Why Do Different Strains Produce Different Highs?

Have you noticed that different types of weed can produce different effects? 

Whether you're using the plant medicinally or recreationally, your cannabis experience can differ dramatically depending on which strain you use. Some bud may leave you feeling totally immobilized and couch-locked after just a few hits, while different strains of weed could have the exact opposite effect by energizing you and inspiring creativity. 

So, what’s the story behind pot’s unpredictable highs? Keep reading to find out!

Different Types Of Weed Highs

For the purposes of this article, when we talk about a “high,” we’re referring specifically to the intoxicating effects of cannabis containing the cannabinoid THC. Typically, this kind of marijuana high gets broken down into two main categories—body highs and head highs.

body high vs head high
  • Body High: As the name would suggest, a body high is an incredibly physical experience. Body highs often come with decreased motivation and intense feelings of sedation. Those who experience a body high may describe a general feeling of heaviness, deep relaxation, or increased drowsiness. 
  • Head High: Head highs are less about the physical experience and more about the cerebral effects of the high. Head highs come with a feeling of euphoria and increased creativity, while also producing a slight energized feeling throughout the body.  

  • Indica Vs. Sativa Vs. Hybrid

    Many cannabis users attribute the varied effects of weed to differences between indica and sativa strains. If you walk into your typical dispensary, you’ll likely find the budtenders have separated their products based on this distinction. 

    Conventional wisdom suggests indicas produce a body high while sativas produce a head high. However, despite the fact that this belief is widely accepted throughout the cannabis community, there’s hardly any scientific evidence indicating any significant chemical difference between indica, sativa, and hybrid strains.  

    indica vs sativa cannabis

    The distinctions between indicas and sativas are largely cosmetic ones—with sativas being longer/skinnier variety. While these visual differences may impact the shelf appeal of the bud, they likely have little-to-no bearing on the actual psychoactive effects. Plus, after decades of commercial hybridization, finding a true indica or sativa in your local dispensary is pretty rare. 

    “There are biochemically distinct strains of Cannabis, but the sativa/indica distinction as commonly applied in the lay literature is total nonsense and an exercise in futility. One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given Cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology. The degree of interbreeding/hybridization is such that only a biochemical assay tells a potential consumer or scientist what is really in the plant.” Famed cannabis researcher Dr. Ethan Russo said in an interview with the peer-reviewed journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

    What Are Cannabinoids And Terpenes?

    What Are Cannabinoids And Terpenes?

    The cannabis plant is host to tons of psychoactive and medicinal compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes. Every cannabis phenotype has a unique combination of these compounds, and this combination likely plays the most significant role in determining the effects a user will feel after consuming the plant.

  • Cannabinoids: You probably already know about the two most common cannabinoids THC and CBD, but there are also dozens of minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, and THCV, which can interact with our endocannabinoid systems and shape our cannabis experiences.
  • Terpenes: Terpenes are the small aromatic molecules responsible for giving all plants, including cannabis, their fragrances. Additionally, growing research into the field of terpenes suggests that these small molecules may also contain big therapeutic benefits.

  • Other Factors That May Influence Your High

    A strain’s terpene and cannabinoid profiles are the best predictors for that strain’s psychoactive effects. However, have you ever smoked the same bud twice and had two radically different experiences? What accounts for that phenomenon? 

    Ultimately, everybody responds slightly differently to cannabinoids. Biological factors like weight and hormone levels, as well as environmental factors like set and setting, can all impact your high. 

    Finding a strain that best provides your desired effects comes down to a combination of research and trial-and-error. Check online to see what other people are saying about the effects of particular strains, and experiment with different terpene/cannabinoid profiles until you find what works best for your unique needs.