Indica vs Sativa – Differences Between Strains

Sativa vs Indica

Indica vs Sativa - The Effects And Differences

The future is going green as marijuana is rapidly becoming legalized across the world. But what do you need to know about the indica vs sativa debate?

Mexico is the latest country to announce its plans to legalise the herb, this follows on from a number of states in the USA which have freed up the market for recreational or medicinal cannabis use, along with some European countries.

As its use becomes more widespread, there is a growing interest in what exactly makes cannabis plants so attractive as an alternative medicine.

New cannabis consumers are curious as to what the plant contains, the various cannabis strains that exist and identifying the right strain for them.

Cannabis sativa and Cannabis Indica are the two most well-known species of cannabis. They share many similar features but have specific and distinct differences.

Understanding the differences between Indica vs sativa should give you a better understanding of how they work and what they do to your body.

The two species can also be combined in a multitude of ways to create hybrid strains that are produced to deliver different desired effects.

In this article, learn more about Indica vs sativa – the difference between each strain, as well as the effects that indica and sativa can produce.

What is cannabis indica?

The Indica strain or ‘cannabis indica’ plant originated in Central Asia & the Middle East, in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tibet.

It generally has a higher CBD content than cannabis Sativa, though the CBD to THC ratio is generally very equal.

Cannabis Indica effects

The common view is that indica is an effective pain reliever, with a flat and relaxing high.

Not all indica strains will put you “in da couch,” but nevertheless, many consumers associate indicas with full-body effects, for example, heavy limbs or a tingly face.

They also report indicas’ as being helpful in aiding relaxation and curbing insomnia.

The evidence is mainly anecdotal and there is very little scientific research to back up this view however it is one generally held by the ‘cannabis community.’

Many medical marijuana strains contain a hybrid form of this strain.

Common effects associated with indica strains include feeling relaxed, euphoric, happy, and sleepy.

Indicas are commonly taken as “nighttime use”, used for relaxing and unwinding at the end of the night.

Popular indica strains

There are many indica strains available, some of which you may be familiar. Check your local dispensary for these popular Indica strains.

Bud Behavior's 8 favorite indica strains

  1. Purple Punch
  2. Granddaddy Purple
  3. White Rhino
  4. Bubba Kush
  5. Northern Lights
  6. Blueberry
  7. Grape Ape
  8. Blue Cheese

Now we understand a bit more, let’s check out the differences between Indica vs Sativa.

Cannabis Sativa

‘Cannabis sativa’ comes from warmer parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, Central America and South America.

Cannabis Sativa effects

Common effects associated with sativa strains include feeling happy, uplifting, euphoric, and energetic.

Sativas are often thought of as “daytime” strains, used for feeling productive, creative, and focused, and for getting chores done. Sativa can also be helpful for people with;

  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss

Although it has been reported that anxiety is an unwanted side effect in some people. Sativa plants tend to contain a higher THC ratio.

Popular sativa strains

There are many Sativa strains available and you’ve likely heard of some of the most popular.

Most dispensaries should stock at least some of these Sativa weed strains as they’re generally considered a crowd favorite.  

Top 10 sativa strains

  1. Acapulco Gold
  2. Panama Red
  3. Sour Diesel
  4. Jack Herer
  5. Green Crack
  6. Durban Poison
  7. Strawberry Cough
  8. Amnesia Haze
  9. Super Lemon Haze
  10. Sour Diesel

The 3rd Sibling - cannabis ruderalis

As well as indica vs sativa there is also a third sibling, ‘Cannabis ruderalis.’

This has its origins in cooler parts of the world, such as Russia and the border between Hungary and Ukraine.

It grows wild, and some speculate that it may originate from ‘escaped hemp.

Unlike its more popular brothers, it does not have very high levels of THC or CBD, but it does have value amongst growers for its ability to flower by itself, without assistance from a cultivator.

This is why people frequently use ruderalis to create hybrids with Indica vs Sativa.

Hybrid Strains

Hybrid strains are bred from both indica and sativa-descended plants.

Much of the cross breeding of plant species was historically done underground to evade authorities, strains that have pure indica or pure sativa lineages are rare.

Most strains referred to as “Indica” or “sativa” are, in fact, hybrids, with genetics inherited from both subspecies.

There is an ongoing discussion around Indica vs sativa vs hybrid strains and which are the most suitable.

As with all farming and human intervention, cannabis production across human history has given rise to hybrid forms of the cannabis plant.

People bred hybrids, for example, to make plants that grow more quickly, improve yield, and balance out the energizing and calming effects.

Mixing Indica vs sativa strains has also ensured that the crops are more hardy and able to survive certain temperature and weather fluctuations.

Hybrid effects

Since hybrid cannabis strains derive genetics from Indica vs sativa, their effects can also pull from both Indica and sativa strains.

Common effects include a happy, euphoric, uplifting, relaxing or energizing experience.

However all of this is very much dependent on which hybrid is consumed and what effects its “parent” strains are known to produce.

Looking at a hybrid’s parent strains may give you a better sense of what kind of effects it will produce; for example, if it has more indica in its lineage, it might have effects more associated with those strains.

Popular hybrid strains

There’s certainly no shortage of hybrid strains on the market, and as we have said most of the main varieties of cannabis you’ll come across are also among the most iconic, Hollywood even named a movie after one of them!

Cannabis growers select hybrids for their unique impacts. They can range from reducing anxiety and stress to easing symptoms of chemotherapy or radiation.

They can be tailored to daytime use or nighttime use depending on the predominant effects of the hybrid.

Top 7 Indica vs Sativa hybrids

  1. GG4
  2. Blue Dream
  3. Gelato
  4. Wedding Cake
  5. OG Kush
  6. White Widow
  7. Pineapple Express

Physical differences between Indica and Sativa strains

Natural evolution, geographical placement and human intervention have ensured notable visible differences between Indica vs sativa strains.

Indica plants are short, bushy plants, dark in colour and they have wide leaves. As opposed to the sativa plants, which are light green in colour and very narrow.

Indica plants also have a woody stalk, not a fibrous one and grow more quickly.

Many of these identifying factors are related to the geography in which the plants are found.

Broader leaves for example are more useful to a plant growing in Afghanistan where they can maximise their intake of sunlight.

Regardless of where you sit on the Indica vs sativa debate, all strains of cannabis contain cannabinoids.

It is the varying levels of these cannabinoids that give way to the different effects that the plant produces.

What are Cannabinoids?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two of the most studied and discussed elements, or cannabinoids, present in different strains of marijuana.

However they aren’t the only ones, researchers have identified over 140 different cannabinoids so far.

These are present in all Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid varieties although their levels will differ depending on the strain.

THC and CBD have very different effects on the human body, these have been the main talking points on mainstream media in relation to the ‘legalise it’ campaign.

Knowing whether a cannabis plant is from the indica or sativa strain won’t always provide much information about the relative amounts of THC or CBD it may contain, as people tend to believe, but it can be helpful.

What Is THC?

Scientists and medical experts  agree that THC is the part of the plant that has psychoactive properties.

In other words, THC is what produces the “high” effect that people tend to associate with using cannabis. 

Cannabis bought on the street for recreational use is often far removed from the original strains that were popular in the 1960’s.

They will almost certainly contain higher levels of THC to increase the psychoactive effect/’high’.

Strains of marijuana with a high THC content may be helpful for people with pain, difficulty sleeping, and depression, though they can make some people anxious especially with prolonged use.

What Is CBD?

CBD is the most widely marketed cannabinoid because it does not create a ‘high’, but it can affect mood and be helpful in addressing anxiety and psychoses.

Despite its reputation for inducing calm, CBD can be a stimulant in small and monitored doses. 

The ‘cannabis oil’ or CBD that is widely available in stores across the world generally has a minute quantity of actual CBD in it.

Governments in most places where the sale of recreational cannabis is banned usually have a maximum CBD dosage that is allowed for general market sale.

Before you attempt to purchase or use cannabis, you should understand the laws of the country or state that you’re in.

Keep in mind that cannabis is still illegal under federal law.

If you don’t know the laws where you are, you could face legal consequences.

What Are Terpenes?

If you’ve ever used aromatherapy to relax or invigorate your mind and body, you understand the basics of terpenes.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds commonly produced by plants and fruit.

They can be found in lavender flowers, oranges, hops, pepper, and of course, cannabis.

Secreted by the same glands that ooze THC and CBD, terpenes are what make cannabis smell like berries, citrus, pine, fuel, etc.

One question yet to be answered by research is how terpenes—and different combinations of those terpenes – shape the effects of different cannabis strains.

6 Terpenes found in cannabis

There are many types of terpenes found in cannabis, the most common ones are listed below:

1. Bisabolol

With notes of chamomile and tea tree oil, the terpene bisabolol is thought to reduce inflammation and irritation.

It may also have microbial and pain-reducing effects.

2. Caryophyllene

The peppery, spicy molecule may reduce anxiety, ease symptoms of depression, and improve ulcers.

3. Linalool

Linalool is said to help improve relaxation and boost mood with its floral notes.

4. Myrcene

The most common terpene, this earthy, herbal molecule may help reduce anxiety and insomnia so you can sleep better.

5. Pinene

As the name suggests, this terpene produces an intense pine aroma.

It may help boost memory, reduce pain, and ease some of the not-so-pleasant symptoms of THC, such as nausea and coordination problems.

6. Eucalyptol

With notes of eucalyptus and tea tree oil, this molecule is refreshing and invigorating.

It may also reduce inflammation and fight bacteria.

Indica vs Sativa - Choosing a strain

Traditionally, determining the answers to the following questions has helped a person find the correct strain of marijuana for them:

  • Why are they interested in using cannabis?
  • Is it for medical purposes, and if so, what conditions need treatment?
  • Is it for recreational purposes, and if so, what kind of experience do they seek?
  • Have they used cannabis before and are they aware of the effects?
  • Have they considered any side effects?

Caution should be taken before making any concrete choices, especially if this is the first time using medicinal marijuana.

In an interview in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research’, Dr. Ethan Russo — a psychopharmacology researcher and neurologist — suggests a strong case against what people generally believe about the Indica vs Sativa debate.

He suggests that researchers cannot and should not categorize cannabis based on its ‘effects’ and biochemical content, as the names ‘Indica’ and ‘Sativa’ simply refer to the plant’s height, branching, and leaf morphology.

“I would strongly encourage the scientific community, the press, and the public to abandon the sativa/indica nomenclature and rather insist that accurate biochemical assays on cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles be available for cannabis in both the medical and recreational markets. Scientific accuracy and the public health demand no less than this.”

8 Potential side effects and risks of medicinal marijuana

Although cannabis use is often associated with potential benefits, it can also produce unwanted side effects.

These can include:

  1. Dry mouth
  2. Dry eyes
  3. Dizziness
  4. Anxiety
  5. Paranoia
  6. Lethargy
  7. Increased heart rate
  8. Decreased blood pressure

Most of these effects are associated with THC, not CBD or other cannabinoids.

However, many cannabis products can produce side effects.

The method of use may increase your risk for side effects, too.

For example, smoking or vaping cannabis can irritate your lungs and airways.

This may lead to coughing and respiratory problems.

Oral cannabis preparations, such as gummies or cookies, are less likely to affect your overall respiratory health.

However, the effects are felt more slowly and typically aren’t as strong

So which Cannabis strain is best?

Fundamentally in the Indica vs Sativa debate it is important to note that Indica and Sativa have different botanical properties.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that sativa is more energizing and Indica is more relaxing, but the scientific reality is far more complicated.

In fact, many different chemical compounds are involved in creating the medical and recreational effects of cannabis.

Although there may be some truth to the differences between the two plants, it is important for a person to look at the biochemical content of the individual strains in order to choose the strain most suited to their needs.

Even within the specific strains, research has proven that there is a huge possible variation in THC content, which suggests that the same is true for other cannabinoids.

Indica Vs Sativa - The bottom line

If you’ve enjoyed reading this Indica vs Sativa article and you’re curious about how cannabis might help you, talk with a doctor or other healthcare provider.

They can discuss its potential positive and negative effects on your individual health and help you find something that suits your needs. Then, you can begin to explore your options.

Finding the right option for you may take time. You may also find that you don’t tolerate cannabis well.

If you live in a state that has legalized cannabis, you can visit a dispensary and talk with a trained staff member.

They may be able to recommend specific strains or other products to suit your individual needs.

Cannabis is a personal experience, and how you select it is, too. Understanding the nuances between Indica vs Sativa should help give you an alternative perspective on what qualities to look for in a strain. 

*Anyone using cannabis for medicinal purposes should only do so with the advice of a medical doctor. More research is needed to understand the exact effects, feelings, and benefits of cannabis for pain management.