Sativa, and its cousin indica are both subspecies of Cannabis, hence, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Going back a few centuries, Sativa originally referred to hemp plants grown in Europe; Indica referred to the more psychoactive plants from India. Nowadays, much of what is consumed is really derived from Cannabis Indica even though we distinguish between the two as sativa and indica.
Today’s “sativa” is actually Cannabis indica subspecies indica. While today’s “ indica” is really Cannabis indica subspecies afghanica. And if you aren’t already confused, today’s “hemp” was originally Cannabis sativa. All are an annual plant in the Cannabaceae family.
When looking at the chemical makeup of cannabis, CBD and THC are referred to most commonly but terpenes are also considered impactful when it comes to the effects of the plant. Sativa usually has lower doses of CBD and higher doses of THC. For example, Sour Diesel, a popular Sativa, is 16-20% THC and less than one percent CBD. To the average user, this means you will not have as many of the tiring effects you get from CBD but the benefit of anxiety reduction, energizing, and creativity increase from THC. Terpenes vary among sativas but are responsible for creating the aroma of the strains and contribute to their effects.
As a quick rule of thumb, sativas are known for their “head high” which produces invigorating effects. Users report Sativa strains are energizing, stress-reducing, and focusing. Some users also report an increase in creativity. People consider the effects of Sativa to be more cerebral. Sativas are used to treat depression, behavior issues, ADD/ADHD, and more.
Sativa plants look different from Indica strains as well. Sativas grow noticeably taller than indicas, with thinner leaves and it looks generally more spindly.