4 cannabis producers on what makes a strain great to grow


October 1, 2019

(Julia Sumpter)

It can be hard enough to decide what strain to purchase or grow yourself, so can you imagine the pressure of doing so for a large scale cannabis operation?For the uninitiated, strains are not one-size-grows-all by any stretch of the imagination. Cultivators who produce flower for your local dispensary need to put a lot of deliberation into the process. Tossing dead plants when things go awry is something a big commercial grow simply cannot afford to do.

Temperature, humidity, pests, light availability, and lots of other factors can trash a grow, and commercial farmers have to know every detail while still providing big yields. It’s a lot more than just making a basic cannabis bonsai like the rest of us beginners.

We spoke with four growers about which strains get the job done of getting you high. Getting an inside peek into how some of today’s powerhouse cannabis companies pick their genetics for efficiency and fragrance is valuable advice for hobby growers, consumers, and anyone else with a passing interest in the plant.

Strain selection can often come down to climate and terroir, especially with sun grown operations. Aster Farms, a popular Lake County, California, cultivator, has a high elevation coupled with less humidity: In terms of weed, the low moisture atmosphere can help cannabis thrive in cold nights, with lower chances of mold and frost, which are certain weed killers.

Aster Farms’ CEO Julia Jacobson says this lets them aim for tropical sativas that typically don’t perform well in California weather, and that the terpene content is heavily influenced by the operation’s live soil techniques, which create fungal networks that some growers swear by.

“Since our climate is higher and drier, we are able to grow less hardy and longer-taking varietals–sativas and more tropical strains like White Widow. Therefore, we have the advantage of being able to select strains based on our product portfolio and desired effects, not having to worry about climate,” she says.

Founder and CEO of Paradiso Gardens Christina Dipaci had genetics optimized just for her setup. Their Salinas Valley, California, grow calls Grandiflora Genetics’ Project 4516 one of their most popular strains.

“Grandiflora’s strains are all bred to yield well and be resistant to bugs. Working with the breeder helps us develop the perfect environment for each particular strain,” says Dipaci.

Paradiso often does trial periods to analyze key strains before completing full runs, which allowed them to determine that Project 4516 was a prolific choice. Dipaci explains, “Project 4516 is ideal for the customer and the op because we are able to grow it to its fullest expression of color, taste, and flavor at a larger scale.”

You can find Nug California products at dozens of locations around the Golden State, and their size would probably allow for national distribution if federal law were remotely at that point.

Until then, despite having their favorite cultivars racked up to rake in the big buds, master grower Ryan Tonsberg cites Strawberry Fruity Pebbles, Sunshine OG, and Kush Mint Animal Cookies as their standout strains. These were the finalists of over 40 choices, Tonsberg explains, and they test four new strains per month, constantly fine-tuning their selection.

He said the Sunshine OG and Strawberry Fruity Pebbles thrive because “Their genetics match our environment really well. We have large grow rooms so it’s not possible to dial in temp and humidity for each strain individually. We have to run on what’s ideal for most of the stains we carry.”

He continued: “If a strain is really susceptible to pests or disease, we have to take that into consideration. Production and ease of cultivation are important, but our guys are willing to put in the extra time and effort if the strain is worth it.”

Johnny Casali, chief cultivator at Huckleberry Hill Farms–who supplies to California mega-brand Flow Kana–cultivates his mother’s 45-year-old strain, Whitethorn Rose, for its supreme quality.

“Bred from a strain that has been cultivated on the same exact property for the last 45 years, I truly believe that it is adapted to the special terroir and thrives here better than anywhere else in the world,” Casali says.

Heritage strains like Whitethorn Rose even cost Casali time in prison, but this did not deter his stewardship of it into today’s place of esteem.

Terpenes are every plant’s natural pest repellent–the main reason you rarely see spider mites and aphids on culinary herbs. Casali says this is a boon in cannabis language as well, “One of my favorite parts of cultivating Whitethorn Rose is that because of its high terpene profile, it’s super resistant to any kind of pests and any kind of molds including powdery mildew. For me, this is a huge advantage.”

With the legal market primarily based in the West Coast for the time being, there’s no telling what people will be crossing to make potent and pest-repelling piff in the coming decades–likely in new locales where cannabis was once illegal.

For now, these entrepreneurial cultivators are building the lasting foundation of the commercial cannabis industry, and it says a lot about what will be on shelves in the years to come.


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Want the most from your cannabis terpenes? Temperature matters

Cannabis flowers contain hundreds of chemical compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes. Terpenes are scented molecules that are responsible for the flavour and aroma of cannabis.

In addition to lending flavour to cannabis, they also contribute to its effects on the body, both individually and in combination with cannabinoids.

Most vaporizing temperature recommendations focus on the boiling point of THC (157?C) and other cannabinoids, such as CBD (180?C). But for an even more customized experience, you may want to consider the boiling points of terpenes, too.

Here, we’ll review the boiling points of five major terpenes, and explain how you might use this information to your benefit when vaporizing cannabis flower.

How to target terpenes while vaporizing

In order to preferentially vaporize specific compounds, you will need a vaporizer with an adjustable temperature control.

Keep in mind that altering the temperature you are vaporizing at may reduce the amount of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids that are activated.

It’s important to look at the boiling points of the other major compounds in the plant and consider which ones are close to your target terpene. THC’s boiling point is 157?C, and CBD’s is 180?C.

It’s also important to note that compounds will begin to vaporize at temperatures lower than their boiling points, and will also vaporize at temperatures higher than their boiling points.

Given the diversity of compounds within cannabis, and the range of vaporization points, it’s impossible to target a single compound for vaporization. This is not necessarily undesirable, though, because scientists believe terpenes and cannabinoids work synergistically in what is called the entourage effect.

Playing with vape temperatures in this way will probably have more impact on flavour than effects, which will likely be subtle.

Regardless, vaporizing temperature will certainly alter the aromatic experience, and the perceived flavour of your cannabis. It’s also important to note that some of the effects you experience could be due to your beliefs and expectations about the effects of terpenes.

Ideal temperatures for vaporizing terpenes


Myrcene is a sedative compound that is thought to flip the effects of THC from energizing to couch-locking. If it’s relaxation or help sleeping you’re after, myrcene is the terpene you want to target. The boiling point of myrcene is 167?C.


Pinene is an energizing scent that may contribute to a more alert, active high. Some scientists believe it may counteract the short-term memory deficits induced by THC. Preferentially, vaporizing pinene makes sense if you’re using cannabis during the day or at a time where you want to be mentally sharp.

The boiling point of pinene is 156?C.


Limonene is thought to elevate mood, and some research suggests it might treat depression. This could be a good terpene to try targeting if you are feeling down. Regardless of its potential effects, this compound lends a pleasant lemon note to the cannabis experience.

The boiling point of limonene is 176?C.


Studies suggest that caryophyllene may have analgesic effects. It may be a good terpene to preferentially vaporize if you are using cannabis to treat pain. It offers a spicy, woody, and peppery scent.

The boiling point of caryophyllene is 130?C.


Linalool is a sedative, relaxing compound, which may also elevate mood. Targeting the temperature for this terpene makes sense when using cannabis to relax or before bedtime. It also contributes a floral aroma to the vaporizing experience.

The boiling point of linalool is 198?C.

Optimizing terpenes for specific situations

Scenario 1: You’re using cannabis during the day, and you want to get some work done.

Let’s say you have some Tweed Penelope, which contains pinene and myrcene, on hand. Target the pinene (156?C) and stay below the boiling point for the highly sedative myrcene (167?C). Since THC vaporizes at 157?C, you’ll likely want to vape at this temperature.

Scenario 2: You’re home for the night and would like to use cannabis to relax.

If you typically reach for Houseplant’s Indica strain, which contains linalool and myrcene, you may want to start your session around the boiling point of myrcene (167?C), which will also vaporize THC. Later in the session, you can step up your temperature to 198?C, which will target linalool, another sedative terpene.

Scenario 3: You’re in pain, and you’re using cannabis to feel better.

Sour Diesel is available from several Canadian licensed producers, and frequently contains caryophyllene and myrcene. If that’s your go-to pain strain, start at 130?C to target caryophyllene. Step up to 157?C to add some THC to the mix, and finish up around 180?C to benefit from CBD’s pain-relieving effects. If you want to avoid sedation, skip the last step and stay below the boiling point of myrcene (167?C).

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How cannabis terpenes work on your body and mind

Terpenes are scented molecules found in cannabis and many other plants, and responsible for flavour and aroma. Some of the most well-known terpenes found in cannabis are linalool, limonene, pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene.

In addition to providing an aromatic experience, terpenes are believed to contribute to the effects of cannabis, both alone and in combination with cannabinoids. There is a lot of talk about the potential effects of terpenes on the body, but less talk about the mechanisms that explain these effects.

Are the effects of terpenes psychological, meaning they are due to expectations, beliefs, associations, and emotional learning associated with the scent? Or are they pharmacological, meaning they are due to interactions with receptors and hormones in the body? Evidence suggests that both mechanisms play a role in explaining how terpenes work.

The effects of terpenes: Pharmacological or psychological?

A 2009 review published in the International Journal of Neuroscience suggests that the effects of aromatic compounds can be explained either pharmacologically or psychologically.

The pharmacological hypothesis argues that aromatic compounds such as terpenes affect mood, physiology, and behaviour because they interact with the nervous and/or endocrine systems (hormones).

The psychological hypothesis argues that a person’s beliefs, expectations, emotional associations, and perceptions are the real reasons behind terpenes’ effects, not their direct interaction with systems in the body.

There is evidence for both hypotheses, which we will consider in turn.

Pharmacological mechanisms

There is plenty of research to support the idea that terpenes operate pharmacologically in the body and brain.

A 2001 review about the synergistic effects of terpenes in cannabis lists many potential mechanisms of action for these compounds, with its authors suggesting that terpenes may increase serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and GABA activity. They argue that these effects may “support synergistic contributions of terpenoids on cannabis-mediated pain and mood effects.”

Although the natural world produces thousands of terpenes, very few have been studied for their specific mechanisms of action. Two exceptions are linalool, also found in lavender, and limonene, present in citrus fruits.

Linalool is known for its sedative, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers believe linalool creates a sedative effect by decreasing sympathetic nerve activity and increasing parasympathetic nerve activity. (The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight or flight response, and plays an integral role in waking behaviours. The parasympathetic nervous system opposes this activity, calming a person down and activating rest and digest.)

The mechanisms behind the pain-relieving effects of linalool are complex. A 2014 review suggests that linalool influences at least 10 different pain-related systems in the body. Linalool increases the activity of opioid receptors, as well as dopamine receptors. Linalool is also thought to inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines, which explains its anti-inflammatory effects.

As for limonene, a 2013 study found that oral administration of lemon essential oil, which contains 70% limonene, had a significant antidepressant effect in a mouse model of depression. Researchers determined that the lemon oil increased the activity of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in different regions of the brain, which may explain its antidepressant effects.

Evidence of terpenes’ psychological effects

There is also evidence suggesting that terpene compounds may exert their effects – at least in part – through psychological mechanisms.

Liking or disliking an odour predicts a positive or negative shift in mood respectively. A 2003 study found that the odours a participant liked improved their mood, decreased anxiety, and decreased the unpleasantness of pain, and the odours they disliked worsened their mood and the way they felt about their pain. Similarly, psychological mechanisms can impact the way a person experiences the effects of cannabis. For example, a person who has had negative experiences with cannabis might find the scent to be anxiety-provoking, while someone who uses it at parties or in a social setting might associate it with fun.

Preconceptions matter, too. A 2004 study measured participants’ reactions to the suggested effects of different aromatic compounds. The results showed that the suggestion that an odour was relaxing was associated with decreased heart rate and skin conductance (a measure of physiological arousal), while the suggestion that an odour was stimulating increased these measures. This was true regardless of odour, and it was even true when no odour was used. The no odour condition produced relaxation or stimulation based on what was suggested. Lavender, which is considered to be a relaxing scent, was able to cause stimulation when this was suggested.

All this is to say that it is very likely that suggestion, emotional learning, beliefs, and expectations play at least some role in the way terpenes work. This doesn’t make the effects any less “real”, except that they might vary more between individuals than expected.

The bottom line

Both psychological and pharmacological mechanisms seem to contribute to the effects of terpenes.

There is good evidence suggesting that terpenes have direct physiological effects on the body, especially for linalool and limonene. This means that linalool-rich strains are likely to have a calming effect, and to provide pain relief, while limonene-rich strains are likely to be mood-elevating.

There is also good evidence to suggest that psychological phenomena such as expectations, beliefs, and associations play at least some role in the way terpenes affect the human body. This means that it’s important to listen to your intuitions about smell. If you dislike the scent of a particular strain, you might find you don’t like the experience either.

Future research will reveal much more about the way terpenes interact with our bodies and minds. It will be particularly important to study terpenes in the context of the many other compounds in whole-plant cannabis, such as cannabinoids, since many researchers believe these compounds all work together to produce effects they could not create alone.Researchers have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the way the terpenes in cannabis affect the body.

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Explore cannabis strains with a new perspective

You’ve heard it before when it comes to cannabis strains: Sativas will pick you up for energetic daytime activities, while indicas will put you in the couch when you want to relax and wind down at the end of the day.

But the indica/sativa classification is incomplete. There’s a better way of predicting the effects of a cannabis strain before you buy and consume it: by looking at its cannabinoid and terpene profile. Leafly has designed a new visual system to help you easily understand.

Rooted in science and incorporating test data from lab partners across the US and Canada, Leafly’s new Cannabis Guide will help you select a cannabis strain for any activity, mood, or time of day, suited to your particular body and needs.

In this first part, we’ll show you how to use the new system, whether you’re a novice or connoisseur and regardless of what you are looking for: happy or euphoric feelings, a calm or energizing state of mind, or particular wellness benefits.

We’ll get into why Leafly has created this new system for looking at cannabis, what cannabinoids and terpenes are, and why the chemical profile of a cannabis strain is so important in Part 2 of this series.

Jump to a section in Part 1:

To learn why Leafly has created a new visualization system for cannabis, check out Part 2 of this series.

Don’t let change overwhelm you: Leafly’s new system uses simple shapes and colors to help you find the best strain for you. Let’s dive in.


The above strain card shows all of the elements of a Leafly flower in the new Cannabis Guide. When looking for a strain, we recommend you go in this order:

Find your shape (cannabinoid), find your color (terpene), find your cannabis (strain).


Shapes are one of the most integral pieces of the system. They represent cannabinoids (ca-NA-bi-noids), which are compounds like THC and CBD that drive the effects of cannabis. More on this later.

Most cannabis strains are mainly composed of either THC or CBD, or a mix of the two. The center shape–or nucleus–represents THC or CBD dominance:

  • Diamonds are THC-dominant strains
  • Circles are CBD-dominant strains
  • Strains with a balanced amount of THC and CBD have a mix of circles and diamonds in the rings; Harlequin is a good example

The larger the shape, the higher the percentage of THC or CBD–longer, pointier diamonds mean more THC, and bigger circles mean more CBD.

A few minor cannabinoids, such as CBG, are also included in the system. Today, however, most cannabis strains contain THC and CBD.


A Leafly flower with diamonds, which represent THC.

THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis–it gets you high, and it’s known to help with pain relief, nausea, and appetite loss.

If you want a strain with high THC levels (for more of a high), look for longer and pointier diamonds. If you want something with just a little bit of THC (and less of a high), look for smaller, shorter diamonds.


A Leafly flower with circles, which represent CBD.

CBD is the non-intoxicating compound in cannabis that provides many wellness benefits, so you’ll look for circles. CBD can even help decrease some of THC’s side effects like anxiety or temporary short-term memory problems.

Something with a lot of CBD will have big circles. Small circles means it has just a little bit of CBD.

Today’s market consists mainly of THC-dominant strains, so CBD strains will be less common. Some popular CBD strains are ACDC, Cannatonic, and Sour Tsunami.


The five most common terpenes in the Cannabis Guide, their flavors, and other fruits and herbs they are found in; calm-energizing data is aggregated from Leafly reviews.

Colors represent terpenes, which make up the flavors and smells of cannabis, including sweet, citrus, skunky, or diesel scents. Terpenes are oils secreted by trichomes, the sticky glands on cannabis plants. Other plants and fruits also produce terpenes.

Terpenes help give each strain its distinct personality and may also influence the effects of cannabis through something known as the “entourage effect” (more on that in Part 2). More research is needed to fully understand how terpenes affect the body.

More than 100 terpenes have been identified in cannabis, but some are more common than others. Leafly’s Cannabis Guide highlights eight of the most common.

Each Leafly flower shows the three most abundant terpenes: The large, medium, and small rings around the center shape indicate primary, secondary, and tertiary terpenes, respectively.

Different terpenes may lead to different experiences. Experiment with different colors (terpenes) to find which combinations produce the right feelings and effects for you. If you find a strain with a dominant terpene that you like, you will likely enjoy a different strain with that same dominant terpene.

When searching for flowers in the new system, you’ll notice that some don’t include colors. These strains do not have enough terpene data yet to establish a reliable terpene profile (colors), but they do have enough data for a cannabinoid profile (shapes).

In the US, cannabinoid and potency testing is required by state law in legal markets, so all cannabis sold through state-legal stores will have cannabinoid data. But testing for terpenes is not required by law and costs extra money, so a lot of growers don’t elect to have it done.

Similarly, in Canada, licensed producers (LPs) must provide cannabinoid potency for all cannabis products. Although some LPs may elect to test for terpenes as well, this information can only be communicated on supplementary materials, not directly on packages.

Leafly is working to create a terpene profile for every strain. We intend for our new Cannabis Guide to encourage both growers and consumers to take more of an interest in terpene data and how it can help ensure a reliable, enjoyable experience.

It’s still hard to predict the effects a strain may have on a specific individual because every individual, every experience, and every set and setting are different. Even if the same individual smokes the same exact strain at two different times, it can affect them differently.

An analogy for using the Cannabis Guide to find a strain for yourself is online dating: You can get a sense of someone’s personality from a dating profile, but you’ll have to go on a date to see if you really match.

Similarly, in telling you the cannabinoid and terpene profile of a cannabis strain, the Cannabis Guide will give you an accurate depiction of a strain’s chemical profile, but you still need to try different strains to find the right type of strain for you.

Once you find a shape and color combination that gives you desired feelings and effects, you can keep going back to that kind of strain. Also, if a strain has negative effects for you, a strain with a similar profile will likely lead to negative effects as well.

You’ll see a few options when you go to both Leafly’s app and homepage:

  • The Cannabis Guide homepage, which includes a brief explainer on how to use the new system
  • Suggested strain lists–curated groups of strains based on feelings, activities, or experiences
  • The Flower Finder, which allows you to create a flower by picking your preferred cannabinoid levels and terpenes; the system will then pull up strains based on the parameters you put in

To create a flower, remember: Find your shape, find your color, find your cannabis.

First, pick your shape, or THC and CBD levels. You can have all THC, all CBD, or a mix of both.

Next, pick a color, or terpene. These are the eight terpenes in the Cannabis Guide–ordered from calming to energizing–and information about each based on research and thousands of customer reviews:

  • Linalool (purple): Floral, also found in lavender; it’s reported to promote pain relief and relaxation.
  • Myrcene (dark blue): Earthy; it’s the most abundant terpene found in cannabis; commonly believed to have sedative and muscle-relaxing effects.
  • Pinene (green): Pine flavors; also found in rosemary and many other herbs; it has been studied for its anti-inflammatory effects and may combat short-term memory impairment from THC.
  • Humulene (light green): Woody flavors; reported to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Caryophyllene (fuchsia): Spicy and peppery; rodent studies have shown that it can act as an anti-inflammatory, relieve pain, and may even treat anxiety and depression.
  • Limonene (yellow): Citrus flavor; rodent studies reported have shown that it can provide relief from anxiety and stress.
  • Ocimene (bright red): Sweet flavors; commonly used in perfumes; reported to have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Terpinolene (orange): Fruity flavors; reported to have antibacterial and antifungal qualities.

With your cannabinoids and terpenes locked in, the Flower Finder will then give you a list of strains you might like based on your inputs.

We encourage you to test out and explore the system!

After you try a strain, note how it makes you feel. You can do this by signing up for an account and leaving a review on Leafly, or by keeping a personal diary at home. Then use the Cannabis Guide to find the strain’s chemical makeup. Because a strain’s effects are related to its chemical profile, a strain with a similar chemical makeup is likely to provide similar feelings.

To find a similar strain or feeling, first look for a similar cannabinoid and cannabinoid level (shape and size), then look for similar terpenes (colors).


Two similar strains in the Cannabis Guide. Although their secondary and tertiary terpenes are reversed, their dominant terpene is the same, so they will likely produce similar feelings and effects.

In the above graphic, the shapes differ slightly, meaning the amount of THC is a little different between the two. You’ll also notice that the secondary and tertiary terpenes have switched places.

Regardless of this, the two strains will still have a similar basic chemical profile, just slightly more of one terpene than the other, and they will likely lead to similar feelings and effects. So if you enjoy Kosher Kush, give Forbidden Fruit a try.


Two different strains in the Cannabis Guide. Their primary and secondary terpenes are very different, and the strain on the right has a bit more THC; they will likely lead to different feelings and effects.

Conversely, if you experience a strain that you don’t like, you can look for a strain that has a completely different chemical makeup and go from there.

The graphic above shows two very different strains with different chemical profiles: The strain on the left has dark blue and green (myrcene and pinene), and the strain on the right has orange and fuchsia (terpinolene and caryophyllene). The left strain has lower amounts of THC (small diamonds); the strain on the right has higher levels of THC (long diamonds).

To find a different strain, ask yourself:

  • Do you want to get high? If so, look for diamonds (THC). If not, choose something with circles (CBD).
  • Was it too strong? If so, look for shorter diamonds, or a mixture of diamonds and circles, for a more balanced strain.
  • If it didn’t feel too strong but you just didn’t like the effects (e.g., too calming, too energizing, negative effects), try looking for completely different colors. For example, if the first strain had fuchsia and yellow, try something with dark blue and green, or vice versa.

Start looking for cannabis on Leafly


Part one

Explore cannabis strains with a new perspective


Part two

Why has Leafly created a new visualization system for cannabis?


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Why has Leafly created a new visualization system for cannabis?

For a how-to explainer on Leafly’s new Cannabis Guide, check out Part 1 of this series.

Jump to a section in Part 2:

Cannabis consumers are ultimately concerned with the effects of a strain–how it will make them feel after smoking or ingesting it. Leafly’s Cannabis Guide is a tool to help consumers answer that question for themselves.

“It’s really about helping cannabis consumers find the right strain and the right product as quickly and easily as possible,” says Nick Jikomes, Leafly’s Principal Research Scientist. “We want people to see the difference between products when a real difference exists. We want you to be able to see with your eyes what you can’t smell with your nose.”

Back when Leafly first started in 2010 and up until now, we have used a three-tile system, which classifies cannabis strains as indica (purple), sativa (red), or hybrid (green).

That static system wasn’t based on lab data from growers. The new Cannabis Guide is a dynamic system that uses a combination of lab-sourced data and hundreds of thousands of customer reviews from app and website users.

Leafly works with the best cannabis labs in the US and Canada and is constantly onboarding more lab partners for data; the more data samples of cannabis strains, the better.

For decades, cannabis has been classified as either an indica, sativa, or hybrid. These terms refer to the forms of cannabis with different physical features, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, with hybrid being a genetic cross of the two. Typically, sativas grow tall and thin, while indicas grow short and stout.

Because indicas and sativas can have specific physical traits, it has led to the assumption that each also has certain effects, but this is insufficient. Regardless of whether a strain is an indica or sativa, its chemical profile–that is, the cannabinoids and terpenes in it–will determine how it affects you, not its physical features.

Three sativas in the Cannabis Guide, all with very different cannabinoid and terpene profiles, meaning each will likely give different effects.

The above graphic shows a flaw of using the indica/sativa system. All three strains are commonly classified as sativas, yet they all have very different terpene profiles. Because a chemical profile leads to feelings and effects, even though all of these strains are sativas, they likely will not have the same feelings and effects.

Due to decades of cannabis prohibition, research on the plant is limited. One thing we do know, as shown in a 2017 study and a 2015 study, is that it’s difficult to find a true sativa or indica. Decades of crossbreeding and hybridization has made it so strains that are thought to be sativas can actually turn out to be indicas upon genetic analysis.

A 2010 review article by Dr. Ethan Russo, a pioneer in the study of the body’s endocannabinoid system, points to the importance of cannabinoids and terpenes and the benefits they can provide. Their importance comes from the entourage effect–how cannabinoids and terpenes work together and with other compounds in the body to unlock the wellness benefits of cannabis.

This theory describes how certain components of cannabis might work together to provide benefits, such as relief from pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, and much more.

For more information on the indica/sativa debate, the entourage effect, and the importance of cannabinoids and terpenes, check out our article Indica vs. sativa: What’s the difference between cannabis types?

The flowers you see in Leafly’s Cannabis Guide represent the average of all data from our lab partners. When you look at the Blue Dream flower or any other flower, its chemical profile is an aggregate of data samples from hundreds of growers.

Let’s say a grower produces a product that they market and sell as “Blue Dream,” but it doesn’t align with the average of Leafly’s data from our lab partners–is it really “Blue Dream?”


Leafly’s Blue Dream (left) which is an average of thousands of data samples, and a strain marketed as “Blue Dream” (right). Is it really Blue Dream?

Above you’ll see the most common profile of Blue Dream on the left, which appears in Leafly’s Cannabis Guide. This is an average of all the data samples from Leafly’s lab partners.

The flower on the right is a version of Blue Dream that falls outside of the average of all the data; it’s an extreme outlier. Although it does contain myrcene (dark blue) and pinene (green), its dominant terpene is terpinolene (orange), which will likely produce different effects.

Although the strain on the right may be marketed as “Blue Dream,” it is probably not a true Blue Dream cultivar because its chemical profile doesn’t align with the average of data. Having this information will allow you to better tell if a product actually is what it says it is.

Now that you understand how to use Leafly’s Cannabis Guide and how cannabinoids and terpenes affect the experience of cannabis, you’ll be able to find a cannabis strain for your body and needs.

Remember that exploring strains that suit your unique body and needs is an important part of the process. Because all bodies and settings are different, the same strain can affect two people very differently, and it can also affect you very differently in two different circumstances.

The Cannabis Guide will give you a baseline so you can understand what’s in a strain. Depending on whether or not you like a strain, you can branch out and find another strain that’s similar, or you can try something different that might suit you better. You can sign up for an account and leave a review on Leafly to report how certain strains affect you and keep track of your favorites.

We encourage you to explore the Cannabis Guide. Learning the science behind cannabis and its effects will help you better understand and enjoy this wonderful plant!

Start looking for cannabis on Leafly


Part one

Explore cannabis strains with a new perspective


Part two

Why has Leafly created a new visualization system for cannabis?


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Endometriosis Is Painful as Hell. At Least There’s Cannabis

One night in 2014, intense menstrual cramping had driven me home from a dinner out with a friend, leading to full-on sobbing by the time I got back to my apartment. It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced severe endometriosis symptoms, I’d been diagnosed long ago, but I usually kept the pain from complete meltdown levels with cannabis. Unfortunately, this was pre-legalization, and “my guy” was dry.

As I Googled to see how much Ibuprofen I could take before endangering myself, the pain shot up again. Twenty minutes later, I’d broken out in hives, and waves of darkness flooded the corners of my vision. I prayed I’d lose consciousness, to no avail. It was a very, very long night.

When endometriosis pain gets like that, it feels like barbed wire has been looped all over your guts, and some jerk is slowly, yet fiercely, twisting the wire–pulling on the entangled tissues and organs, threatening to rip them apart. (And then someone dares to say, “It’s just your period,” and you claw their face off!)

It’s Actually Bodily Tissue Looped All Over Your Guts

Unfortunately, what endometriosis feels like is actually pretty accurate to what it is.

A woman’s period is a result of the shedding of endometrial tissue built up from the hormonal cycle. But in endometriosis, this tissue grows outside of the womb, where it’s unable to shed. This tissue is often described as looking like a web, wrapping itself over organs outside of the womb, and even connecting them. (In extreme cases, the organs actually become fused together, called “frozen pelvis.”)

Because this tissue becomes trapped in the body, when it’s time for the body to do its monthly thing–it really freakin’ hurts. But endometriosis doesn’t stop there. In addition to “severe menstrual cramps” (an infuriatingly minimizing description), this wandering tissue also leads to chronic lower-back, abdominal, and pelvic pain; painful intercourse; painful urination and/or bowel movements; IBS symptoms; and infertility. Endo fighters–an estimated 11% of women–also have increased rates of ovarian cancer.

The treatment options offered to fighters are paltry. Hormonal birth control is usually the first thing recommended, but many women react adversely to it. Painkillers are the next line of defense, from stomach-damaging NSAIDS to life-ruining opioids–none of which a great option for decades of ongoing use. Other fighters get the endometriosis tissue surgically removed, which obviously has substantial side effects, as well as doing nothing to keep it from growing right back.

Luckily, we have cannabis.

From Cannabis Concern to Convert

Foria is a cannabis company that specifically targets female health concerns, like endometriosis, offering innovative products like suppositories–an invention that’s arguably better than anything the pharmaceutical industry has offered sufferers in decades.

We spoke with Kiana Reeves, Director of Education at Foria, to see how their efforts are faring–and so far, so great. These sales are accompanied by thank you notes that serve as a testament to the power of cannabis to treat endo’s symptoms.

One such testimonial comes from Ashley, who was raised to fear cannabis, but worked her way to it from general herbal medicine after years of negative experiences trying to combat endo with pharmaceuticals. In addition to bringing back her sex life, cannabis treatment led to less endometrial tissue needing to be removed in surgery–to say the least, she’s now a convert. Her initial fears about cannabis were further compounded as a mother, but she now has a non-intoxicating arsenal of CBD and low-dose/topical THC tools at her disposal.

The Science on Endometriosis and Cannabis

Traditional methods of endometriosis treatment merely attempt to mitigate symptoms, but there’s evidence that cannabis can potentially treat the actual condition. Cannabis and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) work together to fight aspects of endo in many ways–and, for once, the science on why cannabis is so successful at treating endometriosis is (relatively) abundant.

Migration and Growth

Since the source of endometriosis is cells being where they shouldn’t be, tapping into the ways they migrate will be crucial in understanding, and eventually curing, endometriosis. The most promising development in regard to this area is how cannabis interacts with the N-arachidonyl glycine receptor (NAGly receptor), more commonly referred to as the GPR18 receptor, which works with the cannabinoids in cannabis as well as the body’s natural endocannabinoids.

The name of the game with the ECS is all about balance, and endometriosis is no exception to the rule. While the cannabinoid CBD blocks the activation of the GPR18 receptor, which can stop endometrial cells from migrating, there’s also evidence pointing to THC causing the migration of cells by activating this receptor. Because of this, it might be wise to counteract pain-relieving THC with CBD for treating endometriosis. Endometrial cells multiply, like cancer, and there’s also evidence that cannabinoids can also stop these cells from this proliferation.


The pain involved with endometriosis is the most impactful aspect of the disease for most women. As described above, this literally “gut wrenching” pain is often completely debilitating–and for many women it lasts a whole lot longer 2-7 days, with pain extending outside of menses or a longer menses duration. But cannabis comes to the rescue again, fighting pain in several ways.

THC does its pain-squashing magic not by merely distracting from symptoms–which sure doesn’t hurt–but by deactivating nerves in endometrial cells via endocannabinoid receptors. CBD also has its own super power, desensitizing the pain receptor TRPV1. And cannabis has one more pain-fighting weapon in CBD with its ability to take down inflammation, which leads to less irritated nerves, thereby, less pain.

Improving the Tone of the Endocannabinoid System

There’s mounting evidence to show that imbalances in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) are the force behind many common chronic illnesses, and while endometriosis isn’t in the disease rubric, dysmenorrhea (painful periods) is–and the rubric isn’t thought to be comprehensive. The fact that cannabis is able to interact with the endocannabinoid system to help fight symptoms is another sign that a negatively impacted ECS could be the cause of endo, but more research is needed.

Tamas Biro, Professor and Director General of the Hungarian Center of Excellence for Molecular Medicine and Director of Applied Research for Phytecs told me via email that reaching optimal ECS tone (to balance endocannabinoid levels) is a balancing act of its own.

“The most important thing you can do to keep the ECS healthy is to avoid the extremes–to name a few examples: avoid extreme and chronic stress, avoid being overweight, control alcohol consumption, and try to curtail dependencies in general,” he said.

Though simply taking full-spectrum CBD may also help boost tone, all-in-all, getting a healthy ECS is all about living a healthy lifestyle. Other frequent advice on the matter entails eating right for your body (elimination diets are a great help here) and getting regular exercise. If that were the whole “cure” of endometriosis, we’d have a lot more cured patients out there. But, to this fighter anyways, it’s nice to know science might at least be close to the origin of this disease.

And in the meantime, at least there’s cannabis.

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Feds Award $3 Million In Grants To Study Marijuana Ingredients As Alternatives To Opioids

The federal government has awarded $3 million in grants for research into the therapeutic benefits of ingredients in marijuana other than THC, emphasizing their potential as alternatives to prescription opioids.

In a notice published on Thursday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explained why the studies were necessary and listed grant recipients and the subjects they will investigate. That includes research into the use of CBD for arthritis pain, which will be led by New York University School of Medicine.

“The treatment of chronic pain has relied heavily on opioids, despite their potential for addiction and overdose and the fact that they often don’t work well when used on a long-term basis,” Helene Langevin, director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), said in a press release. “There’s an urgent need for more effective and safer options.”

A total of nine grants were issued, with NIH stating that the funds will help identify alternative treatment options for pain and provide information about the impact of consuming cannabis compounds such as CBD and other lesser-known cannabinoids as well as terpenes found in the plant.

“The cannabis plant contains more than 110 cannabinoids and 120 terpenes, but the only compound that’s been studied extensively is THC,” the press release said.

But while THC is known to treat certain forms of pain, NIH is concerned that its intoxicating effects limit its medical applicability.

“THC may help relieve pain, but its value as an analgesic is limited by its psychoactive effects and abuse potential,” David Shurtleff, deputy director of NCCIH, said. “These new projects will investigate substances from cannabis that don’t have THC’s disadvantages, looking at their basic biological activity and their potential mechanisms of action as pain relievers.”

NIH first announced that it would be issuing grants for studies into minor cannabinoids and terpenes last year.

Federal health agencies aren’t the only institutions interested in learning about marijuana compounds other than THC. On Wednesday, a Senate committee issued a spending report that called for research into CBD and CBG while also criticizing the federal drug scheduling system for inhibiting such research.

Read descriptions of the federal cannabinoid and terpene research grant awards below:

Mechanism and Optimization of CBD-Mediated Analgesic Effects; Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston,; Zhigang He, Ph.D., B.M., and Juan Hong Wang, Ph.D. This project will investigate how the pain-relieving effects of cannabidiol (CBD) and other minor cannabinoids may be modulated by the activity of potassium-chloride cotransporter 2 (KCC2), a chloride extruder expressed in most neurons. (Grant 1R01AT010779)

Neuroimmune Mechanisms of Minor Cannabinoids in Inflammatory and Neuropathic Pain; University of California, San Francisco; Judith Hellman, M.D., and Mark A. Schumacher, M.D., Ph.D. This project will explore the effects of minor cannabinoids on inflammatory and neuropathic pain in vitro and in vivo, focusing on the interactions of the cannabinoids with the peripheral receptor called TRPV1 and a cannabinoid receptor, CB1R. (Grant 1R01AT010757)

Minor Cannabinoids and Terpenes: Preclinical Evaluation as Analgesics; Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; Jenny L. Wiley, Ph.D. This project will evaluate purified biosynthesized minor cannabinoids and selected terpenes alone and in planned combinations to determine their potential efficacy as pain relievers against acute thermal, inflammatory, neuropathic, and visceral pain. (Grant 1R01AT010773)

Identifying the Mechanisms of Action for CBD on Chronic Arthritis Pain; New York University School of Medicine, New York City; Yu-Shin Ding, Ph.D. This project will use neuroimaging studies and behavioral assessments to investigate the mechanisms of action of CBD in the modulation of chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis in a mouse model. (Grant 1R21AT010771)

Synthetic Biology for the Chemogenetic Manipulation of Pain Pathways; University of Texas, Austin; Andrew Ellington, Ph.D. This project will use a novel method to evolve individual variants of cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) that interact with high affinity with minor cannabinoids and evaluate the new variants in a mouse model of pain. (Grant 1R21AT010777)

Exploring the Mechanisms Underlying the Analgesic Effect of Cannabidiol Using Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy; University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Deborah A. Yurgelun-Todd, Ph.D. This project will use proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) to evaluate changes in brain chemistry in critical pain-processing regions after short-term administration of a cannabis extract enriched in CBD. (Grant 1R21AT010736)

Mechanistic Studies of Analgesic Effects of Terpene Enriched Extracts from Hops; Emory University, Atlanta; Cassandra L. Quave, Ph.D. This project will take a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the analgesic effects of terpenes from Humulus lupulus (hops), a plant that is closely related to cannabis and has a very similar terpene profile. (Grant 1R21AT010774)

Systematic Investigation of Rare Cannabinoids With Pain Receptors; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; David Sarlah, Ph.D. This project involves synthesizing several classes of rare phytocannabinoids, systematically evaluating their anti-inflammatory potential, and examining the effects of the compounds with the strongest anti-inflammatory potential on the major receptors involved in pain sensation. (Grant 1R21AT010761)

Analgesic efficacy of single and combined minor cannabinoids and terpenes; Temple University, Philadelphia; Sara J. Ward, Ph.D. This project will use rodent models of pain to evaluate the effects of four biologically active components of cannabis that may act synergistically to protect against pain development and to assess the interactions of these four substances with morphine. (Grant 1R01AT010778)

Senate Report Slams Drug Scheduling System For Blocking Marijuana Research

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What Is CBDA (Cannabidiolic Acid) & What Are the Benefits of This Cannabinoid?

CBDA (cannabidiolic acid) is one of many compounds produced by cannabis and hemp. Abundant in the live plants of CBD varieties, it converts to the better known cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) over time and when exposed to heat.

Cannabinoids are cannabis compounds that interact with our bodies to produce medical and recreational effects, from pain and stress relief to euphoria. You’ve likely heard of CBD and THC–these are the most widely known cannabinoids, and both originally stem from the precursor “mothership” cannabinoid known as CBGA (cannabigerolic acid).

CBGA converts to three major cannabinoid precursor compounds, depending on which plant enzymes are activated to direct the synthesis:

  • THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
  • CBCA (cannabichromenic acid)
  • CBDA (cannabidiolic acid).

When decarboxylation occurs by exposing the cannabis plant to either heat or sunlight, CBDA converts to CBD. In other words, CBDA is the raw form or predecessor to CBD.

These days, CBDA is typically found in capsules, tinctures, and topicals. Many people even juice raw cannabis to get a daily dose of CBDA.

But what does CBDA do and why is it important?

Potential Medical Benefits of CBDA

While most cannabinoids bind directly with either the CB1 or CB2 receptors, CBDA doesn’t work in this way. Instead, CBDA interacts with the endocannabinoid system by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme. COX-2 enzymes are associated with inflammation after an injury or infection, so by blocking COX-2 enzymes, CBDA can relieve inflammation and associated pain.

In one rodent study, scientists found CBDA affected levels of serotonin, a chemical produced by nerve cells to aid in signaling between cells. Serotonin is vital to core human functions like motor skills, sleeping, eating, digestion, and emotions.

A number of stressors, including radiation and chemotherapy, trigger the body to release excess serotonin, causing nausea and vomiting. While vomiting can typically be controlled with medication, nausea is harder to control. Many cancer patients say that nausea causes much more distress than vomiting because nausea is a continuous sensation. In fact, one in five patients consider discontinuing cancer treatment so as to not experience the nausea.

Scientists have demonstrated that CBDA can affect the body’s 5-HT serotonin-producing receptors, hinting at a potential use for CBDA as a medication for chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting (CINV) and other conditions that induce these symptoms. However, more research is needed.

The Current Research on CBDA

Scientists have been studying CBDA for about a decade.

An early 2008 study looked at the potential of CBDA as an anti-inflammatory agent by specifically studying its COX-2 inhibitor qualities. The research team compared the molecular structures of CBDA with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) commonly used to treat inflammation and found their chemical structures remarkably similar; both are known to inhibit COX-2 receptors. This initial study showed that CBDA holds promise as a potential anti-inflammatory agent.

In the same way that it controls nausea, CBDA may also be a powerful anticonvulsive. In fact, scientists have shown that CBDA has 100 times the affinity for the 5-HT receptors compared to CBD; one reason is that CBDA has greater bioavailability, so the body can metabolize the compound with less effort and in less time.

This same receptor affinity could also mean that CBDA could perhaps effectively fight depression. After all, CBDA works on the 5-HT receptors in much the same way as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medication would.

To date, most CBDA studies are preclinical non-human studies. While human trials are needed, some medical cannabis companies like British-based GW Pharmaceuticals are paving the way. GW Pharmaceuticals manufactures a pharmaceutical-grade CBD oil called Epidiolex, the first cannabis-derived prescription drug to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Interestingly, the FDA required the company to not only conduct CBD research, but to also conduct research on the precursor CBDA, and GW’s own research shows that CBDA is an even more effective seizure treatment. The company has also filed two other CBDA medical-use patents: one for inflammatory skin diseases and the other for cancer treatment.

Although CBDA cancer research to date has only been on isolated cells, initial studies indicate that CBDA might stop the migration of a highly aggressive form of breast cancer cell known as MDA-MB-231.

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CBD for Autism: The Therapeutic Promise

By Wholistic Research & Education Foundation On August 20, 2019 (Updated on August 21, 2019)

From Wholistic Research & Education Foundation.

Responing to growing interest about CBD from families across the United States, the Autism Society of America and Wholistic Research and Education Foundation have co-costed this educational webinar to discuss whether CBD indeed holds a therapeutic promise for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. This webinar brings together renowned MDs and Researchers to explore just how medicinal cannabis therapies can alleviate symptoms in children with autism, and highlights the latest research-driven data driving a groundbreaking multi-disciplinary study on this highly topical issue at the University of California San Diego (UCSD).

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