How to choose a cannabis cultivar for your homegrow


November 19, 2019

(Artem Cherednik/iStock)

Because of 100ish years of prohibition, limited record-keeping, and a lack of well-quantified data, any list of cultivars claiming they are best for this, that, or the other, is totally subjective. How then is one supposed to choose from the many hundreds of cultivars of weed out there when looking to start growing yourself?

While we refuse to drum up our own list of specific cultivars, we instead offer some guidance to help you choose for yourself.

We know what you’re thinking–if you live somewhere hot with long summers, plant a sativa, as those evolved closer to equatorial climates. And if you live anywhere with a shorter growing season, reach for an indica, as those hail from harsher northern climates.

Here’s the thing–widespread hybridization means that there’s really no such thing as an indica or sativa anymore. What you get is going to be a hybrid, period.

What you will no doubt be presented with in any cultivar description is what it will do to you. Proceed with caution: Because of everyone’s individual brain and body chemistry, these descriptions don’t necessarily apply to everyone. One person’s couch lock is another person’s dance party. Truthfully, depending on the set and setting, your couch lock on one day might be your dance party on another.

We say: Go for it. Especially if you’re going to grow your own, you’re going to be smelling a lot of this plant. Why not have it be equal parts gardening and aromatherapy?

Cultivars often give a hint of smell in their name, indicating if they’re on the fruitier side (Mango, Blueberry, Orange Cookies), skunkier side (Island Sweet Skunk), earthier side (Earth OG), or gassy side (Sour Diesel). Not only may these terpenes impact your high, they most certainly surround you as your plants grow.

Again: Go for it. Let’s face it–a lot of weed looks similar once it’s dried. Why not have a little fun with color in the garden? Certain cultivars turn intensely purple, especially as cooler fall temperatures approach. Others have brightly-colored pistils–a real delight when flowering starts.

How to find cultivars with colors? Look for clues in their names. Anything with purple (Granddaddy Purple) or blue (Blue Dream) in its name likely has some color during the growing season.

Given that so much of cannabis cultivation is a gamble and everything’s a hybrid, we totally condone choosing based on name–it’s sort of like choosing a wine bottle based on the label. Why not?

Maybe you want Green Crack or Purple Monkey Balls growing in your garden, and that’s OK. It’s also fine if you stick to something friendlier sounding, like Cherry Pie or Mango Tango.

Acapulco Gold? Pineapple Express? White Widow? All classics. Go for it. But it’s important to understand that at this moment in time, there’s no accountability or regulation when it comes to genetics and names. OG Kush sold from two different vendors might have vastly different DNA.

It’s also important to understand that seeds with the exact same DNA will still produce distinct plants with their own unique expression of cannabinoids and terpenes. Terroir–a.k.a. soil and climate–impact how a plant grows and what chemical compounds eventually pack its flowers. Environment plays a huge role in a plant’s ultimate expression.

If you can connect with a local community of outdoor cannabis growers, they’ll be your best bet for telling you what cultivars do well in your particular climate. It’s highly likely that they’ll have a few extra seeds to share too. Over time, plants grown in a specific climate and allowed to produce seeds will adapt better and better to that particular locale.

growing tips

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It’s Never Too Late to Start Using Medical Cannabis

In what has become an annual autumn networking ritual, the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM) hosted a three-day conference (October 31 – November 2) in Berlin. Cannabis geriatrics and age-related pathologies were major topics at this year’s gathering of preeminent scientists, physicians, educators, and business representatives.

Is cannabis safe for seniors?

Seniors are currently the fastest-growing demographic of cannabis users worldwide, but is cannabis safe for the elderly? What might be the benefits?

These questions were addressed by Israeli researchers who examined clinically supervised cannabis use among the elderly. Dr. Ilya Reznik discussed the findings of a prospective observational study, which involved 184 elderly patients at a geriatric clinic in Israel. Eighty-three percent of the patients were 75 years or older.1234

The study entailed a comprehensive examination of each patient at the outset of cannabis therapy, plus a follow-up evaluation six months later. None of the participants enrolled in the study had any previous experience with cannabis. Most suffered from chronic pain (77%) and other age-related conditions, such as sleep disturbances, cancer-related symptoms, mood disorders, and Parkinson’s Disease. ?

The majority of the subjects (66%) utilized cannabis oil sublingually as the sole method of administration, and half of them took three doses daily.

The investigators sought to assess the efficacy of cannabis and the frequency and risk of adverse cognitive and cardiovascular effects, as well as postural instability and other problems. For the most part, side effects were relatively mild, affecting one third of the seniors enrolled in the study; these included dizziness (12%), sleepiness (11%), and dryness of the mouth.

Most significantly, the six-month follow-up appraisal revealed that one-third of the cannabis patients were able to discontinue opioids, as well as other pharmaceutical painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Medical cannabis protocol for seniors

In his presentation, Dr. Addie Ron, an Israeli geriatric specialist and colleague of Dr. Resnick, shared details of the medical cannabis protocol that their team successfully designed and implemented at the Soroka University Research Institute and Clinic, which sponsored the prospective observational study of elderly patients.

The first step prior to commencing cannabis-based therapy involved a case-by-case, risk-benefit analysis of older adult participants. A cautious approach was recommended due to polypharmacy, nervous system impairment, potential cardiovascular risk, and pharmacokinetic variables.

In keeping with the principle “Primum non nocere” or “do no harm,” the typical protocol required a start-low, go-slow approach to dosing cannabis – with a 5mg increase every 7 days until reaching the desired effects. Specifically, this is how patients were told to titrate their cannabis medicine:

  • Day 1-3: 5mg THC + 5mg CBD
  • Day 4-6: 10mg THC + 10mg CBD
  • Day 7-14: 15mg THC + 15mg CBD

Each patient’s progress was closely monitored for side effects and efficacy; when the desired effect was achieved, the dosage stabilized with no need for further increase.

Most patients chose to consume cannabis oil via sublingual administration – with positive results for all involved. With respect to THC (with CBD), the prospective observational study found that a low, nonintoxicating dose, comprising between 0.75 mg and 1.5 mg of THC twice daily, was well tolerated and resulted in better functioning, increased body weight, improvement in cognition, decreased constipation, and improved mobility.4

Cannabis and Alzheimer’s

With 35 million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s worldwide, there is an urgent, unmet need for innovative approaches to treating this degenerative neurological illness. Can cannabis help someone suffering from dementia?

Dr. Javier Fernandez-Ruiz and a group of researchers at Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, are probing the role of the endocannabinoid system in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). At IACM, Fernandez-Ruiz presented research showing that cannabinoid receptors – which are instrumental in the preservation, rescue, and/or replacement of neural cells in a healthy brain – become dysregulated during AD neurodegeneration. 5

Certain prescription meds, such as Donepezil, work by inhibiting an enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase, which breaks down acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter involved in memory and cognition. Scientists have learned that cannabinoids – in particular, THC – act in a similar way as they also inhibit acetylcholinesterase. Moreover, cannabinoids can confer other possible benefits, as well, such as increased appetite, weight gain, and decreased anxiety and aggression.6

Another team of Israeli scientists, in collaboration with Tikkun Olam, a medical cannabis producer, conducted a phase II randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study to determine the safety and efficacy of whole plant CBD-rich oil for treating Alzheimer’s-related agitation, one of the most common symptoms in patients with severe dementia. 6

64 patients, average age 79, were enrolled in this clinical trial, which lasted 16 weeks (6 weeks titration and 10 weeks of assessments during stable dosage). Weekly medical examinations focused on the following:

  • Vital signs
  • Temperature
  • Physical examination
  • Blood pressure
  • Pulse
  • Height/weight
  • Behavioral disorders (based on the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory)
  • Neuropsychiatric inventory
  • Clinical Global Impression Severity /agitation-aggression
  • Mini-Mental State Examination
  • Mood (based on GDS questionnaire)
  • Safety tests
  • Concomitant medications
  • Adverse events?

?By the end of this study, which found no significant adverse effects, 72% of patients treated with CBD-rich oil (compared to 30% of the placebo group) achieved relief from dementia-induced agitation. The authors concluded that CBD-rich oil is a safe treatment that can reduce agitation and other adverse behavioral symptoms in patients with dementia.


The research and clinical experiences reported at IACM 2019 confirm the strong safety profile of cannabis-based medication for the senior population, especially when THC levels are balanced by high levels of CBD and the remedies are administered sublingually. Scientists and doctors have also observed promising results with cannabis therapy that may help to improve the quality of life of older adults by mitigating normal as well as pathological age-related decline. For senior citizens that means improvement in cognition and mobility, increased body weight, decreased constipation, and better overall functioning.

Viola Brugnatelli, a Project CBD contributing writer, is the science director of and a lecturer on cannabis therapeutics at the University of Padua, Italy.

Project CBD is a U.S. ambassador for IACM, which publishes a weekly summary of medical science reports on cannabis therapeutics in several languages.

Copyright, Project CBD. May not be reprinted without permission.


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Hemp-Derived CBD Helps Chronic Pain Patients Reduce Opioid Use, Study Finds

Chronic pain patients consuming hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD, on a daily basis for eight weeks reported a decrease in the opioid medications they needed, a new study reports.

“This is a prospective, single-arm cohort study for the potential role of cannabinoids as an alternative for opioids,” the paper states. “The results indicate that using the CBD-rich extract enabled our patients to reduce or eliminate opioids with significant improvement in their quality of life indices.”

The study, published this month in Postgraduate Medicine, sheds new light on the potential benefits of CBD extracted from hemp, a crop that became federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, although the Food and Drug Administration has yet to issue finalized guidelines that would allow CBD to be sold in dietary supplements and food products.

Researchers recruited 131 patients who obtain their care from the same pain clinic; 97 completed the eight-week follow-up period. All had been diagnosed with chronic pain and were taking opioid medications for relief.

For the study, participants were given a 60-count bottle of hemp-derived, CBD-rich soft gels. Each gel, according to the study, contained 15.7 mg CBD, 0.5 mg THC, 0.3 mg cannabidivarin, 0.9 mg cannabidiolic acid, 0.8 mg cannabichrome, and less than 1 percent of a botanical terpene blend. Nearly all (91) took two gel caps a day, totaling 30 mg of CBD; three participants opted not to use the hemp extract at all.

“CBD could significantly reduce opioid use and improve chronic pain and sleep quality among patients who are currently using opioids for pain management.”

Researchers asked participants to complete a series of questionnaires to access various factors at the onset of the study, at the four-week mark and at the eight-week point. Among them: their pain intensity level, how much their pain disrupted their lives, the quality of their sleep and how willing they were to cut back on opioids.

Of the total 94 participants who took CBD regularly, 50 reported they were able to reduce opioid medications at week 8. The authors also note: “Additional reductions in polypharmacy on the medication receipt were noted; six participants reported reducing or eliminating their anxiety medications, and four participants reported reducing or eliminating their sleep medication.”

Overall, 89 participants reported their quality of life had improved over the study period. Two measures changed significantly: patients’ self-rating of sleep quality and pain intensity and interference.

At baseline, the study’s authors calculated respondents’ scores regarding sleep quality to an average of 12.09–the higher the score, the poorer the quality of sleep. At the four-week and eight-week check-in points, the score decreased to 10.7 and 10.3, respectively. Similarly, another scale the authors used to measure pain and how it interferes with the enjoyment of life found the mean score value change from 6.5 at baseline to 5.9 at week 4 and 5.7 at week 8.

“The results of this study suggest that using CBD-rich hemp extract oil may help reduce opioid use and improve quality of life, specifically in regards to pain and sleep, among chronic pain patients,” the study concludes. “This is consistent with emerging literature on the topic, which has concluded that CBD is an effective analgesic, and one that helps reduce barriers to opioid reduction, such as physiological withdrawal symptoms.”

In an interview with Appalachian News Express, the study’s lead author Alex Capano said that outside of survey studies, her research is “the largest study on the use of CBD to reduce the use of opioids in the treatment of chronic pain.”

“It’s also the first study on CBD and opioid reduction to identify key data points, such as hemp extract doses, delivery method, and specific cannabinoid content,” she continued. “Most participants used a relatively low dose of 30mg of CBD per day, whereas other studies on CBD have tested very large doses, 10x or 20x that amount. Lower doses of CBD mean reduced risk of side effects and improved outcomes.”

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