While there are only three species of marijuana plants (Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Hybrid Cannabis) cannabis strains climb into the thousands (the exact number is unknown).

Strains come from the breaking down of the cannabis plant into subspecies and varying types, each offering unique properties and effects. Think lettuce. Chances are that we think of more than the iceberg variety: Romaine, Bibb, etc., each offering a different culinary experience. Like lettuce, tomatoes and wine grapes, cannabis offers many options. This is great news because that means there is a strain for almost any human appeal and condition imaginable.

Another way to look at cannabis strains is to think about the endless benefits of essential oils. Essential oils and cannabis are alternatives to traditional medicine, and each uses natural plant extract to engineer a product. Both essential oils and cannabis are sometimes controversial and each claim to have a wide array of health benefits. For example, the essential oil lavender is known for the treatment of anxiety and depression. Sandalwood helps to calm nerves and helps with focus. While therapeutic in their own right, a balanced blend of lavender and sandalwood achieves a combined benefit. Cannabis strains work the same way.

Let us start by explaining the three primary types of marijuana and how the family tree then branches off into both medicinal and therapeutic strains, each offering different properties and effects, the benefits of each, and finally how strains open the floodgate for endless favorable choices.

The Three Types of Cannabis:
Cannabis Indica

Cannabis Indica is the strain best known for its ability to help us relax after a long day, calm our nerves in times of difficulty and to settle our minds before enjoying a good night’s sleep. Known for increasing Dopamine (a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasurable experiences) Indica is a body dominant aid in reducing nausea, relaxing muscles and creating an internal environment of peacefulness.

Short and quite bushy, the light green Indica plant prides itself on high production and its fast-growing properties. Its wide leaves offer the plant relief from the sun’s heat and are used mostly as a nighttime aid.

Cannabis Sativa:

Cannabis Sativa is the strain best known for its ability to help us up when we need a burst of energy, to get us off the couch, and for helping us tackle a long day of work. Known for increasing serotonin (a neurotransmitter responsible for the regulation of mood) Sativa is a “head” dominant aid in battling anxiety and depression and provides an increase in focused creativity.

Sativa plants are tall and slender with wispy-fingered leaves, they are dark in color and take longer to grow than the Indica plant. Sativa requires more natural or artificial light to mature (than Indica) and is used mostly as a daytime aid.

Hybrid Cannabis:

Hybrid Cannabis is the strain best known for combining the effects of the Indica and the Sativa plant. Remember the example of lavender and sandalwood essential oils? Take for example someone suffering from anxiety. While Sativa aids in battling anxiety with its mood-altering ability, some people with anxiety might become agitated by the boost of energy associated with Sativa. But, by combining Sativa with the calming effects of Indica, the balance might be exactly what a person needs. With that said, combinations will vary from person to person and can be achieved with the right balance of THC and/or CBD. How cool is that?

The appeal of Hybrid cannabis is that through a breeding process known as “back-crossing”, growers can control hybrid strains to function consistently with many different personal needs.


“Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.”

-Joycelyn Elders, Pediatrician, Public Health Administrator
Types of sub-species cannabis worth mentioning are Hemp and Cannabis Ruderalis.

Hemp (fiber from the cannabis plant) is unlike other psychoactive forms of cannabis, in that it cannot contain more than 0.3% THC. Although Hemp does not contain enough THC to cause a high, it has many benefits. Hemp oil is used in essential oils as a carrier oil and is a great source of healthy fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals and can be used for cooking. The leaves can be juiced or eaten raw or ground into a flour that can be used in an after-workout protein shake. Hemp’s gamma-linoleic acid, or GMA, has been said to relieve PMS symptoms and is perfect for calming nerves, relieving pain and used as an antidepressant.

Besides consuming Hemp for nutritional and medicinal purposes, hemp has been used for centuries to construct fiber used for weaving, making paper products and even making fiberboard for building houses. Those same fibers can be used to make ethanol fuel, which is earth-friendly and has a low impact on the environment. Growers see hemp as a cash crop for its knack for growing quickly, ease of transplanting (several times a season) and its power to thrive vigorously with very little fertilizer.

Cannabis Ruderalis This species is not popular with recreational users but has unique characteristics that are useful to breeders. They are low in THC and high in CBD and make a big impact on “tweaking” standalone crop harvests.

Ruderalis plants grow only 1 to 3 feet and have a hardy disposition and are mostly used by growers to create hybrid varieties. Growers like Cannabis Ruderalis because despite the amount of light cast on the plants, they flower automatically and are perfect for combining with higher THC strains.

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