Learning about the different classifications of cannabis is an important first step for any patient exploring the possibility of medical marijuana.
This article will cover a broad range of factors, including:
- Terpene production
- CBD (Cannabidiol) content
- THC (Tetrahydracannabinol) content
- Genus and subspecies
- Breeding tendencies
- Phenotypic characteristics such as color, shape, and density
- Weed Strains Sativa vs. Indica
- Resin head formation
- Leaf structure
The three different weed varieties available through prescription and recreational retailers are commonly labeled indica, sativa and hybrid.
This article focuses on these types of cannabis strains beginning with indica and sativa weed.
By the end of this article, you will have an in-depth understanding of the different kinds of weed and the properties that make each distinct from each other.
Types of Weed Names
For a lot of experts, the starting place for classifications is by strain.
When it comes to the different strains of weed, there are literally hundreds. But they are largely categorized as indica, sativa and hybrid.
All types of cannabis fall under these three master strain classifications.
What is Indica weed?
Cannabis indica is the fatter, stockier variety of marijuana that everyone is familiar with.
The cannabis indica plant features a plant acclimatized to the harsh rainy climate of the Hindu Kush mountains and the Karakoram mountains of Afghanistan.
Cannabis indica leaves are often darker colored and have 7 to 9 different points. This type is also known informally as buds or nugs.
What has more THC, indica or sativa?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) production is thought to be higher in hybrids and highest in indica dominant varieties of cannabis.
When people ask what type of marijuana gets you high, the answer will usually be an indica, though there are many strains labeled as Sativas that have been bred to have high THC content too.
Some of the indica weed strains of medical marijuana are:
- Mr. Nice
- Blueberry Kush
- 9 lb Hammer
- Critical Mass
- Hash Plant
- True OG
- Sensi Star
- Grape Ape
What is the difference between sativa and indica cannabis?
Well for one thing, they look different. On the sativa dominant side of cannabis, sativa weed plants tend to be taller with thinner lobes of the palmate leaf style of the plant.
Here is where things get a little confusing. What if we told you that the strains that are conventionally called Sativas are actually just another form of Indica?
Pure Sativa strains are actually industrial hemp varieties of cannabis and are not classified with drug cannabis.
So, is sativa weed? The answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might think.
All drug cannabis is Indica, and Indica is divided into two categories. The types of weed Indica are broad-leafleted drug (BLD) and narrow-leafleted drug (NLD).
NLDs are what are commonly referred to as Sativas today because their appearance bears some resemblance to pure Sativa strains which are used as hemp.
But while the conventional way of categorizing strains is problematic, it is probably here to stay.
So the answer to the question “what are the different kinds of weed?” is sativa, indica and hybrid, but this is keeping in mind that many of the prescription-market sativas are not pure sativas.
If you look online, you will find that many producers will classify their types of weed strains using these three categories.
So what about the question of weed vs. hemp?
Pure sativa cannabis is more than just manufacturing and textiles. Hemp variety sativas are carriers of a genetic trait through which a cannabinoid called cannabigerol (CBG) is metabolized into cannabidiol (CBD), an important cannabinoid that unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) does not carry any psychotropic effects.
CBD is clinically significant, with a number of robust human studies suggesting it has a role to play in the treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder and Epilepsy among other conditions.
One of the main points in marijuana sativa vs. indica comparisons is that sativa is known for higher relative phenotypic expression of CBD containing flowers.
This chart can help get at the main differences between these two strains of marijuana.
What’s the Difference Between Indica & Sativa?
When you search Sativa vs. Indica, you will come across a lot of search results that oversimplify the differences.
Here is a factually correct Sativa vs. Indica Chart
- Used primarily in industrial applications and as a food; not typically used as a drug
- Contains less than 1 per cent THC in its pure form
- Contains CBD
- Is tall and has narrower leaves than Indica strains
- Is used only as a drug for recreational or medical purposes
- Contains up to 25 per cent THC in dry plant weight
- Contains CBD, can have a higher THC to CBD ratio
- Can be divided into two categories: Broad-leafleted drug (BLD), which is bushier and stouter, and Narrow-leafleted drug (NLD), which has narrower leaves and is taller though not as tall as pure hemp Sativa varieties
When it comes to marijuana types, NLD strains that are labelled as sativa tend to be associated with less psychoactivity as they often contain a higher amount of CBD.
These cannabis leaf types can have up to 13 points. Also, the buds are known to be more airy and wispy, with less produced by the pound, and therefore less pounds per plant.
Some NLD medical cannabis labelled as sativa include:
- Jack Herer
- Maui Wowie
- Green Crack
- Kali Mist
- Power Plant
- Sour Tangie
- Quantum Kush
- Hawaiian Snow
- Casey Jones
- Ghost Train Haze
- Lambs Bread
- Super Sour Diesel
Is Indica better than Sativa?
Conventional wisdom would say that if you are a recreational user you are going to prefer buds from BLD Indica vs. Sativa buds (technically NLD Indica buds), as these are known to carry higher amounts of THC and have heightened psychotropic effects.
But this is an oversimplification. There are NLDs, so-named Sativas in today’s markets, that have high amounts of THC too, just as there are BLD Indicas that can have higher CBD content.
None of this makes one better than the other. Many regard the effects of NLD cannabis labelled as Sativas to be more interesting, and consider the high associated with THC-heavy Indicas to bring an undesirable lethargy and lack of focus.
If you are trying to get a handle on medical marijuana types and effects because you want to treat a condition or a disease, which strain is best will really depend on a number of factors—your medical history, your condition and your current state of health, for starters.
Different strains of medical cannabis will carry different profiles of cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds, and a doctor who specializes in this field of medicine will be able to help you navigate which one is a fit.
Sativa and indica weed are the main types of weed, but there are other ways that medical marijuana can be categorized.
Types of Kush
Another weed category is Kush.
Kush cannabis refers to the types of weed originating from the Hindu Kush Mountains of Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.
To give you a grasp on the height of the highest peaks of this mountain range, the Tirichmir (highest point) is 25,289 Ft.
A morphological alternate of the name Hindu Kush from the sanskrit is Hind Kash. The Kash is from Kashmir, a region in Northern India. This region of the world was known for something known also as Kusha Grass.
Kush also may have been short for Kshetra, or place in Sanskrit, Hindu meaning meditation. The Hindu Kshetra, or Hindu Kush, mountains would therefore be seen as a place for meditation.
The buds found on Kush varieties of cannabis are short, knotted, and dense and are usually found on short, stocky plants.
The aromatic resin heads on the plants can be said to smell of potpouri, incense, citrus and diesel fuel. Also noticeable on Kush varieties of cannabis are traces of purple on stamen tips and leaves, as well as on the stalk.
Kush plants normally have what is known as a couchlock effect, with many users reporting a sedative-like experience and marked euphoria paired with slower and more deliberate thoughts and an ability to focus.
Perhaps the most well-known variety of Kush is the OG Kush strain. It is one of the most popular medicinal cannabis strains available with healthcare practitioners and patients, and it often tests over 20 per cent THC.
Interestingly, this strain is actually a hybrid and does not have a lot in common with pure kush varieties.
Authentic kush varieties, like Hindu Kush, are designed to be refined through extraction and are not really meant to be smoked in dry flower form.
The traditional hashish gatherers of Central Asia from which kush finds its origin didn’t use the buds but the resin collected from sifting and pressing cannabis trichomes.
There are many other different types of kush that can be smoked in dry flower form. Lists of the best kush strains will often include:
- Skywalker OG
- Bubba Kush
- Purple Kush
- Master Kush
Each one has different characteristics which would make it the choice for different situations.
Master Kush is held to be a heavy hitter with relaxation being one of the main effects users talk about. It is often recommended for pain stemming from autoimmune disorders.
Bubba Kush contains the terpene linalool which is commonly identified as a mild psychoactive compound associated with antianxiety results. It is also regarded to alleviate symptoms of nausea and pain and is sometimes prescribed to cancer patients for this reason.
Most kush varieties are Indicas, but there are Kush types that are labelled as Sativas like Quantum Kush. These varieties will tend to be higher in THC than other NLD varieties that are sold as Sativas.
Hybrid Types of Weed
What does “hybrid weed” mean?
A good hybrid weed definition is marijuana strains that carry both NLD and BLD Indica biotypes to varying degrees.
Hybrid marijuana accounts for the bulk of what is recreationally or medicinally available in Canada.
As we mentioned earlier, strains that are labeled Sativas today are technically NLD Indica varieties. Most of today’s drug marijuana strains are hybrids between NLD Indica and BLD Indica—popularly referred to as Sativa and Indica respectively.
You can purchase strains labeled as hybrids, but technically even the products listed as just Sativas or just Indicas are hybridized to some extent.
Often Sativa and Indica are really shortform for the different strains of weed that lean heavily one way or the other.
With the strains officially labelled as hybrid pot, the cross-breeding is usually more pronounced and significant to their medicinal properties.
The effects of these sativa indica marijuana varieties are many. Some are more cerebral and stimulating in their effects, others are more relaxing. Still others are more dominant in cannabidiol and do not carry significant psychotropic effects at all.
Generally speaking, hybrid weed effects will take on characteristics of both weed indica and sativa, with some psychoactivity that is balanced by the significant CBD content.
The types of weed and effects of both sativa and indica varieties are present in hybrids, and some would say these yield a better overall quality of experience for patients.
Some examples of hybrid varieties of cannabis include:
- Cherry Pie
- Girl Scout Cookie
- Blue Dream
- Skywalker OG
- NYC Diesel
- Thin Mint GSC
- Tangerine Dream
- Fire OG
- Larry OG
Types of Weed Effects
One way to classify cannabis is by the outcomes they produce on the mind and body.
Different types of weed and their effects tend to fall on a spectrum between creative and focused to sleepy and relaxed on the positive side.
Generally speaking, the effects of different strains of cannabis can include:
- Feelings of happiness and euphoria
- Tingling sensations
- Mental relaxation
- Reinvigoration of energy and focus
- Inability to control laughter and giggle fits
- Dull, “stony” high with an inability to concentrate
On the negative side, a number of possible side effects are also possible though these are considered mild. One systematic study concluded that 96.6% of adverse effects reported in 23 randomized trials and 8 observational studies were not serious (Wang et al. 2008)
Available scientific research positions cannabis as having an acceptable safety profile for short term use.
Medical experts will often describe the effects of marijuana in terms of their potential positive health outcomes.
These can include:
- Hunger stimulation
- Alleviation of stress and anxiety
- Relief from pain
- Relief from depression and the promotion of positive mood states
- Helping facilitate better breathing
- Better sleep quality
- Control of spasticity symptoms
Some of these health effects are verified through randomized human research, others have been observed in animal studies only and are supported by anecdotal reports.
We strongly recommend that you reach out to a health care practitioner who is literate in the body’s endocannabinoid system before embarking on this treatment path.
Indica Weed Effects
Pop quiz: What has more THC, Indica or Sativa?
If you have read through this article you will know that Indica is associated with higher THC content. In fact, pure industrial hemp variety Sativa will carry less than 1% THC in dry weight.
Now, in the case of NLD varieties of Indica that are labelled as Sativas by retailers and licensed producers, they may or may not have lower amounts of THC. There are many products labeled as Sativas in the marketplace that have higher THC to CBD ratios.
THC is the cannabinoid largely responsible for the psychotropic effects of marijuana. Without THC, there is no high from weed.
Depending on the amount of THC, Indicas will often carry analgesic and antinociceptive effects, which is to say they may block or mitigate the detection of neurons that are causing a patient pain.
THC-high Indicas tend to be associated with a body high, which emphasizes physical sensations in the muscles and veins. It is a narcotic-like experience for many.
Too much THC can lead to adverse psychological effects, sometimes referred to as cannabis’s psychotoxic effects.
These can include:
- Panic attacks
- Impaired memory
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Drowsiness and fatigue
There are no reported deaths that have occurred from cannabis overdoses, but these psychotropic effects, while not life-threatening, can be very unpleasant. They have led some patients to the emergency room.
Great care should be taken with Indicas and products labelled as Sativas with high amounts of THC. We want to stress again that a medical professional is your first port of call if you are planning to medicate with cannabis.
Sativa Weed Effects
Again, high-THC Sativa strains are not usually real Sativas but NLD varieties of Indica, just as Sativa extracts that contain concentrated amounts of THC are almost always drawn from a NLD Indica strain.
Both can lead to many of the same effects as described above.
However, CBD-rich NLD strains branded as Sativas are associated with cerebral effects, a mind high in contrast to the body high associated with many Indicas.
The terpenes limonene and pinene are common in NLDs, so-named Sativa strains, and these have been studied for their medicinal effects in treatment plans for sleep deprivation, anxiety and edema.
Effects of Hybrid Weed
Hybrids will often begin with the onset of a Sativa mind high before morphing into a body high from the Indica effects.
They also carry interesting entourage effects from the interplay of terpenes, cannabinoids and other compounds.
For example, products labelled as Sativa strains tend to not carry significant amounts of the terpenoid myrcene.
But an Indica-dominant hybrid like White Widow carries a myrcene-led terpene entourage that works together with beta-caryphylene, pinenes and limonene.
10 Best Types of Weed For Medicinal Uses
The conversation for best weed to use medicinally has been going on for a long time.
In Canada, pharmaceutical-grade cannabis is supplied by producers who are licensed under Health Canada.
The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) governed their standardization and accountability procedures, but since 2018 these regulations have been replaced by the new Cannabis Act regime which covers both medical and recreational marijuana.
Even with legalization in Canada, medical marijuana distribution and sales will continue to follow a lot of the same processes that they did under ACMPR, at least in the immediate future.
There is no way to really say which one is best as different types of medical marijuana will serve different purposes for different conditions and diseases.
For example, if you are seeking to treat epileptic seizures a doctor will likely prescribe a strain with a significant CBD volume and the terpene linalool. But where THC is not proven to be helpful in epilepsy patients, it has been observed to be effective in treating pain stemming from Multiple Sclerosis.
So while we wouldn’t want to say that one type is definitively better than another, we can provide a list of some of the highest rated strains available to patients in Canada.
The kinds of weed that come recommended by patients in Canada include:
- #7 Edison
A lot of the different types of weed mentioned throughout this article are routinely prescribed to medical marijuana patients for a variety of conditions.
There are a wide range of cannabis types, and this article only scratches the surface.
Before you decide to try treating a medical condition with marijuana, we urge you to speak with a medical professional first.
This article is for general information purposes only and is not meant to be a stand-in for advice from a qualified doctor. The implications of Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid will have significant implications for your treatment plan.
We hope that when you do decide to speak with a doctor that the information in this article will help you in the discussion of the best types of weed for your treatment needs.
- Hammell, D. C., L. P. Zhang, F. Ma, S. M. Abshire, S. L. McIlwrath, A. L. Stinchcomb, and K. N. Westlund. “Variations in Terpene Profiles of Different “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain‐related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis.” European Journal of Pain 20, no. 6 (2016): 936-948.
- Johnson, Jeremy R., Dominique Lossignol, Mary Burnell-Nugent, and Marie T. Fallon. “An open-label extension study to investigate the long-term safety and tolerability of THC/CBD oromucosal spray and oromucosal THC spray in patients with terminal cancer-related pain refractory to strong opioid analgesics.” Journal of pain and symptom management 46, no. 2 (2013): 207-218.
- Wallace, Mark, Gery Schulteis, J. Hampton Atkinson, Tanya Wolfson, Deborah Lazzaretto, Heather Bentley, Ben Gouaux, and Ian Abramson. “Dose-dependent effects of smoked cannabis on capsaicin-induced pain and hyperalgesia in healthy volunteers.” The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists 107, no. 5 (2007): 785-796.
- Wang, Tongtong, Jean-Paul Collet, Stan Shapiro, and Mark A. Ware. “Adverse effects of medical cannabinoids: a systematic review.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 178, no. 13 (2008): 1669-1678.
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