Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Choosing the right cannabis flower for you can be a difficult process. Some people find their preferred flower within the first attempt or two, whilst others have to go through a range of different forms of cannabis flower (“strains” or, more accurately, “cultivars” or “chemotypes”), cannabinoid ratios, and terpenes before they find what they prefer. Here’s some guidance on how to speed up the process a bit quicker.
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How To Choose Cannabis Flower
Top Tip: Focus on the test results for cannabinoid and terpene content, not the strain name alone
Sure, knowing the strain of a particular variety of cannabis can be helpful, but there are so many factors that affect what effect a particular type of cannabis will have (e.g. the environment it was grown in, at what stage of growth the cannabis was harvested) that the name of the cannabis flower you’re using won’t tell you much alone.
Instead, it’s better to look at the test results for cannabinoid and terpene content. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to keep in mind regarding what to keep in mind when reading the test results label:
Psychoactive and useful for insomnia, chronic pain, beating nausea, appetite stimulation, and cancer.
Less psychoactive than THC-rich cannabis, and useful for treating inflammation, depression, seizures, and conditions affecting the nervous system due to its neuroprotective effects.
Cannabis flower that has a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio can be less psychoactive than THC-rich cannabis, but can still be psychoactive. Many find an equal THC:CBD ratio to be particularly appealing in terms of both efficacy and its tolerable effects. 1:1 THC:CBD ratios can be useful for spasms, chronic pain, and anxiety.
Cannabis is packed full of terpenes, which contribute to the smell and (alongside flavonoids) taste of the cannabis plant. Terpenes like myrcene, linalool, and humulene are useful for relaxation and aiding sleep. Terpenes like pinene and limonene can be relaxing, but also induce more awakening effects when in high doses and combined. Beta-caryophyllene, which is a cannabinoid as well, has anti-inflammatory effects. Breeders take particular pride in their unique terpene profiles, and it is the terpene content that can differentiate one cultivar from another.
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You may notice several other letters on the testing label. These are often referred to as the “minor cannabinoids”, as they are found in lower concentrations in the cannabis plant. However, they do impact the flower’s effects. Minor cannabinoids include:
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) – anti-psychoactive in low doses, but psychoactive in higher doses. THCV can curb hunger and have a more “up” and energetic effect. THCV could be very useful for diabetes and weight control.
- Cannabigerol (CBG) – not psychoactive, and like low doses of THCV, antagonizes CB1 receptors, meaning it can actually counteract THC’s effects to some extent. CBG has been shown to be neuroprotective in mice, and alongside CBD can be useful for treating anxiety, depression, seizures, chronic pain, and diabetes.
- Cannabichromene (CBC) – not psychoactive. CBC could be up to 10 times more potent than CBD for the treatment of stress and anxiety, and also has significant anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing, antiviral, anti-tumor, and bone-growth-stimulating properties.
- Cannabinol (CBN) – slightly psychoactive, CBN is formed after THC ages and degrades. CBN has sedative effects and can be very useful for treating insomnia.
- The acidic cannabinoids THCA and CBDA – THCA stands for tetrahydrocannabinolic acid; CBDA stands for cannabidiolic acid. When aged and heated, they turn into THC and CBD respectively. THCA and CBDA are non-psychoactive but may have potent anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, antispasmodic, antiemetic (anti-nausea/-vomiting), and antioxidant effects.
Choosing Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid Flower
In the past, many used to say that tall-growing sativas produced a more energetic or “high” effect, whereas short, bushy indicas displayed a more sedative, “couch-locked” effect. Hybrids were a mixture of the two.
Nowadays, this wisdom is put into question, and perhaps rightfully so. The distinction between indica and sativa was always arbitrary, and the same “strain” of cannabis can grow like a sativa or indica depending on the environment it is grown in. Moreover, when tested for its chemical makeup, a sativa could have a similar cannabinoid-terpene profile as an indica. This is more likely to give an indication of a particular cannabis flower’s effects – much more so than the name or its indica/sativa/hybrid labeling.
So, when it comes to names and the growth type of the cannabis flower you’re using, it is not the most accurate information when it comes to determining a particular plant’s effects.
How to Dose Cannabis Flower
Dosing cannabis flower can be a complicated affair, as it’s difficult to get an accurate idea of dosage. You will often find the cannabinoid content of cannabis flower expressed in percentages, which give you an indication of how much cannabinoid content is present in the dry flower by weight. So, if you have 1 gram (1,000 milligrams) of cannabis flower that measures 20% THC and 5% CBD, the gram of cannabis flower contains 200 mg THC and 50 mg CBD.
You can read how to dose cannabis effectively in more detail here, but to give some general advice in how to dose cannabis flower:
If smoking or vaping cannabis flower, take only one or two “pulls” (or “tokes”) at a time, and see how you feel. Thankfully, smoking/vaping cannabis has a more immediate effect compared to other ingestion methods, making it easier to stop if you feel uncomfortable.
Eating cannabis is different to inhaling cannabis smoke or vape. Ingesting THC has longer and stronger effects than inhaling it, as it has to pass through the liver first, whereas inhaling THC goes through the lungs and directly into the bloodstream.
Cannabinoids can have biphasic effects
This means that the same cannabinoid can have different effects at different dosages. THC can beat anxiety in low doses and prompt anxiety in higher doses. THCV is anti-psychoactive in low doses, psychoactive in higher doses. CBD can have more energetic effects in low doses, and sedative effects in higher doses.
Everyone reacts differently to cannabis because our bodies have their own unique endocannabinoid system (ECS). This means that a type of cannabis flower that may work for one person may not necessarily work for you.
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Trial and ‘Error’
You may need to try a few different cannabinoid and terpene concentrations and ratios before you find something that works for you. It is worth keeping a diary or journal of the cannabis flower and other products you have tried, noting the name of the product, its genetics, and test results for cannabinoids and terpenes.
Determine what you are using cannabis for
Do you want to be able to sleep for a solid 6 – 8 hours per night? Do you want to reduce your intake of painkillers? Do you want to improve your appetite, or curb cravings for sugary treats? This can help you determine what variety of cannabis is right for you.
Is there a right strain or variety of cannabis for me?
This is a difficult question to answer. It is likely that a specific range of cannabinoids and terpenes may be more suitable for you and your needs, and that you may prefer different combinations at different times of the day. It is not unusual for someone to prefer more CBD during the day to help treat chronic pain and inflammation, and more THC at night to help eat and sleep, for example.
Ultimately, until we have more data on what type/s of cannabis flower work best for which conditions, the best advice on figuring out what the best cannabis flower is for you is to try out a few different products with different cannabinoid and terpene ratios, taking a note of what their effects are like, and ensuring that the cannabis flower is tested for pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, and other safety concerns.
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