Lab Reports Instead of Indica & Sativa
Today, cannabis flowers are typically listed under the titles of “indica,” “sativa,” or “hybrid.” Popular opinion describes “indica” as sedating and “sativa” as stimulating. While many patients and industry professionals use these words to describe cannabis flowers - one fact remains: the words “indica” and “sativa” help growers understand their plants, but they aren’t the best tools for understanding a strain’s unique effects.
Enter the cannabis analytical laboratory
A qualified cannabis laboratory employs calibrated instruments and scientific methods to measure the concentration of important chemistry found inside the trichomes (those tiny resin glands on the flower’s surface). Instead of relying on “indica” or “sativa” to describe a strain, patients can refer to lab reports that offer cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Lab reports offer the ultimate insight into the uniqueness of a particular strain.
To quickly cover the basics: cannabinoids are the compounds found in cannabis - like THC, CBD, THCV, and CBG; While only a few are psychoactive, all of them have medicinal benefits. Beyond the cannabinoids, terpenes also contribute to each strain’s medical properties; in a quick summary, terpenes are responsible for each plant’s distinctive fragrance and they’re synergies with the cannabinoids. Thanks to cannabis analytical laboratories, lab reports quantify dozens of cannabinoids and terpenes; By prioritizing the most concentrated compounds (in other words, listing them highest % to lowest %), patients can identify the unique imprint of that strain; This chemical identity then becomes a template for finding strains with a similar effect.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is usually the most potent cannabinoid in a given strain. Top shelf flowers generally test well above 20% THC by weight (meaning percentage of a gram); most of the other cannabinoids will appear in significantly lower concentrations, though CBD will sometimes hit double digits.
When considering the imprint of that strain - focus on the top five cannabinoids. Most of the other cannabinoids will appear in concentrations below 5%.
As for terpenes, dozens of them may exist in the trichomes, but not all of them appear in high enough concentration to impart medicinal effects. With this in mind, a accurate strain imprint may take four terpenes into consideration.
Now, instead of labeling a strain as “indica” or “sativa,” cannabinoid and terpene profiles can be used to establish a strain-specific imprint. As an example, a strain imprint might consist of three cannabinoids and four terpenes, which then act as a label for that strain’s unique effect.
Let's define “indica” and “sativa”
While they don’t indicate the strain’s effect, these terms do relate to the physical attributes of the cannabis plant. Indica varieties are short (under 6 ft), bushy plants with wide leaflets. They are generally darker than sativa plants because their leaves have more chlorophyll, and their flowers tend to mature much faster as well. Sativas on the other hand are taller plants (potentially over 15 ft) with thin leaflets and thinner flowers in comparison to their dense indica counterpart.
Cannabis sativa plants are native to warmer regions (think Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia). Cannabis indica genetics hail from the areas surrounding the kush mountains.