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Cannabis strains that are unexpectedly similar

September 13, 2019
(Yarygin/iStock, Leafly)

Cannabis strains are made up of cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) as well as terpenes, which are aromatic compounds that give each flower its unique aroma. We’re constantly learning more about these terpenes and how they impact the overall experience of consuming cannabis.


What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?

When choosing a strain, we often think of sativas and indicas as being polar opposites in effect, but if you look closely at their chemical composition—again, cannabinoids and terpenes—you’ll notice that many indica- and sativa-dominant strains are unexpectedly similar, chemically speaking. Let’s get into some of these unanticipated similar pairs.

Blue Dream and 9 Pound Hammer

Primary terpenes: Myrcene, pinenecaryophyllene

Cannabinoid content: Blue Dream (19% THC on average), 9 Pound Hammer (18% THC on average)

With a reputation as a daytime strain for beginners, it’s pretty interesting to see the chemical similarities between the famed Blue Dream and the powerful 9 Pound Hammer, a strain that is more commonly chosen as a nighttime smoke. Terpene-wise, you’ll see that they are both dominant in myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene, and tend to hold little difference in THC percentages on average.


Opinion: It’s OK that Blue Dream is your favorite cannabis strain

So why do people perceive these as such different strains?

On average, Blue Dream has more pinene, which some say has alerting qualities (although science has yet to prove this effect in cannabis). This and a harmony of other minor terpenes and cannabinoids could explain why Blue Dream feels lighter than 9 Pound Hammer. Also, when consumed in copious amounts, Blue Dream can feel very relaxing and somewhat sedative, narrowing the gap between these two strains further.

Cinex and Purple Hindu Kush

Primary terpenes: Limonenecaryophyllene, pinene

Cannabinoid content: Cinex (16% THC on average), Purple Hindu Kush (20% THC on average)

This one is the most fascinating of the bunch; there’s truly nothing sedative, sleepy, or any other words you’d use to describe “purple weed” like Purple Hindu Kush about Cinex. But here they are with essentially the same terpene profile. Both strains come packed with THC and are dominant in limonene, caryophyllene, and pinene terpenes. However, most people swear they feel so different.

A cross between Cindy 99 and Vortex, Cinex is known to be an uplifting strain with energetic qualities that send the brain into a powerful creative zone, as well as help you wash your stresses down the drain. I’ve consumed it multiple times and it never puts me to sleep or even in a “down” type of energy.


The Strain Ingredients: Inside the Bright & Uplifting Cinex Strain

A combination of two powerhouses, Hindu Kush and Purple Afghani, Purple Hindu Kush provides a heavily relaxing experience, which is why some consumers with chronic pain reach for this strain. This is one of those potent strains that’ll put most people on their ass for hours.

These two strains are another great example of how cannabinoids combine with terpenes to produce effects. Cinex and Purple Hindu Kush are very similar terpene-wise, but maybe PHK’s tendency to produce higher levels of THC on average helps explain why this strain delivers a sock-it-to-me type of high.

Chernobyl and Golden Lemon

Primary terpenes: Terpinolene, myrcene, caryophyllene

Cannabinoid content: Chernobyl (18% THC on average), Golden Lemon (23% THC on average)

Chernobyl is a citrus-flavored cross of Trainwreck, Jack The Ripper, and Trinity. With its long-lasting cerebral high and mood-lifting qualities, many associate Chernobyl with daytime activities. So it’s mildly surprising to see that its terpene profile is very similar to Golden Lemon, an indica-dominant hybrid cross of Kosher Kush and Lemon Skunk that many seek for its relaxing qualities.

Though often differing in perceived effects, the common terpene profile produces pungent citrus flavors in both strains. This is a great example of how cannabinoids play an equal role in the entourage effect of cannabinoids and terps that our body feels. Sure, these strains may smell and taste similar—but the higher-on-average THC levels in Golden Lemon may help push its potency towards more sedative relaxation.

Dante Jordan's Bio Image

Dante Jordan

Dante Jordan is an Associate Subject Matter Expert for Leafly, where he specializes in informational and lifestyle content pertaining to cannabis strains and products. He also manages the Leafly strain database.

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  • Fun Please


  • thanks so much for this information .. nice article

  • Fun Please

    Thanks for the moderation on the 1A Rights
    Signed combat vet

  • Pope O’Dope

    There are too many factors that will affect one particular strain, or batch, of cannabis versus another, as it is experienced by the consumer. Terpenes or myrcene, which are aromatics, theoretically could change the way marijuana is experienced. But then, does the smell of your coffee beans change the effect your coffee has on you? Does the hop profile (hops being also from the cannabaceae family) change the effect your beer has on you? To some extent, the answer is yes, aromatics can affect both smell and taste, but caffeine and alcohol respectively are the chemicals in coffee and beer that make them so appealing. When we’re talking aromatics, we’re generally talking about the power of suggestion. For example, the oenophile will argue that by describing wine as having hints of tobacco and notes of fresh cut grass, it provides a language in which to talk about wine. But it also makes for an industry full of pompous hose-heads.

    Turing Marijuana into a connoisseur’s product, like wine (and now beer and coffee), threatens to destroy Marijuana (as it has done with wine, beer, and coffee–a whole ‘nother debate). The growing process, including harvesting methods, curing, and storage are the most important factors affecting marijuana and its potency. Instead of determining which strain or species of marijuana is best (indica v. sativa, which has more to do with the plant’s grow cycle and has little to do with which one makes you feel sleepy and which one makes you feel energized), the focus should be on growing really good marijuana–the former being akin to jousting windmills.

    Genetics are one important factor in growing good marijuana, however, I have yet to try something that tops early 90’s breeding (NL #5 anyone?). Landrace strains, even feral ditch weed (in theory), if tended to properly, can make for some pretty great weed. Marijuana used to be cool and fun. I’ve been growing it in my backyard and occasionally indoors for the past twenty-five years, and yet, I’ve never put my bud in a wine glass, swirled it under my nose with expert technique, and called out a faint aroma of stone fruit with just a hint of citrus. All Marijuana should relieve stress, anxiety, and make you feel good, and if it doesn’t then you might be doing it wrong.

  • Jeffrey Raber a foremast cannabis expert with PHD said all this names given to cannabis is bullshit because the all work almost same, the only difference is INDICA and SATIVA that work opposite to each other.. well im still to try all this weed and see the difference the i guess i will be able to respond to what he thinks about cannabis

  • Ivan van Ogre

    Agreed. To write people off just because they love something else cheats the hater. There is value in cross-pollination of knowledge and ideas. There is room in this world for everyone to pursue what they love so long as they hurt no one else in the process.

  • Ivan van Ogre

    I really like Leafly’s new classification system with the colors and shapes. It goes deeper than I/S and provides information we can work with.

    It has helped me identify a host of strains that I will be on the lookout for.