What is cannabis?

Weed, pot, marijuana, ganja, cannabis—the plant has many names, and even if you’ve never smoked it, you’ve likely heard of it and seen its iconic seven-starred leaves adorning pot shops and art the world over.

But despite being familiar with the plant, you might not know much about it. How does cannabis get you high? What does it do to your body? What does being high feel like? And why are there so many different types, called strains?

If you’ve ever wondered about cannabis and how to consume it, this beginner’s guide to weed has answers to your basic questions. Come learn more about this amazing plant and the medical benefits it has to offer.

The different types of cannabis

Strains are different variations of the cannabis plant, much like there are different variations of tomatoes: cherry, Roma, heirloom, grape, beefsteak, etc.

Each strain has a unique chemical profile, a mix of different cannabinoids and terpenes. If you like the taste, smell, and effects of a certain strain, you will likely enjoy another strain with a similar chemical profile.

The definitions of indicas, sativas, and hybrids are somewhat fraught, Even today, budtenders and consumers the world over still use the terms “indica,” sativa,” and “hybrid” to refer to effects—indicas are thought to be calm and sedating; sativas, energetic; and hybrids, a mix of the two.

However, these terms actually refer to the plant’s physical structure, not its effects. Instead, a strain’s effects are a result of its chemical profile (its mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds). That chemical profile will also interact with each person’s body in a different way.



While not all sativa marijuana strains will energize you, most consumers notice a tendency for sativas to produce a “head high,” an uplifting, stimulating effect. They also often report sativas as being helpful in mitigating stress or anxiety, and many consumers enjoy sativas to sharpen focus and boost creativity/motivation.

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Hybrid strains are bred from both indica- and sativa-descended plants. Due to the long history of crossbreeding cannabis strains—much of it was historically done underground to evade authorities—strains that have pure indica or pure sativa lineages are rare. Most strains referred to as “indica” or “sativa” are, in fact, hybrids, with genetics inherited from both subspecies.

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Not all indica strains will put you “in da couch,” but nevertheless, many consumers associate indicas with full-body effects, for example, heavy limbs or a tingly face. They also report indicas as being helpful in aiding relaxation and curbing insomnia.

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Terpene Profile and Effects

One of the most common terpenes found in cannabis is myrcene. Beyond cannabis, myrcene is found in hops and is responsible for the peppery, spicy, balsam fragrance in beer. It’s also expressed in lemongrass, which has been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries.

Myrcene has powerful antibiotic, antimutagenic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and sedative effects. Working in synergy with THC, the terpene is ideal for patients suffering from: Sleep disorders like insomnia. Pain and bodily discomfort, acting as a powerful muscle relaxant.


Terpene Profile and Effects

Cannabis strains with high levels of caryophyllene tend to be spicy and musky, and some are also known to have a funky profile. Many carry prominent notes of diesel and fuel that are known to cause the same nose-tingling bite associated with taking a whiff of pepper.

The activation of CB2 receptors by caryophyllene certainly plays a role in its anti-pain effects, but it also contributes to its ability to protect the body and brain from disease. For instance, brain inflammation plays a substantial role in the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.


Terpene Profile and Effects

Limonene, commonly known as d-limonene for its chemical structure, is a terpene present in lemons and citrus apart from Cannabis. It is present as a monoterpene in resin glands, used for centuries as a natural treatment for multiple health issues and an ingredient in common household items.

Limonene helps gives an exhilarating and energizing buzz. Hybrids strains of cannabis tend to have mood-elevating effects enhanced by limonene. Relaxing indicas high in limonene counteract the potential for lower moods from increased sedative terpenes such as myrcene.


Terpene Profile and Effects

Pinene is an aromatic compound commonly found in cannabis that smells a lot like–you guessed it–a forest of pine trees. But pinene may bring more to a strain’s experience than just flavor.

It works by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase activity in the brain, which helps you retain memories more efficiently. Other benefits include euphoria, increased alertness, reduced oil production in oily skin, and most excitingly, anti-cancer properties.


Terpene Profile and Effects

Linalool is one of the more than 200 fragrant chemical compounds, known as terpenes, that are the foundation for the pungent aroma and medicinal value of cannabis. In medical cannabis plants, linalool is typically responsible for producing a floral, spicy or woody aroma.

Linalool is a powerful terpene due to its effect on the serotonin receptor. It helps treats conditions such as anxiety and depression and can help to combat insomnia. Its medicinal properties could also help treat several types of cancer.


Terpene Profile and Effects

Terpinolene, a terpene dominant in about one in ten cannabis strains, is recognized for its woody smell combined with floral citrus notes. In addition to its fresh aroma, terpinolene is known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties

While some cannabis terpenes, like phellandrene, are known to have energizing effects, terpinolene may induce minor drowsiness with its sedative properties. These sedative properties may, in turn, reduce anxiety as the body and mind simultaneously calm.


Terpene Profile and Effects

Humulene is a terpene commonly found in many herbs and flowers apart from cannabis. Similar to Pinene and Myrcene, it is an essential element in the overall aromatic profile of cannabis. Recently, it has gained popularity for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and appetite suppressant properties.

 As an appetite suppressant, humulene works alongside other chemicals in cannabis to promote weight loss. As a depressant, humulene is a potent pain reliever. Humulene could also inhibit tumor growth by producing reactive oxygen species, chemicals that could help destroy cancer cells.


Terpene Profile and Effects

Although its profile is not predominantly herbal, Ocimene displays a woody aroma and can be described as fruity or citrusy in terms of flavors. As mentioned earlier, Ocimene can be found in mint, parsley, basil, tarragon, kumquats, mango fruits, lavender, orchid flowers, Hops, and bergamot.

One of ocimene’s many therapeutic benefits is as a decongestant and expectorant. Anecdotal evidence indicates that ocimene helps clear airways and improve respiration when smoked or vaped—but it can induce coughing in the process, so patients that wish to avoid coughing should avoid strains high in ocimene.

How to consume cannabis

People have been consuming cannabis in various forms for thousands of years. Today, there are many different ways to consume it, through different types of devices.

Ways to consume cannabis include smoking, vaping, eating, and topical application. Cannabis can be smoked through pipes, bongs, and bubblers, which can be made from a variety of different materials and objects. It can also be rolled and smoked in joints and blunts.

Vaporization is popular today, especially with the advent of vape pens, which are popular with beginners because they are discreet, portable, and easy to use. There are many different types of vaporizers—some are handheld, some are larger devices that are plugged in at home—and they can vaporize flower, concentrates, or both.

The effects of cannabis

How does cannabis get you high?

Discover the effects of THC

Cannabinoids and terpenes are the main compounds in the cannabis plant that get you high or provide medicinal benefits. The two main cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC gets you high, whereas CBD is non-intoxicating. People consume both cannabinoids for medicinal benefits. Most strains you buy at the dispensary will be high in THC, and some will be high in CBD or have a balance of the two.

Terpenes give cannabis it’s scent compounds and its complex aromas. Hundreds of terpenes are found in trace amounts in the plant, and there are eight main ones:

  • Myrcene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Limonene
  • Pinene
  • Linalool
  • Terpinolene
  • Humulene
  • Ocimene

Cannabinoids and terpenes work together synergistically through a process called the entourage effect, and they interact with and activate the body’s endocannabinoid system, a cellular system which maintains balance in your body. This is how you feel high and experience symptom relief or other effects of cannabis.

Dosing cannabis can be tricky because cannabis effects plateau at a certain point and if you take more, it won’t necessarily increase effects. This plateau level is different for everyone based on body chemistry, the weed strain’s chemical profile, and how much you consume.

How long will the high last?

Understanding the effects of THC

How long the effects last can vary greatly depending on the dose and potency. The more you use and the higher the THC content, the longer the effects will stick around.

How you consume cannabis also affects when the effects peak and how long they last.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Smoking or vaping. The effects peak around 10 minutes after consumption and typically last 1 to 3 hours, though they can linger for up to 8 hours.
  • Eating. The effects of edibles usually peak around 2 hours after consumption and can last up to 24 hours.
  • Dabbing. Similar to smoking, the effects of dabbing usually last 1 to 3 hours. If using a high THC concentrate, you could feel the effects for an entire day.

Cannabis hits everyone differently, so while your high may only last for a couple of hours, you could potentially feel the comedown or aftereffects for several hours or through the next day. It’s best to go low and slow if you’re new to cannabis.

What does it feel like to be high?

The effects of THC

Smoking, ingesting, or vaping cannabis can make you high or “stoned.” If you’ve never tried cannabis, you might wonder what it feels like.

cannabis can have drastically different effects from one person to the next. Some people report feeling happy or relaxed. Others report laughter, altered time and sensory perception, and increased appetite. But cannabis can also cause less-desirable effects such as anxiety, paranoia and racing heartbeat.