It seems like the potency of a cannabis strain should be easy to understand. More THC means more potent cannabis – that’s all there is to it, right? Well, no. If you’ve sampled lots of different strains, you have probably had a few experiences that surprised you: for example, a high-THC strain that didn’t do as much for you as you expected, or a low-THC strain that sent you over the moon when you underestimated it.
This happens all the time, which means that clearly, the amount of THC in a given strain isn’t all that determines its potency. What are the other factors?
Before we get into what actually may make one strain more potent than another, we need to address the fact that different strains of cannabis don’t always affect everyone the same way.
A strain that makes one person giggly may put someone else to sleep or make them paranoid. And, on top of the genetic factors that influence how an we experience a strain, the specifics of our body chemistry can be altered by diet, stress, and more – for example, the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your recent diet can have a dramatic effect on your initial endocannabinoid levels.
The dose you take and your tolerance will also affect how potent you perceive a strain to be.
What Determines Cannabis Potency
THC is a powerful, prevalent cannabinoid, but it isn’t the only one that has an effect. CBD can counteract some of the racing thoughts and anxiety that THC causes without “killing” the high, which means that users could get higher more comfortably with balanced strains rather than THC-dominant ones. Sadly, we don’t know much more than that when it comes to cannabinoids.
There are more than 100 different cannabinoids found in cannabis, and most of them have been largely or completely unstudied. However, it’s likely that the variations in the levels of various cannabinoids from one strain to another plays a significant role in potency.
Terpenes are also a factor. These are the compounds that give cannabis (and many other plants) their signature smells. Their effects are subtle on their own, but are magnified when ingested as part of the whole cannabis plant.
Different strains have different mixes of terpenes, and some strains have a wider variety of terpenes than others.
It’s impossible to name the most potent cannabis strains. Different people have different tastes and different bodies, and we don’t know how to measure cannabis in all of the relevant dimensions yet.
However, broadly speaking, the most potent cannabis strains are well-rounded ones that contain a mix of cannabinoids and not an overbalance of THC. They should be high in terpenes, and must be grown, harvested, and cured properly to preserve as many of the delicate trichomes as possible.
Genetics matter, but so does the growing environment and the amount of care that goes into harvesting. Healthy cannabis is potent cannabis!
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