When it comes to picking out which strain you’d like, there are often a number of decisions to make. Often the decision really comes down to which effects you’re looking for when consuming. Are you looking to be energized for a morning jog, or relaxed after a long day of work? If all you’re looking for is calming relaxation, you can be left feeling like a deer in the headlights when faced with options like “Devil’s Johnson” and “Monster Cookies”. So what goes into deciding a strain and determining its effects, other than just going for it and trying everything?
Terpenes and Their Effects
It’s now becoming clear to researchers and other members of the cannabis industry that terpenes and related scent/flavor compounds have a much more prominent effect when it comes to the experience of consuming cannabis than previously believed. Similar to cannabinoids, terpenes are able to bind to chemical receptors in the brain and impart a “high” of their own. They can have mild psychoactive effects, such as aiding sleep or focus, as well as physical effects such as pain relief and reduction of inflammation.
This raises a concept being studied and discussed in the industry right now, which is the entourage effect. Studies have demonstrated that terpenes and other volatile scent compounds not only have significant effects to themselves, but can also enhance cannabinoid activity by making them bind to receptors better, aiding in the synthesis of your body’s own endocannabinoids, and more.
While the traditional knowledge suggests that sativas will be more uplifting and indicas will be more relaxing, this new information runs somewhat at odds with that: the entourage effect suggests that the array of other compounds in the cannabis plant possibly have a greater role in determining the effects of the “high” than the varietal distinction between indica and sativa.
However, that’s not the end of the story: while there are hundreds of different terpenes and terpenoids, it’s possible to find a correlation between whether a strain is indica and what kind of terpenes it might have. This means the distinction between indica and sativa isn’t meaningless, it’s just a slightly less accurate shorthand for what kind of terpene profiles truly distinguish different strains. There are relaxing sativas, and surprisingly speedy indicas, but a general trend of effects still exists.
So Which Terpenes are Relaxing?
Many terpenes which are found most prominently in indica strains are thought to have the most potential to relax consumers themselves. These terpenes are myrcene, beta caryophyllene, linalool, limonene, humulene, and terpineol among many, many others. Let’s briefly run through these terpenes and their effects.
Myrcene: Across the spectrum of different terpenes and other volatile compounds, myrcene is perhaps the most common in the cannabis genome – one study even suggested it may constitute up to 50% of a plant’s terpene volume. It possesses an earthy, spicy aroma and is found most typically in indica and hybrid strains. Myrcene works as a sedative, and can also relax muscles and reduce pain. It has been recommended as a possible solution for insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety. Myrcene also has an effect on cell membrane permeability, meaning it can regulate the effects of other cannabinoids and terpenes and even increase the volume of THC molecules which bind to individual CB1 receptors.
Beta Caryophyllene: Beta Caryophyllene, sometimes written as β-Caryophyllene, is what’s known as a “dietary cannabinoid”: it can be found commonly in many foods, and carries GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status from the FDA. Chemically, beta caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene, meaning it is less volatile, has a stronger odor, and possesses anti-inflammatory and bactericidal properties. It contributes to the spicy flavor and scent of black pepper, and is also found in cloves, rosemary, hops, and – of course – cannabis. Unlike many other terpenes, beta caryophyllene actually binds to cannabinoid receptors, leading to it sometimes being classified as an atypical variety of cannabinoid. It’s useful for treatment of arthritis and colitis symptoms, as well as anxiety and depression.
Linalool: If you’ve ever seen a product containing lavender which claims to have soothing properties, you’ve encountered a product with linalool. It has been ascribed relaxing, sedating, and analgesic properties that have led to its centuries-long use for pain relief and sleep aid. It possesses a rich, floral, aromatic scent with spicy undertones. With muscle relaxation, anti-depressant, and other calming properties, linalool is certainly a terpene to keep an eye out for when looking for a relaxing indica strain.
Limonene: As a terpene found across a variety of different medicinal herbs, such as lippia alba (bushy matgrass), limonene has long been the subject of study regarding both its medicinal benefits and other uses. Limonene is an incredibly effective natural cleanser, and these chemical properties can also be utilized to aid the body in the processing of other cannabinoids or terpenes. As the name suggests, it has an unmistakably potent citrus scent, and is found to occur naturally in many citrus fruits and plants. Studies have suggested limonene has a potent sedative effect, along with muscle relaxation and barbiturate sleeping time.
Humulene: Known for a musky, earthy aroma, humulene is often more prominent in sativa strains than in indicas, although it’s been known to be present in both. While not as strictly sedative as other indica-associated terpenes, it has serious analgesic and pain relieving properties. This can certainly help someone relax if it’s pain or inflammation that’s keeping one from relaxing. While other sativa-associated terpenes might provide inflammation and pain relief while also stirring the mind and generating energy or focus, humulene provides the same pain benefits without associated psychoactivity. Not only this, but it can also suppress appetite, so no more staying awake thinking “should I have a snack before I go on to sleep?”
Terpineol: Carrying an aroma of lilacs, clove, citrus, and flowers, terpineol is certainly a great smelling terpene. Like many other terpenes, it works as an incredibly effective antioxidant, making it a great inclusion in topicals for pain, and it also claims the strongest anti-microbial making it a great inclusion in topicals for pain, and it also claims the strongest anti-microbial effects compared to other terpenes, weakening the cell membrane of bacteria in order to expose them to immune defenses. Similar to humulene, the chief relaxing properties of terpineol stem from its effective, broad, and acute pain relieving properties rather than a psychoactive relaxing or sedating effect.
So What About the Indica Strains?
While you may be able to walk into an LA recreational dispensary and simply ask your friendly budtender for a strain high in humulene, caryophyllene, and linalool, it’s certainly easier and quicker to just ask for a specific strain you know they carry. After all, that’s typically among the first questions you’ll be asked by a budtender: are you looking for a sativa, or an indica? Remember, these terpenes correlate with indica or sativa: you’re going to have more luck finding these terpenes in indicas than sativas, although there’s certainly some overlap. Let’s bring this conversation back to the ground level and discuss some potent strains that are known for their relaxing effects.
Key Lime Pie
When looking for a relaxing, sedating indica with strong resin production, Key Lime Pie is a strong choice. It’s a phenotype of Girl Scout Cookies – today known as GSC – which is already famous for its calming properties. Key Lime Pie leans heavily into the indica properties of GSC, making it excellent for relieving pain and anxiety. Mild sedation also helps with insomnia, so this is a great night time smoke. Be on the lookout for one of our amazing Indica pre rolled joints.
Blue Knight is a relative of the legendary Blueberry strain, and has many of the same prominent effects. Relaxation, calming, and pain relief are certainly going to present, but there’ll also be a pleasant cerebral quality that could make Blue Knight an excellent choice for an evening pre-roll joint after dinner. It can provide for that “goldilocks zone” where you want the cannabis to relax and maybe even sedate, but not knock you out. If you want a relaxing smoke that won’t keep you up, but won’t put you down too hard either, this is a strong choice.
Named for its pleasantly sweet aroma, as well as its lineage stemming from Banana Kush and Strawberry, Strawberry Banana is certainly no stranger to fans of relaxing indica strains. Even more cerebral than Key Lime Pie and Blue Knight, Strawberry Banana’s mentally relaxing qualities aid in creativity, anxiety relief, and entering a “flow state”. While also aiding in pain relief and reducing inflammation, this sweet, full-flavored smoke could be an excellent all-day cannabis which won’t lock you too hard into the couch. Don’t get it wrong, this is certainly still an indica – and will have the calming properties to match – but it can still generate a productive high without generating a “buzz” or feeding into anxiety. We feel this cannabis strain is best smoked rather than ingested via THC edible.
That’s all for our exploration of what we consider some of the most relaxing indicas, but the conversation doesn’t end there. If you’re looking for a friendly, welcoming Los Angeles dispensary in the Studio City, Melrose, Arts District DTLA, and Westwood West LA areas, stop by Sweet Flower and ask your experienced budtender what they might recommend. You might be surprised by how much information they truly have at their disposal! Order cannabis delivery online from our Melrose or Studio City locations.