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Cannabis 101 – Terminology Explained

By September 21, 2017 January 3rd, 2019 No Comments

There is a lot of terminology associated with the cannabis industry. It can surely be confusing to understand, especially when it’s explained in scientific language. Here at Canna Trading Company, we want to help you understand the terms you might hear or see used so that you can follow along better and gain a little education about the plant you’re using.

This quick guide provides simple explanations for all terms, including some that seem impossible to explain simply.

Cannabis – Cannabis is a plant with a 10,000+-year history. It is known for its psychoactive and healing properties. Marijuana is an acceptable term if you prefer it over cannabis. Cannabis possesses more than 85 different cannabinoids. The list continues to grow as more are discovered. Each cannabinoid has a different purpose – we’ll explain this a little later.

Common slang terms for cannabis:

  • Ganja
  • Weed
  • Green
  • Trees
  • Friends
  • Dank
  • Hydro
  • Loud
  • Pot
  • Grass
  • Reefer
  • Buddha
  • Chronic
  • Cheeba
  • Mary Jane
  • Dope (highly controversial)
  • Hash

There are three main types of cannabis – sativa, indica and hybrid. Ruderalis is another type of cannabis but has low levels of THC and is native to Central/Eastern Europe and Russia. It is sometimes considered to be a sub-species of cannabis.

Hemp – Hemp is not cannabis, but the term is often interchanged incorrectly. Hemp is in the same plant family as cannabis, but does not produce high amounts of THC. Hemp is rich in cannabidiol, fiber and other vitamins and nutrients. It has health and industrial applications. No matter how much hemp you ingest, you aren’t likely to get high because its THC levels are too low (typically less than 1-percent).

Flower – Flower is the dry cannabis buds that are harvested, cured and trimmed for use. Flower is used in joints, pipes, blunts and vaporizers.

Terpenes – Terpenes are what give cannabis strains their unique flavor and aroma profiles. Terpenes are present in more than 2,000 plants, shrubs/trees, herbs/spices and flowers. Each terpene has scientifically proven health benefits and provide additional benefits to cannabis strains.

Trichomes – Trichomes are the “hairs” you see on cannabis plant buds. Trichomes can be orange, purple, red, yellow or variations of green. Sometimes they can have a bluish tinge to them. These are what makes cannabis buds look crystallized or “sparkly” as some call lit. They do more than just make buds look pretty. They are used to detect different growing stages of the cannabis plant.

When trichomes are clear, your plant isn’t ready yet. When the color is cloudy or milky, you’ll experience a more heady or sativa-like high. As trichomes change to amber, brown or other dark colors, the effect is likely relaxing and a body high – indicative of indica strains.

Trichomes are what make the highly coveted kief that you may hear mentioned a lot.

Kief – Kief is the golden powder that is left after grinding dried and cured flower. When trichomes are broken apart, what’s left is the head of the trichome. There are cannabinoids and terpenes in trichomes. Kief is often used to help make a low-potency strain feel more effective. It is also used to make moon rocks (cannabis buds that are rolled in resin or concentrate and then rolled in kief).

Strain – A specific type of cannabis – given a unique name. Sometimes strains are named after their inventor and other times they are named after the effects the strain produces. Characteristics of new strains, when hybrid strains are created, often help in making the name choice portion easier as cultivators will combine the names of the parent strains to name their crossbreed.

Sativa – Sativa is a type of cannabis. Sativa cannabis strains are known to produce heady effects, meaning you’ll feel the effects more in your head than in the rest of your body. These are strains for daytime and are often represented by the color red. Sativas can produce anxiety/paranoia/dizziness more commonly than indicas, so if that is what you are trying to treat, sativas aren’t likely the right option for you. These strains often help with energy, focus and creativity. There are some sativa strains that do help with pain.

Indica – Indica strains are more popular in the medical cannabis community. These are the relaxing strains that help with pain, nausea, promoting hunger and insomnia, to name just a few uses for indica strains. Their calming effects are often what bring on the lazy feelings you might have after using them. These are ideal for evening/nighttime use.

Hybrid – Hybrid stains are a combination of two or more other strains. The effects of hybrid strains vary. Here’s where you might get confused, hybrid strains can be sativa-dominant, indica-dominant or an equal blend of both. It is important to review the characteristics, effects and lineage of hybrid strains so that you can learn what to expect. Sativa-dominant hybrids are ideal for daytime and afternoon relief. Indica-dominant options are ideal for evening and nighttime use.

Cola – When it comes to cannabis, cola is not something associated with soft drinks. Colas are the top portion of a cannabis bud that is the highest up on the plant (the top of the plant). It’s called the “terminal bud”. This is because it isn’t in the middle of a branch like other buds.

Calyx – The calyx is the actual bud attached to a cola. It has small sugar leaves and tear-shaped nodules. It also has visible pistils. More trichomes are found in the calyx.

Cannabinoids – Cannabinoids are the compounds in cannabis that provide different benefits. For example, cannabidiol is CBD and this cannabinoid is known for its ability to stop/prevent seizures (and aid in dozens of other health ailments). Cannabinoids are what make each cannabis strain unique. Each has a role. The overall cannabinoid makeup of a strain is what provides the effect collectively.

Entourage Effect – The entourage effect is the synergy created in the body between the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and receptors in the body. To achieve the entourage effect, you’ll need whole plant medicine – meaning that nothing is extracted out of it, nothing has enhanced it, it is just the cannabis strain in its most natural state.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – Tetrahydrocannabinol is the most prominent cannabinoid in cannabis. It is the cannabinoid that produces psychoactive effects. It’s more commonly referred to as just THC. THC potencies vary by strain and success in cultivation.

Cannabidiol (CBD) – Cannabidiol is the second most prominent cannabinoid in cannabis. It is non-psychoactive but provides over a dozen benefits to the body. It is proven to help stop or reduce seizures in children. It is also a known anti-inflammatory. Studies on CBD are more prevalent since it is non-psychoactive. CBD is also present in high concentrations in hemp and specifically bred CBD cannabis strains (like Charlotte’s Web and ACDC). Studies have shown that CBD helps reduce nausea, has cancer-fighting properties and can help curb cravings for nicotine and alcohol.

Cannabinol (CBN) – Cannabinol is a relaxing or sedative cannabinoid. It is known for aiding in insomnia and pain relief. When THC sits for a long period of time, it converts to CBN. So, a strain that sits for a few months is likely to make you rather sleepy.

Full Spectrum – Full spectrum refers to using the entire plant and not taking just parts of it. It is what helps achieve the entourage effect. In order to fully benefit from a cannabis strain, full spectrum is the way to go. You’ll want to look for products that use the whole plant or those that are unaltered (such as dry cannabis flower).

Isolate – Isolation processes are now being used to extract specific cannabinoids from cannabis and hemp plants. THC and CBD are the most commonly isolated cannabinoids. This, however, is not ideal because you are missing the other cannabinoids available in the strain. Isolates tend to be lack luster in terms of effect simply because there are elements missing.


We hope this guide has helped you. If there are terms that you have heard, but aren’t explained here, please feel free to reach out. We’ll get you a simple explanation so that you get the information you need without having to bring out the dictionary.

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