how to tell what strain you have

Indica, Sativa & Hybrid: Can You Tell What You’re Smoking?

Saturday October 8, 2016

F or those in 420-friendly states, knowing what you’re smoking on is one of the easiest things you can do. Just walk into a dispensary, choose from a selection of strains with catchy, sometimes descriptive names and listed potency, then walk out with an accurately-labeled medicine jar of the sticky-icky. But for those who receive their stash from a “friend” or acquaintance, the luxury of knowing exactly what they’re smoking isn’t one easily had. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help you determine exactly what it is you’re smoking to help you sound like a true “cannasseur”.

Nowadays, with legalization and decriminalization spreading across the globe, thousands of new weed strains are being developed. Many of these strains are considered hybrids between the two popular cannabis types: sativa and indica. But how can you tell which is which? There are special attributes that each type of weed offers — and even most hybrids will lean toward one or the other. Sativas and indicas tend to be vastly different in their effects, with most smokers preferring one over the other.

The Difference Between Sativa and Indica

Sativas are mostly associated with a cerebral high: creativity, inspiration, problem solving, and energy. Very potent sativas can even be associated with some hallucinatory effects. Sativas tend to be higher proportionately in THC and CBD. When artists and writers smoke, the sativa high is generally what they’re looking for. Sativas can also be associated with other types of high productivity — such as getting housework and chores done. On the flip side, sativa is also more often associated with some of the negative aspects of weed smoking, such as high anxiety and paranoia. Physically, sativa plants are usually light green with thin leaves and a tall build.

Conversely, indicas are associated with a heavy body high. In other words, couch lock. Indica is the relaxing type of weed: the type of weed that leaves you comfortable and melting into your sofa. Many people use indica for recreational purposes, such as sitting around with friends and enjoying their company. Because of its relaxing effects, indica tends to be more often used for medical purposes. Indicas tend to have proportionately higher CBD than THC when compared to sativa strains. Physically, indica plants are usually dark green with thick leaves and a short build.

Maui Waui is a sativa-dominant strain originating from Hawaii

But of course, both sativas and indicas are different types of cannabis. Though the ‘high’ may seem different, there are common characteristics between each. Many people try to fine-tune the high for specific effects by creating hybrid strains. Many of the most popular strains today are hybrids, popular ones including Girl Scout Cookies and White Widow.

Signs Your Bud is a Sativa or Sativa-Dominant Hybrid

  • You feel energetic and creative when smoking it.
  • Your thoughts race, but you still feel very productive.
  • Your weed smells sweet, light, fruity or floral.
  • Your weed may have a corresponding citrus-y taste.
  • Your weed has buds that are light and fluffy.

Signs Your Weed is an Indica or Indica-Dominant Hybrid

  • Your mind feels a little cloudy and distracted when smoking it.
  • You may easily forget what you’re saying or lose track of time.
  • Your weed smells skunky, spicy, or heavily like pine.
  • Your weed may have a corresponding chocolate-y or earthy taste.
  • Your weed has buds that are heavy and dense.

Identifying Individual Strains of Weed

It isn’t just the strain that is important — it’s the environment. You can easily see this when you go to the farmer’s market. Tomatoes picked ripe from the vine look, taste, and smell vastly different from the tomatoes that are at the grocery store. Because of this, identifying individual strains of weed can actually be very tricky. If you’ve smoked hydroponic Girl Scout Cookies, you might not even recognize an outdoor grown version of the same strain.

Though it may be difficult to say for certain, some characteristics of your bud can be used to narrow down strain options to only a few possibilities. In general, identifying an individual strain of weed will come down to three key things: the look of the weed, the taste of the bud and the feel of the high. More often than not, it is the taste of the weed that will tip you off. Different weeds may have chocolate-y, citrusy, or piney tastes. These will always remain similar regardless of the potency of the weed itself. Thus, this is mostly down to your own personal experience of the different weed strains.

Knowing what kind of weed you’re smoking is the first step towards discovering the type of weed that you like most. Once you find “your strain”, you’ll find it far easier to get the effects that you want when smoking. To help you figure it out, let’s start with the following:

How does it look? Looking at your biggest, most attractive bud, what do you notice? Is it bright green or does it have hints of other colors as well? Is it dense or is it fluffy? Are the buds large or small? Knowing this can help you determine whether you’re smoking an indica, sativa or a hybrid of the two. That’s because indicas and sativas exhibit different grow patterns based on their area of origin.

For example, indicas grow smaller and produce denser buds with less pigment because of their origins in the middle east. Accustom to the shorter grow season in the area, indicas produce buds that are larger and denser with less accessory pigments (like purples and reds) to help them absorb more UV light. Conversely, sativas, which originate near the equator, tend to produce smaller, fluffier buds (because they can grow and stretch for a longer period of time) with more pigment to help shield them from excessive sunlight.

How does it taste? Though strain attributes vary greatly (even within the same genetic line), they will often be named after characteristic flavors (diesel strains have a gasoline flavor just as lemon strains will have a lemon flavor). If you know whether or not your bud is an indica or sativa, pulling out characteristic flavors will allow you to narrow down your options even farther. Keep in mind that kush strains tend to lean indica while haze strains tend to be sativa strains. Skunks are often sativa-dominant hybrids.

How does it make you feel? Thanks to the countless strain reviews online today, it’s easier than ever to plug a few keywords into a search engine to find strains that match your high. Whether you find yourself nodding off, lost in thought or chatting up a storm after smoking, there’s likely a reviewer who thought the same thing. To find out for sure, just search for strains that create the high you’re experiencing while keeping in mind what you’ve already discovered about your bud.

With thousands of cannabis strains available in America, it can be difficult to know which one is your favorite (especially if they don’t come labeled). While many purport that the most important thing to know about your cannabis is that it is, in fact, cannabis, many others prefer intricacies associated with each individual strain. If you’ve been gifted a sack-o-weed that’s lacking a label or other descriptive info, use these tips to help you get a better idea of what it is you might be smoking.

PS: If you enjoy the process and want to hone your skills farther, come to Colorado to learn to be how to be a cannabis sommelier and better prepare yourself for this budding cannabis industry. Or just hone your skills for your next pot party 🙂

If you don't have a nearby dispensary to tell you the strain name and potency, it's hard to know what you're smoking. Here's how to tell the difference between an Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid strain.

How Does One Identify a Cannabis Strain?

Do you have a hard time identifying cannabis strains? Have you ever smoked some really good bud but just can’t seem to figure out the particular strain that got you high? We all know how that feels — you’re likely to have a burning desire to find that same fire herb. The only way out is to know how to identify strains. Now, the process of identifying strains can be a bit tricky — there are well over 700 different cannabis strains, and the number keeps growing each day.

So what does this mean? Well, it only implies that it’s going to take a whole lot of work to sift through all those strains to find your fire herb. The good news is, there are a couple of things you can do to narrow it down, and that’s exactly what this post is about.

From this point on, we’re going to explore the step-by-step process for identifying strains so you can get familiar with what you’re smokin. Sounds good? Let’s get to it!

Step 1: Shape and Size of the Beautiful Buds

The very first things you want to look at are the shape and size of the buds. This is when we figure out if you’ve got an indica, sativa or hybrid.

Indica Strains typically produce heavy and tightly packed buds. They look short and chunky. On the flip side, Sativa Strains produce long and narrow flowers, which aren’t as densely packed as indicas.

So, if you’re looking for short and stubby buds, you should be on the lookout for pure indicas or indica-dominant hybrids. Also, if you’re looking to have longer and thinner flowers, you can limit your search to sativas and sativa-dominant hybrids.

Step 2: Color of the Flowers
  • Most marijuana strains will produce buds that are green — pretty standard and might not tell you what you’re trying to figure out at first glance. However, look a little closer to see if you can notice a bit of a tint.
  • Often times you’ll find a bud that has a bit of a purple to it. Purple typically appears in strains like Purple Kush, Purple Urkle, Grandaddy Purple and Purple Haze. Just be sure to look for these strains if you see purple.
  • Other times you might see buds with yellow and orange hues. When you see these colors in your cannabis, just know that you’re going to have something like Grapefruit, Alien OG, Lemon Kush or Kandy Skunk.
  • That’s not all though! Some strains grow reddish buds — such strains could be linked to Pink Flower Shaman or Predator Pink.
  • In some circumstances, although rather rare… You’ll find some black bud, this usually tells you that you’re likely smoking something grown from a Vietnamese strain.

Note: It’s not recommended to rely on color to identify your strain. Why? Well, it’s only because environmental factors can affect the color of the buds.

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Step 3: Smell and Taste of the Buds

Alright, at this point, you’re done inspecting the appearance of the buds. So what’s next? You break them apart and focus on the smell they give off. You should also pay close attention to the flavors in the smoke when you start puffing.

There are several different smells to look for when trying to identify strains. We’re going to look at a few of them, and we’re pretty sure they’ll come in handy.


Herbs that have an earthy smell are likely to have a certain amount of Kush in them. You should know that classic strains like Afghan Kush and Hindu Kush have been used to breed thousands of other hybrid and indicas.


Do your buds smell skunky? If yes, you could be puffing a Skunk strain or some hybrid that has a significant amount of Skunk.


Remember when we talked about yellow and orange buds? Well, they belong to the class of marijuana strains that taste and smell citrusy. The names of these strains typically have a reference to citrus. So, if you find that your buds smell and taste citrusy, be sure to focus your attention on Lemon Kush, Tangerine Man, Tangie, Grapefruit or Lemon OG.


If your bud smells or tastes like berries, then you should be on the lookout for something along the lines of Strawberry Cough, Fruity Pebbles or Blueberry.


Your buds have a chemical smell, more like diesel fumes? If so, look for diesel strains. You could be getting high on Sour Diesel, Blue Diesel or a hybrid that was derived from one of these strains.

The final category of cannabis strains on this list is those that have sour smells and flavors. So, if the smoke or flavor taste sour, then you should look for strains like Blue Diesel, Sour Kush, and Sour Diesel.

Step 4: How Do You Feel?

At this stage, you’ve done everything from breaking the herbs to tasting its terpenes — you’ve been narrowing down the list of possibilities. Smoke break!

Well, now that you’ve finished your blunt and you’re getting a bit high, it’s time to pay attention to the effects of the unknown strain — what effect does it have on you?

•If the sesh gave you an intense head high with little body effects, leaving you more alert and uplifted, with your creativity flowing and an increased amount of energy. It means that you’ve got yourself a pure sativa or hybrid that has a significant amount of sativa.

• If you find yourself with a more intense body high, feeling pretty relaxed and a little hungry or tired. You might also notice some pain relief with this one! If you feel two or more of these effects you probably have a pure indica or a hybrid that is weighted towards the indica side.

• If your high feels well-balanced, more like one that affects your head and body equally, it means you’ve puffed a hybrid that has the same proportion of indica and sativa.

Wrapping it Up

Now that we’ve covered everything you need when it comes to identifying different cannabis strains. You actually have quite a number of variables ranging from the shape and size of the bud to the effects it produces — it’s all about narrowing down the list of possibilities. All these should move you closer and closer to identifying your mystery strain, and that’s what matters. Good luck!

Do you have a hard time identifying cannabis strains? Have you ever smoked some really good bud but just can't seem to figure out the particular strain that got you high? We all know how that feels — you're likely to have a burning desire to find that same fire…