As any recreational or medical marijuana user can tell you, not all cannabis is created equal. Different cannabis strain produce different effects, and thus can be used for different reasons. If marijuana is legal in your state and you’re looking to try it, but not sure which cannabis strain best suit your needs, we’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to marijuana strains below.
What Is a Marijuana Strain?
If you’ve read a little about marijuana, or if you enter most dispensaries, you might see the words indica, sativa, and hybrid. Generally, most people divide marijuana into these three categories.
Indica, which originates from the Hindu Kush mountains of India, is believed to have a relaxing effect on the user. Sativa has a more energizing effect, while hybrid is a combination of the two.
Many industry experts, however, are reconsidering the indica, sativa and hybrid categories. According to Amos Elberg, head of data science at Confident Cannabis, these terms are more or less meaningless.
“We see samples of all cannabis products tested through our partner labs, and when we look at all the data, particularly of the chemical makeup of flower, we see no identifiable characteristics that are consistent with indica, sativa, or hybrid,” he explains.
“Essentially people are using these terms as catchalls for effect, but they’re not all consistent with those effects. Some indica makes some people wired, not couch-locked, for instance.”
In other words, people shouldn’t be alarmed if a reportedly energizing sativa strain has more of a mellowing effect, or if an indica strain makes them feel more bubbly and excitable.
Beyond indica, sativa, and hybrid, dispensaries might divide the types of cannabis they have into strains. Strains are essentially different breeds of cannabis, and they’re bred to have specific effects on the user.
But if the terms indica, sativa, and hybrid are essentially useless categorizations, are strain names also meaningless?
“Not all seeds that are sold under the same name are genetically identical, or even necessarily related. Some producers may choose to create a strain name essentially as a branding exercise, or to identify their product with an existing name because they believe the product matches characteristics the market expects from product sold under that name,” Elberg explains.
There are, however, still consistencies among product sold under specific strain names, Elberg adds.
“In general, for the less common names, product sold by different vendors tends to be pretty consistent,” he notes. “For the most common strain names, however, a wider variety of different products are sold.”
If you purchase product from a quality source, the strains should be more or less consistent. Bear in mind, however, that every person reacts differently to cannabis.
How To Choose a Strain?
The strain you choose depends on what effect you desire. As mentioned earlier, cannabis has a range of medical uses, but some strains are better for certain conditions than others.
It’s also worth researching the potential adverse effects of the strain. Many of the more common strains, which you can find below, list dry mouth, dry eyes, and dizziness as possible side effects. Marijuana also has the potential to interact with medications you might be taking. Do not operate machinery when using marijuana.
As cannabis cultivators continue to crossbreed various strains of marijuana, we’re introduced to the strongest weed strains we’ve ever seen. The highest THC strains of today seemed impossible just 20 years ago. Whether you’re looking for heightened effects or your tolerance is too high to benefit from average strains, you’ll benefit from knowing our picks for the most potent indica, sativa, and hybrid marijuana strains.
Strongest Indica Strain: Skywalker OG
A winner at the 2018 Karma Cup, Skywalker OG is generating tremendous interest for its powerful sedative effects. It was crossbred from two other highest THC strains, Skywalker and OG Kush, though its origins aren’t entirely known.
This is technically an indica-dominant hybrid, but since the indica often overpowers the sativa by as much as 90:10, it fits much more comfortably into the indica category. The THC content has been known to peak as high as 26%, making the psychotropic effect more powerful than that of any pure indica you’re likely to find. It has a spicy herbal aroma and flavor profile that’s familiar to Kush enthusiasts.
The hybrid profile and high THC provide both a mind-and-body high, relaxing the physical senses and contributing to excessive couchlock while also promoting a sense of giddy lightheadedness. It’s an excellent strain for when you want to relieve both your mental and physical stresses.
It may promote extreme lethargy and laziness that lasts for hours, so it’s recommended exclusively for nighttime use. Since Skywalker OG is truly one of the strongest weed strains, it may be useful for chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Avoid morning use, as some users have reported being virtually catatonic after just two hits.
Strongest Sativa Strain: Silver Haze
Silver Haze gets its name from the glistening silver layer of THC glands that coats its buds, and that should tell you everything you need to know. The strain averages 23% THC and is known for having powerful cerebral effects. An intense sense of euphoria grips the user almost immediately, which is why it is sometimes used for stress and anxiety. It’s also used for focus, as it provides energy without sacrificing clear-headedness.
Developed by the breeders at Sensi Seeds as a hybrid of Haze and Northern Lights #5 (more on that one below), this highly potent strain was a bronze winner at the 2005 High Times Cannabis Cup and remains one of the most potent sativas available. The effects are fast-acting and powerful because there’s almost no CBD to offset the psychoactive effects of the THC.
Do not confuse this strain with Super Silver Haze, a newer strain with less THC and less potent effects. The original Silver Haze remains one of (if not the) strongest weed strains of all the Haze varieties.
Strongest Hybrid Strain: Memory Loss
Arguably one of the strongest cannabis strain ever cultivated, the aptly named Memory Loss has been tested with THC levels as high as 31%. Created by the West Coast breeders at Archive Seed Bank, this strain is a 70:30 sativa-indica hybrid with only trace amounts of CBD to counterbalance the mind-numbing psychoactive effects. It was created by combining two other powerful indica and sativa strains, Amnesia Haze and Face Off OG.
The effects set in almost instantly. The initial reaction has been described as “an almost immediate onset that smashes into your brain, leaving you completely out of it and really unable to focus at all.” Because it’s known to make the mind race, the strain is not recommended for users prone to bouts of paranoia. This is recommended for experienced users only.
Memory Loss may be suitable for experienced users seeking increased focus and energy. While the initial effects can be powerful, the good news is that some users have reported an easy comedown without a major crash.
Strongest Indica Medical Strain: Northern Lights#5
An enormously popular indica for good reason, Northern Lights takes couchlock to another level. One of the purest indicas available, it features a high THC content (up to 18%) coupled with moderate CBD (up to 2%). It’s believed to have originated near Seattle in the 1970s before being propagated by famed breeder Neville Schoenmakers in the Netherlands.
This is an excellent option for chronic pain and anxiety, as it’s known for promoting physical and mental relaxation and also sleep. This variety is rich in myrcene, a terpene that works as a muscle-relaxant and anti-inflammatory agent. It also contains moderate amounts of caryophyllene, which may act as a natural digestive aid and pain reliever.
A descendant of indigenous Afghani and Thai strains, Northern Lights has won more cannabis awards than any other strain, and it’s widely available in dispensaries across North America. It has a sweet and spicy aroma, and the effects are long-lasting. Just be sure to reserve it for times when you’re able to relax, as its sedative effects are powerful.
If you’re looking for this one at your local dispensary, be sure to ask for Northern Lights #5. There are several breeding varieties of this popular strain, and #5 is the most potent and powerful.
Strongest Sativa Medical Strain: Lemon Meringue
Named for its invigorating citrus aroma, Lemon Meringue is a fan favorite in Colorado and California dispensaries. The THC content has been measured as high as 28%, and the intense cerebral effect resulting from the THC has made it a preferred strain among people seeking relief from ADHD symptoms.
A newer option to hit the market, Lemon Meringue is the child of Cookies & Cream and Lemon Skunk, two popular high-THC strains. Developed by the breeders at Exotic Genetix, it is described as delivering “an amazing high” and “a focused and long-lasting high that will have you feeling lifted for hours on end before fading away into a sleepy comedown.”
As a medical strain, Lemon Meringue is noted for having a much higher-than-average concentration of cannabigerol (CBG), the parent cannabinoid of THC and CBD. CBG is being studied for its ability to stimulate appetite, relieve inflammatory bowel disease, suppress bacterial infection, and even treat Huntington’s disease.
Strongest Hybrid Medical Strain: Trainwreck
This sativa-dominant hybrid was developed by cross-breeding three potent varieties of cannabis: Mexican sativa, Thai sativa, and Afghani indica. Though its origins are somewhat shrouded in mystery, it’s believed to have been created by two brothers in Northern California in the 1970s.
This herb has a pepper-like flavor and produces a mighty cerebral high. Thrillist warned that too much of this ultra-potent strain “can have you peeking out the windows and calling the cops on yourself.”
Because the strain favors sativa over indica by a 70:30 margin, you’re getting a lot of THC without a lot of CBD, and that means a powerful head high. Nevertheless, the indica effects are still present, so the experience can begin as a rush of energy that ultimately plateaus and ends with a lethargic stupor.
The high THC content (up to 19%) makes the strain a favorite for combating headaches, chronic pain, and inflammation. Like many medically preferred strains, Trainwreck is also rich in myrcene, a terpene studied for its anti-inflammatory properties. Terpinolene, another abundant terpene found in Trainwreck, is being studied for its anti-cancer and antioxidant properties.
Choosing the Strongest Cannabis Strain for Your Needs
If you’re a medical marijuana card holder, you might not need the highest-THC strain to get the desired result. However, if your current medicine isn’t having enough of an effect, your THC tolerance may be such that you need a higher concentration.
Before reaching for the strongest cannabis strain, though, remember that achieving a medicinal benefit is about more than just THC. You have to consider the full cannabinoid and terpene profile. THC may be useful for pain, muscle spasms, nausea, listlessness, glaucoma, lack of focus, and insomnia. CBD may be useful for seizures, anxiety, inflammation, and nausea.
Finally, be aware that the highest-THC strains may have greater side effects, including dry mouth, increased heart rate, memory loss, lack of coordination, and possible temporary psychosis.
If you’re still looking to achieve the maximum effect, consider the strongest cannabis strain listed above. If you’re just looking to achieve the best medical result without excess side effects, speak to your doctor about which strain might be best suited to your needs.