Buying Hemp Flower: 5 Things To Look For In A Hemp Strain

Just a few years ago, it was impossible to buy hemp flower online, and now there are dozens of different top-shelf strains begging for your attention.

With the legalization of hemp in 2018, the market is now flooded with hemp flower, and the number of different options can be overwhelming. With names like Papaya Nights, Frosted Kush and Blood Diamond, it can feel impossible to know what you’re really buying. 

Instead of trying to understand each strain that you come across without any context, we suggest you break things down by a few basic categories. In this guide, we’ll help you figure out how to sort through all the different strains, moods, and other qualities of CBD hemp flower available on the market.

Table of Contents: What To Look For When Buying Hemp Flower

  1. Terpene Profile
  2. Mood: The different types of hemp flower
  3. Lab Testing / COAs
  4. Appearance of hemp flower
  5. Customer reviews

Different hemp flower strains have different terpene profiles

Hemp flower contains hundreds of different kinds of oils. Some of these oils are aromatic, meaning they have a distinct scent. In addition to smelling nice, certain aromatic cannabis oils called terpenes have their own unique effects that augment the way hemp affects you.

Photo: A woman exhales as she smokes a hemp flower joint in a field of wildflowers.
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Different strains of hemp flower have different flavors due to their terpene profile, and can help create different moods. (Photo: Secret Nature / Nathaniel Gerdes)

Lots of other plants aside from hemp create their own terpenes, which is why they might smell familiar. The terpene linalool, for instance, is what makes lavender so attractive to the nose, and pinene smells just like pine sap when isolated. Here’s some basic info on three of the most common hemp terpenes:

Myrcene

Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in hemp, and it has spicy attributes that are somewhat reminiscent of hops.

Caryophyllene

Present in lots of other plant species as well, caryophyllene has an herbal aroma and flavor.

Limonene

Also found in the peels of citrus fruits, limonene has a zesty, sour flavor and a very citrusy aroma.

What mood is your hemp flower? Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid

Hemp doesn’t get you high. The effects of smoking hemp change, however, based on the terpene profile that a particular strain contains. Most hemp flower strains are either Sativa-dominant or Indica-dominant. Some strains, called hybrids, are roughly balanced between these traits.

Sativa-dominant hemp strains provide an energetic, creative mood that’s great for getting work done or going outside. Most hemp smokers choose to use sativa strains during the day, and hemp strains with sativa characteristics are usually lighter-colored and fruitier-smelling.

Indica-dominant strains, on the other hand, provide a relaxing effect that’s great for sleep. Hemp strains with indica genetics are often darker-colored, and they often have sweeter and richer flavor profiles. Hybrid strains take the best of both worlds to offer hemp buds that hit the spot no matter what mood you’re aiming for.

Lab Testing / COAs

Hemp has exploded in popularity recently, pushing the “green rush” to even greater heights. As a result, lots of aspiring entrepreneurs have gotten into the hemp industry, and some hemp flower companies are better than others.

Photo: Screenshot of third-party lab test results from Secret Nature website.
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Lab tests help you verify the purity and potency of your hemp flower.

Unlike lots of other crops, hemp is a bio-accumulator, which means it absorbs and stores toxins from soil or other substrates. Therefore, it’s necessary to grow hemp very carefully in controlled environments. It’s just as important to process hemp safely, but some companies don’t follow generally accepted hemp production standards.

Thoroughly independent, third-party lab testing is the best tool at your disposal if you want to make sure the hemp flower you’re purchasing is safe and high-quality. Here are some of the testing criteria that good hemp lab reports might contain:

Total cannabinoids

Every hemp lab report should show the total percentage of cannabinoids present in the tested flower.

CBD concentration

CBD is the dominant cannabinoid in most hemp flower strains, so the total concentration of CBD is an important value to represent in hemp lab tests.

Terpene profile

By providing the percentage of each terpene present in a hemp flower sample, thorough hemp lab tests tell you what to expect from the strain’s flavor and aroma profile.

Pesticides

As the most prevalent contaminants in hemp, chemical pesticides are one of the most-tested toxin categories.

Bacteria, fungus, and mycotoxins

If applicable, lab tests may also provide information on other potential contaminants.

Appearance: How does the hemp flower look?

Have you ever been around a hemp plant in full bloom? Grown correctly, mature hemp is a sight to behold. To the trained eye, however, problems with hemp are easy to recognize from appearance alone.

Photo: A nug of the "blood diamond" strain
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The visual appearance of a hemp strain can tell you a lot about its quality. (Photo: Secret Nature)

There are natural variations in appearance between different strains of hemp flower, but here are some of the visual cues you should watch for that indicate your flower is high-quality:

Density

Can you see straight through the nug in the featured picture for a strain you’re considering? Chances are that it didn’t receive enough care during its life cycle, reducing potency.

Stigma

Female hemp plants don’t have pistils, but they do have the female equivalent: stigmas. These red-orange hairs are hallmarks of healthy hemp plants.

Trichomes

Does your hemp flower look like it was just dusted by a blizzard? Those shimmering crystals on the surface of your non-intoxicating buds are actually tiny oil sacs called trichomes. The more trichomes your hemp has, the more potent it is.

Customer reviews

There’s nothing that entrepreneurs won’t do to make money. As a result, you can’t trust the marketing that hemp companies use to attract customers. No matter how amazing a CBD company says its flower is, you’ll need to rely on customer reviews to get to the bottom of the matter.

Photo: A blonde woman sitting by a creek lights a hemp flower cigarette.
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Our guide to choosing the right hemp flower will help you pick the right strain for that afternoon getaway. (Photo: Secret Nature / Nathaniel Gerdes)

Customer reviews tell you what it’s like to use the products you’re considering. If a hemp flower product provides the results that are advertised, reviews from customers who have tried that product will back it up.

In some cases, you might learn more from customer reviews of a hemp product than you can from what its producer has to say. Little details, like the packaging, shipping time, and overall usability of a hemp flower product truly shine when customers who have actually used the product take center stage.

Final thoughts on picking hemp strains

Using customer reviews, lab reports, product pictures, and product descriptions together provides you all the information you need to pick the perfect hemp flower for your purposes

Do you research and make careful choices. There are new hemp flower vendors appearing every week. Some of the brands are just looking to make a quick buck, while others are taking the time to create quality products. By following our guidance above, you’ll be able to pick out the top-shelf hemp flower of your dreams. 

Remember that hemp renaissance has truly arrived, bringing a veritable cornucopia of amazing hemp flower options with it. Have fun, and enjoy experimenting with different strains until you find the ones that suit your needs.

Photo: A blonde woman sitting by a creek lights a hemp flower cigarette.
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Secret Nature

Sponsored by Secret Nature. Artisan CBD Hemp Flowers & Extracts, 100% Organic, Indoor Grown in Living Soil.

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