Most of historians and experts agree that cannabis is endemic to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Marijuana has been cultivated in Asia since pre-Neolithic times, which means that it has spread from Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent to many other parts in the world. When a cannabis strain is taken from its native land and propagated in other geographical locations, then we call this cannabis strain a “heirloom”. In short, most of cannabis strains could be classified as heirloom. The term heirloom is also applied to cannabis strains that have remained unchanged for a few decades.
In the cannabis community, heirloom is a cannabis strain that has been around (unchanged) for generations. Furthermore, it also refers to cannabis strains that have been taken from their native lands and propagated to other places around the world.
Broadly speaking, heirloom cannabis are strains with “pure genetics” that have never been crossbred. In other words, heirloom strains are either 100% Sativa or 100% Indica strains. We can consider these strains the predecessor to modern strains that have been crossbred to obtain new strains with specific characteristics such as high THC or CBD content, specific terpene profile, adapted to indoor environments, etc.
Heirloom strains are “pure strains” that grow in other geographical locations. Endemic cannabis strains that grow in their original geographical locations are known as “landrace” strains. In short, both heirloom and landrace strains are similar, but the latter ones always grow in their original geographical locations.
Cannabis is a very versatile plant as it adapts to many different climates. It has been known for its medicinal properties in China since ancient times and there is evidence that cannabis was grown in Japan as early as 8000 BC. In addition, feral cannabis or wild cannabis grows naturally in many parts of the world and it can be easily spotted in remotes location such as the Himalayas. Most of the feral cannabis is low in THC. This is the main reason why cannabis growers have crossbred strains, i.e., to produce potent cannabis strains high in THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid.
Heirloom Cannabis Strains: Origin
Most of heirloom strains were transported from the regions where they were endemic to new geographical locations by travelers. It happened at a major scale during the 1960s and 1970s. For example, many cannabis strains from the Indian subcontinent were transported to the Americas during this time. Obviously, the hippie culture, psychedelia (popularized by among others by the famous psychologist and writer Timothy Leary) and the expansion of religious movements such as the Rastafari movement contributed to the proliferation of heirloom strains.
Cannabis Sativa and Indica adapt very well to warm climates and that’s why it has been produced and grown very effectively in regions such as California, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan or India.
As heirlooms strains are “more natural” cannabis strains, they tend to have more balanced ratios of cannabinoids. In other words, unlike hybrids, they have moderate levels of THC (and CBD).
Another important characteristic about heirloom cannabis strains is that they are naturally pollinated.
Because they are “more natural”, heirloom strains are more stable, which means that you know what you can expect from them. In short, if you crossbreed one Sativa with an Indica strain, you will get unpredictable results with some strain inheriting more Sativa traits while other strains inheriting more Indica ones.
Heirloom Cannabis: Final Thoughts
Heirloom strains have a more balanced profile with moderate THC levels (and CBD ones). Strains such as Cookies Gelato or Royal Gorilla (both hybrids with over 25% of THC) or Charlotte’s Web (high in CBD and very low in THC) are impossible to find in heirloom cannabis. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean heirloom strains are worse than hybrids.
They are classic cannabis strains with a moderate profile that can also satisfy your needs. In addition, they are excellent for cannabis users who prefer strains with a moderate profile.