It is difficult explaining the world of cannabis to those unfamiliar with it, but over my years working at a cancer hospital, I’ve come up with some ideas. First of all, are you a dog lover? I am. Think about all of the breeds of dogs. A Chihuahua is a dog, and a Great Dane is a dog, but they have very different characteristics. If you are expecting a Great Dane, and end up with a Chihuahua, you are going to be very annoyed. Along the same lines, there are thousands of types of cannabis “strains”, the nomenclature that corresponds to breeds. They have crazy names, reflective of cannabis’ counter culture roots. These names, like Maui Wowie, Bio Jesus, Purple Monkey Balls and Crouching Tiger Hidden Alien, are off-putting to many people looking for medication rather than recreation, but they are part of the culture and have proven that they have staying power, so we need to just get used to them. Many years ago, I was touring a grow/dispensary in New Jersey and a very earnest young man asked me, “Doctor, what can we do to make physicians think of cannabis as medicine rather than a street drug?” I responded that the strain names made it difficult for me to speak seriously to patients. “I’d like you to take some Bubonic Chronic in the morning, and Alaskan Thunderf&$% at night makes it hard to be taken seriously. I guess my opinion was not taken as seriously as I’d hoped.
Cannabis strains are divided into three major groups: Sativas, Indicas, and Hybrids, which are mixtures between the two. Sativas are known for being energizing and uplifting, and helpful to increase focus and productivity. They help to fight fatigue and are preferable for daytime. They are antidepressants, and known to have a cerebral effect on creativity and “bliss”, and are known to cause a “head high”.
In contrast, Indicas have the nickname “In da couch” because they are relaxing, sedating, and calming. They reduce stress and anxiety, and are preferable for nighttime as they can be a sleep aid. They are muscle relaxants, and are known to cause a “body high”, and to make it difficult to get off of the couch.
Hybrid strains can be either Sativa-dominant or Indica-dominant, and each strain has a unique mix of the related effects, reflecting their unique cannabinoid and terpene/flavonoid profile. A good bud tender (sales person), can listen to your treatment issues and point you towards the strains that are most likely to work for you!
Finding the correct cannabis strain is a bit of a challenge, just as it can be with more traditional pharmaceutical agents. Be patient, persevere–it is really worth it!!