Whether you're a cannabis connoisseur or just getting started, understanding the difference between cannabis strains is an essential skill.
Not all cannabis is created equal. A strain may be qualified as sativa, indica, or hybrid, but every seed has different genetic possibilities, and even the specific growing environment can greatly affect the balance of these vital compounds.
Even if you have the same exact strain of flower as another person, your experience can be different based on the way that plant was grown.
Cannabis contains more than 400 compounds, but these are the three main categories of compounds that make cannabis strains distinct:
Cannabinoids are the primary chemicals within cannabis that make you feel "high." They’re also called phytocannabinoids, and they’re found in all living organisms — not just plants. Cannabinoids are a group of molecules that resemble the chemicals naturally produced by our bodies, such as endocannabinoids and arachidonic acid. There are more than 200 different cannabinoids, but two major ones are the most prominent: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
THC is responsible for producing the mind-altering effects associated with marijuana use, like euphoria or paranoia; CBD doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects but is known to help reduce inflammation and pain. Most strains feature a mix of both cannabinoids, though there are some specifically bred for higher levels of one or the other.
Terpenes are the compounds that give cannabis its distinctive smell and flavor. Although they're found in many plants, their presence is particularly strong in cannabis because it's a flowering plant. In addition to adding to the taste and aroma of cannabis, terpenes have been shown to have medicinal properties as well—for example, limonene has anti-inflammatory effects.
Terpenes work by interacting with receptors in your body called cannabinoid receptors (CB1) and vanilloid receptors (TRPV1). A person's sensitivity to these compounds varies based on genetics as well as other factors like environment or diet, which means that everyone will react differently when exposed to terpene-rich products such as CBD oil or vaping devices that use e-liquids made with specific strains of THC/CBD concentrates!
Flavonoids are a plant pigment found in many foods, including cranberries, raspberries, and blueberries. These compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The reason why flavonoids can make cannabis strains unique is that they can affect the way we feel when we consume cannabis. Flavonoids can stimulate or sedate us depending on their intensity—the more intense they are, the more they will affect our moods and behavior (either positively or negatively).
There’s a lot more to cannabis than just THC and CBD. The terpenes and flavonoids in particular are what make cannabis strains so unique and interesting, with each strain having its own unique profile of these compounds that make it smell and taste like what it does.
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