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.

Species

Commonly categorized by plant species – sativa, indica, or hybrid. With more research, we now know the effects have more to do with cannabinoids and terpene content than species, but it’s still helpful to know the difference.

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

Consumption Methods

There are many different ways to consume cannabis. Some set in faster than others. Some produce a longer high. Knowing the difference will help you get the results you want.

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)

Cannabanoids

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis. They’re what produce the physical and mental effects you feel after lighting up. Each strain has a different combination of cannabinoids, creating a unique overall effect. 

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.

Terpenes

Terpenes are the essential oils that give each strain their distinct aromas, like citrus or spice. Terpene profiles of cannabis are quite complex. Over 100 different terpenes can be found in the cannabis plant. Each strain has its own terpene content, similar to THC / CBD %. Most strains will have one or two distinct notes, but there can be more that are harder to identify.

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