Hemp is just one of the many varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. It may surprise you to learn that there is no such thing as "indica hemp strains" because all Cannabis indica is marijuana. This means that all hemp strains are "sativa" or "hybrid."
Indica and sativa are just terms that describe how cannabis plants look though. It is one of the most common cannabis myths that indica vs sativa make a difference in effects! What truly defines a hemp strain are its cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Consider these examples below and you will see how hemp strains can have effects that do not fit indica vs sativa stereotypes.
Table of Contents
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- 1 Table of Contents
- 2 The Cannabis Species
- 3 Geographic Origins and Breeding Hemp Strains
- 4 Hemp Strain Variability
- 5 Common Hemp Strain Genetics
- 6 Final Thoughts on Hemp Strain Genetics
The Cannabis Species
There are three main species of Cannabis. These are C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis. Cannabis sativa is by far the largest and most common of the species, which includes hemp. Cannabis indica refers to strains that come from India and Afghanistan, these were some of the first known drug strains of cannabis. All indica varieties are therefore marijuana. Cannabis ruderalis is used to breed auto-flowering cannabis strains that do not depend on day length for flowering to occur.
Geographic Origins and Breeding Hemp Strains
Cannabis has traveled the world through history. When seeds travel to a new place and are cultivated and isolated for a long time, they evolve traits that are specifically adapted to that environment. These strains are called "landrace strains." Most landrace strains are not something you would want to smoke. Their effects are often unpredictable and not like normal cannabis.
Examples of Landrace Strain Origins
- Afghanistan (Kush and OG strains)
- Africa (Durban strains)
- Asia (Cannabis sativa and hemp)
- Russia (Cannabis ruderalis)
- Mexico (Haze strains)
Instead, the cannabis you buy has been inter-bred with other varieties to produce a strain that has more stable and more desirable traits. Most varieties of cannabis are hybrids that have been man-made.
In addition to hybridization, cannabis breeders also use selective breeding to multiply plants that have desirable features (phenotypes). Using this method, clones of the desirable plant are made to cultivate more of the plant without losing those traits. When cannabis is grown by seed, the plant's traits have more genetic variability and desirable traits may not be expressed.
Hemp Strain Variability
Hemp flower is a natural agricultural product, so no two harvests will ever be the same. Every farmer grows hemp differently and this has a direct effect on many factors. One of the most difficult things to understand about cannabis and hemp is that every batch is unique and there is no guarantee of consistency even if you purchase the same strain.
Variable Factors for Hemp Flower
- Color and Bud Size
- Cannabinoid Potency and Profile
- Terpene Potency and Profile
- Personal Experience and Use Habits
Every batch of hemp flower will be different and your experience with a hemp strain can also change over time as your body changes. Truly, all hemp flower is artisanal in this way. Just like buying produce at the grocery store, you never get the same exact produce twice and cannot return hemp flower or marijuana for that reason.
Hemp Strain Cloning vs Seeds
Why is cannabis so inconsistent? This is because cannabis has a very adaptable genome. Individual plants within a crop can even be highly variable and test results only reflect an average from the material that was sampled. When cannabis is grown from seed, there is a large variety of traits that can be expressed. When cannabis is grown by cloning, growers can achieve more consistency, reliability, and generally better quality overall.
Common Hemp Strain Genetics
As mentioned earlier, there are some common strain genetics that are found in hemp. These are tied to the geographic origins and landrace varieties that a strain is derived from. The varieties will usually have similar growth forms and terpene profiles that researchers can use to trace the geographic origins of a strain.
Kush Hemp Strains
Kush strains are very common and while they are known for having a sedative effect, there are many strains of kush that are not sedating. Kush strains have traditionally been classified and indica because of their Afghani origin. However, many cannabis breeders have created "sativa" Kush strains that are not heavily sedating. One of the newest developments in Kush genetics is CBD Kush. CBD Kush strains lack high levels of THC but retain the Kush terpene profile and fluffy flower structure.
Haze Hemp Strains
Haze strains are traditionally considered to be uplifting sativas. It is thought that the Haze genetic is derived from a Mexican landrace strain that was bred with a Colombian landrace strain to create the Haze we know now in California during the '70s. Haze strains get their name from the Haze brothers who created it. Hazes are known to be skunky smelling and energizing, but hybridization can alter these features. Like Kush, Haze is another marijuana variety that has been bred to create CBD hemp flower.
Diesel Hemp Strains
The origins of Diesel strains are not well known, but it is believed to be derived from the marijuana strain Chemdog and OG Kush. Diesel strains are called such for their gassy flavors and odors.
Durban Hemp Strains
Durban strains come from South Africa and are known for being very energetic and uplifting. Durban genetics yield plants with high resin content and are a good example of traditional sativa genetics. Durban cannabis likewise has been bred to create CBD Durban hemp strains with low THC.
Final Thoughts on Hemp Strain Genetics
Cannabis strains are constantly evolving. Along with the variations that arise from hybridization and selective breeding, there are also strains that have been re-bred and strains that are no longer being cultivated. The breeding industry is highly proprietary, so sometimes origins are unknown to protect the breeder's intellectual property.
Another factor arises when strains that have not been cultivated in a long time are rediscovered. This and re-breeding lead to strains that have multiple variations. A good example of this is the hemp strain Hempress which has two versions- Hempress I and Hempress II. Many farmers do not understand that there are two versions out there and are unaware of which they are cultivating.
While there is certainly much ado about cannabis genetic, this information is really just a guideline for most people. Learning which major varieties you prefer will be much more insightful and guiding than choosing indica vs. sativa. For a person who does not like kush strains, the non-traditional options like CBD Kush and "sativa" Kush may be a completely different experience. Or, it could be that the Kush terpene profile and genetics disagree with you and it is a family of cannabis for you to avoid.
The main point is this- a hemp strain is a very unique variety and a very personal experience. Strain information may help guide purchasing, but it may also dissuade you from purchasing something you might enjoy. Trying sampler packs or buying small quantities before making a larger purchase are wise steps to take that will help you explore hemp strains without making too big of a financial commitment.