OG and Kush: Where Did These Cannabis Strain Names Come From?

Bubba Kush Week 5

OG and Kush are both descriptors that are often included in cannabis titles. The strain name is meant to give you a hint about what that particular strain’s ancestors, relatives, or characteristics are.

OG- and Kush-named varieties are very popular in the California medical cannabis market, and tend to be associated with strains that have relatively potent THC concentrations and characteristically strong and pungent scents. High THC potency is probably a result of generations of cultivators selecting stronger strains to breed with. The characteristically rich smells that tend to come with OG and Kush strains are related to the particular mix of terpenes that are packed in these strains. These terpene counts make high levels of THC more tolerable and contribute to the various odor profiles of any single cannabis strain.

But with the massive amounts of OG and Kush out there, are there ways to really differentiate the two? Some cannabis researchers have analyzed experimental sets of OG- and Kush-type strains to see if they can confirm the differences.

Such studies have concluded that OG strains have relatively higher levels of certain terpenes such as alpha-terpineol, fenchol, limonene, camphene, terpinolene, and linalool. Kush samples, on the other hand, are characterized mainly by the terpenes guaiol, myrcene, and alpha-pinene.

But where do the names come from? The nomenclature of Kush or OG is only somewhat well understood.

At the end of the day, it’s best to talk with your budtender about that particular strain’s characteristics, regardless of the name it’s been given. It’s possible you’ll get a few different answers about the origins of your particular Kush or OG strain’s name. We’ve collected some of the stories that circulate about where the names came from in the first place. Take a look!

And in the meantime while we figure out where the names came from,  just exercise the usual awareness in trying out new strains to see what works best for you.


Kush is a reference to the actual geographic origin of certain strains. Kush strains refer to a set of plants which which originated from the Hindu Kush mountain region in Central Asia, encompassing what is today Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and northwestern India. These Kush strains were brought to the United States during the 1970s and are important fixtures in the cannabis cultivation industry to this day.


The origin of the term OG, however, is a bit more convoluted. There are several urban legends and mythologies circulating that attempt to trace the etymology of the term.

“Original Gangsta.” This story claims that the OG moniker comes from “original gangsta,” and was added to an LA Kush strain by Cypress Hill, a hip hop group from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles back in the 90s. Cypress Hill was known for their advocacy of medical cannabis in southern California, and it is said that this “original gangsta” strain is what made southern California notorious in the medical marijuana scene. The San Fernando Valley strain quickly expanded beyond southern California into the rest of the national cannabis markets.

“Ocean Grown.” This story piggybacks onto the Cypress Hill mythology regarding OG. It’s said that the original cultivator behind the famous San Fernando Valley Strain left the area and years later, was offered to smoke a new, fantastic, pungent cannabis strain. The moment the original cultivator got a whiff of the strain, he recognized it immediately as his own grow. His companions apparently claimed that the cannabis was “so good” because it was mountain-grown, to which the original cultivator replied something akin to, “This Kush isn’t mountain-grown; it’s ocean-grown, bro!” Different accounts of the story will render our original cultivator’s response in a number of southern California phraseologies. But nevertheless, some believe the OG descriptor refers to this ocean-grown description, meaning that the strain was in fact grown indoors on the Pacific Coast.

“Overgrown.com.” Some people believe that the OG is an homage to the website, OverGrown.com, the world’s largest cannabis grow site until 2006 when the Canadian government shut it down for “illegally distributing seeds.”

The Grateful Dead show. This legend is apparently the mother of all the origin stories for it describes where the original, ancestral seeds for this famous San Fernando Valley Strain came from in the first place. In an amusingly sweet and intimate story that’s been passed around the nation, the original seeds were simply bought by “some dude” at a Grateful Dead concert. These seeds would eventually be crossed with the San Fernando Valley plant that would kick off the OG craze we still experience in the markets today.

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