Navigate to our accessibility widget

Wednesday July 14, 2021

By Paul Barach


"Sativa for the head, indica for the bed” is maybe the second thing most people learn about marijuana (the first being “There’s a plant called marijuana that’s enjoyable to consume.”) However, the classic sativa/indica/hybrid genres are actually pretty limited when it comes to predicting a particular strain’s effects. Depending on the strain and your own biochemistry, a sativa might leave you yawning on the couch all afternoon, while an indica may keep you up until 3 a.m. writing your Godzilla vs Donkey Kong crossover script.

Moving beyond the whole indica, sativa, hybrid classification is an important step for any cannabis consumer. Marijuana cultivars are less like alcoholic drinks and more like alchemical potions. Finding that one strain that helps calm your social anxiety or soothes your back pain can seem like magic. Or simply finding the one that gives you the best time every time. 

Winding up with a library of favorite strains should be a goal for any cannabis consumer. The sooner you move on from “I like sativas mostly” to “I prefer piney-smelling strains, preferably with some Strawberry Cough or Jack Herer lineage, but if you’ve got any Blue Dream crosses let me know,” the better an overall cannabis experience you’ll have.

That’s why PotGuide is here with some helpful tips for finding the right strain for you.

The Smell

The nose knows (as the saying goes.) In the case of cannabis, your nose may know more than you realize. If you find that one strain of weed really agrees with you, give the unburned part of it a whiff. Does it smell like a fresh lemon peel, or a lilac field, or sharp and spicy? Those are the terpenes and they have a large effect on how each strain makes you feel. 

If a particular strain puts a big grin on your face, figure out which of those smells seems the strongest and ask your local budtender for any strains that might smell similar.

Or if you smell a new strain that’s particularly enticing, that could be your nose telling you those are the terpenes you want in your brain. 

The Genetics

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but names are far more important when it comes to cannabis than to other flowers. Paying attention to what the strain is called can tell you something about its effects, due to its parentage.

For example, Cheese strains are known for their funky odor, as well as their blissed-out and subtle effects. If you smoked some good Cheese OG that let you turn down the dial on reality at the end of the night, be on the lookout for any strains that have similar names. Blue Cheese, or Cheesel could be your ticket to that same experience, with some added effects that may improve upon it. If you were a fan of the creative energy boost of Lemon Skunk, you’ll probably like Super Lemon Haze, Lemon Kush, or Lemon Drop. 

A strain pic of Super Lemon Haze
Genetics are a great indicator of the flavor and effects of specific strains.

On the other hand, sometimes the name can’t get you all the way there. It can also pay to fill that search bar and do some research on a strain you liked. 

Let’s say you liked the narcotic heaviness that comes with some L.A Confidential. A quick search on PotGuide’s strain library will tell you that L.A Confidential has a strong Afghani lineage (which you’d never know from name alone). Now you’ll know to search for any other strains with Afghani parentage as well and discover a whole line of genetics you may have otherwise missed.

The Grower

Just as important as the strain is who is growing the plant. Local cultivators will gain a reputation for consistently producing quality bud, so ask at the dispensary if there are any brands of flower that get high marks. Similarly, if you find a strain of bud that you really enjoy, see what else that cultivator is growing that may be of similar quality. 

The Outcome

“Know thyself” can take a lifetime to fulfil, so maybe just work on “know what kind of stoned thou art are trying to get.” Once you have a good idea of the effects that you like the best, or what you plan to do while elevated, head to your local dispensary and tell the budtender your preferences. If you like being creative but have found that some strains also make you anxious, ask the budtender what they would recommend.

A budtender holding out a strain of cannabis
Communicating with your budtender is the best way to ensure you find a strain that suits your needs. photo credit

Be specific as you can with the name of the strain that you had before, who grew it, what you liked about it, and what you’re going to use it for. Eventually, you’ll want to get to something like “I really liked the effects of Kiona Farm’s Big Sur Hippie Weed because it was super happy but still relaxing. I’m looking for a strain like that for when I practice guitar in the evening.” A good budtender will nod knowingly and bring back some strains that may hit your target.  

The Wrap Up

Depending on your individual body chemistry, sativas can put you to bed while indicas will dance in your head. That’s why finding the right strains makes all the difference when you’re trying to maximize your cannabis experience. When on the hunt for a new strain, pay attention to how good it smells, who grew it, and what strains it’s crossed with. Most importantly, know what type of experience you’d like to have at the end. Then let your budtender get you the rest of the way there.

How do you discover your favorite strains? Tell all about your terpene tips in the comments!

Photo Credit: Yarygin (license)


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

More From This Author

Related Articles