look of the plant. Indica plants are shorter and stout and are said to hail from mountain ranges in Pakistan. Meanwhile, sativas are generally taller and thinner and said to originate in the tropics. Scientists are now saying what has a much bigger impact on the high you will experience is the genetic profile of the cannabis plant, including which terpenes are present.

Dr. Ethan Russo, MD, a board-certified neurologist, psychopharmacology researcher, and Medical Director of PHYTECS, disagrees with the popular dual classification. He instead advocates for more genetic testing and openness with cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles.  “There are biochemically distinct strains of Cannabis, but the sativa/indica distinction as commonly applied in the lay literature is total nonsense and an exercise in futility,” he says. “One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology.”

One of the primary barriers in the publicization of terpenoid and genetic profiles to consumers is the relative lack of data on these topics. While scientists learn more every day about terpenes, there are still many restrictions on studying cannabis due to legality issues. However, as the landscape changes around cannabis and it becomes legal in more and more places, scientists are beginning to understand more about what produces different kinds of highs.

Commonly, indica is touted as being a sedative due to its high content of CBD, a compound which is relaxing and anti-inflammatory. However, Russo says this is false reasoning, and in reality, it is more strongly correlated with the terpenoid profile. He says, “Rather, sedation in most common Cannabis strains is attributable to their myrcene content, a monoterpene with a strongly sedative couch-lock effect that resembles a narcotic.”

Conversely, limonene, another terpene that is commonly found in citrus, provides a more energetic high that Russo says “can effectively reduce or eliminate the short-term memory impairment classically induced by THC.” You can read more about the different terpenes commonly found in cannabis and their associated effects in our blog post.

A terpene that is associated with a certain feeling or high may not necessarily produce that high, due to the other chemical compounds found in a particular plant. For example, Jeffrey Raber, a chemist with a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and the scientific director of Bellevue’s WERC Shop cannabis lab, says “Terpinolene is known to be a sedative, but it’s typically found with an energetic effect. By itself, it might have one response that the rat or rabbit has in a lab, but together with many other terpenes and cannabinoids it’s a very different physiological response.”

Another issue with the idea of relying on strain names to determine your preferences is the regulations and laws that surround cannabis. While there are laws in place to determine the lack of certain chemicals or fertilizers, there are relatively lax laws in place in regards to the quality or consistency of a product. This can account for why you may try a strain from one supplier and love it while trying it again you may be disappointed. Cross-breeding and hybridization of strains are so prevalent these days that there is little guarantee a strain name will guarantee consumers the consistency and quality they are looking for.

Another interesting angle to examine is the effects experienced when patients take THC-only pills to treat medical conditions. Marinol, a pill comprised of synthetically-produced THC and sesame oil, is often given to patients but is frequently discontinued due to the uncomfortable side-effects. Russo speculates this may be due to the lack of varied ingredients in whole-flower THC, such as the terpenes previously mentioned. This theory, however, has been unable to be tested in clinical trials and so remains speculative at best.

So what does the future look like for cannabis “strains”? Like everything, it remains widely debated. Some scientists, such as Alison Draisin, CEO of Seattle’s Ettalew’s Edibles, predicts that the dual categorization of indica vs sativa will become obsolete. “As we move forward, there will be no such thing as sativa or indica,” Draisin said. “It’s going to be about education and teaching people to go for the effect rather than go for the term sativa or indica.”

Others remain skeptical about the phasing out of these binary terms. The rise in popularity of these terms is largely due to oversimplification, and it can be very hard to alter public opinion when the alternative is much more complex. In the interim, as cannabis laws continue to expand and its use becomes more widely accepted, we hope to see more accurate labeling and testing of products. Hopefully, as knowledge becomes more widespread, consumers will learn what to look for rather than defaulting to indica vs sativa.

While many companies continue to mislabel or misrepresent their information, OLO boasts transparency and research. We work with a vast array of biochemists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and strain hunters to formulate full-spectrum, terpene-rich, pesticide-free products in compliance with California state law. Our OLO sublingual cannabis strips are labeled with their exact THC content, ensuring you know exactly what you’re putting in your body, and will always have the consistent experience you’re seeking. Click here to learn more about our OLO sublingual cannabis strips.

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DISCLAIMER: OLO’S CANNABIS PRODUCTS ARE PRODUCED AND DISTRIBUTED IN COMPLIANCE WITH CALIFORNIA STATE LAW AND ARE PRODUCED AND DISTRIBUTED FOR CONSUMERS 21 YEARS OF AGE AND OLDER. WARNING! MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS. DO NOT OPERATE ANY MOTOR VEHICLE, RECREATIONAL VEHICLE, OR HEAVY EQUIPMENT WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CANNABIS PRODUCTS. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN
Licenses:
CDPH-T00000015 - Adult Use Cannabis
CDPH-T00000016 - Medical