If you interact with cannabis, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes, you are likely aware that there are many strains of the plant. Just knowing about the availability of numerous strains can result in confusion or even a feeling of being overwhelmed. With numerous strains available, how do you choose which one is for smoking, for turning into an edible, or for using differently?
Take a moment to understand what cannabis and CBD strains are, how they differ from each other, and how to identify them.
What Is CBD?
While some people use the term CBD strain, you are more likely to hear cannabis strain. That is because CBD is a particular component of the cannabis plant, not the entire thing. CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, which is one of the cannabinoids found in cannabis. Cannabinoids are a class of naturally occurring substances. Another famous cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
The most important thing to know about CBD is that it does not have psychoactive effects. Instead, it is popular for its other benefits, such as relaxation and relief of pain. In contrast, tetrahydrocannabinol is psychoactive and will give you the high associated with cannabis.
Keep in mind that while CBD does not have psychoactive effects in the vast majority of people, there is a small handful of the population that may feel altered after consuming it, even without any tetrahydrocannabinol present. This only applies to around 5 percent of people, and it is typically the same people who are likely to experience side effects when taking Tylenol or Advil.
What Are CBD Strains?
In most cases, the term CBD strain means the same thing as a cannabis strain or hemp strain. The difference is that the focus is on the CBD content of the strain instead of its other qualities.
Something referred to as a CBD strain will likely have a high concentration of CBD, maximizing the benefits that you can receive from it. It may or may not have high levels of THC, but many strains high in CBD have low psychoactive quantities and vice versa.
It Can Be Hemp or Cannabis
Because the focus with a CBD strain is the content of cannabidiol, not the ability to get high, it can technically be a strain of cannabis or hemp. Marijuana and hemp are the two primary species of the Cannabis sativa plant. Of the two, hemp has a higher concentration of CBD and an extremely low concentration of THC. Hemp must have less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol to be classified as such.
If you live in a state or jurisdiction where recreational and/or medical marijuana is legal, then it does not matter whether you choose a CBD strain that is hemp or cannabis. Either will come without legal consequences, provided you follow all relevant laws and are of age.
If, however, you live somewhere without legalized marijuana, then you will need to look for CBD strains that are hemp. As mentioned, these will have less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol. Hemp is legal across the United States thanks to the Farm Bill, but it can be complicated to find variations of it to use like cannabis. Instead, you are more likely to find products that contain hemp-based CBD, such as oils. These should be legal in your area, provided they do not contain THC.
Who May Want a High-CBD Strain?
Many people who use cannabis do so with the intent to get high, but this does not describe everyone. An increasing number of people are searching for a cannabis strain that can relieve pain, stress, or other conditions with no or minimal psychoactive results. CBD is popular when smoked, inhaled with a vape, in CBD oil, or as edibles.
Those in Search of Medical Relief
The biggest group of people who will want high CBD strains comprises those suffering from medical conditions who want to enjoy relief. CBD is particularly common for treating pain, helping patients reduce their dependence on prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Research confirms that it can treat pain as well as inflammation in mice and rats. This has led to its popularity in treating fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.
Additionally, CBD is popular for treating arthritic pain. Support includes anecdotal evidence and studies on rats. Other studies have shown that CBD has potential in treating anxiety disorders, including general anxiety disorder, OCD, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and PTSD.
Major Categories of Strains
Whether looking at CBD strains or cannabis strains, you will notice that there are a few major categories, sativa, indica, and hybrids. Indica cannabis comes from the Indian mountains, and it is associated with relaxing effects. By contrast, sativa cannabis is associated with energy.
Keep in mind that while many people believe or share anecdotal evidence of these traits for each strain category, scientists are unsure whether there is truly a difference. They argue that the differences in the effects of cannabis depend on the specific strain, not its general category. In other words, you can find a relaxing sativa or an energizing indica.
The real difference between indica and sativa cannabis is the physical appearance of the plant and its overall growth. Sativa plants grow tall and thin, featuring finger-like leaves. They can easily grow past 12 feet. They also take longer to mature than indica plants do.
In contrast, indica cannabis does not grow very tall and remains short and stocky instead. There are wide, broad, and chunky leaves and bushy greenery. Indica not only grows more quickly than sativa, but it also produces more buds.
Hybrids are a category of cannabis with parentage that combines sativa and indica. There can be balanced hybrids, indica_dominant, or sativa_dominant.
Choosing CBD Strains: What to Consider
As you choose which CBD strain to buy, you will want to keep a few key factors in mind. These can help prevent you from getting overwhelmed by the various options and ensure that you make an educated opinion. You can also ask your local dispensary for advice.
Start by taking a look at your local laws. If cannabis is illegal in your area, then you cannot legally find a CBD strain that is cannabis-based or contains tetrahydrocannabinol. Instead, you will have to limit yourself to hemp-based CBD strains and products based off of hemp. If cannabis is legal in your state, then you will have all the options available.
It should go without saying that you will want to pay attention to the CBD content in your chosen CBD strain. Most CBD strains will have high concentrations of cannabidiol, so this should not be a concern. Higher concentrations can increase its effectiveness in treating symptoms like seizures, migraines, pain, and nausea.
Regardless of your local laws, be sure to consider the tetrahydrocannabinol concentration in your chosen CBD strain. Most CBD strains will have low concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, but this is not a given. Remember that the more tetrahydrocannabinol a strain has, the greater its potency will be.
Think about your daily life and how you plan to use the CBD strain. If you need to pass drug tests regularly, then you should opt for a CBD strain with no to minimal tetrahydrocannabinol. Similarly, you should avoid strains with THC if you need to keep your mind sharp for things like operating heavy machinery or doing precise calculations. In this case, avoid high-THC strains.
If you plan on using your CBD or cannabis during the day, when you still have things to do, like work or school, consider strains with lower tetrahydrocannabinol quantities. If you plan on just using it on the weekend when you have no other commitments, then the THC content may not matter. You may also want to look for a CBD strain with high tetrahydrocannabinol content if you want to take advantage of the high associated with cannabis as well.
You will also want to pay attention to these elements found in each strain when selecting your CBD. Terpenes are compounds that occur naturally and affect the smell and the effects of the cannabis strain.
The effects of the CBD strain should be a primary concern during your selection process. You should have a goal in mind for your CBD consumption, whether it is for relaxation, pain relief, treating anxiety, or something else. You should look for a CBD strain with the desired effects. With so many strains around, this should be possible, regardless of your goals.
A Deeper Look at Terpenes: Choosing the Right Ones
There are numerous compounds that you might find in CBD strains, but some of them are more common than others. Familiarize yourself with these, so you will know which ones to look for.
Bisabolol has hints of tea tree oil and chamomile. It can help you relieve irritation and inflammation. This terpene might also be antimicrobial and help reduce pain.
Caryophyllene is a spicy, peppery terpene. It can help with ulcers, depression, and anxiety.
Eucalyptol has hints of tea tree oil and eucalyptus. It provides an invigorating, refreshing feeling. It can also fight bacteria and reduce inflammation.
Humulene has a woody, earthy scent similar to cloves or hops. It can help reduce inflammation.
Limonene has citrus notes. It can help with stress and overall mood.
Linalool has floral notes. It can boost your mood and assist with relaxation.
Myrcene is the terpene that is the most common, and it has an earthy, herbal aroma. It can help with insomnia and anxiety.
Ocimene has hints of parsley, mango, and basil. It can help fight off bacteria and viruses and ease congestion.
Pinene has a pine aroma that gives it its name. It can help with reducing pain and boosting memory. It can also ease some unwanted tetrahydrocannabinol effects, including coordination issues and nausea.
Terpinolene has the scent of conifers, cumin, and apples. It has antifungal, antibacterial, and sedative properties.
Some of the Most Popular CBD Strains
Here are some of the most popular CBD strains that you can find. Some of them are fully legal throughout the United States because they are CBD hemp varieties with less than the legal limit of 0.3 percent THC. Most, however, are restricted to areas where medical and recreational cannabis use is legal.
You may see them listed as CBD strains, CBD hemp flower, hemp strains, or high-CBD cannabis strains.
AC/DC is a cross between Ruderalis and Cannatonic, and it has a very high CBD to THC ratio of 20:1. The strain usually has a CBD concentration of between 16 and 24 percent with psychoactive content of between 2 and 6 percent.
Thanks to its extremely high CBD, ACDC appeals to those looking to treat pain, anxiety, and seizures. One study of pediatric patients with epilepsy tested in ratios of CBD to tetrahydrocannabinol of between 15:1 and 28:1 resulted in positive effects. There is also anecdotal evidence supporting its help for Parkinson’s disease, stress, and depression. It contains high levels of b-pinene, a-pinene, and b-caryophyllene. This combination results in an herbaceous, sweet flavor with a hint of citrus.
Blue Dragon Desert Frost
Blue Dragon Desert Frost comes from the Yerba Buena cannabis farm in Oregon and is a newer strain. It has about 17 percent CBD with just 0.6 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol. While this is too high to be considered hemp and have universal legality, it appeals to those who want minimal tetrahydrocannabinol. As a result, using this strain gives you plenty of healing via the CBD with minimal (or no) psychoactive results.
Resin Seeds, a Spanish CBD genetics company, created this strain, which is a cross of G13 Haze and MK Ultra. Many experts refer to this as the “CBD queen” since it helped begin the CBD movement. It first appeared in 2008 at Spannabis, a Spanish annual cannabis event, shocking everyone with its high CBD content.
This strain’s plants have had CBD of up to 17 percent while maintaining THC levels around 6 percent. Even so, around half of the seeds result in a 1:1 ratio. The strain’s high CBD makes it a very popular option for those looking for pain relief and treating conditions like muscle spasms and migraines. It also considered among the best high CBD strains for treating stress and anxiety. The flower has a citrus-filled and earthy flavor thanks to the prominence of limonene, b-caryophyllene, and myrcene.
Canna-Tsu is a hybrid made from crossbreeding Sour Tsunami and Cannatonic. Both CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol contents tend to be around 10 percent. This results in a strain that is good for casual use with a clear head. The high CBD levels reduce the tetrahydrocannabinol mental attack. Users also enjoy the earthy aroma and citrusy sourness. This strain tends to deliver an upbeat vibe.
CBD Critical Mass
CBD Critical Mass is an indica-dominant hybrid that has a ratio of 1:1 to 2:1. This hybrid is popular for various medical issues and has generous yields. Its parent strains are an unknown strain that is CBD potent and critical mass.
Cherry Wine crosses Wife and Charlottes Cherries, and it can contain up to 22 percent CBD. That high volume of CBD combines with low tetrahydrocannabinol content to help you enjoy the benefits of the CBD without the psychoactive effects interfering with your daily life. The plant is cultivated from its dense hemp seeds.
This strain is aromatic, featuring black pepper in subtle hints to counter the sweet cherry aroma that is highly distinct. You can typically find this strain for sale as clones or as seeds if you plan to grow it yourself. Due to the low psychoactive cannabinoid content, this is one of the CBD strains that should be legal in all 50 states.
Charlotte’s Web has CBD of 17 percent with minuscule tetrahydrocannabinol traces, leading some to classify it as hemp. Its dominant elements include bisabolol, beta-myrcene, and caryophyllene. As such, it has an aroma reminiscent of woodlands and a sweet taste.
This is one of the best-known high-CBD cannabis strains, and it first appeared in 2011. The strain has an inspiring story as it is named after Charlotte Figi, a baby girl with Dravet syndrome or severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy. By age three, she was experiencing around 300 grand mal seizures every week. Her mom first tried R4, a high-CBD strain, and Charlotte experienced initial success.
Her mom, Paige, talked to Colorado siblings the Stanley Brothers, who were working to produce a high-CBD strain by crossbreeding industrial hemp and marijuana. The brothers created a high-CBD strain that dropped the seizures to just two or three per month. This entire situation helped bring light to the benefits of medical cannabis, especially in children.
There were much news and excitement about Charlotte Web, thanks to its trailblazing status. Some families whose children suffer from similar conditions have moved to Colorado so they could use the CBD extract. In 2018, the strain’s cultivar accounted for 14 percent of the hemp-based CBD product market share. Florida even passed a law for the strain that legalized just that single strain.
One study focusing on pediatric patients with epilepsy found that taking this strain with a ratio of 27:1 reduced seizures as well as boosted appetite, mood, and focus.
Corazon comes from Oregon and is a relatively new strain. It is the result of crossing Charlotte’s Web and ACDC. Testing has confirmed that it has 22.5 percent of CBD while keeping tetrahydrocannabinol at just 2.7 percent. As such, it is the CBD strain with the highest score, but it is still very hard to find.
Critical Cure is the result of crossbreeding a ruderalis strain and Critical Kush. Its ratio is about 2:1, typically containing about 11 percent of CBD along with 5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol. As an indica-dominant strain, it is popular for relaxation at the end of the day. Keep in mind that the tetrahydrocannabinol content in this strain can lead to a gentle high.
Electra is popular for its strong aroma that combines pine, sweetness, and citrus. The combination of flavors and scents makes it particularly popular among those who prefer to consume their CBD strains orally. It will have a woodsy mouthful but with a sweet and nutty taste.
Electra has nugs of medium size, and the effects last for a protracted time. This helps make it very popular, as does its ability to start giving you a calm feeling within a half-hour without concerns of feeling inertia. This is another strain that is legal everywhere due to its lack of psychoactive elements.
Harlequin comes from Nepali indica, Thai sativa, Colombian Gold, and Swiss sativa. The result is a sativa-dominant strain with a ratio that sits consistently at 5:2. In lab testing, the tetrahydrocannabinol content stays between 4 and 7 percent with CBD between 8 and 16 percent.
One of the nice things about Harlequin is that you can count on it to have that defined balance at all times. This makes it a popular choice for medical marijuana consumption for psychological and medical conditions. It is popular for treating stress, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and chronic pain. Overall, it can help with mood, energy, and pain. When you use it, you will enjoy an earthy aroma that features citrus and mango hints. This comes from the combination of myrcene, b-caryophyllene, and a-pinene.
This is a cross of a Sour Tsunami clone and a Harlequin male. SoHum Seeds in Northern California first cultivated this high-CBD strain. It earned the top prize for CBD flower during the 2014 Emerald Cup. At that time, lab testing showed just 0.86 percent THC with 21.05 percent CBD. The average Harle-Tsu strain has closer to 18 percent CBD. The ratio is 20:1.
Thanks to the high-CBD and low-tetrahydrocannabinol content, you can consume Harle-Tsu without worrying about tetrahydrocannabinol’s intoxicating effects. Those who consume Harle-Tsu experience complete relaxation. The CBD combines with other elements to help treat chronic pain, epilepsy, depression, inflammation, stress, and other conditions. It features ocimene, terpinolene, humulene, pinene, and myrcene.
Lifter sits right at the legal maximum of tetrahydrocannabinol for hemp, 0.3 percent, combining that with 14 to 20 percent of CBD. As such, it is legal everywhere, regardless of cannabis’ legality in your area. Lifter delivers the “lift” that its name implies.
This CBD strain has an aroma that combines pine, white pepper, pineapple, and lemon zest. As a full-spectrum strain, Lifter will relax you as it elevates your mood. It has rare clean energy that you cannot typically find in mass-market cultivars.
Mango Haze is among the most recognizable strains with high CBD. Its ratio tends to sit between 1:1 and 2:1. This strain has more sativa than indica, which many users say helps it deliver energizing effects. Expect a tropical aroma that focuses on pineapple and mango, hence its name.
Pennywise is a hybrid with indica-dominance that results from crossing Jack the Ripper with Harlequin. The name of this CBD strain likely comes from the names of its parent strains since Pennywise is the killer clown.
Pennywise is a good choice for those who want a CBD strain to boost happiness, including when treating conditions like PTSD and depression. Some of this happiness comes from the 1:1 ratio. That ratio means that you get a high that induces happiness along with the balancing and calming effects associated with CBD. Its flavor is sweet and has a hint of pepper.
Remedy is an indica strain, making it popular for reducing muscle tension, improving sleep, and overall relaxation. Those who use this CBD strain find themselves experiencing a calming body high.
Its flavor profile is citrusy and earthy. Remedy results from crossing Afghan Skunk with the strain from Resin Seeds, although its ratio is higher than that of the latter.
This strain crosses AC/DC with Harle-Tsu, both of which are hybrid strains popular for high CBD concentration and therapeutic value. The name comes from its first breeder, Lawrence Ringo. Ringo founded SoHum Seeds, the Southern Humboldt Seed Collective, and is a CBD genetics trailblazer and marijuana activist.
Keep in mind that there are multiple varieties of the strain, with their own phenotypes and ratios. That ratio can range between 1:1 and 25:1, the latter of which is almost unheard of. This lets users choose the variety that best meets their needs.
The varieties of this strain with a balanced ratio tend to give users a calming, warm buzz without feeling the dreaded couch lock or tiredness. The strain has been helpful to those dealing with mental conditions, including stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It can also help various physical ailments, including headaches, muscle spasms, inflammation, pain, arthritis, and epilepsy.
This strain has myrcene, caryophyllene, and a-pinene. This combination results in an earthy strain with the aromas of mint and pine and a flavor that is slightly tangy and spicy.
One of many CBD strains that Lawrence Ringo bred, this is a hybrid with sativa dominance and a somewhat unique family history. Ringo crossed Sour Diesel and NYC Diesel. He then back-crossed with a clone of Sour Diesel before crossing that plant with Ferrari, a sativa-dominant hybrid. One more crossing with Sour Diesel led to the current strain.
The strain stands out for being one of the first marijuana strains that we know was created for medicinal reasons. It is popular for relieving insomnia, anxiety, nausea, stress, back pain, and chronic pain. Lab testing typically places the CBD at between 10 and 11 percent with the THC level at 1-10 percent.
Expect an aroma that combines chocolate and diesel from the strain. It prominently features myrcene, b-caryophyllene, and terpinolene. Because of the 1:1 ratio, this is not an ideal strain for those who want to stay away from THC or those who are new to CBD strains. That is because even with the CBD’s calming presence, you should expect a slight high from the psychoactive content.
Spectrum is rich in terpenes as well as CBD. It remains within the legal limit to still classify as hemp and be universally legal, although its trace tetrahydrocannabinol quantities are higher than those of other strains.
Spectrum’s name comes from the full spectrum of experiences you can enjoy with this CBD strain. It is a powerhouse yet relaxing and thoughtful at the same time. It helps manage stress, stimulate the mind, improve mood, and instill calm.
Stephen Hawking Kush
SHK is the result of crossbreeding Sin City Kush and Harle-Tsu. There are three phenotypes available, with a ratio of up to 5:1. The CBD levels are typically between 5 and 20 percent. This CBD strain has a minty or fruity flavor with hints of cherry. Expect a mild cerebral high.
Super Lemon Haze
Super Lemon Haze offers plenty of crystallization and Delta-9 THC, yet it is legally considered a hemp product. This strain combines Super Silver Haze and Lemon Skunk and is a sativa-heavy hybrid. It won two of the Cannabis Cups at the Green House Seeds competition.
It features a citrusy flavor and aroma, which only adds to its uplifting nature. The tetrahydrocannabinol content will stay under 0.3 percent, while CBD sits between 14 and 20 percent. In addition to its unique aroma, the nugs of this CBD strain stand out with their dots of multiple shades of green combined with orange streaks.
Sweet and Sour Widow
Sweet and Sour Widow have a balanced ratio of 1:1, with 5-10 percent of each cannabinoid. It is a hybrid with 70 percent indica and 30 percent sativa origins. This strain is particularly popular for its medicinal benefits with a pleasant yet slight THC high.
The perfect balance of Sweet and Sour Widow’s cannabinoid profile makes it a great choice for those new to cannabis. It also makes it a strong choice for those in search of medical cannabis that will not cause too much of a high.
Sweet CBD hemp flower is a hybrid strain that is dominant in sativa, and it originated from a Diesel family clone. According to experts, it was the first CBD-only strain to offer the high CBD levels, and low THC levels people search for. The CBD is typically between 8 and 15 percent, while psychoactive content stays under 0.3 percent.
Sweet CBD has an orangey or earthy smell. When you use the strain, you will likely notice a unique combination of cypress trees and mandarin oranges.
T1 Flower is a floral strain that features hints of lavender, citrus, and mint. It offers a smooth experience that vapers will enjoy. It has a lemon-lime flavor that works well with a range of foods and drinks. The aroma combines maple syrup, blackberries, and soft cheese.
This hemp flower features orange hair coverage. The nugs also feature white crystal trichomes. It is a hybrid of Wife and Afghan Skunk. It has a ratio of 32 to 1, which gives the benefits of CBD without a high, which is the ideal in a CBD strain. For reference, it has 20 percent of CBD.
Trident has very high CBD content, which helps its popularity among those in search of medical cannabis. Even with the high CBD concentration of Trident, this strain can also have as much as 6 percent of THC. As such, you should expect some cerebral effects to occur. Even so, you are unlikely to lose focus or alertness when using Trident.
Valentine X is a balanced hybrid with equal parts indica and sativa. It is impressive for its ratio of 25:1. This makes it an incredibly popular choice for multiple health issues, including inflammation and seizure disorders. There is even some anecdotal evidence about cancer patients taking advantage of Valentine X. The name comes from St. Valentine, who is the patron saint for epilepsy, a condition that CBD is the most powerful medication for.
Wife has an impressive ratio of 20:1, with about 14 to 20 percent of CBD. The result is a full-body experience that those searching for CBD will appreciate but without psychoactivity. This also results in it being a popular choice for those who are new to CBD strains and want to experience relaxation.
Smoking Wife leads to a soothing experience. It can be smoked, vaped, or made into edibles. This CBD strain also stands out with its resinous coating and earthy, fruity taste that includes hints of cherries and bananas.
Those who want to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of CBD while using cannabis should focus on high CBD strains. There are dozens of these strains available, including many low THC strains so that you will experience minimal psychoactive effects. These strains can bring about relief from both physical and mental conditions. Just remember to check your local laws before choosing a strain. Although they are harder to find, there are hemp-based CBD strains that are legal in all 50 states.