Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Sian Ferguson — Updated on March 7, 2019
Cannabis use is on the rise in the United States. A 2018 study notes that, while cannabis use among teens has decreased, American adults are increasingly using cannabis on the daily.
According to Forbes, the global cannabis industry is estimated to be worth $7.7 billion. It’s projected to hit $31.4 billion by 2021.
The industry is booming in part because cannabis can be a versatile form of medication. A number of research studies have found that cannabis has the potential to help with a variety of medical conditions, including anxiety, chronic pain, and epilepsy.
But, as any recreational or medical marijuana user can tell you, not all cannabis is created equal. Different strains of cannabis produce different effects and thus can be used for different reasons.
If marijuana is legal in your state and you’re looking to try it, but not sure which strains best suit your needs, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to marijuana strains below.
What is a marijuana strain?
If you’ve read a little about marijuana, or if you enter most dispensaries, you might see the words indica, sativa, and hybrid. Generally, most people divide marijuana into these three categories.
Indica, which originates from the Hindu Kush mountains of India, is believed to have a relaxing effect on the user. Sativa has a more energizing effect, while hybrid is a combination of the two.
Many industry experts, however, are reconsidering the indica, sativa and hybrid categories. According to Amos Elberg, head of data science at Confident Cannabis, these terms are more or less meaningless.
“We see samples of all cannabis products tested through our partner labs, and when we look at all the data, particularly of the chemical makeup of flower, we see no identifiable characteristics that are consistent with indica, sativa, or hybrid,” he explains.
“Essentially people are using these terms as catchalls for effect, but they’re not all consistent with those effects. Some indica makes some people wired, not couch-locked, for instance.”
In other words, people shouldn’t be alarmed if a reportedly energizing sativa strain has more of a mellowing effect, or if an indica strain makes them feel more bubbly and excitable.
Beyond indica, sativa, and hybrid, dispensaries might divide the types of cannabis they have into strains. Strains are essentially different breeds of cannabis, and they’re bred to have specific effects on the user.
But if the terms indica, sativa, and hybrid are essentially useless categorizations, are strain names also meaningless?
Not exactly, says Elberg.
“Not all seeds that are sold under the same name are genetically identical, or even necessarily related. Some producers may choose to create a strain name essentially as a branding exercise, or to identify their product with an existing name because they believe the product matches characteristics the market expects from product sold under that name,” Elberg explains.
There are, however, still consistencies among products sold under specific strain names, Elberg adds.
“In general, for the less common names, a product sold by different vendors tends to be pretty consistent,” he notes. “For the most common strain names, however, a wider variety of different products are sold.”
If you purchase product from a quality source, the strains should be more or less consistent. Bear in mind, however, that every person reacts differently to cannabis.
According to user reviews on Leafly, here’s what people might expect from a few of the most popular marijuana strains.
Originating from Acapulco, Mexico, Acapulco Gold is a well-known and highly praised strain of cannabis. It’s noted for its euphoria-inducing, energizing effects. It’s said to reduce fatigue, stress, pain, and even nausea.
Blue Dream is relaxing and soothing, but it isn’t a total sedative. This makes it perfect for easing pain, cramps, or inflammation for when you can’t afford to fall asleep. Plus, it’s said to lift your mood and give you a feeling of euphoria.
Purple Kush is great for inducing a state of bliss so that you feel relaxed, happy, and sleepy. It’s often used for reducing pain and muscle spasms. Its sedating effects means it can be used to reduce insomnia.
A highly energizing, mood-lifting strain, Sour Diesel is great for giving you a burst of productive energy. It also has notable destressing and pain-relieving effects.
Bubba Kush is a relaxing, sleep-inducing strain. It’s perfect for helping you fight insomnia and get some shut-eye. It also offers pain-reducing, stress-relieving results.
Granddaddy Purple is another highly relaxing strain. It’s often praised for its insomnia-fighting and stress-reducing results. Users also note that it can make you feel euphoria and increase hunger, which is great if you’re experiencing a lack of appetite.
Originating from the Hindu Kush mountains near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Afghan Kush is super relaxing and sleep-inducing. This, too, can help you feel hungry if you’re experiencing a lack of appetite, and can relieve pain.
LA Confidential is another relaxing and sleep-inducing strain that is often used to soothe insomnia. It’s also said to have noticeable anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects, which makes it a favorite among people with chronic pain.
Maui Wowie can help you feel super relaxed, yet energetic and creative. It reduces fatigue, too, making it great for days when you need to be productive.
Golden Goat is notable for making users feel euphoric and creative. It’s also great for reducing fatigue and stress while lifting your mood.
Northern Lights is another relaxing, sleep-inducing strain. It’s also known for its mood-lifting effects, and it can be used to relieve insomnia, pain, stress, and depression.
White Widow improves your mood, gives you energy, and relaxes you all at once. It’s said to help reduce pain and stress, as well as feelings of depression. If you’re feeling fatigued, White Widow might help you stay energized and alert.
Weed, also known as marijuana, is a drug derived from the leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of either the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. There is a chemical in the plants called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that has mind-altering properties.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Although nine states, plus Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for general use and 29 others have legalized medical marijuana, many more states still consider it to be an illicit substance.
Marijuana, and THC in particular, has been shown to reduce chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea for people going through cancer treatment. It can also help to reduce nerve damage pain (neuropathy) in people with HIV or other conditions.