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Hybrid Cannabis Strains: What This Really Means

Jun 15th 2023

Hybrid Cannabis Strains: What This Really Means

What do cannabis hybrid strains actually mean?

For too long, and even now, cannabis has been broken down into a binary of indica vs. sativa, with hybrid being thrown in to mean a bit of a mix of the two. It’s become generally accepted as a hard truth that “indica” cannabis products are believed to produce sedative, calming effects (why some people call indicas “in da couch”), while those called “sativa” give off energizing and euphoric effects.

Hybrids are thought to be a little of column a, and a little of column b, with a more even, smooth effect that’s neither highly energizing nor sedative.

What if we told you this wasn’t truly accurate? What if we told you that there’s really no such thing as indica, sativa, and hybrid? Or at least that our understanding of what these terms mean can often be confused?

The legalization of marijuana has allowed us to finally learn more about the plant that has been a part of people’s lives for centuries. One big discovery is the realization that labeling it indica, sativa, or hybrid, or even sativa-dominant or indica-dominant, is an oversimplification of a very complex plant.

We’ll explain a bit here, as at Compassionate Clinics of America, we are always concerned with giving our patients the tools of knowledge to help them in their medical cannabis journey.

Where Did the Indica/Sativa/Hybrid Weed Concept Come From?

It wasn’t until the 18th century that scientists began to try to understand cannabis, finding that it was from the Cannabinaceae family of plants, and it the cannabis flower was given the botanical name of cannabis sativa L.

In 1783, French biologist Jean Baptiste Lamark proposed that “cannabis indica” was another form of the plant. To him, what he labeled as indica plants appeared to be short, with thick, stubby leaves, where what he saw as sativa were tall with thinner leaves.

Hybrid Cannabis Strains: What This Really Means

This led to him believing and pushing the belief that the two different kinds of cannabis plant produced different effects.

There essentially came two different viewpoints about cannabis: that it was either monotypic, as in there was only one type, or Lamark’s polytypic view, which believes there are two (or more) types of cannabis.

Over the years and decades, scientists essentially flipped-flopped on whether there was more than one type of cannabis.

Hybrid Cannabis Strains: What This Really Means

It has been settled once and for all with the rise of molecular biology, which observes the plant at the molecular level, concluding that all cannabis is cannabis sativa, and there is really no such thing as the sativa and indica binary.

In fact, it could be argued that all cannabis plants, strains, and products are hybrids. Here’s why.

Understanding Terpene Profiles for Effects

Despite us knowing that there isn’t really such a thing as indica, sativa, or hybrid cannabis, this myth is still perpetuated in the modern legal cannabis market.

It’s highly likely that patients who get their medical cannabis card will see products at a dispensary that are labeled indica, sativa, or hybrid. Here we’ll help you understand why that is.

It all comes down to the terpenes of the cannabis plant.

How Do Terpenes Make a Difference in Specific Strains?

Terpenes are the compounds in cannabis that provide different aromas, flavors, and specific effects. Terpenes exist in ALL nature, not just cannabis, and we’re all surrounded by terpenes every day.

When you cut into a lemon or orange peel, that citrusy smell you get is the energizing terpene limonene. When you inhale some lavender, that’s the terpene linalool, which is known to bring calm and sedation.

Hybrid Cannabis Strains: What This Really Means

Terpene profiles are the mix or combination of terpenes that are present in a specific cannabis strain (the proper name for strain is “cultivar”, but here we will use strain as it is a term most people are familiar with).

Different hybrid cannabis strains may have terpene profiles that when working in harmony lead to a more sedative and calming effect, while other terpene profiles may lead to energy and wanting to get up and do something. These effects, not a difference in the plant’s structure, determine whether a marijuana product is indica, sativa, or hybrid strain.

Dr. Ethan Russo, a prominent cannabis researcher offered us The Entourage Effect, which describes that cannabinoids and terpenes are much more effective when working in harmony than when they’re working alone. This is why some of the best hybrid strains will have a multitude of terpenes and a robust profile of cannabinoids.

The cannabis industry still uses indica, sativa, and hybrid to help people understand that certain terpene profiles will lead to different effects.

Understanding Product Labels & Classifications

When choosing your cannabis product, there is a spectrum of effects that one could experience due to terpene profile and cannabinoid profile (i.e. CBD and THC content) that would lead someone to label it as sativa or indica, or hybrid cannabis strains.

Here’s a general descriptor of what to expect when looking for cannabis products and seeing them labelled as sativa, indica, hybrid, or somewhere in between (indica or sativa dominant). Understanding what a product is labeled as will help a medical cannabis patient determine the possible affect of the cannabis they choose. We’ve also included some popular strains that generally fall under each category.

Sativa Strains

Sativa strains and products are known for their energizing, euphoric effects. Sativa effects are known to be arousing, uplifting, and get you moving due to their terpene profile.

Some of the most popular sativa strains include Durban Poison, Sour Diesel, Jack Herer, Purple Haze, and Blue Dream.

It should be noted that some people with anxiety find that sativa strains may cause more anxiety, but that it can be helpful to treat depression.

Sativa-Dominant Hybrid Strains

Sativa-dominant strains are known to be energizing yet contain a  calming balance.

Popular sativa dominant hybrid strains include Pineapple Express, J1, Juicy Fruit, Mars OG, Mauwie Wauwie, Neptune OG, NYC Diesel, Purple Trainwreck, and Strawberry Cough.

Hybrid Cannabis Strains: What This Really Means

Indica-Dominant Hybrid Cannabis Strains

Indica-dominant hybrid strains and products contain blends of terpenes with unique characteristics known to bring calming and relaxing effects. Indica and indica-dominant strains are often known to increase appetite.

Some of the most popular hybrid strains with an indica dominance include GG4 (aka. Gorilla Glue), Wedding Cake, GMO Cookies, OG Kush, and Kush Mints.

Indica Strains

Indica strains and products have terpene blends known for sedating or inducing relaxation. The terpene blends that cause indica effects are usually great for when you really want to sink into the couch (“in da couch”). In the medical context, many people enjoy indica strains for reducing pain.

Popular indica strains include Northern Lights, White Widow, Skywalker, Afghan Kush, ICE, and Grand Daddy Purple.

Moving Past Indica and Sativa Binaries & Classifications

At Compassionate Clinics of America, it’s our goal to keep our patients up on the knowledge as they navigate the complexity of cannabis. We are so encouraged by the research that is finally being undertaken so that we can begin to understand it with precision.

We are excited to offer medical cannabis certifications in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, & West Virginia, and are dedicated to continuing to educate people about cannabis medicine, while ensuring that medical cannabis certifications are accessible, affordable, and efficient.

If you’re interested to explore cannabinoids, terpenes, and different types of cannabis products with the support of a medical team, connect with us to Get Your Medical Cannabis Certification and reimagine health and wellness along with us.

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