If you’re choosing your cannabis strain based on the THC level, you’re missing out on important healing elements. But how do you know which strain to buy?
THC is likely the most famous cannabinoid of them all. CBD has certainly started to push THC a little bit out of the spotlight, but THC still plays a very important medicinal and cultural role. It’s the one associated with the intoxicating effects of cannabis. However, if you’re picking which strain to buy based on THC content, you’re missing out on cannabis’ medicinal benefits, so here’s what you need to know.
In truth, all the compounds (cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids) in a strain of cannabis are medicinally important. It’s the combination of these myriad parts that create the final entourage effect that gives you effective healing. It’s a synergy among all of the different components that amplifies the overall health benefits of the strain. THIS is why distillates may not be the best medicine.
Each strain of cannabis has a unique effect due to its novel combination of terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids. Different percentages of each define a strain’s aptitude for treating a given condition. As a general rule-of-thumb, cannabis chemovars with higher THC percentages are more likely to create a ‘high’ and be great at killing pain while CBD-rich strains are perfect for reducing inflammation and reducing anxiety.
THC is not the Be-all-End-all
Truthfully, much of the attention paid to THC comes from the chaos of legalization across states and countries. For instance, in regions where only hemp is legal, the THC component will be around 0.03 percent. By contrast, regions with legal medical and recreational cannabis have buds with high THC percentages. These range from eight to twenty percent or even higher, for example Ghost Train Haze (THC twenty five percent).
Because of this disparity, THC levels now have a sort of romantic importance. It has become the sort of benchmark for quality cannabis. This is simply not the case when it comes to medical consumption.
How Do You Know Which Strain to Buy?
If you have been prescribed cannabis, speak to your doctor about the most appropriate strains. If they’re not comfortable, cannabis dispensaries are always staffed by knowledgeable experts. These people are called “budtenders” and they should be able to inform you about various strengths, strains, and consumption methods.
For instance, CBD-rich strains are best used for treating anxiety or inflammation. If you want treatment for these conditions, you may even look to CBD oils or creams which have very low THC.
THC and CBD, however, are just the starting point. Then there are the terpenes and their interaction with other cannabinoids. Remember: choosing a strain based on the percentage of THC is like buying moonshine and hoping for “just a nice night.”
Effects of Different Terpenes
When you are looking to treat a specific condition, what you are really looking for is terpenes, even if you’re not aware of it. Below are the effects of the major terpenes in cannabis, which you can find expanded on in this article by RxLeaf’s former contributor Philip Ghezelbash.
Myrcene is one of the most common cannabis terpenes and is also known for being a major component of the essential oil of plants such as bay, hops, and wild thyme.
One 2015 study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology demonstrated myrcene’s anti-inflammatory properties in human chondrocytes, where it slowed down cartilage degeneration. Through the same mechanisms, myrcene may slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
Found in the cannabis plant, pinene can reduce inflammation by lowering levels of interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-⍺, and nitric oxide. It does so by inhibiting mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and the nuclear factor-kappa (NF-kB) pathway.
The terpene Humulene appears in cannabis, but is more widely known for its appearance in the hops plant; explaining why some IPA’s have that familiar “dank” aroma. Humulene is famous for its anti-inflammatory effects.
Linalool is a terpene that offers a floral or sometimes spiced fragrance to cannabis (and other plants like lavender, grapes, and mint). It’s also a great pain reliever, to the point that some argue it could replace opioids.
Limolene is a mood lifter, and also possesses antimicrobial benefits. This is one of the most common terpenes in cannabis.
Pairing Terpenes and Cannabinoids is how you Know Which Strain to Buy
Overall, remember that cannabinoids have a specific effect, but its the terpenes that amplify that effect. For example, it is common to treat anxiety disorders with a high CBD strain, but not all strains are equally up to the task, even if they have identical CBD concentrations.
For anxiety, you might want to look for an indica, to further relax you, and to seek out a strain high in the terpenes linalool or limonene. High limonene strains include Sour Diesel and OG Kush. Diamond Girl and Superbud are high in linalool. Both of these terpenes have anxiolytic effects.
Don’t Give Up — It can Take Some Trial and Error
While the cannabis landscape is certainly changing nationwide, it’s tough to know how quickly cannabis dispensary are keeping up with the latest science and research. Fortunately, there is plenty of information across the web that is reliable, accurate, and useful. If you’re cautious with your research, and only reading accredited or reliable websites, you’ll learn much more than you may realize. And quickly realize how much we still don’t know!
Don’t ever be afraid to ask. One of my favorite sayings is this: If you’re not prepared to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you… like getting better.
Ask early. Ask often.