“Strains” is meant to identify different kinds of cannabis flower. It’s primarily a marketing/sales approach which attempts to use distinctively creative names to distinguish themselves. Strain names run into the 1,000s; a curious mix of words and numbers, with no naming or classication standardization; names are simply invented by the original grower and/or retailer.
The more accurate term to use instead of strain is: chemovar
Because cannabis is undergoing a sea change of new realities (legally, useage and scientifically-studied) reliability about a particular strain’s contents (i.e, it’s cannabinoid ratios, percentage and types of terpenes and others) many cannabis and medical professionals are trying to develop a more uniform testing, naming and quality control identification system (i.e,naming).
For now, it’s easiest to continue using “strain” to indicate the particulart cannabis products you want to identify.
There is a large disparity between the cultural language (strain) used by patients using cannabis for self-medication (or, anyone using cannabis for recreational purposes) and the “chemical” language applied by scientists and cananbis-educated healthcare professionals to get a deeper understanding of cannabis effects in laboratory and clinical studies. The distinction between Sativa and Indica types of cannabis, and the different biological effects associated with them, is a major example of this. Despite the widespread use of cannabis, scientific studies are yet to identify the biochemical markers that can sufficiently explain differences between cannabis varieties.
The scientific debate about classification of the cannabis species has been going on for centuries. According to current scientific consensus, Cannabis is monotypic and consists only of a single species Cannabis sativa L., as originally described by Leonard Fuchs in the 16th century. Within this species, two important subdivisions are commonly made. One of them recognizes drug-type versus fiber-type cannabis based on the intended use of the plant, and is mostly relevant for legal purposes. The other subdivision is based on botanical principles and identifies Sativa versus Indica types of cannabis, both regarded as a subspecies of Cannabis sativa L.
According to the botanical description of cannabis, Sativa types of cannabis were originally grown in the Western world on an industrial scale for fiber, oil, and animal feedstuff. They are characterized by tall growth with few, widely spaced, branches and long, thin leaves. In contrast, plants of the Indica type originated in South Asia and were known historically as Indian hemp. They are characterized by shorter bushy plants and broader leaves, typically maturing relatively fast. The two groups tend to have a different smell, which may reflect a different profile of fragrant terpenes. Most cannabis plants that are currently commercially available are in fact a hybrid (cross-breed) of Sativa and Indica ancestors. Cannabis-type ruderalis is sometimes also recognized as a separate subspecies. It is a smaller and “weedy” plant originally from Central Russia.
Various scientific attempts have been made to classify cannabis plants based on their cannabinoid composition. For forensic and legal purposes, the most important classification is that of the drug type (cannabis) versus the fiber type (hemp), with an emphasis on the total THC content in the flowers of the plant. Until recently, cannabis products used for medicinal purposes in official programs all belonged to the drug type, because of their high content of the biologically active THC. However, it is becoming increasingly scientifically validated that multiple constituents may be involved in the overall effect of the drug (i.e, the Entourage Effect). This includes the cannabinoids: CBD, CBG, CBN, CBDA and THCV, as well as a variety of terpenes.