Chemotaxonomy or the importance of chemovars in medical cannabis
Sativa and indica are not precise ways of describing the medicinal effects of cannabis. Patients who consume for medical purposes tend to stick with “sativa” or “indica,” claiming that one works better than the other. The classic example is the belief that sativa increases anxiety, while indica does not. But is it really that simple? Do all sativas increase anxiety? Or is there something else? How are indica and sativa different?
Sativas and Indicas are dead, long live the Chemovar
The difference between the effects caused by sativa and indica comes from the differences in their chemical compositions. We know that more than 400 chemical entities are present in cannabis plants. Including cannabinoids, terpenes and non-cannabinoids. These can act alone or in concert. Their joint action is a subject that is currently the subject of exploration in the field of medical cannabis. A chemovar or chemovar is "a particular species of plant, the chemical composition of which varies from the average due to different environmental growing conditions".
The complex interactions between different chemical entities create the specific effects of each strain. In fact, a growing number of researchers and practitioners argue that the terms “sativa” and “indica” are mistaken for different varieties of plants. They claim that " chemovar Is a much more appropriate designation for all cannabis plants.
What do the different “chemovars” do?
In recent survey conducted in California, preferences for indica or sativa were noted in 95 participants. Their choice depended on the medical condition they were treating. Participants preferred indica at a statistically significant level for pain management, sleep, non-migraine headaches, glaucoma, neuropathy, spasticity, seizures and joint pain, while they preferred the sativa for euphoria and energy boost.
This is how things work once the cannabinoids in a chemo-var go to work in your body:
Some studies show the higher prevalence of ∆9 - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in sativa. It is the psychoactive component; and maybe the reason why this strain sometimes induces anxiety. Cannabidiol (CBD), on the other hand, is more abundant (compared to THC) in indicas. This could explain why indica strains are known to relieve anxiety in patients.
Investigation of variations in chemical profiles and genetic markers
More THC Equals More Anxiety? Not necessarily. It is common to think that the more THC there is in the plant, the more likely it is to cause unwanted psychoactive effects. For example increased anxiety? Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
First, THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis, binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. These already exist as part of the endocannabinoid system in various human tissues. Binding of THC to these receptors exerts a myriad of physiological effects. They have effects on emotions, pain, and digestion, to name a few.
CBD, on the other hand, has no binding affinity with these receptors. Rather, it exerts its effects by being a “negative allosteric modulator” of CB1. This means that without binding to the receptor, CBD prevents other things from binding. These are things that normally have an affinity for CB1 (like THC). In other words, it stops THC from binding.
If these two cannabinoids are the main players, it can be expected that the higher THC / CBD ratio in sativa will always be associated with more pronounced psychoactive effects, some of which can be detrimental (for example, anxiety /paranoia).
Conversely, one would expect a proportionately higher CBD chemo-var, like most indicas, to be more relaxing. This relaxing effect would be true even if both chemovars had the same amount of THC, as it is the CBD content that moderates the psychoactive effects. However, this is not the case.
The situation is further complicated when one considers the effects of other non-cannabinoids present in chemovars.
These include Terpenes :
- myrcene (with analgesic and sedative properties),
- limonene (which is an antidepressant and an immune stimulant),
- pinene (acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, alleviating short-term memory impairment due to THC)
- "Sesquiterpenoid" (turpentine) beta-caryophyllene (which acts as an anti-inflammatory analgesic and selective complete agonist at the site of the CB2 receptor).
Taking this into account, you should notice that sativa and indica differ in many factors.
An indica can behave like a sativa and vice versa. This is based on the interactions of all of these other chemicals. The relative proportions of all chemical components will dictate the composite pharmacological and psychoactive effects.
It goes without saying that this information will be of great value to patients and physicians as they approach the treatment of various conditions. Currently, sophisticated analytical methods are used to produce the exact chemical profiles of chemovars. The future is bright for selecting chemovars that specifically meet your medical needs.
How chemovars are classified
Classification of chemovars is essential for all growers and marijuana growers make a point of familiarizing themselves with the different chemovars in cannabis. Especially with the characteristics they produce in terms of cannabinoid profile, flavor, and overall potency.
Chemovars (also known as chemotypes) classify plant species according to their chemical composition. Tests for chemovars will determine, for example, the CBD / THC ratio, as well as the bioavailability and presence of certain organic compounds called terpenes.
Historically, the identification of chemovars has been only to identify the cannabidiol content. Current classification methods consider three primary phenotypes to be relevant. The chemovar classification is applicable regardless of the part of the plant used for the extraction of cannabinoids and includes these three primary phenotypes:
- Type I: This phenotype is predominantly THC.
- Type II: This phenotype offers a balance between THC and CBD.
- and Type III: This phenotype is predominantly CBD. Types I and II are generally considered to fall under the guidelines for medical cannabis.
An updated method of classifying the cannabis chemovar was needed to meet the different needs of medical and recreational marijuana users, especially when laws changed from state to state. These test methods are also necessary when creating CBD and hemp products that fall under state compliance laws.The chemovar classification applies regardless of which part of the plant is used for cannabinoid extraction. . Whether using the plant's fiber or the flowering buds, the latter contain resins rich in THC. The importance of chemovar classification has become a local issue for countries that have legalized.
From cultivar to chemovar
Prior to today's accepted method of classifying chemovar, growers used the cultivar method for classification. This method classifies the plants produced by different cycles of crosses.
Although accepted for a long time, this classification method had a major flaw: it could not reflect differences in chemical level. For this reason, the technique could not provide the data necessary for the medical community when identifying the best characteristics of cannabis for human use, for example for medical purposes. The chemovar approach was developed to solve this problem. It is now accepted as the gold standard in the classification of cannabinoids, as the system takes into account all of the potentially active constituents.
How do you know which cannabis chemovar is right for your area?
Not everyone lives in an area where the climate is perfect for growing cannabis. But, with the choice of the right genetics, it's entirely possible to find the best cannabis chemo for the rain-drenched equatorial tropics or the Pacific Northwest, and anywhere in between.
Climate is king for outdoor growing
The climate is the most important consideration in choosing an outdoor chemovar. Traditionally, cannabis has grown in climates close to the Mediterranean region. It is a climate that can be described as hot to hot in summer, with mild autumn and minimal precipitation. In North America, the conditions found in many parts of California and Oregon best represent these ideal conditions.
Residents of northern latitudes - with shorter, colder summers and reduced light intensity - face more difficulties than those in equatorial climates that experience abundant sun and heat. But that doesn't mean that outdoor cannabis can't grow further north or south. After all, the diversity of the plant's genetic makeup, coupled with selection, means this hardy plant can thrive just about anywhere. But growers need to pay special attention to genetics to reap the benefits.
Adapting the climate to genetics
Due to decades of interbreeding, the terms Sativa and Indica hardly have any meaning in modern times. But historically, these classifications have flourished in some parts of the world.
These represent the underlying genetic profiles specific to certain regions. By selecting chemovars that are relatively unaffected by crossbreeding, it is possible to select the ideal variety for a given climate.
Where sativa genetics thrive!
Sativa genetics thrive in equatorial areas where temperature, humidity, and rainfall typically remain high year round. Pure varieties of Sativa cannabis have long flowering cycles, which is due to the obvious lack of winter. Such adaptations mean that Sativa pure landrace cannabis strains are unsuitable for northern or southern climates due to the cooler conditions and shorter summers.
Where Indica genetics flourish!
Indica genetics originate from the mountainous and arid regions of Central Asia. These short, bushy plants are hardy and can withstand much colder temperatures than Sativas. Having evolved in a part of the world with short summers, they usually finish flowering in seven to nine weeks, making them ideal in places where an impending winter quickly follows a short, cool summer.
Why Ruderalis genetics make it possible to grow in colder climates
Another variety known as Ruderalis evolved in the climates of Eastern Europe. These have developed a particularly useful adaptation known as autoflowering. Autoflowering allows plants to flower based on cycles of time, rather than cycles of light.
This is the reason why it is possible to grow cannabis outdoors in seemingly inhospitable conditions in very northern latitudes. Ruderalis plants generally produce a low cannabinoid content. But intelligent selection allowed for the expression of autoflowering ability as part of a larger genetics based on Indica or Sativa. And this is what allows growers in less than ideal climates to grow cannabis outdoors successfully.
Best outdoor chemotype for northern climates
In places with short summers and heavy rains, growing outdoors can be more difficult. The Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, most of Canada, and northwest Europe are the best examples. Growers in these regions must select chemovars capable of surviving under imperfect conditions. The chemovars at automatic flowering which incorporate Ruderalis genetics are advantageous when their rapid growth and shorter flowering times allow for a successful harvest before inclement weather returns.
Here are some recommended varieties of chemovars, whose genetics make it possible to withstand colder and wetter climates.
This autoflowering chemovar tends to thrive in places with shorter, cooler summers. With a combination of California Kush, Northern Lights, and Lowryder genetics, this is a sedating strain. Like many chemovars that thrive in less than ideal outdoor conditions, Polar Express has an average THC content of 15%. It grows to a reduced size of only 30-80cm and is ideal for visible outdoor crops.
Hindu Kush is a famous land-bred Indica variety that originates from the Hindu Kush mountains on the Afghan-Pakistani border. Due to the harsh climate of the region, Hindu Kush is one of the most resistant varieties and the most adaptable around and thrives in cold climates.
With a flowering time of seven weeks, the fast growing Hindu Kush allows growers to maximize their harvest during short, cool summers. Highly regarded in the medicinal cannabis community, Hindu Kush helps manage symptoms of chronic pain, stress and anxiety, and may also be an effective anti-nausea treatment.
Renowned for its bountiful outdoor harvests, the Early Skunk ideal for colder climates. With a short flowering cycle of eight to nine weeks, she is ideal for a short window of growth in the summer. The strong underlying genetics also mean that it is resistant to temperature drops in late summer. And that's what can allow growers to get a second harvest in the fall in some places.
The best outdoor Chemovar for hot, dry climates
Sativa chemovars or those whose genetics are dominated by sativa are best suited to hot, dry climates. The higher temperatures and longer growing seasons give them the time needed to complete a longer flowering cycle.
Thanks to the abundance of sun and UV rays, the chemovars that thrive in such climates generally have a high cannabinoid content and excellent medicinal effect.
Amnesia Haze performs well in hot, dry climates with abundant sun. With THC levels approaching twenty percent and a high myrcene content, she finds her roots in Jamaican and South Asian Sativa genetics.
Widely used in the medicinal cannabis community, Amnesia Haze is popular among those looking for pain, migraine, and stress relief.
With a flowering time of ten weeks, Tangerine Dream thrives in hot, dry climates. It's a cross between Neville's G13, Afghani, and A5 Haze. It is designed to meet the needs of medical patients, thanks to its euphoric effects and deep relaxation.
Known as an easy-to-grow chemo-var for beginners, it produces generous yields and has an average THC content of around 18%.
Best outdoor film for hot and humid climates
Tropical regions that experience hot and humid climates typically experience the twelve hour light cycles under which flowering cannabis plants thrive. But the high humidity in these regions presents unique challenges for the outdoor grower. With heavy rains, it makes plants susceptible to rot and mold. This means that growers should be especially careful with flowing water and make sure they shake the plants to discourage moisture buildup.
Excessive humidity aside, these climates represent the perfect conditions for growing cannabis outdoors, and growers can expect large plants and bountiful yields.
Super Silver Haze
Super Silver Haze is a feminized chemovar that leans noticeably towards the Sativa end of the spectrum.
They flower in around ten to eleven weeks and usually produce exceptional yields if grown properly. Patients say it can be great for stress. It is very popular among patients recovering from treatments such as chemotherapy, where its anti-nausea and appetite-stimulating properties are most beneficial.
Acidic diesel thrives in hot climates and is also very resistant to mold growth typically associated with more humid climates.
It flowers in just ten weeks and, thanks to the preservation of strong sativa ancestry, it has an uplifting and energizing high that many patients have come to love. Patients using medicinal cannabis use it for its powerful effects on pain, stress, and depression.
Reap the rewards
Our relationship with cannabis dates back thousands of years, even to our nomadic past. Thanks to this, the cannabis plant has acquired the genetic diversity necessary to thrive around the world. Thanks to the sun's infinite energy source available everywhere, we now have the unique ability to grow the plant in a surprising array of climates and spread its benefits around the world.