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A New Cannabis Strain Guide Using Shapes and Colors

Posted: April 7, 2020

There is a trend towards using new systems when describing different cannabis strains. In fact, in the minds of many cannabis cultivators and researchers, the Indica/Sativa/Hybrid paradigm is an inadequate model for describing the therapeutic effects and experiences of cannabis strains, a term that they also want to replace. In this article I will explain the new method that the folks at Leafly have developed, using shapes, colors and customer reviews. I will also cite 5 studies that the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCII) is conducting to investigate minor cannabinoids and terpenes for pain management.

Leafly’s New Cannabis Guide

The cannabis industry has been using the classifications of indica, sativa or hybrid for decades. These terms actually refer to the physical features; indica is a short, stout plant, sativa is tall and thin and a hybrid is a cross between the two.

This has led to the assumption that each type presents with certain effects, which can be very misleading and insufficient. In fact, the chemical profile of a strain or chemovar, which includes the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, will determine how it affects you. This includes the medicinal benefits each strain provides. These days, with all the crossbreeding and hybridization of strain, it is almost impossible to find a true sativa or indica based on genetic analysis.

The purpose of this new cannabis guide is to give each medical patient baseline information for each strain. That gives you the resources to find different but similar strains that may be more beneficial for your needs.

The highly regarded cannabis site,, has developed a new guide which is a system of categorizing flower using shapes and colors to represent the therapeutic experiences, benefits and aromas. The profiles of each strain is based on an average of all the data samples collected by Leafly’s lab partners. They also encourage input from customers in reviewing each strain.

Visit our Germantown, MD dispensary’s Leafly profile and follow us to receive updates on our latest deals, discounts, news updates and more!

Here’s How It Works

1. Find Your Shape (Cannabinoid)
2. Find Your Color (Terpene)
3. Find Your Cannabis Strain


The focal point of this system is the shapes. They represent the different cannabinoids of THC, CBD or a mixture of the two.
The center shape, known as the nucleus, represents THC or CBD dominance:

  1. Diamonds are THC-dominant
  2. Circles are CBD-dominant
  3. 1:1 THC:CBD is represented by a mixture of circles and diamonds
  4. The larger the shape, the higher percentage of the cannabinoid it contains:
    • Longer, more pointed diamonds contain more THC
    • Bigger circles contain more CBD
    • A few of the minor cannabinoids such as CBG are also included in this system



Each of the 8 different terpenes is associated with a particular color. They range from Calming, starting with Linalool, to Terpinolene which is the most Energizing.

Each Leafly flower strain shows the 3 most abundant terpenes. The colors of the primary, inner and outer rings indicate the prominent terpenes in each strain.

  1. Linalool – Purple
  2. Myrcene – Royal Blue
  3. Pinene – Mint Green
  4. Humulene – Chartreuse Green
  5. Caryophyllene – Fuschia
  6. Limolene – Yellow
  7. Ocimene – Crimson
  8. Terpinolene – Orange

Some of the strains do not include colors due to a lack of data available to create a reliable terpene profile. However, there is enough data for a cannabinoid profile.

Here is an example:
Click the image above to have it take you to the full guide

Visit our Germantown Dispensary’s Leafly account to see for yourself. make sure to follow us for future alerts!

Minor Cannabinoid and Terpene Studies 

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been awarded about $3 million to study the phytochemicals in cannabis for their potential analgesic properties. This includes some of the minor cannabinoids and terpenes.

Here are 5 of the studies:

  1. Minor Cannabinoids and Terpenes: Preclinical Evaluation as Analgesics: Conducted by Dr. Jenny L. Wiley at the Research Triangle Institute in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill regions of North Carolina. This study will examine minor cannabinoids and specific terpenes to determine their potential as analgesics in relieving inflammatory, neuropathic , visceral and acute thermal pain.
  2. Mechanistic Studies of Analgesic Effects of Terpene Enriched Extracts from Hops: Conducted by Dr. Cassandra L. Quave at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. This study will investigate the potential analgesic effects of the terpenes in the hop plant (Humulus lupulus)
  3. Systematic Investigation of Rare Cannabinoids With Pain Receptors: Conducted by Dr. David Sarlah at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. This study entails synthesizing rare phytocannabinoids for their anti-inflammatory properties and determining which compounds have the strongest anti-inflammatory effects on the major pain sensation receptors.
  4. Synthetic Biology for the Chemogenetic Manipulation of Pain Pathways: Conducted by Dr. Andrew Ellington at the University of Texas in Austin. Using mouse models, this study will use a unique method to create variations of CB2 cannabinoid receptors that demonstrate a high affinity for minor cannabinoids for pain management.
  5. Exploring the Mechanisms Underlying the Analgesic Effect of Cannabidiol Using Proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy: Conducted by Dr. Deborah A. Yurgelun-Todd at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT. This study examines the changes in brain chemistry in the most important pain-processing areas of the brain after exposure to a CBD extract, using a proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

And the last word is about replacing the term “strain” with “chemovar”

Chemovar vs Strain

Strain is not a term that botanists use when describing plants, so there is no good reason to use it to describe cannabis plants. The two relevant terms when describing cannabis are:

  1. Genotype – a plant’s genetic makeup
  2. Phenotype – the physical and psychological characteristics or traits of an organism affected by genetics and by the environment.

Cannabis researchers prefer the term “chemovar” which is much more comprehensive. It includes the use of cannabinoid, flavonoid and terpene profiles to distinguish one variety of cannabis from another.

Did you find the shapes and color system helpful? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Sources:, Type I, Type II, Type III: How Science is Changing the Way the Industry Describes Cannabis Varieties, Andrea Sparr-Jaswa, Nov. 8, 2019, Part 1: Exploring Cannabis Strains with A New Perspective, Pat Goggins, Sept. 30, 20179, Part 2: Why Has Leafly Created A New Visualization Pattern for Cannabis, Pat Goggins, Sept. 30, 2019

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