Anecdotal and scientific evidence streaming in showed that certain strains of cannabis can indeed help with specific ailments or needs. This new science, still in its infancy, shows strains of cannabis contain distinctly different cannabinoid and terpene profiles of more than 2,000 strains that combat everyday maladies as well as life-threatening illnesses.
Advancements in cultivation and changes in testing procedures have created soaring terpene and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) percentages. Additional terpenes and cannabinoids can be added to concentrates for more dramatic effects. Growing techniques are crucial to testing outcomes, but the process begins with the selection of the seed of the strain itself.
Nevadans have the advantage of lab-tested cannabis and with that edge comes a detailed terpene and cannabinoid profile that shows content percentages: THC in percentages and terpenes in milligrams per gram. The results aren’t exact as batches of cannabis can vary slightly and tests aren’t always accurate.
Tests supply the guidance necessary to take out much of the guesswork of picking strains for specific purposes as each batch comes with a certificate of analysis. The onset of strain analysis started with two basic categories (indica and sativa) that when crossbred created a third category in hybrids, with myriad choices to crossbreed plants. There is little harm in trying most strains, with the exception of giving anxiety patients an accelerant found in many sativa strains.
There’s High and Higher
The star power for most cannabis smokers is THC count, while most purists and growers point to the terpene profile as more of a healing guide. If the terpene count, measured in miniscule amounts, doesn’t contain a decent quantity of the terpene that synergistically supports the goal, then why smoke it? The novice smoker believes that THC is the key and, yet, it would be a challenge to taste test the difference between 22 and 26 percent THC. The new goal should be terpene stats. All plants have THC so if more THC is necessary, then smoke two joints instead of one.
THC percentages have soared, but sometimes testing procedures are altered to create a higher number. After all, THC count dictates the price a dispensary can get for flower. In the past decade, THC percentages have soared over 20 percent to reach as high as 36 percent. Many growers doubt the authenticity of 36 percent, adding the methods change from lab to lab in Nevada.
THC is plentiful in flower, terpenes not so much. If the profile is weak, pain relief and nausea that rely on THC will be effective. Terpenes, however, have been found to be the driving healing force in many marijuana strains. Pink Frost, for instance, has a THC count in the teens, but provides significant impact due to its terpene content.
“Pink Frost is one of the best overall strains we have,” says Matthew Gardner, VP at Shango, “but people look for THC count when they come in, yet Pink Frost is an exceptional strain.”
Sativa vs the World
In a general sense, pure sativa strains have an energetic, uplifting effect, yet each strain can vary based on the dominant terpenes in each. The old axiom was more than .05 milligrams per gram of myrcene means it came from an indica or an indica-dominant hybrid. Now there are sativas with high myrcene counts past 2.0.
Sativa and indica were divided into whether a plant is an accelerant or provides a calming nature. Myrcene for indica strains and limonene for sativas are the driving forces for those results. Myrcene provides tranquility, helps alleviate stress, aids with sleep and provides pain relief, all very similar traits to an indica. Limonene, a source of near-endless energy, matches well with sativas, which bring energy, creativity and focus.
The differentiation of sativa strains versus indica strains were created because both plants differ structurally. “People need to stop categorizing strains in that way only,” Gardner admonishes.
There is a lot more to it than the growth pattern or leaf structure for indica and sativa classifications.
Mercy, Mercy Myrcene
The average terpene profile found on Nevada testing labels contains three prominent terpene types that vary in the more than 2,000 strains now available. The most predominant terpene found overall is myrcene. Which has been linked to the easing of epilepsy, mixed in conjunction with CBD.
Myrcene, or B-myrcene, is a sedative, plain and simple. How much, defines what affects the strain can have if found in large amounts. Myrcene works synergistically with THC in absorption for pain relief and has been called an anti-inflammatory with analgesic and antibiotic properties. It also can lower the resistance across the blood-to-brain barrier. Myrcene has been shown to increase receptor function, allowing for a greater maximum psychoactive effect. Myrcene can dominate a profile with as much as 10 to 15 milligrams per gram and is found far more than any other terpene in the top three.
Myrcene drives the relaxing effects of OG Kush, Granddaddy Purple, Dark Knight, Gorilla Glue, Bio-Jesus and countless other strains. Pineapple Express is a sativa and, yet, its most dominant terpene is myrcene. Since many strains contain myrcene, smoke enough and sleep is certain, whether an indica or sativa. When myrcene-dominant strains combine with linalool, as found in Viper Cookies and Pineapple Chunk, they are potent healers, but adding limonene can result in an active mind and inactive body. High in myrcene, limonene and caryophyllene, Strawberry Cough is a great solution for managing social anxieties, seizures and stress.
Working Together is Better Than Working Alone
Two of the most medically impactful terpenes are caryophyllene and terpinolene, the latter being harder to find in large percentages. These terpene are said to be effective on tumors and is the dominant terpene in strains such at Mother Primus, Bio-Diesel and Phat Fruity. Terpinolene, which has a sedative quality that provides patients relief from insomnia, is found as the lead terpene in Durban Poison.
Myrcene, caryophyllene and linalool pack a potent medicinal punch. The three can be found in Segerbloom Haze, Desert Snow, and 707 Headband. Myrcene, limonene and pinene team up to form a devastating physical high with mental alertness in Tropicana, which can host myrcene levels of more than 10 milligrams.
Limonene with caryophyllene can be healing while staying active. Many strains have this pair as a dominant combination including Super Silver Haze, Thin Mint Cookies, L’Orange and Tangerine Dream (both with Linalool), Tangie, Orange Crush, and Bio-Diesel. Limonene can often dominate the strain most notably in citrus flavors like Orange Cookies, OG 18, and A-Dub. Those who want to be in motion can live off the effects all day. And yet, there is myrcene again in prominent amounts and linalool for calm.
Super Lemon Haze is an energetic sativa with large amounts of myrcene and limonene. With caryophyllene as another key terpene, it makes the strain versatile. Velvet Elvis has nearly the same amount of limonene, caryophyllene and linalool to act as both healer and stimulant.
Beyond the above combinations, they can also be used for;
- Weight Loss: Chernobyl has a decent amount of humulene but it is a hard hitter with myrcene and pinene.
- Sinus, asthma: Since smoking flower can be a catch-22, there are alternatives in edibles and new drinks. Look for terpinolene, eucalyptus and pinene.
- Cancer: Strains such as Durban Poison and Jack Herer have high terpinolene levels. Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and acts as an anti-inflammatory with tumor fighting properties and can be found in high amounts in Tangerine Dream and other citrus strains.
- Pain: High THC strains include Phat Fruity, Tropicana, Bruce Banner, Platinum Girl Scout Cookies, Durban Poison, Bio-Diesel, Golden Goat, Strawberry Cough and Grizz Kush, many of which have plenty of myrcene and pinene. Look also for linalool, alpha-pinene, beta-caryophyllene, myrcene, beta-pinene and terpinolene. Generally, the higher the THC count, the lower the CBD amount in cannabis and hemp.
New marijuana strains are being created weekly, many of which come from California. Others originate in south Africa, South America and The Netherlands. Nevada dispensaries only can sell Nevada-grown plants. With generations of crossbreeding and male-female separation, old strains exist in name only.
These are popular sellers:
- Girl Scout Cookie (GSC): Girl Scout Cookies is an OG Kush and Durban Poison hybrid cross whose reputation grew too large to stay within the borders of its homeland. This California creation has won numerous Cannabis Cup awards. Cookie strains are extremely popular. GSC strains can feature high THC doses for pain relief and nausea, yet still provide energy. The high amount of caryophyllene combined with limonene and humulene form a potent mix of healing and activity that make any cookie strain enticing. Now there’s spinoffs of Platinum, Cookies and Cream, and Thin Mint Cookies.
- OG Kush: A venerable strain found on the West Coast that is the genetic parent of many since, the strain helps with stress, migraines and, most certainly, anxiety.
- Durban Poison: Originally from the coast of South Africa, this strain remains in name only. Mentioned is the Humble Pie song “30 Days in the Hole,” this strain is worldly in popularity with high THC and terpene percentages wherever it may hail from now.
- Sour Diesel: A sativa-dominant strain that can stimulate the body and relax the mind and help with stress and anxiety while staying active.
- Jack Herer: This award-winner from the Netherlands is a global favorite with a sativa-dominant, cerebral high and powerful healing capabilities. Jack Herer is said to enhance creativity, along with Chemdawg, Jilly Bean, Purple and all orange strains.
- Blue Dream: One of the world’s most popular strains, the sativa-based hybrid comes from California and is found in many Nevada dispensaries. With genetics of Sativa Haze and Indica Blueberry, Blue Dream is a good place for beginners to gauge whether they like the euphoric high from myrcene, pinene and caryophyllene along with a little spring in their step. With its wide profile, availability and big yields, this may be the state’s best seller, which is a bonus since Blue Dream has strong medicinal properties.
Although the following strains aren’t quite as popular, they do have beneficial attributes.
- Cherry Pie: The offspring of the venerable strain Granddaddy Purple (GDP) and Durban Poison, Cherry Pie enhances appetite with a fruity flavor and the stress relief of GDP.
- XJ-13: Combines Jack Herer’s genetics with G13 Haze to create a stimulating strain with mellow overtones.
- Bruce Banner: Harnessing the punch of the Incredible Hulk with a powerful THC explosion for a daytime buzz that comes with pain relief, Bruce Banner’s genetics are OG Kush and Strawberry Diesel.
- Gorilla Glue: With four strains of its own, descending from Chocolate Diesel and Sour Dubb, that are hard-hitting indicas and Cannabis Cup Award winners.
What’s in a Name?
Where have you gone Acapulco Gold, Panama Red and Durban Poison? Growing experts warn that many of the old favorites appear in name only. Acapulco Gold is a dominant sativa and, yet, its profile is myrcene, pinene and caryophyllene. Panama Red is a straight indica and has a sedative effect. Both are not from their native lands.
Ask Your Budtender
To make marijuana strains more potent, genome mapping, DNA sequencing, and early plant testing are new additions to the science of medical cannabis. The state of Nevada tests for 11 terpenes, but there are three key terpenes not on the list: Valencene, Eucalyptol and Citral. Valencene, present in Valencia oranges, contributes to a plant’s citrus aroma and is found in all orange strains. Eucalyptol isn’t a common terpene but can be found in small amounts in Super Silver Haze and is good for treating sinus problems. Citral is the scent used in cleaning agents but also is found in citrus strains. This is just a sampling. Look at menus online and at Leafly.com for descriptions.
For Whatever Ails Ya
These are the most prominent terpenes found in Nevada:
- Myrcene: From miniscule amounts to high doses, acts as a sedative.
- Pinene (a and b): Account for cannabis’ familiar pine tree odor. They act as an anti-inflammatory and have been used for centuries as a bronchodilator in the treatment of asthma. Also said to be an antibiotic and memory aid.
- Limonene: With its strong citrus smell, is a source of near-endless energy. Limonene also can treat gastric reflux and is an anti-fungal agent. Limonene is useful in treating depression and in the absorption of other terpenoids through the skin, mucous membranes and digestive tract. It’s also been shown to be an effective anti-tumor agent while at the same time being an immuno-stimulant. Limonene is a dominant terpene in sativa strains.
- Caryophyllene (b): The only terpene known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (CB2). It is known for its anti-biological activity against fungus and tumors. It is also anti-oxidant with analgesic properties and may play a role in improving the uptake of CBD/CBC in the CB2 receptor.
- Linalool: Has a floral scent and possesses sedative properties used to fight anxiety and stress. It has also been used an analgesic and anti-epileptic.
- Ocimene: Used in perfumes but also known for antifungal, antiviral, and decongestant properties.
- Terpinolene: Has been shown to exhibit antioxidant and anticancer effects with sedative effects.
- Humulene: An appetite suppressant and exhibits potent anti-inflammatory activity. It can be blended with caryophyllene for inflammation.
Medical marijuana has a number of strains for both recreational and medicinal uses. It’s hard to say what the best marijuana strain is, as varying properties are what make certain sativa, indica & ruderalis strains appeal to some but not to others. If you’re trying to figure out what your go-to strain should be, head into one of our dispensaries in Oregon or Nevada, or visit us online to browse our range of cannabis products.