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Indica vs Sativa: What’s the Difference Between these Marijuana Strains?

July 3, 2018 06:03 pm ET
Indica vs Sativa: What’s the Difference Between these Marijuana Strains?

When doing your research or purchasing marijuana in store, you’ve probably noticed that there are different strains. These strains are usually broken up into three different groups: indica, sativa, and hybrids.

But what exactly does that mean? What are the different traits in indica vs sativa? And is there really a difference?

Read on for more information about the different types of cannabis and how understanding the real differences can help your purchasing decisions.

Indica vs Sativa: What’s the Difference?

Most people have used these three types (indica, sativa, and hybrids of the two) as a way to predict how a certain offering will affect them.

Indica strains are mostly believed to physically sedate a person. They’re billed as being good for relaxing with a movie or right before bed.

Sativas are supposed to be more invigorating and uplifting. They go nicely with social gatherings, creative projects, and physical activity.

Hybrids of the two are supposed to land somewhere on the spectrum. Exactly how a specific hybrid effects someone changes depending on what traits they inherited from the plants they come from.

The fact that there is a difference between indica and sativa is so deeply rooted in the culture of mainstream cannabis today. In fact, the people who sell medical marijuana usually start off by asking which of the types you prefer.

However, what’s less widely known is that there has been data collected by researchers that suggests the categories don’t actually tell us as much as we might think.

There’s actually very little evidence that suggests that indicas and sativas are all that consistent with their chemical profiles. Nothing really makes one of them more sedating or uplifting than the other.

What we do know is that the strains look different and grow different, but this information isn’t exactly useful to the casual purchaser of marijuana for medical uses. Only people who grow really need to know the strain of marijuana they have.

So, why do we think the words indica and sativa make all the difference in our cannabis choices? Are they actually meaningful in terms of our purchasing habits?

The Start of Indica vs Sativa and How it Changed

In the 18th century, the words “indica” and “sativa” were introduced. They described the different species of cannabis.

The term sativa came from Carl Linneaus and was used to describe hemp plants found in Europe and western Eurasia. These plants were used for fiber and seeds.

Indica came from Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. It was used to describe the psychoactive varieties of plants discovered in India. They harvested this plant for seeds, fiber, and the production of hashish.

Most of the cannabis we consume comes from Cannabis indica. However, both terms are used to organize the thousands of strains that are in the market today, even if we aren’t using the terms correctly.

The terms indica and sativa have changed since their earliest definitions.

Today, sativa usually describes the tall, narrow-leaf kinds of cannabis that are thought to make us feel energized. Indica refers to stout, broad-leafed plants that supposedly sedate us.

Hemp usually refers to the industrial kinds of marijuana that aren’t intoxicating and mostly used to harvest fiber, seeds, and CBD. But this is actually what was originally called Cannabis sativa.

This gets confusing. As cannabis became commercialized, the differences between the species got all mixed up and calcified.

Despite the mix-ups in the general population, if you want to be an informed consumer, it’s a good idea to understand what these categories actually mean and how they affect you.

Indica vs Sativa Research

It’s more convenient to put cannabis effects into three neat categories. When you first enter the world of cannabis, it can get a little overwhelming at first. There are so many strains and products to choose from, it’s almost impossible to know exactly where to start.

Yet, the way we currently do things doesn’t pan out scientifically. In fact, the way we currently use the labels “sativa” and “indica” is kind of useless. The way the plant effects you doesn’t have anything to do with what the plant’s leaves look like.

There’s actually no scientifically backed basis for making these “energized” or “sedated” claims and recommendations based on them.

This means that not all sativas will make you feel uplifted and not all indicas will make you drowsy. There might be a tendency for one strain to make you feel a certain way, but that’s not the rule and there’s no pattern or data for this assumption.

What does Indica vs Sativa Indicate?

There are a lot of factors that go into the different ways certain strains make us feel. We need to consider the chemical profile, our individual biology, how we tolerate them, what the dosage is, and how we consume things as well.

In order to find the right strain, you need to understand how all of these factors will change the experience you have.


The cannabis plant has hundreds of compounds that create different effects. This is primarily caused by cannabinoids and terpenes.

The two most common cannabinoids are THC and CBD. They’re the main drivers of the different therapeutic and recreational effects of a strain.

THC makes us feel hungry and high and it can relieve the feeling of pain and nausea. CBD isn’t intoxicating, and it’s known to help ease pain, anxiety, inflammation, and a lot of other medical issues.

Cannabis contains over a hundred different kids of cannabinoids, but it’s important to start with these two at first. Instead of choosing your strain based on what the indica, sativa, or hybrid classification it has, base it on THC vs CBD instead.

THC-dominant strains are for consumers who want a high, or euphoric experience. They help treat pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a host of other issues. However, some people can feel anxious when using this strain, or they might not like the effect it causes. If so, higher levels of CBD are the right path to go.

CBD-dominant strains only have trace amounts of THC, and people who are very sensitive to that compound find relief here. This is especially important if you need to keep a clear head or handle other important things while attempting to manage pain.


Terpenes are aromatic compounds made by plants and fruit. They’re found in lavender flowers, oranges, pepper, hobs, and cannabis. They’re created by the same glands that produce THC and CBD, and they’re what give cannabis its unique smell.

Cannabis terpenes can make us feel stimulated the same way essential oils do. Pinene is a terpene that can cause us to feel alert, while linalool can relax us. There are a lot of different terpenes in cannabis and it’s worth trying to get familiar with the most common ones.

If you can, smell the strains you’re thinking about buying. Find the ones that stand out to you the most and try them out. Your knowledge of cannabinoids and terpenes will help you find the right strain for you.

Indica vs Sativa: What is Right For You?

This is probably very overwhelming, especially if you’re trying to find the right product for you. The more you find out about the case of indica vs sativa, the more questions pop up.

But when you understand the basic facts about cannabinoids and terpenes, you will find the thing that is right for you.

For more information on how medical marijuana can improve your life, visit our blog today!

Post Your Comments

Sanford Feldt says:

July 5, 2018 at 9:45 am

I’m a stage 2 Pancreatic cancer survivor. Doctors declared that im now cancer free and i’m so glad to hear that. Since then marijuana has been a great help to me so i decided to grow my own marijuana for my personal use only. But growing marijuana requires more knowledge and need to understand its life cycle. I have encountered many different problems in growing myself but that doesn’t help me stop from growing my own herbal medicine


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