There was a time when cannabis’ effects were categorized by species – Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid – but research has shown the effects have more to do with cannabinoid and terpenes. These are two words to remember.
The most well-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC causes the euphoric or cerebral high many cannabis users feel. Studies find that CBD helps ease anxiety, inflammation, and pain – without the high. Terpenes are like the flavour profile, and like aromatherapy, they can have their own therapeutic effects.
Consumption methods shape your experience too. Smoking, vaping, ingesting, or topical application all have different onset times, durations, and effects. Use the guide below to find what’s right for you.
Sativa plants are taller and thinner with narrower leaves. They grow in warmer climates with longer flowering cycles. Sativa plants are said to provide more of an uplifting high, but recent research has shown it has more to do with the strain’s THC, CBD, and terpene levels than the species.
Origin: temperate areas closer to the equator
Popular strains: Durban Poison, Red Congo, Lamb’s Bread, Acapulco Gold, Thai
Indica plants tend to be shorter and stockier with broader leaves. They grow in cooler climates and have a shorter flowering cycle. Indica plants are said to be more physically sedating, which is why a lot of consumers would choose them before bed. We now know this has more to do with CBD, THC, and terpene levels than just the species type.
Origin: Caucasus region (Afghanistan)
Popular strains: Hindu Kush, Afghani, Mazar | Sharif
Hybrid plants fall somewhere in between their indica and sativa parent strains. As a result of crossbreeding, they exhibit features from both species. The vast majority of cannabis plants are a hybrid in some form, either sativa or indica leaning.
Most strains today are crossbred hybrids of four origins: Skunk, Kush, Diesel and Haze
Smoking is by far the most common form of consuming cannabis. It’s quick, convenient, and accessible. Smoking allows cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream through the lungs, so you’ll feel its effects near instantly.
Onset time: instant
Duration: 30 minutes – 2 hours (on average – results may vary)
Vaping is the inhaling of a vapor using a battery-powered vaping device or e-cigarette. They have cartridges filled with a liquid that contains cannabis (and sometimes flavours). The liquid is heated into a vapour, which you inhale.
Similar to smoking, vaping allows cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream through the lungs. Vapes offer an advantage to those who want precise dosing. When vaping, one dose/inhale is typically considered to be 2.5mp, but this can differ based on product concentration.Vapes typically produce more mild effects than smoking.
Onset time: instant
Duration: 30-90 minutes (on average – results may vary)
By ingesting cannabinoids, they pass through the liver where they’re metabolized, converting the majority of THC from Delta-9 to 11-Hydroxy-THC. This means it will take longer for you to feel the effect, but when you do, it’s generally a lot stronger.
Start low and slow with edibles. Some users don’t wait long enough to feel the effects and eat more, leading to a more intense high than they were going for. Be sure to give edibles enough time to set in.
Beginner: 2.5mg – 5mg
Intermediate: 5mg – 10mg
Experienced: 10mg +
Onset time: 30-90 minutes
Duration: 30 minutes – 3 hours (on average – results may vary)
Cannabis oils can be consumed under the tongue (sublingually), allowing them to bypass the digestive system and be felt faster. This method is commonly used for medicinal purposes.
Onset time: 5-20 minutes
Duration: 30 minutes-3 hours (on average – results may vary)
Topical cannabis like salves, creams, and patches provide non-intoxicating benefits since the cannabinoids can’t pass through the bloodstream to the brain. They’re commonly used for topical relief of aches and pains.
Onset time: 5-10 minutes
Duration: 2-4 hours (on average – results may vary)
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or more commonly known as THC, is the primary psychoactive compound responsible for producing the high euphoric feeling associated with cannabis.
It can also help soothe the mind and body, calm the stomach, and reduce daily stress.
High levels of THC can increase a strain’s effects, but other factors such as terpenes, other cannabinoids, species type and personal tolerance also impact how you react to THC.
Cannabidiol, or CBD is one of many non-psychoactive cannabinoids that exist and the most well-known after THC. CBD helps mitigate some of the psychoactive effects produced by THC.
CBD has gained popularity as it promotes homeostasis, the body’s natural balance, and interacts with the body’s receptors associated with pain, inflammation and anxiety.
Cannabinol is a result of THC that has been exposed to heat or light. Its effects are very sedative and appetite stimulating.
Typically, CBN can occur in old weed (think 1 year+) as the THC starts to degrade and can become CBN.
It can also be produced when making edibles, and if you’ve ever had a batch that are extra sleep inducing, they probably weren’t decarboxylated properly which resulted in CBN being produced.
Cannabigerol is mostly found in hemp plants, but it’s shown that it has the potential for counteracting the effects of cancer growth and can also be calming to individuals with gastro-intestinal issues.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin is a psychoactive cannabinoid that has been shown to reduce panic attacks, suppress appetite, and be energizing.
Every cannabis strain (cultivar) contains a mix of different cannabinoids and terpenes that lead to the many experiences of cannabis. This is known as the Entourage Effect, when one chemical compound, used in combination with another, enhances the effects of the second.
One example of this effect is when THC and CBD are used in combination, but the Entourage Effect also can refer to the effects natural terpenes or added terpenes (in the case of some vapes) can have when mixed with THC and CBD.
First notes: pepper + spice
Similar in nature to: jalapeno, pepper, fennel
Benefits: known to provide stress relieving effects
Note: One of the most common terpenes in cannabis
Popular strains with a high concentration: Girl Scout Cookies (GSC), Bubba Kush
First notes: herbs + earth
Similar in nature to: basil, parsley, snapdragon
Benefits: known to be uplifting
Popular strains with a high concentration: Strawberry Cough, Sour Diesel
First notes: citrus + spice
Similar in nature to: citrus rind, peppermint, juniper
Benefits: known to help elevate your mood and deal with stress relief
Popular strains with a high concentration: Super Lemon Haze, Tangerine Dream, Wedding Cake
First notes: earth + musk
Similar in nature to: hops, lemongrass, mango
Benefits: known to be sedating, promote calming and relaxing effects
Note: May be responsible for the couch lock associated with some cannabis
Popular strains with a high concentration: Grandaddy Purple, Blue Dream, OG Kush
First notes: pine + herbal
Similar in nature to: pine, sage, cedar
Benefits: known to provide alertness and can be useful pain relief
Note: The most common terpene found in nature and may help with memory retention
Popular strains with a high concentration: Jack Herer, White Widow, Trainwreck
First notes: tang + spice
Similar in nature to: ginseng, tobacco, laurel
Benefits: known to suppress appetite and be anti-inflammatory
Popular strains with a high concentration: Gorilla Glue, Green Crack
First notes: fresh + floral
Similar in nature to: tea tree, apple, lilac
Benefits: known to be uplifting
Popular strains with a high concentration: Purple Haze, Critical Kush
First notes: fresh + pine
Similar in nature to: petitgrain, lapsang souchong tea
Benefits: known to be sedative and anti-inflammatory
Popular strains with a high concentration: OG Kush, GSC, White Widow
First notes: floral + sweet
Similar in nature to: lavender, sweet birch, citrus
Benefits: known to be mood enhancing with calming and sedative effects
Popular strains with a high concentration: Sour Diesel