How do different strains have different effects?

Cannabis is a member of the Cannabaceae family, which is a family of flowering plants. Cannabis can be further categorised into two sub-species; Indica and Sativa.

There is a common myth when discussing the two types of cannabis, both relating to the kind of high each plant can produce.

Traditionally a head high has been attributed to the Sativa strain of weed, which includes experiencing an elevated, uplifting mood which makes this strain famous for creating daytime highs.

With Indica types being equated to a whole-body stone, with feelings of relaxation and sedation making this strain the preferred variety for night time use and a good night’s sleep.

While the descriptions of the highs are technically correct, they have been applied to the wrong strains of cannabis.

Leading cannabis biologist Karl William Hillig has studied the genetic variations between strains of the cannabis plant and breaks them down into two distinct variations:

  • Hemp strains are grown for their stalk and fiber production and contain little, if any, THC.
  • Drug strains are chosen for their capacity to produce lots of flowers and their high THC content.

Hillig also notes the small window of genetic diversification available to both the drug and hemp strains of cannabis. This small window of diversification led to a decision to classify all strains of Cannabis Indica as drug varieties, and Cannabis Sativa as hemp varieties. Further classifications were applied to Cannabis Indica: BLD (Broad Leaf Drug) and NLD (Narrow Leaf Drug).

It was this classification system which led to the confusion when describing the types of highs, the different strains imbued in the user. Indica NLD is the strain responsible for the “head high,”while Indica BLD is the variety which produces “whole body high.”

Much of the Indica drug strains of weed grown today are a hybrid of these two types, leading to a new classification called HLD (Hybrid Leaf Drug) – often referred to as hybrid for short.

What About Sativa?

Sativa is the variety of choice when long stalks and high seed production is required from the harvest. Cannabis stalks are a source of two versatile products: fiber and hurd. Fiber consists of the outer layer of the stalk, while the hurd consists of the inner wood core.

Fiber is used in manufacturing to create textiles, and the hurd is most often used in the building industry to manufacture products like fiberboard, paper, fuel, insulation, and mulch.

The flowers of the Cannabis Sativa plant also contain an enzyme with the capability to change the CBG cannabinoid into CBD rather than THC. The enzyme is present because of a gene which is only present in the cannabis Sativa variety.

Because of the above, we can conclude that the presence of CBD in a drug strain of weed means that the strain has previously been crossed with a hemp variety. Therefore, any Indica strains containing CBD are actually a hybrid of Sativa and Indica.

So, let’s get back to clearing up the myths. The myth that Sativas create a head high is really referring to the Indica Narrow Leaf Drug. However, when referring to the whole-body stone, it is the Indica Broad Leaf Strain, not the Indica strain in general.

How do NLDs and BLDs produce different types of highs when they both contain the same quantities of THC and CBD? The answer lies in the terpenes produced by the different strains.

NLD and BLD produce different terpenes, which affect how the cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body react to the cannabinoids supplied by the different strains.

Further research

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