It is common to hear the terms Indica vs. Sativa used, especially when first immersing yourself in the world of cannabis, but do you know what these terms mean? In this guide, we will break it down for you so you can learn how to choose a strain that is right for you.
The Cannabis Plant
Before getting started, it is important to know that there is no such thing as a marijuana plant or hemp plant.
The terms 'hemp' and 'marijuana' are not botanical in nature and have been made up by the government to control THC levels.
A cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC is considered hemp, and any cannabis plant that contains more than 0.3% THC is considered marijuana.
At the end of the day, both 'hemp' and 'marijuana' are the Cannabis Sativa plant with differing cannabinoid ratios.
The two main Cannabis Sativa plant species are Indica and Sativa, with the lesser-known strain being cannabis ruderalis.
I was recently asked about the difference between Sativa plants and Indica plants in my Well With Cannabis Community, so in this guide, we will explore the different species in detail and compare how they stack up.
Remember, it's important to keep in mind that most cannabis plants are not pure Indica or pure Sativa, as most plants are a hybrid of each.
Here we will review the differences in specific strains, the different effects each can have on the human body, the most common strains, and how you can find the best option for you.
What Are Cannabis Strains?
The cannabis plant is versatile and is loved worldwide for its recreational and medicinal values. As a general rule, the plant is commonly divided into three categories—Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid.
However, according to Amos Elberg of Confident Cannabis, industry experts have no consensus on whether this categorization is accurate or not.
"We see samples of all cannabis products tested through our partner labs, and when we look at all the data, particularly of the chemical makeup of flower, we see no identifiable characteristics that are consistent with Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid," he explains.
Perhaps, a more accurate way to categorize the cannabis plant and its effects is by looking at different strains. There are hundreds, even thousands, of strains of cannabis, each producing different effects for each person.
So, what is a cannabis strain?
Cannabis strains are different breeds, or subspecies of cannabis, often intentionally created to have a specific effect on users.
For example, certain strains have been created to provide pain relief, or a head high, for daytime use, or to have high levels of THC and intense psychoactive effects.
Different strains contain different chemical compounds that can only be seen at the molecular level.
Each strain has its own unique cannabinoid profile and terpene profile that contribute to the entourage effect. Terpenes are aromatic compounds, like essential oils, that can enhance the effects of cannabis and influence a strain.
Certain strains are going to be effective for each person depending on their cannabinoid receptors, metabolism, physical activity levels, the endocannabinoid system, and genetics.
Some of the most popular strains of marijuana include:
- Acapulco Gold
- Blue Dream
- Purple Kush
- Sour Diesel
- Bubba Kush
Whether you're using medical marijuana or recreational cannabis, you will benefit from understanding the real difference between the different species of cannabis.
With that said, let's take a deep dive into the specific Indica vs Sativa differences.
What is Indica?
The c. Indica species originated from Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Cannabis indica plants are bushy plants that appear short and stocky with chunky, wide leaves.
The Indica species most commonly has a high concentration of THC with higher CBD levels.
Effects Associated with Indica Strains
Users love Indica because of its relaxing, sedative effects.
Many people lovingly refer to Indica as "in da couch", because that's where consumers end up after enjoying Indica-dominant strains.
Common anecdotally reported effects of Indica also include nausea relief, pain relief, and appetite stimulation, making it a very popular choice among medical consumers.
Popular Indica strains include:
- Hindu Kush
- Afghan Kush
- Granddaddy Purple
- Purple Kush
- Bubba Kush
- Northern Lights
- 9 LB Hammer
What is Sativa?
The c. Sativa species originated from the warm climates of Africa, Central America, Western and Southeast Asia. The plant is tall, thin, and has finger-like, narrow leaves.
The Sativa species has a higher concentration of THC than CBD, although each strain can contain different levels of different cannabinoids.
Popular cannabis Sativa strains include:
- Acapulco gold
- Panama Red
- Durban Poison
- Green crack
- Super Silver Haze
- Sour Diesel
- Strawberry Cough
- Blue Dream
Effects Associated with Sativa Strains
Cannabis plant users love Sativa strains because of their ability to stimulate the mind. As a result, users often feel high and energized after taking Sativa.
In addition, Sativa's effects can help to reduce anxiety and pain. However, it doesn't help to relax the body. Thus, it's mainly used during the day because of the stimulating power.
It's important to note that some people feel unwanted side effects from Sativa marijuana strains, including increased anxiety.
This may be related to the strain itself or the high THC content. For this reason, it may be important to avoid Sativa dominant strain types for certain individuals.
What are Hybrid Strains?
Hybrid strains contain the best elements from Sativa and Indica strains together in one and are primarily grown in greenhouses.
The physical appearance varies depending on which strain is more dominant. For example, if the Indica strain is more dominant, the hybrid plant may take the shape of Indica plants, displaying broader leaves.
Therefore, hybrid strains are usually identified as Indica-dominant hybrid or Sativa-dominant hybrid strains and are used to relieve anxiety, stress, and pain.
Popular Hybrid strains include:
- OG Kush (55% Sativa, 45% Indica)
- Wedding Cake
- Girl Scout Cookies
Why Does it Matter?
Anxiety disorder is a major problem affecting over 25 million Americans in their lifetime. Unfortunately, dealing with anxiety is costly, and according to Practical Pain Management, it costs approximately 42 billion annually.
But, it's not only the high cost that's the deal-breaker!
Anxiety and pain correlate and affect your productivity at work and how you relate with people in your social life. Studies show that 60% of patients with chronic pain may have an anxiety disorder to deal with.
While traditional healthcare can help eradicate the pain and anxiety, trying out alternatives like medicinal cannabis also moves the needle. According to the Journal of Cannabis Research, 66.9% of patients reported cannabis use before seeking medical attention.
Many cannabis consumers find that different varieties of cannabis impact their anxiety differently. While more scientific research is still being done, it is important to know about these different types of cannabis and how they can affect you.
If you find that Sativa-dominant strains are provoking your anxiety, try looking for Indica-dominant strains, or strains with higher levels of CBD.
Sativa and Indica are the main cannabis plant species. However, their effects vary from one user to another. Based on various lab reports, industry experts are torn apart whether to stick to this categorization.
Therefore, the best way to consume Cannabis is by considering different strains and how your receptors react to them.
Finding the right strain for you and your unique needs can make all the difference for anyone looking to use cannabis to improve their health.
Because different plants cause different effects for each person, it is important to be willing to experiment to see what works best for you.
If you are looking for more education on how to use cannabis in a way that benefits you, be sure to check out my Cannabis Compass Online Course.