The variety of cannabis strains - how many are there really?

by Mila Grün07.08.2023Knowledge

The individual cannabis strains, which are the result of years of crossing and breeding, are almost unmanageable today. Due to their individual composition, different medicinal effects have resulted, which can be used specifically adapted to the patient. There are about 17 different strains of cannabis indigo alone. What reliable characteristics help to choose the right cannabis strain?

The different landraces

From Korea to Mexico, from Uruguay to Malawi, there are thousands of cannabis strains. All over Russia, Kazakhstan, Nepal... the popular and sought-after plant is spread all over the world. The individual strains sometimes differ greatly from each other because they have adapted to the local conditions. The term "landrace" refers to the regional varieties of the cannabis plant from which the medicinal cannabis strains were bred. Unfortunately, there are hardly any landraces in this sense any more, but there are still some to be found. Malawi Gold, for example, has not been crossed with other varieties and is still available in its original form.

Cannabis Sativa and Indica - the original strains

The names of the individual strains with the cannabis varieties Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa do not say much about the actual effect of the variety. These names are used nowadays to give the consumer a rough idea of the effects, because in general, Cannabis Sativa is considered uplifting and mood-lifting and Cannabis Indica is considered calming and relaxing. Cannabis Ruderalis is also an original variety, but it does not play a role for the medicinal aspect and recreational use, but in the field of commercial cannabis.

The development of the Indica strain

Cannabis Indica is also called Indian hemp, because the variety originates from India. It has additionally developed into the three subspecies Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Indica Indica and Cannabis Indica Afghanica, which differ in their THC, CBD and terpene content.

The variety known as Cannabis Sativa is, strictly speaking, also an Indica variety, namely Cannabis Indica Indica. This is the clear result of various studies and tests. Sativa and Indica strains are genetically and chemically identical. Although there are different effects of the strains, the names for the individual strains are incorrect and, as already mentioned, are used to describe the approximate effect.

The effects of cannabis strains - how important is the THC content?

What effects the individual strain actually has on the consumer does not depend on the designation Indica and Sativa, but on the existing terpene and cannabinoid profile. However, the concentration of the cannabinoids THC and CBD alone is not decisive for the medicinal effect, because the terpenes present also influence the effect of the hemp plant on the human organism and, in addition, the entourage effect.

What is the entourage effect?

The entourage effect is the effect that the individual phytochemicals (phytocannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, esters) have on each other. If one variety has the same number and concentration of cannabinoids as another variety, but a different terpene profile, then the cannabinoids also have a different effect, because the terpenes influence the effect of the cannabinoids and vice versa. The individual substances strengthen the spectrum of effects, or they weaken it. A cannabis strain with a high THC content causes nausea in many users. This nausea can be revised by an increased CBD content, among other things.

The example of the Entourage effect shows that the difference between Indica and Sativa can be taken into account, but that the "genetic fingerprint" of the respective cannabis variety plays a much more important role.

The genetic fingerprint

A phenotype of OG Kush, for example, cultivated under consistent conditions, always produces the same amount of THC (24%) and CBD (0.8%) and also always has the same terpene profile (1.6% myrcene, 0.9% alpha-pinene, 0.7% limonene and 0.8% beta-caryophyllene).In botany, this is called the genetic fingerprint of a plant. This describes characteristic hereditary information and helps with use and classification.

For other plant species and herbs, the knowledge about the fingerprint has been applied and used by botanists for a long time.The aspect of constant and reliable profiles is significant for cannabis medicine, because it is the only way to determine which variety can be used effectively for which disease.

Current medicinal strains are hybrids that have evolved through crossbreeding and will continue to evolve, adapted to different conditions. But this is precisely why knowledge about the cannabinoid and terpene profiles of the individual varieties is incredibly important, in order to be able to influence the CBD content, the THC content and the terpenes present when growing new varieties and to cross them accordingly.

The game with names

There are some cult varieties whose names and effects are known all over the world, such as Northern Lights, OG Kush, Haze, White Widow, AK-47 and many more.But what about the more advanced cannabis strains and their sometimes wacky names like G13 Kush, Charlie Sheen Kush, Banana Ice Pop, Obama Cookies, etc.?

In the end, these are all just names that someone made up. And with the estimated 18,000+ cannabis strains that exist, the names should be classified so that you can identify them with similar strains. But most of the time, the names are pure arbitrariness.

An example: the cannabis strain Indigo Berry Kush

The original strain Indigo has evolved through breeding into the hybrid Indigo Berry Kush, which contains 60% Indica and 40% Sativa. The THC value is about 21% and the cannabidiol value is about 0.1%. The flowering time is about 8-9 weeks and the yield can be high if the plant is grown professionally.

Indigo Berry Kush is one of the indica strains that is rich in cannabinoids and terpenes due to its genetic parent plants So G Kush and Blue Monster. This strain is described as peppery, suggesting the terpene beta-caryophyllene, and earthy and sweet.

Currently, there is little interest among recreational consumers in the general classification of terpenes in individual strains, but consumers are also tending towards a conscious trend of knowledge of the broad spectrum of the cannabis plant and its almost endless possibilities.


  • Cannaconnection
  • Cannabis als Medizin von Michael Backes, 2. Auflage von 2021, Kopp Verlag

Written by Mila Grün

Hello and High, my name is Mila Grün and I am the editor-in-chief of Cannabibliothek. My work and passion lies in writing serious and scientifically sound texts about the topic of cannabis. Together with my team, I have been fighting against the current stigmatization and for solid education for years. So that the cannabis plant regains the status it deserves.


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It is important to us that we can offer you well-researched and informative content. Please note, however, that this is merely a transfer of information and not a concrete recommendation for action. In addition, our articles do not replace a visit to the doctor. You should discuss possible interactions with other medications with your doctor before taking them. Because the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is subject to the Narcotics Act (BtMG) in Germany.