This is the ultimate guide to picking the best weed strains.
You will learn:
- The difference between Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis & Hybrids
- What is THC, CDB? What are Terpenes?
- Picking the right strain for the right purpose
- Lots More
Does the best weed strain exist?
So many types of cannabis, so little time. Figuring out what are the best weed strains can be daunting.
Ask 100 stoners what their favorite strain is, and you’ll receive 100 different answers.
Some prefer their high to be buzzy, others like it mellow, some want to experience a body stone, while another prefers a head high or maybe a combination of the two.
There are a lot of factors that go into personal preferences when it comes to enjoying marijuana.
The bottom line is: You want one that is just right.
To make a well-considered choice, it is important to have all the facts and to understand which factors play a role.
Let's start at the beginning.
History of marijuana
Cannabis and its usage by mankind go way back until at least 3000 BC.
According to the best available research, cannabis originally evolved in Central Asia and has since found its way to nearly every region of the planet.
Being one of the oldest known agricultural plants, it was valued very early on for its multitude of uses both medically and recreationally.
The beneficial psychoactive properties of the fragrant plant ensured fast popularity, causing migrants and traders to take these seeds with them wherever they roamed.
These original cannabis strains are called “Landrace”. Landrace strains are defined as one of the purest wild-growing cannabis varieties that have evolved into the isolation of a specific geographic region.
Over the years, these isolated species have developed their own characteristic features, which are most suitable for survival in the specific environment where they have evolved.
As a result of this and over more than 1000 years of evolution, landrace strains have developed countless properties and complex flavor profiles which are nearly impossible to replicate.
Landrace strains have played an important part in the coming about of many of the contemporary popular strains we’ve come to know and love today.
Types of Weed: Sativa, Indica, Hybrid & Ruderalis
Before we discuss marijuana strains, we must first recognize the various species.
A species defines an organism, in this case, the marijuana plant, to the simplest level. In cannabis we distinguish the following species:
- Cannabis Indica
- Cannabis Sativa
- Cannabis Ruderalis
Today we will list all the different species along with their most prominent specifications in order to give you the best possible head start in making a well-considered decision in finding the perfect strain for you.
What is Cannabis Indica?
Indica, which originates from the Hindu Kush mountains of India, has a relaxing effect on the user.
Indica’s are compact and chunky, with dense, heavy, fragrant buds. Indica buds tend to grow in clusters, with varying amounts of space (known as 'internode space') between each cluster.
Indica’s are the faster flowering varieties, usually with a flowering time of 6 to 9 weeks. They do not tend to gain height rapidly once flowering has begun.
An Indica will gain between 50 and 100% of its vegetative height by the end of its flowering period.
Indica effects: Stone
The effect of Indica classifies as a 'stone', meaning that it centers more on the body. It may enhance physical sensations such as taste, touch, and sound. It has a relaxing effect - mentally and physically - and may even be soporific in larger doses.
Curious about all the great things Indica strains have to offer? Find out everything there is to know in our extensive review what are the best Indica strains.
What is Cannabis Sativa?
Sativa has a more energizing effect. Sativa strains tend to contain higher levels of THC, the primary psychoactive component in marijuana.
Sativa-dominant strains are much more likely to promote energy and creative thinking.
Given the same conditions, Sativa grows taller than Indica’s.
Also, Sativa buds tend to grow larger than Indica, as they run along the length of a branch instead of clustering around the internodes.
But, they will usually weigh less than Indica when dry, due to their lower density.
Sativa buds also tend to have a less striking odor during growing and when dried.
Sativa’s take longer to flower. They will usually need between 9 and 12 weeks to finish blooming.
But, they need far less vegetative time BEFORE flowering than Indica’s.
So, the overall time required for Sativa’s is about the same as for Indica’s (and sometimes less in terms of 'light hours')
Sativa will usually continue to gain height while flowering, often gaining 200%, 300% or more of their vegetative height while flowering.
This is because around the equator there is not so much difference in the number of daylight hours between winter and summer.
So, Sativa’s in their native environment will grow and flower at the same time.
For this reason, indoor growers should not let a Sativa too much vegetative growth before inducing flowering.
Sativa effects: High
Despite their lower weight and potentially longer flowering time, Many growers value Sativa's for their 'high' effect.
This high is characterized as cerebral, energetic, creative, giggly or even psychedelic.
Sativa strains are especially popular for parties or social gatherings because they tend to evoke conversation.
It is important to note, however, that high doses of many Sativa’s, especially those with THC levels over 18 percent, may promote anxiety or paranoia in some individuals.
Since there is much more to learn about Sativa's, we elaborate on that in best Sativa strains, where we also put a few of our favorites to the test.
What is Cannabis Ruderalis?
Cannabis Ruderalis is reluctantly described as the third type of cannabis since botanists doubt whether it classifies as an independent type.
Ruderalis is an uncultivated species originally found in Russia, Central Europe, and Central Asia and very well adapted to the harsher conditions there.
A typical Cannabis Ruderalis plant is very short: fully grown just between 30 cm/12 inch and 80 cm/ 20 Inch.
It produces only a few branches and has wide leaves, like those of the Indica.
Once flowering begins, Ruderalis grows even less than an Indica variety.
The most notable feature of the Ruderalis variety is its ability to flower (and thereby reproduce) according to the age of the plant, but regardless of the photoperiod in which it grows.
Almost all flowering plants receive a signal to reproduce once seasonal changes in its surroundings occur by the number of hours of daylight.
The ability to start flowering based on changes within the life cycle of the plant rather than the environment is known as "self-flowering ability."
Cannabis Ruderalis starts flowering when it reaches a certain stage of maturity, around the time it produces its fifth to the seventh pair of leaves, which usually happens after about seven weeks of growing.
As soon as the Cannabis Ruderalis starts to flower, it will continue to do so until other environmental factors (especially winter) cause the plant to die.
The other varieties of cannabis die on their own after they have propagated or return to vegetative growth if given a long photoperiod.
The fact that the Cannabis Ruderalis has adapted to short, cool summers can also be seen in other aspects.
Ruderalis can go through its life cycle, from the seed to the production of new seed, in just 10 weeks (although 12 to 14 weeks is more common).
The seeds will easily detach and can even survive in frozen soil for more than one season until the conditions are good enough to grow.
Cannabis Ruderalis effects: Therapeutic benefits of CBD
Wild Cannabis Ruderalis varieties almost always have a low THC and relatively high CBD content.
Although pure Ruderalis varieties have little value for recreational use, their imperviousness, self-flowering capacity and rapid ripening time are extremely interesting for cannabis growers.
Crossing a strain choice with the Ruderalis will, in theory, result in a fast-growing, shorter variety of that strain.
Ruderalis hybrids are also often used for medicinal applications, where the therapeutic benefits of CBD are more important than the psychoactive effects of the varieties with a high THC content.
What is a Hybrid Strain?
Hybrid strains are a crossbreed of Sativa and Indica (or Ruderalis 😉) genetics and, depending on their lineage, can take on characteristics from both strain families.
While both species and their corresponding properties are represented in the hybrid strain, we often see that one of the parentages prevails in which case we will point out the strain as Indica- or Sativa dominant.
Strains are subdivisions of a species based on characteristics.
These characteristics are the key factor in determining which strain is right for you.
At the risk of losing you with all this complicated scientific mumbo jumbo, I would still like to get into this a little deeper.
A marijuana plant contains more than 483 known compounds.
These compounds all affect the chemical makeup of the strain.
I’ll keep it brief and will only discuss the most relevant ones.
What is THC?
THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is the primary component in cannabis, which is responsible for the psychoactive effect.
The effects are induced by THC mimicking the action of the neurotransmitter anandamide.
For example, THC attaches itself to a receptor known as the cannabinoid receptor.
Because cannabinoids do not naturally occur in the human body, the search for the endogenous substance of this receptor (the substance that normally binds to the receptor) began, which led to the discovery of anandamide, an endocannabinoid and part of the endocannabinoid -system.
Research into the distribution of receptors in the brain explains why the risk of toxicity due to the use of THC is so low: parts of the brain that control vital functions such as cellular respiration, do not have as many receptors, so the effect there is very low, even at doses larger than usual.
What is CBD?
CBD or Cannabidiol is a non-psycho-active substance that naturally occurs in cannabis.
Unlike THC, CBD barely induces a cerebral high.
In fact, CBD is said to attenuate or eliminate the psychoactive effects of THC while enhancing the medicinal characteristics of the substance.
People using CBD can merely experience a mildly relaxed state.
What Are Cannabis Terpenes?
If you have been looking into marijuana species for a while, you may have come across the term “terpenes”.
Contrary to popular belief, these versatile compounds are not just responsible for the scent and taste of the marijuana strain but do so much more!
An immense variety of terpenes are found in each strain and reside in the same glands as their chemical cousins, the cannabinoids (THC and CBD).
While the beneficial properties of terpenes are impressive in themselves, they also support the functioning of the cannabinoids to obtain the desired effects.
The scientific term for this is the “Entourage effect”.
This symbiosis is responsible for accelerating the uptake of cannabinoids in your bloodstream as well as altering the way our neurotransmitters react to them, creating anxiolytic sensations.
The terpene profile should be taken into consideration when you’re choosing your strain, because of their miraculous medical applications and their influence of the type of high.
Now that we have the active components covered, let’s investigate the different uses.
Choosing the right strain for your purpose
This is where I personally made my fair share of mistakes in my younger years.
Seduced by an exotic-sounding name or tempting fruity scent, I thought that weed was like jelly beans.
The same substance, different flavor.
Luckily, I know better now and can help you avoid some rather embarrassing situations.
So before choosing a strain, we must first determine your goal.
Boosting Creativity with Marijuana
With all that we have discussed previously, we now know that not every type of cannabis will put you in a couchlock while munching on everything you could find in your storage cabinet.
Sativa's or primarily Sativa-dominant strains are known for their cerebral effect and uplifting high.
The right Sativa strain can alter your perspective on things and get your creative juices flowing.
As discussed in our article what are the best strains for creativity and focus, we established that Blue Dream is a prime candidate.
Blue Dream is a Sativa dominant strain and that is clearly noticeable.
After just a few puffs a sense of sheer euphoria sets in, following by a long-lasting and well-balanced head high, which lends itself perfectly for channeling your inner Picasso or Shakespeare.
Care for an example?
I don't think anyone could put Blue Dream's effect better into words than this guy who reviewed the strain on Leafly.
When you're having trouble sleeping, Indica’s often contain large quantities of CBD and therefore ideally suited to use to relax and sleep.
Indica strains, as opposed to pharmaceutical sleeping aids with their nasty side effects, are an all-natural solution to your problem that will ensure a visit from Mr. Sandman in no time!
After reviewing multiple strains for this purpose, we learned that HeroDawg is a sure winner for when you're in desperate need of some solid shuteye.
This Herijuana descendant has a high concentration of Indica combined with a powerful knockout effect that will have you counting sheep in no time.
Medically, Indica’s are effective in treating muscle cramps due to, for example, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.
Indica's also work well against chronic pain, arthritic and rheumatic stiffness and inflammation, insomnia, anxiety, and related conditions.
However, not all Indica strains are the same.
If you like to manage your pain but still like to be able to take care of your daily business, selecting an Indica advised for sleeping might not be the best course of action.
Opting for a medicinal hybrid such as Girl Scout Cookies 2.0 could resolve that problem.
Hybrid cannabis strains are the best of both worlds and combine the effects of Indica and Sativa.
This is advantageous for both patients and recreational users.
Adding Sativa genetics to a strain that is primarily Indica can support mental clarity and reduce the calming effects.
Adding Indica genes to a Sativa-dominant species reduces the tendency to nervousness, a trait that pure Sativa’s naturally have.
Choosing the right strain now depends on what kind of relaxation you’re after.
Just finishing your 60-hour workweek to come home and binge watch Suits requires a slightly different strain than for a “roll in the hay” with your spouse (which, after all, is a form of relaxation as well 😉).
This powerful 90 percent Sativa melts away stress like global warming does the ice caps.
It lifts your spirits, restores your energy and contributes to an overall sense of bliss.
Still keen on spending some quality time with that couch?
Try Mental Glitch.
This potent Indica-dominant strain with a THC percentage of 23 percent will make you more zen than a Buddhist monk after just a few hits.
No one wants to be that sad wallflower sitting in the corner when you’re at a social event so I would advise going with a Sativa for this purpose.
Sativa's invigorating properties and overall sense of euphoria are bound to get you off your couch and outliving your best life.
Original Haze is your friend in this scenario.
This potent 100 percent Sativa strain will enhance productivity and help you get any job done as well as diminish feeling despondent or even depression.
You can read the full review and how we came to this conclusion in the best strain for productivity
Whether you’ve been coping with mental illness all your life or you’re plagued by annually returning seasonal affective disorder, marijuana can help alleviate your discomfort.
Many of the strains suitable for battling depression are Sativa-dominant, seeing that they enhance energy, promote a sense of well-being and improve productivity.
Indica strains will diminish gloomy thoughts and lower anxiety while enhancing relaxation.
Opting for a hybrid strain such as Blue Dream, which combines the benefits of both species would be a solid choice here.
For more in-depth information on this subject, check out our “best strains for depression”.
How would you like your weed?
If you think lighting up a doobie is the only way to consume your marijuana, guess again.
As much as some of us enjoy rolling a good old joint, there are other ways to experience the benefits of marijuana.
If you are an anti-smoker, you could consider edibles, oils and balms or tinctures. We elaborate on the different options in our guide stages of marijuana growth.
Best weed strains: How to get them?
So, you know what you are in the market for and maybe already have a specific strain in mind. How does one obtain that coveted strain? It comes down to the following two options.
- You either purchase your ready-made weed or
- Decide to grow your own.
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.
The availability depends on where you live.
Here in the Netherlands, we are fortunate our government handles a tolerance policy on soft drugs, and we can choose from a plethora of “coffee-shops” to get our weed from.
However, sadly this is not the case for most countries.
Extensive research offers more and more scientific evidence for the medicinal benefits of marijuana, and increasingly more states and countries are choosing to decriminalize or even legalize it.
Yet, we are still far from global legalization so always check your local laws regarding the legalities in your region.
Luckily, there is a loophole in the form of a Medical Marijuana License.
After receiving the green light from your physician, the license will allow you to purchase your weed from dispensaries.
The main advantages and disadvantages of buying weed are:
- Effortless/ Instantly available
- Usually a wide range of species available
- Expert assistance
- The strain you want might not be available (in your region)
- Not legal everywhere or only with a medical license
Buying Marijuana seeds
There is much to say for buying seeds and why grow marijuana, tailored to your needs.
Aside from the initial investment you make for seeds and grow supplies, in the end, you will save an awful lot of money.
It’s convenient, fun and once you’ve found a trustworthy supplier, you don’t have to worry about bad weed ever again.
Most legalized countries and states will allow you to grow up to five plants for personal use.
Again, I cannot stress enough about the importance of checking the laws here.
If you decide on growing your own marijuana, there is also the matter of whether you are growing indoors or outdoors.
Making this decision depends largely on your climate and space available.
Growing outdoors is seasonal and will only allow you one or max two harvests a year but does not require much of an investment in the form of lights and will often provide you with a larger yield.
In our guide: best outdoor strain for high yield you will learn more about the benefits and the strains we recommend.
On the other side, with indoor growing you can grow all year round, realizing multiple harvests as well as complete control over the circumstances. But I’m straying a bit here so let’s save that story for another day.
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of buying seeds:
- An almost infinite choice of strains
- Will save you money in the long run
- Becoming self-sufficient
- Does require an initial investment
- Requires some level of skill/knowledge
- Not legal everywhere, please make sure to check legalities before you invest.
What are the best weed strains - the verdict
We've reached the end of this lengthy narrative. If I've done my job right, you now possess all the basic knowledge about marijuana species, the variations in different strains and their purposes and effects.
If you are still unsure as to which strain would serve best for your cause, check out the links in this article or don’t hesitate to ask for additional advice.
One of the primary reasons the guys behind Marijuana Seed Breeders started their business was to provide their customers with expert advice in addition to providing the world with premium seeds.
I wish you the best of luck with your choice and don’t forget to let me know how this worked out!
Educated by one of the best breeders in the Netherlands, I chose to combine my passion for writing with the fascinating world of cannabis cultivation. What are the best strains for which occasion, what are the effects, and how to use responsibly? Let me take you on a journey.