You might know someone who had a bad first experience with cannabis—or maybe you had a personal experience. If you don’t understand strains and how they are likely to affect you, you can easily choose marijuana that makes you incredibly paranoid and extremely anxious. Best to research strains in advance to determine the best cannabis strains for beginners. More importantly, if you’re taking cannabis for a medical condition, you definitely need to research the best strain for your condition.

First, it’s good to understand the two main cannabinoids in marijuana:

  • THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis. It’s what gives you the “high.”
  • CBD is the non-intoxicating compound used for medicinal purposes.

So if you’re looking for relaxation, anti-inflammatory, and other medicinal effects, choose a product with low THC and high CBD. If you’re interested in getting intoxicated, you’ll want a product higher in THC (more on this later).

Here’s a beginner’s guide to the best cannabis strains for recreational and medical use.

Medical Marijuana Strains

If you need medical marijuana for chronic pain, cancer, insomnia, arthritis, ADD, or other medical conditions, you need to find the best strain with properties tailored for your condition. What’s important to know is that with legalization comes a certain amount of regulation. Commercial medical marijuana growers today more accurately produce cannabis plants with the right balance of cannabinoids for various conditions.

And choosing the right strain has nothing to do with choosing a favorite. It’s more about careful considerations of the right balance of compounds to be the most helpful. Since each person reacts differently to strains as well, you may need to try a few before finding the right strain for your condition.

Here are a few symptoms from various medical conditions and the best strains of medical marijuana to combat those symptoms and provide relief.

Name THC CBD Uses Side Effects
Girl Scout Cookies 17-28% 0.09-0.2% stress, depression, pain, lack of appetite and headache dry mouth, dry eyes, paranoia, anxiety and dizziness
OG Kush 19-26% 0-0.3% stress, pain, depression, insomnia and headaches dry mouth, dry eyes, dizziness, paranoia and anxiety
Harlequin 4-7% 8-16% pain, stress, depression, inflammation and headache dry mouth, dry eyes, anxiety, dizziness and headache
Strawberry Cough 20-23% 0.05-0.4% stress, depression, pain, fatigue and lack of appetite dry mouth, dry eyes, headache, dizziness and paranoia
One to One 10-14% 10-14% muscle spasms, pain, stress, insomnia and lack of appetite dry mouth, dry eyes, dizziness and paranoia
Atomic Northern Lights 10-12% 0.10-0.3% stress, pain, depression, insomnia and lack of appetite dry mouth, dry eyes, dizziness, paranoia and headache
Bruce Banner 16-26% 0.1-0.6% stress, depression, pain, fatigue and headache dry mouth, dry eyes, dizziness, paranoia and anxiety
Blue Dream 17-24% 0.1-0.2% stress, depression, pain, headache and fatigue dry mouth, dry eyes, paranoia, dizziness and anxiety
Green Crack 13-21% 0-0.15% stress, depression, fatigue, pain and lack of appetite dry mouth, dry eyes, paranoia, anxiety and headache
Super Sour Diesel 16.5-24% 0.55-1.16% stress, depression, pain, nausea and headache dry mouth, dry eyes, anxiety, paranoia and dizziness
Jamaican Lion 5-9% 18-23% stress, pain, depression, muscle spasms and inflammation dry mouth, dizziness, dry eyes, headache and paranoia
Crimea Blue 15-18% 0.5-1.5% eye pressure, pain, depression, stress and insomnia dry mouth and dizziness
G-13 Haze 18-21% 0.10-0.7% stress, pain, insomnia, depression and eye pressure dry mouth, dry eyes, dizziness, anxiety and paranoia
Dr. Grinspoon 17-25% 0-0.4% depression, fatigue, stress, lack of appetite and pain dry mouth, dizziness, dry eyes and paranoia


Common conditions doctors will prescribe medical marijuana for include:

  • ADD
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic pain
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Neuropathy caused by diabetes and other conditions
  • PTSD
  • Glaucoma

Here are the most used strains according to Marijuana Break for the top five conditions above:

  • Best cannabis strains for cancer: ACDC, Charlotte’s Web, Chocolope, Grandaddy Purple, and Northern Lights
  • Best cannabis strains for insomnia: Big Bud, God’s Gift, Ogre, Skywalker, Tahoe OG Kush
  • Best cannabis strains for neuropathy: ACDC, Blue Dream, Harlequin, Jack Herer, White Widow
  • Best cannabis strain for arthritis: ACDC, Cannatonic, Canna Tsu, Girl Scout Cookies, Harlequin
  • Best cannabis strains for ADD: Blue Dream, Gorilla Glue, Green Crack, Sour Diesel, True OG

Remember new strains are being developed almost daily. As the cannabis industry grows in leaps and bounds, expect more research into its medicinal effects. This means more and better strains targeted at specific diseases, conditions, and medical problems.

As with any medication, you may experience side effects from medical marijuana, such as:

  • Sleep problems
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Panic or anxiety attack
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Red eyes and dry mouth
  • Vomiting

Some of these side effects are actually useful for various conditions. Say, for example, you’re a cancer patient suffering from nausea after taking chemotherapy. You might welcome an increased appetite thanks to medical marijuana. It comes down to choosing the right strain and managing your dosage to mitigate the side effects and take advantage of those that will relieve your symptoms.

Next let’s look at the best recreational cannabis strains for beginners.

Recreational Marijuana Strains

Maybe you know someone—or you experienced it yourself—who tried marijuana for the first time without knowing the strain and had a bad experience. Typically this happens with strains high in THC which can cause anxiety and paranoia. For beginners and those with a low tolerance for the effects of THC, it’s best to find cannabis strains low in the psychoactive THC and high in the relaxing and calming effects of CBD. Let’s look at a few of the most common ones users embrace.

  • Harlequin. Harlequin is a sativa that offers a high level of relaxation and happiness. You’ll feel uplifted and more focused than usual. You can also experience feelings of euphoria.
  • Sour Tsunami. This is a hybrid strain that is also very high in relaxation. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how focused you are, and you’ll enjoy the happiness. You might even feel uplifted or a little sleepy.
  • Pennywise. This indica offers an intense level of relaxation. You’ll also feel more focused and uplifted and a bit more euphoric and happy.
  • Harle-Tsu. Another hybrid, Harle-Tsu offers top relaxation and focus effects. You’ll love feeling uplifted and happy. You’ll also be more talkative which might annoy others.
  • ACDC. Top in relaxation, ACDC is a hybrid that will leave you more focused and uplifted. Add to that happiness and euphoria and you can see why ACDC is popular.
  • Cannatonic. Rated high in relaxation, this hybrid offers an increased measure of happiness as well. You’ll also experience a bit more focus and euphoria, but it might make you a little sleepy.
  • Dancehall. You’ll be extremely happy with this hybrid strain. You’ll also feel more uplifted and energetic. A big bonus is the boost to your creativity and focus.
  • Aliens on Moonshine. An indica, this uniquely named strain offers the utmost in relaxation. You’ll enjoy feeling extra happy and focused, and you’ll feel more uplifted and euphoric.

Bear in mind you’ll need lab-tested cannabis to determine the exact THC level in your strain. Amounts of THC can vary between strains, even in individual harvests. Growing environments and more influence the cannabinoid levels, so get your cannabis from a reputable dispensary that lab tests its products.

After experimenting with the low THC strains above, you may be ready to try something with a more dominant THC level. Most strains today top out at around 20 to 25 percent THC. Make sure any strain you buy was lab-tested to verify the level of THC. And always start with a low dose of whatever strain you try.

Here are a few THC dominant strains work your way into:

  • Blue Dream. Blue Dream is a hybrid strain that causes feelings of happiness and relaxation. You’ll also feel euphoric, uplifted, and even more creative.
  • Jack Herer. This strain is a sativa that also causes you to feel ultimately happy and uplifted. You’ll also enjoy feelings of euphoria, while your energy and creativity will skyrocket.
  • Chernobyl. You’ll feel extremely happy and euphoric with this hybrid strain. It also provides an excellent uplifted feeling while relaxing you and giving you more energy.
  • Plushberry. Plushberry is an indica that makes you feel so relaxed and euphoric. You’ll also feel happy and uplifted, while experiencing more focus.
  • Maui Wowie. Want a sativa that leaves you feeling über happy and uplifted? Maui Wowie is the one You’ll also enjoy feeling euphoric and energetic while loving the relaxation it provides.
  • Permafrost. Just want to feel happy and relaxed? Try the hybrid Permafrost. You’ll also feel euphoric and uplifted. More importantly, you’ll be ever so more creative.

Final thoughts

How you take your cannabis influences its potency. Whether you smoke, vaporize, or ingest your marijuana dose can affect your experience. Here’s what to look for with each delivery method:

  • Smoking. Smoking makes it easy to get the right dose. You can start with a small amount and work your way up. Smoking also can create a burning sensation in your throat that might turn you off.
  • Vaporizing. Vaporizing is easier on the throat than smoking, making it probably the best method for beginners. You also control the dose when you vape, so you can easily take a hit when you need it.
  • Ingesting. Edibles are fun, but start slow and go low. When you ingest cannabis, it can take up to an hour or two to feel its effects. This makes people ingest more because they don’t think it’s working. Ingesting can also have a more intense and long-lasting effect than inhaling.

What works for one beginner can cause a bad experience in another. It pays to do your research in advance and find a strain that’s good for beginners. Once you build up a tolerance, you can experiment with higher THC strains. And slowly work your way into higher THC cannabis strains because they’re more likely to cause panic, paranoia, and anxiety. Always start with a low dose and incrementally increase so you understand its effect on you.

To research cannabis strains and find the best one for you, check out Leafly’s database.

Christopher Wright

Meet Christopher Wright, aka Blue, successful radio host and creator of Cannabis Talk 101. As well as CEO of Cannabis Talk Network. For over a decade now, Chris has had his hands in all faucets of the Cannabis Industry. From medicinal marijuana dispensaries and cultivations to controversial cannabis activism, Chris is a pioneer for the cannabis movement.