Indica vs. Sativa: Understanding the Different Strains of Cannabis

Walk into any shop or cannabis dispensary, and you are faced with a variety of cannabis strain names like Purple Kush, Sour Diesel, and Gelato, but each of these boils down to three strain types: Indica vs. Sativa, and combination of the two called Hybrid (there is a fourth strain, but we will get into that a bit later). Most consumers seek a strain type for a particular effect or experience.

Knowing what your customers are seeking for either medical or recreational purposes, and what they like and why is key to providing advice on which cannabis strain to recommend. While all strains are different, each cannabis strain type has some common traits.

Before we get into that, let’s take a step back and talk about the plant and the chemical makeup of the plant and how it affects the effects of the plant on your body.

Indica Vs Sativa

 

Indica vs Sativa: are they the same plant?

Well, yes and no. Indica and sativa are both subspecies of Cannabis, hence, Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. 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. You should also know there is a third strain that originated in Central Asia named Ruderalis that is technically and usually Cannabis sativa.All are an annual plant in the Cannabaceae family.

Cannabis Sativa

Origins: Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia
Physical attributes: Tall and thin plants with finger-like leaves
Growing: Takes longer to mature than some cannabis types

Cannabis Indica

Origins: Asian Subcontinent
Physical attributes: Short and stocky with bushy greenery
Growing: Grows faster than Sativa, produces more flowers

Hybrids

Origins: Depending on the parent strains.
Physical attributes: The physical attributes vary based on the parent plants.
Growing: Varies by the parent plant

Ruderalis

Origins: Eastern Europe, regions of India, extreme cold environments
Physical attributes: Small bushy plants that grow less than one foot generally
Growing: Seed to harvest in about a month, it is bred with other plants

Chemical Makeup

Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. These plants have hundreds of cannabinoids but there are two main ones that get the majority of the attention and research. These are — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, it gives the user the “high” effects experienced with consumption. As growers develop their methods, some of the most popular strains are becoming higher in THC. The other cannabinoid, CBD, is not psychoactive but comes with physical benefits like relaxation, seizure prevention, and more. CBD is commonly sold on its own as a treatment option for everything from insomnia to severe muscular conditions.

Some of the less common cannabinoids are:

  • Cannabinol (CBN) is psychoactive but less so than THC. Early research finds it may be helpful as a sleep aid and with arthritis.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC) is a non-psychoactive but has healing potential. It has been found to play a part in brain health and development. It may also help with inflammation.
  • Cannabigerol (CBG) is also gaining interest with researchers. It may be a good form of treatment for anxiety, the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Terpenes

One notable part of the cannabis plant are terpenes. Produced and secreted from the same glands that produce cannabinoids, terpenes are responsible for the smell of cannabis. There are more than 100 types of terpenes, this is why different strains have distinct smells. Certain terpenes may have medicinal effects as well. It is hypothesized that terpenes have a combined effect on the body – the unique combination of several work together for effects like relaxation and creativity.

Understanding the different strain effects

When it comes to understanding the different effects you’ll experience with strains, there are a few basic rules. Sativas are known to be invigorating and energizing, while indicas are known to be calming and relaxing. Hybrids are a combination of several effects, depending on if the hybrid is indica or sativa dominant.

Remember, even with all of the information that is known, the effects on the individual person can vary. Generalizations may apply to many, or even most people, but not necessarily all. Just like medications prescribed by doctors, it may take some time trying different strains and consumption methods to find the right combination.

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa

General Perception: Helps with focus and produces a mind high
Chemical Breakdown: High in THC, Low in CBD
Popular Strains: Sour Diesel, Lemon Haze
Areas of Treatment: Treats stress, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, etc

Sativa Strains – What to Expect
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.

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.

Sativa plants look different from Indica strains as well. Sativas grows noticeably taller than indicas, with thinner leaves and it looks generally more spindly.

Cannabis Indica

General Perception: Relaxing and reduces anxiety generally
Chemical Breakdown: High in THC, High in CBD
Popular Strains: Northern Lights, Afghan Kush, Granddaddy Purple
Areas of Treatment: Treating anxiety, pain conditions, headaches, stress

Indica Strains – What to Expect
The quick rule for Indica strains is that they have relaxing and sedating effects. The most common reason people consume indicas is for the relaxation and decreased anxiety that occurs with consumption. Users report the body feeling heavy, an increased appetite, and decreased anxiety. Indica (vs. Sativa) plants are shorter and stockier with chunky leaves. Indicas grow faster than sativas but get nowhere near as tall.

The chemical breakdown of this type usually means lower doses of THC and greater percentages of CBD. For example, a popular Indica strain Granddaddy Purple has about 15-19% THC which is average for an indica strain. It is normally a bit higher for sativas. This makes sense because CBD is responsible for physical benefits like pain and nausea reduction. Terpenes also are in indicas, and some research indicates it might contribute to the mind and body effects of marijuana. There is still much to be learned about how much terpenes impact the body.

Indicas are used to treat certain forms of cancer, anxiety disorders, and sleeping disorders. It can also provide relief from muscle pain.

Hybrids

indica vs. sativa
Origins: Grown on farms or in greenhouses
General Perception: Depends on the strain, they are classified as indica or sativa dominant typically which helps determine the effects.
Chemical Breakdown: Depends on the hybrid, many are high in THC
Popular Strains: Pineapple Express and Blue Dream
Areas of Treatment: Anxiety treatment, relief from chronic illness, help with sleeping, improving creativity, etc

Hybrids – What to Expect
How do hybrids fit in when it comes to Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid? A few of the most popular strains on the market are hybrids. They are grown to target specific effects or to balance the combination of effects from the two types. Whether it is to increase THC for a full-body high or helping with short term memory, hybrids do have a value with the customer base. If you’ve heard of a strain that was described as a Sativa Indica, it was likely a hybrid. More than anything, this type helps you tailor your experience to help specific issues or conditions.

Cannabis Ruderalis

General Perception: This strain is a companion to Indicas and Sativas when grown effectively
Chemical Breakdown: Minimal THC, Minimal CBD
Popular Strains: A popular Ruderalis strain hybrid is Amnesia Haze
Areas of Treatment: Minimal effects because it is low potency.

Ruderalis Strain – The Fourth Option
The Ruderalis Strain is also a high CBD and low THC option that is gaining popularity on the market. Unlike many other plants, it is autoflowering which means the plant flowers automatically once it reaches maturity and is not reliant on the strict light/dark hours required by other plants.

Because of the lower concentration of THC, it doesn’t provide many of the medical effects unless crossed with an Indica or Sativa. Growers make the decision between an Indica vs. Sativa and create a hybrid to reap the benefits of the growth properties of the Ruderalis Strain. If you compare the plant type, it is somewhat short and talk.

Choose The Right Cannabis Strains For You

Choosing the right cannabis strains for you depends on the effects you want to experience from the cannabis. From relaxation to stress relief to energy, you can get any effects from cannabis when used properly. The best way to select the right strain is to consider the conditions you are wishing to treat and work from there. Different cannabis produces different effects and you should select based on your treatment goal.

Cannabis Strains For Certain Conditions

 

Common name Strain CBD  THC Conditions  Effects
Acapulco Gold Sativa Less than 1% 18.5% Stress, depression, anxiety, pain Energizing
Blue Dream Hybrid Less than 1% 18.5% Stress, insomnia, depression, pain Energizing
Sour Diesel  Sativa Less than 1% 18.5% Depression, pain, fatigue, stress Relaxing
Bubba Kush   Indica  Less than 1% 17% Stress, pain, depression, anxiety Relaxing
LA Confidential  Indica Less than 1% 17% Stress, pain, anxiety Pain Relief
Maui Waui Sativa Less than 1% 18% Anxiety, fatigue, pain, stress Pain Relief
Golden Goat Hybrid Less than 1% 18.5% Stress, pain, anxiety, depression Sleep Aid
Northern Lights Indica Less than 1% 16.5% Stress, pain, insomnia  Sleep Aid

 

A Summary of Indicas and Sativas

There is still much to be learned about the way cannabis types impact each individual. Just like with other medication management, trying different options, especially Indica vs. Sativa, may be necessary for the best impact. Each individual is different and the way the body reacts to cannabis can vary from user to user. Common side effects from either Sativa or Indica include decreased blood pressure, paranoia, dry eyes and mouth, and increased anxiety.

Another factor in the way the body reacts to cannabis is the method of consumption, no matter the type a topical may have different effects than eating or inhalation. Before you can help another person find the right option for them, you first have to understand the general appearance, effects, and reasons for using Sativas, Indicas, and Hybrids.

 

Radina Petrishka

Radina is the Marketing Manager of Cannabis Stack. She has been in digital marketing, branding and company growing management since 2011 and has a proven record of wins with different sectors. Her passions in the canna-businesses are the cannabis culture, fast-developing solutions, and the challenges the field is offering.


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