People use cannabis for a variety of reasons. Many are looking to alleviate pain or manage symptoms of anxiety. Others seek the most potent varieties for a strong head or body high. Some want to relax, while others want mental stimulation and a boost of creativity. With over 750 strains of cannabis on the market, knowing which one to buy might present a challenge. Here’s what you need to know to compare the strain with others for potency and effects.

What Indica Vs. Sativa Tells You

One of the first things you’ll notice about the strains of cannabis is that most dispensaries divide them up into one of three categories – Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid. Many say that these categories provide insight into the effects of a given strain. The belief is that Indica strains are higher in CBD, and that they promote relaxation and sleep. Sativas, on the other hand, are higher in THC, and promote mental stimulation, energy, and creativity. Hybrids are a mix of the two.

While this is a common belief, these categories can’t actually tell you what to expect from an experience. They can provide general guidance and a good starting point, but you’ll need to look at more than these labels.

So What Do These Categories Indicate?

Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid categories can’t always provide a clear indication of what to expect from a given strain, but they can tell you about a plant’s physical characteristics. Indica strains are shorter and bushier, with short, wide leaves. Sativas, on the other hand, are taller and thinner, with longer, skinnier leaves. Hybrids exhibit a combination of these traits.

CSPE infograph

How to Compare the Strain Potency

One of the best ways to compare the potencies of different strains is to look at the labels. All products sold in California dispensaries must have labels detailing THC and CBD content as well as other pertinent information. Typically, the higher the THC content, the stronger the strain.

In addition to THC, however, you should also pay attention to the amount of CBD in a product. The more CBD, the more balanced the ratio between the two cannabinoids. CBD counteracts and tames the effects of THC. The product may get you high, but it may not be as strong as a high from a product that has a high concentration of THC and a negligible amount of CBD.

Reading Labels for Effects

Another thing to pay attention to on the label is the terpene profile. Terpenes are the compounds responsible for the aromas and flavors of the various strains. They also play a role in the effects you feel. Knowing the effects of different terpenes can help you to determine what you might expect to feel when using a specific strain. For instance, caryophyllene and myrcene promote relaxant effects. Limonene and pinene are more energizing terpenes.

While you might not be able to tell the difference between cannabis strains (at least not right away) by looking at them, there are other ways to discern potency and effects. Reading the label is an excellent place to start. If you have any questions, you can always ask your favorite MMD budtender!