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Naming Alert: Beyond Indica and Sativa

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Since the 1970s, cannabis consumers have distinguished between two types of herbs: indica and sativa. But this framework is flawed — problematic at best, arbitrary and misleading at worst. And while some producers and suppliers are beginning to rethink their use of these terms, the label is still ubiquitous in both legal and illegal markets.

The term “indica” is commonly used to refer to the calming and calming cannabis types and products, while the term “sativa” refers to the uplifting and invigorating. According to cannabis folklore, this apparent split stems from the sharing of two distinct genetic strains with different effects.

But the Recently published paper in the magazine nature plants It challenges this idea, at least with regard to the terminology used today to describe and market the cannabis flower. Furthermore, the researchers found that the names of the breeds themselves are not reliable indicators of the genetic or chemical identity of a specimen.

misnaming cannabis

A team of researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada authored an October 2021 paper titled “Linking cannabis to genetic diversity in the terpene synthase genes.” Wageningen University in the Netherlands; and the cannabis pharmaceutical company Bedrocan International, also based in the Netherlands.

The researchers began by measuring levels of 40 terpenes and cannabinoids in nearly 300 cannabis samples using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GSM).GCthe Lady). Then they performed a genetic analysis of 137 of these samples with high quality DNA can be extracted. Finally, they analyzed to what extent GCthe Lady The genomic data are consistent with the Indica-Sativa classification of the product samples.

Certainly, the samples labeled indica and sativa were genome-wide genetically unclear, the researchers found, referring to the full set of genes found in each plant. This suggests that knowing the breeding history of a particular breed (“X-crossed-with-Y”) is less useful than is widely assumed. Similarly, the six levels of cannabinoids (THCAnd CBGAnd CBCAnd THCVAnd Convention on Biological Diversity, And CBGM) were not associated with a specific Indica-Sativa nomenclature—nor were those of the majority of 34 terpenes tested.

Instead, the central finding of the work was that the classification of cannabis ‘type’ is closely aligned with variation in only a small number of identified terpenes. This conclusion contributes to a growing body of evidence that could benefit a more transparent naming system that is already gaining traction among cannabis consumers and providers. As extensive testing allows for sophisticated chemical analysis, classification of the cannabis flower will increasingly refer to its terpene profile.

Turbines are the key

In this particular study, the Sativa-labeled samples were more correlated with sesquiterpene concentrations. bergamot, which contains the file wooden or a tea-like flavor and no known psychoactive effects; And farnesene, which imparts a fruity aroma fixed With what many consumers expect from Sativa strains – but also (contrary to what is said for a class of strains that are said to be more refined) it is believed that they contain calm down effect in humans.

Meanwhile, indica-branded products were more closely related to monoterpene mercenaries, which has an earthy aroma and a calming effect, as well as sesquiterpenes Guayul (pine scent; psychoactive effects unknown) and γ- and β-iodesmol (woody scent; It is seen as appetite stimulant). Appropriately, the authors note that a Previous study It was found that these three compounds were related to plants from Afghanistan, considered the region of origin of the Indica cultivars.

“Our results show that the Sativa-Indica scale currently used for naming cannabis It does not capture well the overall genomic and metabolic variance,” the authors wrote – meaning that these terms say little about the genetic or chemical makeup of a given sample.

The authors go on to suggest “that a feasible and reliable classification system for cannabis that are consistent with the contemporary understanding of the term ‘Sativa’ and ‘Indica’ can be achieved by identifying a small number of terpenes and/or genotyping key-linked genetic markers. cannabis Aroma. “

In other words, if we were to retain these mappings, they would be better allocated based on the analysis of specific terpenes or their genetic markers in the plant, rather than according to pedigree, breeding history or general assumptions about the species. After all, terpenes not only impart aromas that can drive consumer preference, but also some of the key mental and physical effects that recreational and medical users may look for when choosing a particular strain or rating.


Nate Seltenrich, a freelance science journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area, covers a wide range of topics including environmental health, neuroscience, and pharmacology.

Copyright, Project Convention on Biological Diversity. It may not be reprinted without So.

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