Your Beginner Guide to Marijuana Strains

Your Beginner Guide to Marijuana Strains

If you are new to using marijuana, it is a good idea to take some time to learn the basics of marijuana strains. This will help you choose which ones are right for you as you will be able to make an educated decision regarding your strains. 

Even if you have been smoking marijuana for years, it can be helpful to learn about the strains for the same reason. Understanding them better will give you the knowledge you need to choose a strain that works best for your particular goals, whether you want to enjoy a couch-locked body high, a cerebral high, some combination, or something milder. 

Main Categories of Strains

As you start looking at marijuana strains, you will notice that they are either indica, sativa, or hybrid. The term hybrid refers to a combination of indica and sativa, and there is also another category, called ruderalis, which you are unlikely to smoke. However, ruderalis may provide genetics for some of your favorite strains. 


Sativa strains of cannabis typically develop in the equatorial regions of the world. These strains tend to grow tall and feature leaves with narrow blades on long branches. This makes them better-suited to growing outdoors. Sativa can take a long time to flower, up to six months. They tend to have higher yields but lower THC quantities, although much of that depends on the specific strain. 


The cannabis indica strains originated from the Hindu Kush Mountains and the surrounding areas. These plants are distinguished by their shorter and wider stature, complete with leaves featuring wide blades. Indica plants take less time to grow, typically eight to 12 weeks. They usually have smaller yields than sativa, although the potency of THC is higher. 



Ruderalis strains are incredibly hardy and can withstand very harsh climates. They are not strong producers of THC, which is why you will rarely smoke a ruderalis strain. However, they are commonly used as parent strains and grandparent strains due to some desirable features. 

Ruderalis is known for being hardy enough to survive challenging conditions, so breeders will use it to make indicas or sativas hardier. Because ruderalis grows in areas with less light, it is also frequently auto-flowering, which means that it will flower automatically after a certain period of growth. In contrast, sativa and indica strains require specific changes in lighting to flower. 


Hybrids can contain any combination of sativa, indica, and ruderalis. Expect only to see very small quantities of ruderalis genetics. Most hybrids are classified as sativa dominant, indica dominant, or balanced, depending on which category of strain contributes more genetic material.

Some History on Naming Strains

If you have only heard of sativa and indica, you may be a bit confused when you see the scientific names of various strains. The strains that we currently call sativa are Cannabis indica ssp. indica while those that we call indica were originally Cannabis indica ssp. afghanica. To make it even more confusing, the plant that was originally called Cannabis sativa is what we refer to as hemp today. Hemp has 0.3 percent or less of THC and is mostly used for seeds, fiber, and CBD, not for psychoactive effects. 

During the 18th century, the main categories of marijuana were Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. The former was cultivated for psychoactive properties while the latter was cultivated for its seeds and fiber. As such, most of what we refer to today as marijuana would have historically been Cannabis indica

Sativa Vs. Indica Do Not Determine Effects

There are some common misperceptions regarding sativa and indica classifications of strains, most importantly that the category of a strain automatically adjusts its effects. Many people say that sativa is energizing while indica is relaxing. 

In reality, the effects depend entirely on the specific strain in question. Some indicas will be energizing while some sativas will be relaxing. As such, you should always look at information for a specific strain before choosing it, instead of exploring the general information for its strain category. 

THC Can Also Vary

Although sativa strains frequently have higher CBD to THC ratios while indica strains frequently have higher THC to CBD ratios, this is not always the case. There is a vast amount of variety among the strains, so always pay attention to the details for a particular strain. 

THC Can Also Vary

What Determines Effects

The effects of a particular strain depend more on its genetics and the terpenes that are present. The ratio of CBD to THC will also determine the effects, with THC producing the psychoactive effects most people associate with cannabis. Other cannabinoids also impact the effects, including THCA, CBG, and CBN.

For those unfamiliar with the word, terpenes occur naturally in most plants, and they affect the smell, taste, and effects. 

Strain Names Can Be Inconsistent

As you look at various marijuana strains, you should also keep in mind that just because two seeds or buds share a strain, this does not mean that they are genetically identical. There is no regulation in this respect, giving companies a great deal of freedom. 

That being said, if a company were to sell a strain with a dramatic mislabel or a misleading name, it would not be available for long due to customer pushback. This means that as long as you buy from a reputable company, you should have a reasonable idea of what you get. 

There Is More Consistency in Smaller Strains

You will typically find more consistency in the genetics of strains that are less widely available than those that you can find nearly everywhere. These are usually limited to just a few vendors, so they or the breeders can better ensure uniformity. 

How to Choose a Marijuana Strain

With your new understanding of marijuana strains, how do you choose which one to consume? You want to pay attention to a few key factors, with the effects being the most important. 


The first thing you will likely want to consider is the effects of a given strain. Think about whether you want something that is relaxing or energizing, if you want to feel creative, pain relief, or something else. Then look for a strain that typically produces those effects. If you are in search of medical marijuana, you may want something with more CBD, while those in search of recreational strains may want something with more THC. 

You should also pay attention to common side effects. The most common are dizziness, dry mouth, dry eyes, and hunger. You can find strains that minimize some of these effects.

THC Level and Your Experience

Do not forget to consider your previous experience with marijuana and the potency of the strain. Beginners should usually stick to strains that are lower in THC, as it can be overpowering at first. Keep in mind that higher concentrations of CBD tend to reduce the risk of the negative effects of THC. 

Source of the Cannabis

Source of the Cannabis 

You also need to think about the source of the strain. Always choose marijuana that is grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides as some of the residues from those products may remain on the plant. If you combust and ingest it, those chemicals are bad for your health. Generally, you should look for organic, growing practices that are regulated. 

Remember Everyone Reacts Differently

It is very important for beginners to be aware that everyone will react differently to a strain. While most people have similar effects, there are always exceptions to this rule. As such, you may feel more psychoactive effects than your friends or notice other variations from what others tell you. 

Because of the possibility that you will experience effects that are not the average ones for a strain, you should always try new strains somewhere safe when you do not have any responsibilities in the next several hours or more. 

Good Marijuana Strains for Beginners

As mentioned, beginners should usually start with cannabis strains that are not as potent, as these may feel overpowering and increase the risk of negative side effects, potentially including paranoia and anxiety. 

You can use a strain with higher THC content, but you have to take care when doing so. If you opt for one of these strains, take it slowly and make sure you are in a comfortable spot with someone you trust around. Start with a small hit and see how you react before consuming more. 

All of the following strains are commonly suggested for beginners, so they are worth considering if you do not know where to start.


Harlequin is a good option for those who want a strain that has more CBD than THC but still gives a bit of a high. The THC content is usually between 4 and 7 percent, while the CBD content is typically between 8 and 16 percent. The typical CBD to THC ratio is usually 5:2. This ratio results in the user usually feeling clear-headed, sociable, and relaxed. 

This sativa-dominant strain is known for providing a boost to energy levels and mood while producing a relaxed feeling and improving focus. It tends to taste herbal, sweet, and earthy, potentially with a hint of mango. 

In addition to Harlequin, you can also try one of its many child strains, including the landrace strains. Landrace strains are purebred and rare and are grown in their natural area. 

Jack Herer

Beginners who prefer a THC-dominant strain may want to consider Jack Herer. This indica-dominant strain usually has less than 0.5 percent of CBD and between 15 and 23 percent of THC. Its parentage includes Shiva Skunk and Northern Lights #5. It appeals to all experience levels. 

This strain is good for beginners because despite its high THC to CBD ratio, it does not usually produce paranoia or anxiety. Instead, most people tend to tolerate it. This is likely due to the presence of other terpenes and cannabinoids in Jack Herer that help keep the THC in control. It typically has more than 1 percent of CBG-A along with high levels of humulene, caryophyllene, and terpinolene. 

The high associated with Jack Herer tends to be clear-headed, pleasantly cerebral, creative, and blissful. The terpene and cannabinoid profile consistently creates sociability as well produces minimal unwanted side effects. Smoking this strain usually results in feelings of being happy, energetic, and uplifted. It tastes earthy, piney, and woody. 

Jack Herer


Those who want to start with a fairly balanced ratio of CBD to THC should consider Pennywise. This is an indica-dominant strain that usually has about 12 percent of CBD and between 8 and 15 percent of  THC. This results in an almost 1:1 ratio, which is rare to find in a strain. You are more likely to find that perfect 1:1 ratio in products like edibles or tinctures. 

Pennywise is known for producing an elevated mood, uplifting effects, and euphoria. Its flavors include wood, pine, earthiness, and herbal. 

Pennywise is good for beginners because of its mild psychoactive effects. The CBD content helps keep the THC relatively mellow. 

Sour Tsunami

Sour Tsunami has high levels of CBD and just traces of THC, so you are less likely to feel high. This makes it appealing to beginners who are intimidated of feeling high. This strain was specifically bred to have that high CBD content, and it was one of the first to be bred with this goal in mind. 

Sour Tsunami is the result of Lawrence Ringo from Southern Humboldt Seed Collective crossing NYC Diesel and Sour Diesel. It is a sativa-dominant that typically tastes piney and fruity with hints of herbal. It commonly produces relaxation, happiness, focus, uplifted feelings, and euphoria. 


Marijuana strains are divided into sativa, indica, and hybrids. These classifications are based on physical features, genetics, and growth cycles. The effects of a given strain will depend on its cannabinoid profile and terpenes. 

Beginners should start with strains that are lower in THC or have a relatively balanced ratio of THC and CBD. This will reduce the risk of negative effects like paranoia or anxiety. Beginners should also remember that while each strain typically affects different users the same way, everyone is different, and so your reaction may be different. 

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