For a novice in the world of cannabis, hearing discussions about the various strains and different types of marijuana can be dizzying. What types of marijuana are there? Three main types of cannabis plants comprise the strains consumers can find at most recreational and medical dispensaries. Besides those, ruderalis and non-psychoactive hemp fill out the cannabis spectrum, providing a wide range of effects, uses, and health benefits.
Three Primary Types of Marijuana
Should a customer strike up a conversation with a budtender in a dispensary or ask a question about marijuana effects online, they’ll quickly learn that there are different types of marijuana. Specifically, there are three types of marijuana that are known for differences in their effects, plant origin and appearance, and harvest time.
Of the three main types of marijuana, cannabis indica is known for its sedating effects. This sets it apart from sativa, which is known to be more stimulating. Indica strains achieve their effects through differing amounts of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, as well as terpenes.
Indica creates a powerful “body” high that’s referred to as “couch lock.” After consuming a strong indica strain, many consumers feel physically heavy, unwilling to move, and extremely relaxed. Indicas also tend to stimulate the appetite. Due to all of this, general advice for those planning to enjoy a sativa is to have a snack and relax in front of the TV or to get comfortable and go to sleep.
Medical Uses of Indica Strains
Because of its strong physical high and relaxing effects, cannabis indica is good for treating many different medical conditions. While swallowing a pill means that patients have to wait a half hour or more for their medication to kick in, vaporizing or smoking indica strains of marijuana offers them immediate relief. Among the conditions for which indicas are frequently used are:
People with conditions such as multiple sclerosis often experience painful spasms in the muscles throughout their bodies. Those who don’t wish to deal with the side effects of traditional pharmaceuticals often turn to indica-dominant marijuana strains instead.
Chronic, painful conditions such as fibromyalgia and persistent migraines often results in patients being prescribed powerful painkillers over the long-term. Cannabis indica can provide an effective alternative to medications that can be addictive and even damaging to the body. People battling cancer often consume cannabis to control their pain, as it has the added benefit of controlling chemotherapy-related nausea and stimulating the appetite.
People who suffer from anxiety are often warned away from sativa strains and directed to try indica instead. The calming effects of indica tend to calm all manner of anxiety – from panic attacks to social anxiety.
Just as it relaxes away anxiety, cannabis indica can be helpful for those seeking a good night’s sleep. That’s why it’s frequently recommended for those who struggle with insomnia.
Different types of marijuana plants don’t just vary in their effects; they’re also different in their appearance. Indica sets itself apart from other types of cannabis with its shorter, bushier plants. This makes them good for growing indoors. When harvested, indica buds often have a strong, pungent aroma. When it’s smoked, indica flower often tastes floral and fruity.
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Cannabis sativa is valued for its uplifting effects, providing a very different experience than cannabis indica. Like indica, however, the effects of all sativa strains are determined by the different levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, making some strains incredibly stimulating and others gently invigorating.
While indica is known for causing a physical high, sativa is famous for its “head” high that is felt mostly in the brain. This makes sativa strains a bit more hallucinogenic than indica. It also means that while the brain may feel high, sativas do not cause the sluggish body high that sends indica consumers to the couch. Sativa strains are often recommended for people who need a burst of creativity or productivity to get things accomplished. Due to its stimulating qualities, people with anxiety disorder are often warned against consuming strong sativa strains of marijuana.
Medical Uses of Sativa Strains
Just like traditional medications are used for specific purposes due to their varying effects, different marijuana strains can target the symptoms of various medical conditions. Here are some of the diseases and ailments that sativa strains are often used to treat:
While the effects of cannabis sativa feel very stimulating to most, they can actually be calming to people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In fact, many people use sativa as a non-pharmaceutical treatment for ADHD. They find that it slows their minds down and helps them focus on tasks for long periods of time.
Cannabis sativa doesn’t only give a boost to the brain; it also helps boost a sluggish appetite. This is particularly helpful for those undergoing chemotherapy or struggling with wasting due to AIDS.
Sativa strains of marijuana are also frequently recommended for people who are battling depression. This may be due to the fact that many sativa strains are high in CBD, which has been studied for its ability to increase feel-good chemicals in the brain.
Unlike indicas, sativa plants grow narrower and much taller, with the leaves being more loosely packed. This means that their yield tends to be less than indica plants. Due to its height, this form of marijuana is recommended for outdoor growing. Sativa flowers tend to smell sweet, floral, and even fruity. When smoked, they have a rather earthy flavor.
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In the world of cannabis, the recreational and medical experience isn’t all or nothing, energizing or sedating. Rounding out the primary three types of marijuana is an infinite array of hybrid cannabis strains. These combine characteristics and effects from various indica and sativa strains to create hybrid strains that offer the best of both worlds.
Hybrid Cannabis Effects
There is no one set of effects from hybrid cannabis. Because hybrid strains combine sativas and indicas, the results will depend on which strains were chosen to be bred together. Some hybrid strains can be extremely high in THC, while others may have lower percentages of THC and higher concentrations of CBD. Meanwhile, a varying range of terpenes help round out the effects of each individual strain.
Growing Hybrid Cannabis Plants
Hybrid strains can also be helpful to growers who want the effects of one strain and the physical characteristics of another – an energizing sativa-style strain that’s small enough for an indoor grow area, for example. Breeders may also want to cross a high-yield indica strain with a sativa strain that’s more resistant to heat.
Achieving these results doesn’t happen overnight, however. It takes time and diligence through a process known as “back-crossing.” This involves breeding the same strains together over generations until the grower consistently knows what features to expect from the resulting hybrid. Breeding hybrid plants truly does provide the best of both worlds in terms of cannabis strains.
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Other Cannabis Types
While indica, sativa, and hybrid types of marijuana are the most popular and talked-about in the recreational and medical cannabis world, it’s important not to forget the other types of cannabis that are also useful and have many health benefits.
While hemp is a relatively well-known sub-species of the cannabis plant, it’s also often confused with the psychoactive forms of cannabis that contain significant amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). To be legally considered hemp, U.S. government requirements state that a plant must have no more than 0.3% THC. This isn’t enough to cause any discernible effects, let alone cause a high.
Just because it has no psychoactive effects doesn’t mean hemp is useless, however. In fact, it’s been used for centuries to create fibers that can be used for everything from weaving clothing and rope to creating paper and even building houses. A few common uses for hemp are:
Hemp seeds can be used for a variety of food and health purposes. They can be ground into flour and protein powder and mixed into granola. The oil pressed from the flowers can be used as a high-CBD supplement, while hemp seed oil is high in healthy fatty acids and can be used for cooking. Hemp leaves are also a healthy addition to the diet, as they can be juiced or even eaten raw in salads.
The fibers from the hemp plant can be woven into many different materials. For centuries, it’s been used to make rope and canvas (In fact, the word “canvas” comes from “cannabis.”) Hemp fibers can also be used to make paper and clothing.
Another little-known use for hemp is fuel. Hemp fibers can be transformed into an earth-friendly ethanol fuel, and hemp requires less fertilizer than corn (which is also used to make ethanol).
Finally, hemp hurd can be transformed into eco-friendly building materials. Many people in the “cannabis construction” movement use it to make fiberboard and a material known as “hempcrete.”
Medical Benefits of Hemp
Consuming hemp comes with a long list of health benefits, as well; it’s full of CBD (cannabidiol), a cannabinoid that’s known for its calming, pain-relieving, antidepressant effects. Hemp is also a good source of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fatty acids. In addition to this, hemp is full of gamma-linoleic acid (GMA), a substance that’s been studied for its ability to relieve PMS symptoms in women.
Farmers find hemp to be an excellent cash crop. It requires very little fertilizer and matures quickly (in approximately 8 to 12 weeks). Hemp can also be replanted 3 to 4 times in just one season. Because it provides such a fast turnaround, it’s a much more eco-friendly than trees for making paper products. In fact, hemp proponents advocate for it as a solution to the rampant deforestation that is clearing the planet of large swaths of slow-growing trees. Hemp also grows well in a wide variety of climates.
In addition to growing quickly, processing hemp involves fewer chemicals than are used in standard paper and textile manufacturing. After it’s turned into fiber for clothing or paper, hemp’s naturally light color means it doesn’t require bleaching. From its seeds all the way into its final form as a finished product, hemp proves to be useful and to have very little negative impact on the environment.
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A lesser-known species among the different marijuana types, cannabis ruderalis once grew wild in the harsh climates of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Asia. This type of cannabis isn’t popular among recreational users, but it is highly useful for breeders due to its unique characteristics.
Unlike many cannabis strains commonly found in dispensaries, cannabis ruderalis is naturally low in THC. This means it has virtually no psychotropic effects. Because it’s high in CBD, however, it can be useful to those who use marijuana for health purposes. The CBD in cannabis ruderalis means it creates a calming, clear-headed high that’s non-intoxicating.
Ruderalis plants are not only hardy; they’re also small in stature – growing to only 1 to 2.5 feet. Because they’re of so little interest to most consumers, most growers use ruderalis not as a standalone crop, but as an opportunity to create hybrids that contain ruderalis traits. Specifically, breeders value ruderalis because it’s an autoflowering sub-species that automatically begins to flower between 21 and 30 days, regardless of whether the grower manipulates the plant’s lighting. This gives them the opportunity to combine ruderalis traits into higher-THC indica and sativa cannabis strains. Although many cannabis connoisseurs don’t realize it, ruderalis is a little-known plant with a big impact on the kinds of strains they consume.
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Sativa vs Indica and Beyond
While discussions about the different types of marijuana often focus on the choice between sativa vs indica, the options go far beyond just these two. From sativa- or indica-dominant hybrids to utilizing ruderalis to make the most of its autoflowering characteristics, understanding marijuana types can unlock an entire world of possibility. Beyond marijuana itself, there’s also non-psychoactive hemp, which is valued for its industrial uses, its nutritional benefits, as well as its medicinal potential due to its high levels of cannabinoids such as CBD.
When viewed as individual parts of a vast whole, the various types of marijuana become incredibly useful, indeed.
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