Strains, Varieties, and Cultivars: What's the Difference?

Chances are you have heard your fellow Medical Cannabis users talk about cannabis strains. Perhaps you’ve also heard about varieties and cultivars. So what’s the difference? Actually, there is none. All the terms are used to describe the same thing. Unfortunately, none of them are technically correct.

All the aforementioned terms are used to categorize different types of cannabis products. What we normally call strains or varieties are actually chemovars – or chemical varieties, if you prefer. They are known by their cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

All the science aside, we talk about different strains and varieties because we do not know any other words to use. That’s okay. Just know that the name of a given strain does not necessarily tell you anything about its makeup. It doesn’t really tell you about cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

What is in a Name

It may seem important to study the many strains, varieties, and cultivars everyone talks about. But ask yourself this question: what is in a name? We are guessing you have one or two favorites in terms of your medicines. But what do the names of those medicines tell you? Not much.

Maybe you are a big fan of Blue Dream Vape or Wautomelon. Maybe Purple Urkle is your thing. Regardless, all those names are chosen for marketing purposes. That’s fine. You get to know the names of your preferred products and you stick with them. But what if you want to try something new?

The key is getting to know the cannabinoid and terpene profiles of the products you are currently using. You can then use that information to research new products.

A Lot Like Wine

Some people have tried to explain the differences in varieties as being similar to differences in wines. In the wine-making world, you have three main categories: white, red, and champagne. Knowing that you prefer red wine doesn’t do much for you in terms of the many varieties in that category.

You might like sweet red wine while your spouse prefers a nice cabernet sauvignon. Both types of red wine taste drastically different because they have different chemical makeups. It is the same thing with Medical Cannabis strains. Each product makeup means different results for patients.

The wine comparison breaks down due to the fact that there are very strict standards for classifying wines. Those standards have been in place for hundreds of years. No such standards exist in the cannabis arena. Until they do, a lot of what goes into finding the right medicine is a matter of trial and error.

Work with Your Pharmacist

The best advice we can offer for making sense of the many strains and varieties is to work closely with your Pharmacy Medical Provider (PMP) at your cannabis pharmacy. It is your PMP’s job to be familiar with the many different cannabinoid and terpene profiles in the products on pharmacy shelves. Do not be afraid to tap into their expertise.

Your PMP can help you figure out which products are best for your condition. You can contribute by tracking how often you use your medicines, the effects that you experience, and any other relevant information your PMP asks for. Together, you can come up with a solid therapeutic plan to ensure that you feel better.

One final thought is this: do not stress over having to choose between so many strains, varieties, and cultivars. All those different names you find on Medical Cannabis shelves are really just for marketing. Once you and your PMP figure out which cannabinoids and terpenes work best, finding the right medicines will be a lot easier.

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Published January 4, 2022

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