From a patient’s perspective, it may feel overwhelming to try and grasp just how many different strains of cannabis are available today — and for good reason. A recent study from the Los Angeles Times found a total 779 different strains of marijuana, including 431 unique hybrid strains. And yet that figure seems remarkably conservative when compared to Leafly’s estimation of over 2,300 unique stains.
Different strains, of course, provide different results, so it’s vital to find the right combination of cannabis attributes that can lead to treatment success. It may even be the case that the strain most optimal for you is still in development or has yet to be created.
More and more cannabis strains are discovered each year because in some parts of the world, cannabis plants continue to evolve in complete isolation. We call these particular populations of cannabis “landrace strains.”
What Are Landrace Strains?
“Landrace” is a biological term that denotes a species of plant or animal that has evolved for many years in an isolated and specific geographic environment. Scientists value these types of species because they contain unique and characteristic genetic traits. For this reason, landrace strains are highly valued in the cannabis market.
When a plant evolves naturally in its own environment, it undergoes a much different process from when it is intentionally bred by marijuana growers and cultivators. The slow, untampered evolution of individual landrace species leads to new, complex plants that are able to express unique genetic variations. While many of these variations contribute to the plant’s overall survival in the wild, other variations could end up altering the potency of certain medicinal qualities. It is precisely these variations that help guide the process of hybridization that we see happening today.
The Possibilities of Hybridizing Landrace Strains
By crossing different landrace strains and selecting for certain genetic traits, growers are able to develop plants that are intentionally and thoughtfully created to treat specific ailments. This process has revolutionized patient care.
Landrace strains allow growers to hybridize cannabis plants with very specific chemical structures in mind. For example, dominant CBD strains created through hybridization are useful in treating a variety of conditions, from epilepsy to severe anxiety. A grower who knows this can select certain landrace strains that are best-suited to treat these types of ailments.
Knowledge is continually growing in this field, and alongside it a better understanding of the various chemical components that are present within the diverse genetic makeup of landrace strains.
The New Frontier
For years, many growers had focused on raising THC content. When they started including CBD-dominant strains, the treatment profiles changed dramatically. By revisiting the genetic wealth found in landrace strains, the medical cannabis industry has a lot to gain. Manipulating the chemical composition of cannabis through hybridization is still as revolutionary and exciting as ever.
We owe as much to the sophisticated intentional hybridization of these plants as we do to the natural world. This intimate link between the plant and the land is why many strains are named after the place where they first grew. Afghan Kush, Durban Poison, and Malawi Gold all reference specific land conditions that led to their unique qualities.
In recent years, the decision to preserve and examine heirloom varieties of agricultural crops, such as tomatoes, has become more commonplace. It’s the same with cannabis. In the end, these older, parent varieties just might bring us to the new frontier of treatment options.