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How to Choose the Right Strain of Medical Cannabis for Your Condition

  • Strains are subtypes of the Cannabis sativa plant—they’re specifically cultivated for their cannabinoid content and other botanical features.
  • Finding the right strain takes time. Think of it like a science fair project: you’ll need to try a strain, collect data, repeat your experiment, and analyze your results to find the strain that works for you.
  • While everyone responds to each strain differently, there are a few patient-favorite strains that could serve as a springboard for your treatment journey.

Considering medical cannabis for anxiety or another chronic condition? You’re in luck—the tides are changing, and medical marijuana is becoming more accessible than ever as state laws embrace this viable, safe, and all-natural healing method.

But newcomers to cannabis might not know where to start: what kind of cannabis should you try first? Which strain is right for you? Does smoking vs. vaping matter?

In this guide, we’re breaking down all of the above questions and more to help you find the ideal medical marijuana product for your one-of-a-kind health needs—whether you’re using cannabis for multiple sclerosis or relief from ADHD. In a cannabis market where the options are nearly endless, TeleLeaf’s experts are here to help you navigate the ever-changing tide.

Introduction to Strains

First: what is a strain? Strains are subtypes of the Cannabis sativa plant. Like broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, all cultivars of Brassica oleracea, each strain of cannabis is a slightly different version of the same parent plant.

Strains are divided into three categories:

  • Indica: Indica strains generally make patients feel carefree, drowsy, hungry, and relaxed.
  • Sativa: Sativa strains are widely reported to boost creativity, mood, and talkativeness.
  • Hybrid: Considered the best of both worlds, hybrid strains offer a mix of sativa and indica effects.

No matter its category, each strain has a unique profile of:

  • Cannabinoids: The Cannabis sativa plant can produce more than 100 different kinds of cannabinoids—compounds that interact with the body’s built-in endocannabinoid system. While THC and CBD (“major cannabinoids”) are the most well-known, minor cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, and CBC can also play a major role in how our bodies respond to a strain. Finding the right balance of major and minor cannabinoids for your body, in particular, will be key to finding the right strain for you.
  • Terpenes: Terpenes are compounds that impact the smell of a strain. But they can also influence how we respond to a specific subtype of cannabis. For generations, patients have identified an “entourage effect” that occurs when all of the compounds found in a particular strain work together inside your body. Limonene, myrcene, and pinene are three of the most common terpenes you’re likely to encounter at your next pharmacy/dispensary visit.

The specific combination of cannabinoids and terpenes in each strain produces a unique effect for users. These combinations also produce striking physical characteristics, like color and smell. Interestingly, scent can provide additional insight during your strain selection process; if you like the smell of a strain, it could be a sign that it’s the right one for you. However, it’s still important to look at the plant as a whole.

It’s also important to remember that strain and intoxication potential are two different features. While some strains are cultivated specifically for cannabinoid content, any strain can be intoxicating if it includes a significant concentration of THC. Plus, manufacturers can isolate CBD (even in small quantities) from just about any strain.

How to Choose a Strain

With all of the above in mind, it’s important to remember that strains are as unique as the patients who use them—and everyone responds to specific strains differently. Let’s break down a surefire process for finding the perfect strain.

#1 Start with a Recommendation

cannabis flower buds in jarEvery patient has to start somewhere, and recommendations often shape patients’ starting points with medical cannabis. Before you purchase your first medical marijuana product, seek recommendations from:

  • Your medical marijuana healthcare provider: The licensed professional who recommends medical cannabis and helps you complete your medical card application is exceptionally qualified to recommend a starting strain.
  • Your budtender: The pro-working behind the counter at your cannabis dispensary or pharmacy has their ear to the ground on all things medical cannabis: they know about the most popular strains and new products that are taking the community by storm. They’re poised to point you in the right direction.
  • Fellow patients: There are countless patient testimonials outlining how impactful medical cannabis can be. Consider seeking a consensus from the community of patients using medical marijuana to treat the same condition you have—the Internet offers a wealth of qualitative knowledge.

#2 Choose a Dosing Method That Makes Sense

Once you’ve chosen a starter strain, choose your administration method—it’s just as important. Even if they’re the same strain, smoking a flower product and eating an edible from the same formula could offer distinct experiences.

Depending on your lifestyle, preferences, and need for discretion, consider:

  • Smoking: Smoking offers a fast onset of effects, but odors and smoke can attract attention. While smoking produces shorter-term effects than other methods (especially edibles), it’s one of the simplest ways to dose.
  • Vaping: Cannabis can take effect quickly via vaping, and it’s less smoking and odorous than smoking. But vaping requires equipment like a vaporizer or pen.
  • Edibles: Edibles can take time to kick in, and dosing can be tricky at the beginning of your journey. However, they’re the most discreet administration method by far, and they offer some of the longest-lasting effects of all of the methods.
  • Tinctures and oils: Offering a slightly faster onset than edibles but a slower onset than smoking or vaping, using tinctures and oils under your tongue is simple, discreet, and effective.
  • Topical: Especially useful for patients struggling with chronic pain, topicals offer discreet application and limited intoxication potential for patients. Plus, they’re highly localized.

#3 Document Your Experience

After taking your first dose, it’s time to document—after all, the clinical use of cannabis is scientific, and you should take an evidence-based approach to finding your ideal product.

Consider using one of the following methods to document your experience:

  • Journaling: Reflecting on your experiences in a paper or digital journal offers a freeform opportunity for stream-of-consciousness processing.
  • Voice recording: Use voice memos to record your thoughts during or after your experience. For simpler processing, you can even use a transcription app to convert your voice recordings to text.
  • Spreadsheet: For the data scientists and formula builders in the room, consider a spreadsheet—an especially useful and friendly tool for people who value quantitative data.

#4 Repeat Your Experiment

Think of finding the perfect strain as a science fair project—to report valid results, you had to repeat your experiment at least three times.

While you shouldn’t continue using a strain that offered highly negative results, consider repeating your dosing in exactly the same way multiple times to collect a wider variety of data. This will help you identify patterns across multiple strains and administration methods—and this is key to fine-tuning your personal process.

#5 Assess the Data

After repeating your experience with the same strain a few times, take a look at your documentation.

Ask yourself (and consult the data to find out):

  • How you felt during and after each dose?
  • What did you enjoy about your experience?
  • What you felt was missing from your experience?
  • How you might use this strain for a specific purpose in the future?

This data analysis effort will help you blaze a trail forward, whether you stick with the first strain you tried or branch out to a different product.

#6 Rinse and Repeat

If you don’t feel like your first strain met your expectations, it’s time to try another one. There are nearly countless strains available on today’s medical cannabis market, and you’re sure to find one or more that offer the repeatable, consistent results you’re looking for.

When you choose a new strain, just repeat steps one through five above to assess its viability.

It’s hard to say how many times you’ll need to repeat this process to find the right strain—since every patient and every strain is different, you might have to commit to the trial and error process for weeks or months to find your ideal product.

Rest assured that packing your patience is worth it. Once you find the strain that’s most compatible with your needs, you’ll be able to focus entirely on your healing journey and reap all of the potential rewards of medical cannabis.

Common Conditions and Possible Starting Points

If you’re looking for a recommendation from the community at the beginning of your experimentation phase, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are some potential starter strains for:

  • Anxiety: Indica and indica-forward hybrids
  • Depression: Sativa and balanced hybrid strains
  • Multiple sclerosis: Balanced hybrids or slightly indica-forward hybrids
  • Sleep disturbance and insomnia: Indica and strongly indica-forward hybrids
  • Nausea: Indica-forward or balanced hybrids
  • Chronic pain: Balanced hybrids or indica-leaning hybrids

The above recommendations are general for a few reasons:

  1. Not every strain is available in every state. General categories can help you narrow down your selection in your region.
  2. If you don’t have excellent results with your first strain, you can try a different one in the same category.
  3. Budtenders are experts in their field, and you can trust them to recommend specific strains in the categories above for people living with your specific condition. By giving your budtender the freedom to recommend products, you might discover a strain that the community hasn’t yet latched onto.

We can’t emphasize enough that trial and error is the name of the game for newcomers to medical cannabis. While it can take time to find your ideal strain and product, your healing is more than worth it.

TeleLeaf: A Network of Patient-Centered, Cannabis-Informed Providers

While choosing the right strain can be time-consuming for some patients, you have many resources available to help you fine-tune your treatment plan: your budtender, the community of medical cannabis patients, and your healthcare provider are just a few.

If you’re looking for a cannabis-informed healthcare provider to help you start the process, reach out to TeleLeaf. We’re proud to be the best online medical marijuana card service on the market today. Our network of providers is committed to helping you unlock the all-natural care you deserve.

Ready to explore the clinical benefits of medical marijuana for yourself? Schedule an appointment with TeleLeaf today.


Healthline. Beginner’s Guide to Marijuana Strains

New York Botanical Gardens. Brassicas

Frontiers in Pharmacology. Minor Cannabinoids: Biosynthesis, Molecular Pharmacology, and Potential Therapeutic Uses

Flower Power Botanicals. List of Cannabis Terpenes and Their Effects

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