Indica vs Sativa
There are more than 1000 different species of cannabis that can be found all around the globe. More than 500 of them have been bred in the last 2 centuries. Among all of them, you will notice two types that are the most common and happens to be the topic of this article – Indica vs Sativa.
The curiosity of these two types of cannabis is rising exponentially with the increasing popularity of legalized Cannabis in Canada, the USA, and worldwide for that matter. Do you want to know what is the difference of Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid? From where they originated? And what does Indica vs Sativa really mean?
Do you need answers? No worries… we got them!
In this comprehensive Indica vs Sativa guide, you will learn about these types of cannabis from their origin to modern cultivations. We explain the Indica meaning, the Sativa meaning, and the Hybrid meaning, as well as the Indica leaf, and the Sativa leaf. We even got all creative and designed an Indica vs Sativa infographic for visual consumption.
Moreover, when you’ve finished reading this article, you will have the answers to your questions and will understand the fundamental differences between Indica vs Sativa.
Think of it, you will be able to show off your new cannabis knowledge to your friends the next time you are in a sesh!
Indica vs Sativa Origin & Evolution
There is no official scientific evidence that explains the differences between Indica and Sativa strains of cannabis. Nonetheless, they are widely accepted facts in our modern times. The cannabis plant has been used by mankind for over 6000 years. The terms Indica and Sativa were introduced in the mid 17th century. A Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus identified cannabis Sativa in 1753, 32 years later, a French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck identified cannabis Indica as a different species.
In 1784, Lamarck observed the psychoactive varieties and physical characteristics of the Indica plant that was discovered in United India. Where people were harvesting it for the production of hashish, ganja, opium, and to get its seeds and strong fiber.
The notable point here is.
These terms and names of species were introduced only for researchers, botanists, and harvesters, not for pharmacologists. Scientists and botanists named these species to use these terms for classification of the plant on the basis of their shapes and characteristics. They didn’t classify them on the basis of their effects on the human body.
Fast forward to today – Most people refer to these two cannabis types for their effects:
- Sativa strains for getting a cerebral uplifting effect.
- Indica strains for sedating (couch lock) and relaxing effects.
Here is how Indica vs Sativa has shifted from the early days to modern life.
Indica: All the small bushy plants having short and wide leaves which were known as cannabis Sativas at the time and are now classified as Cannabis Indica. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck identified the fact that the plants were intoxicating. It was different from the regular hemp crops grown in Europe at the time, as they did not intoxicate the consumer.
Sativa: All other varieties that are taller in size having long and narrow leaves found in Europe and Western Asia which are cultivated for seeds, fiber, and CBD. Originally they were named Hemp and is now considered to be Cannabis Sativa.
Sounds confusing? Understandable. But if you want to be an informed consumer, it is necessary to understand the classifications along with the practical values of different effects of Indica vs Sativa and their sub-species.
Classification of Indica vs Sativa
The history of cannabis is a mystery till date. Some of the geographical barriers like the Himalayan Mountains kept this natural medicine away from humans for centuries. Some researchers reported that it was originated in central Asia. Then migrated to southern and western Asia.
Cannabis Indica strains and Cannabis Sativa strains are the two different species of cannabis. Sativa strains are plants with long flowers, tall structure, and skinny leaflets. While Indicas are the small and bushy plants with wide leaflets.
Cannabis is an alteration of an ancient term used for the hemp plant and known as the general name for all types of cannabis strains and hemp plants.
Indica is a Latin word which means India. It is named Indica because this species was discovered from United India in 1784.
Sativa is also a Latin word that means cultivated. Sativa has been cultivated by humans for centuries for its flowers, seeds, and fiber.
Human interest and preference play a significant role in the rise of these two species of cannabis. In ancient times people of Asia had a lot of different sources of food and fiber, so they used cannabis for psychoactive effects. It is also rumored that some ancient humans were using it for spiritual aid.
After extensive research by dedicated professionals and ethnobotanists, the different methods of analyzing DNA allows us to predict the most accurate classifications. But, because of the growing awareness and legalizing of cannabis around the world, these classifications may change in the future.
For now, we can only describe these two species as:
Cannabis Sativa covers all the tall and narrow leaflet plants harvested for hemp seeds and fiber. Cultivated mostly all over Europe and in some parts of North & South America.
Cannabis Indica covers all the varieties of bushy and broad leaflet plants having relaxing properties. Cultivated for medical contents, and harvested mostly in Afghanistan, India, Mexico, Jamaica, and some parts of North & South America.
Effects of Sativa vs Indica: Research
With these two types of cannabis, we can predict their effects. With so many cannabis products and strains, how do we choose and begin? The answer is simple CBD, THC, Cannabinoids, and Terpenes. Put these terms in your hemp wallet, as we are about to learn more.
But first, let’s talk about some research and the different effects of Indica and Sativa.
Most people assume that all Indica strains have relaxing effects and that all the Sativa strains deliver energizing and uplifting effects. But researchers tell us a different story.
Jeffrey Raber Ph.D. a chemist who founded the first testing laboratory “The Werc Shop” to examine cannabis terpenes in an enterprise capacity. Raber said: “There is not any scientific proof to make this extensive advice, and it should stop ASAP. The main thing we should focus on to understand that which of the cannabis composition is causing which effects by delivering it in different fashions at various dosages to multiple consumers.”
A famous Neurologist, cannabis psych pharmacologist Ethan Russo agreed with Jeffrey and said. “The medicinal effects of different strains of cannabis have nothing to do with the size and density of the plant. Whether the plant is short and bushy or tall and sparse, whether leaflets are wide or tapered, all effects are in a distinct way.”
Hence, The Indica and Sativa terms are used on a commercial level in a way which makes no sense. This means that not all the Sativa strains will deliver an energizing and uplifting effect and not all the Indica strains will provide the relaxing and sedating effects.
Modern research shows us that some of the Sativa strains also provide a relaxing effect while some Indica strains deliver uplifting and energizing effect. This means there is not any strict rule or data which determines the perfect pattern of various cannabis strain’s effects.
If clinical effects do not make a difference in Indica vs Sativa, then what does?
Indica vs Sativa: Differences
Indica strains and Sativa strains are different in various ways but the real difference between them is all about their physical appearance. This can only be observed during the cultivation cycle. Indica plants grow short and has dark green and broad leaves with a thick stem. While Sativa plants grow taller having light green and narrow leaves with a longer flowering cycle.
When we talk about Indica vs Sativa effects, we know everyone has the same ideas about the different cannabis types. Sativa strains provide heady and cerebral effects and Indica strains renders Stoney and full-bodied effects.
Despite popular thinking, these effects depend on various factors including consumption method, dosage, your biology, and most of all, the product’s chemical profile.
Below, in an effort to help you decide what types of cannabis and strains that are right for you, I am going to discuss how different chemicals found in cannabis changes everything.
The cannabis plant whether if it’s an Indica strain or Sativa strain contains hundreds of chemical entities like terpenes and cannabinoids that create different effects and flavors. The THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) are the most common cannabinoids. These are also the main sources of cannabis therapeutic effects.
CBD is used to reduce chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, and many more medical conditions. While THC is used to eliminate symptoms of nausea and pain. THC also helpful for appetite and this is the main compound that makes us high.
There are 3 cannabinoid profiles that Indica and Sativa strains express. Strains that have higher THC level are THC-dominant strains, Strains that have higher CBD levels are CBD-dominant strains, and there are balanced CBD and THC strains most commonly referred to Hybrid strains.
It was predicted that higher CBD levels are found in Indica plants, which we know now that is not the case. However, you can find a different amount of CBD and THC in both Indica and Sativa. So, choose your strain based on its THC or CBD level rather than based on its classification.
Terpenes are aromatic compounds mostly found in the oils of multiple fruits and plants like hops, oranges, peppers, and cannabis. This is the compound that attracts flies like honey bees, butterflies, and other smaller insects like ants.
Female plants produce trichomes which are organs that look like hairs and tiny thorns. These trichomes surround various chemical entities like terpenes and cannabinoids. This means, if a plant grows perfectly and remains untouched in the whole processing method, you will get exceptional results with its natural color, flavor, and smell.
There are various types of terpenes in a cannabis plant. These terpenes hold a number of medical benefits as well. If you smell the different strains at the time of purchasing, good knowledge of terpenes and cannabinoids may be helpful in choosing the perfect strain for you.
The effects of a strain may also be different based on your tolerance level, dosing, and biology. So, before choosing the right strain, consider your experience with cannabis. If your tolerance level is low, you should try a strain that has a low THC level and start with low doses.
If you’re suffering from anxiety or inflammation, try using a strain having low levels of CBD like Vanila Kush, Blue Cheese, and Violator Kush etc. Use edibles and tinctures for longer lasting effects.
There are multiple factors to consider before buying a strain. But if you get a positive experience consistently while using Indica strains, then keep using them. Do the same with Sativa strains if you find them delivering a good experience and effects.
However, before buying the right strain for you, it is suggested to know a little something about Hybrid strains as well.
The third most common type of cannabis is Hybrid strains. These are generally the mixture of Indica and Sativa that can produce both body and mind-altering effects.
According to a recent survey, it is noticed that there is a very small amount of pure Indica strains and Sativa strains due to global breeding programs.
Hybrids are the new and exclusive strains of cannabis that are derived from different types of parent plants. The chemical profile of these types of cannabis falls between the parent’s spectrums. A hybrid cannabis strain renders a number of medical benefits. The breeders of cannabis cross-breed any two plants to produce a new hybrid strain for getting the perfect medical efficacy. Hybrids are helpful in severe diseases like:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease.
Indica and Sativa crossbreeding is the most common and notable mix. Some cannabis breeders also mix two Indica strains or two Sativa strains to produce a new and exciting hybrid strain. Modern researches show that a number of hybrid strains are the result of crossbreeding the same parent plants.
Medical professionals prefer Sativa dominant hybrid strains for medicating their patients in the day time for pain and nausea. While for medicating in the evening and for getting maximum relief, they prefer a switch to Indica dominant strains.
Hybrids have different combinations of effects and terpenes. After its cultivation, it can become more popular than Indica and Sativa strains for many cannabis enthusiasts. The size and look of a hybrid cannabis strain depend on how it grows and which parent plant used for cross breeding.
There is no doubt that Indica vs Sativa provides different effects to those who use cannabis for medical purposes on a daily basis. Today, as cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes in multiple regions around the world, more studies and reports are starting to emerge validating cannabis as having real and effective medical efficacy.
Let’s look at the most prominent clinical effects of Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid strains.
Effects of Indica Strains
Mostly Indica strains produce a couch-like high feeling (couch lock), which makes it a perfect choice for relaxing. It is also helpful with insomnia and multiple sleep-related cases, and lack of appetite. These strains are suitable to take at night or when you need to relax.
Indica strains are commonly known as a relaxing strain. Most Indica plants contain higher levels of CBD and are helpful in treating different medical conditions like:
- Chronic and severe pain
It renders a light-mind & heavy-body experience which are sedating and comforting effects. So, it acts as a natural sleeping pill.
Effects of Sativa Strains
Sativa strains provide an uplifting high experience which renders energy to the consumer. With this type of strain, you can use during public events and within your social circles.
Sativa strains are ideal for daytime use.
Sativa strains are more stimulating, modern researches show that they can be effective in treating various health problems like:
- Chronic pain
Indica vs Sativa cannabis strains both have different medicinal benefits, while they have different effects on the consumer. Most people prefer to use Sativa strains throughout the day and Indica strains at night.
It is recommended to never trust and use a strain as medicine without being familiar with its chemical profile. You should also consider if it has been lab-tested or not. If the strain you are considering to purchase is lab-tested, then the lab results should be readily available for you so you can learn about its chemical profile.
Effects of Hybrid Strains
Hybrid strains usually contain a blend of both Indica and Sativa genetics. It can take on effects and other properties from both the parent strain families.
Hybrid strains are further divided into three groups:
- Balanced 50/50 hybrids
- Indica-dominant hybrids
- Sativa-dominant hybrids.
So, the effects vary from strain to strain.
Medical effects of hybrid cannabis strains really depend on the dominance of Indica vs Sativa. It is reported that some patients used Indica-dominant hybrid for treating body pain, anxiety and inflammation.
Every hybrid strain has a different chemical profile, so the effects are different from person to person. Generally, hybrid strains are useful in treating a lot of chronic diseases and medical conditions like:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic pain
And many more.
Indica vs Sativa – Which is right for you?
It’s a good idea to get comfortable with cannabis strains and to try many out before choosing which cannabis type and strain is right for you. When comparing Indica vs Sativa strains, an understanding of the basic principles of terpenes, cannabinoids, and dosage methods will help you even more and you will have a better idea of what could suit you best for your particular needs.
If it’s only the high that you seek, then cannabis strains with a higher level of THC are preferable products. While if you need to work, study and relieve pain, then products with high CBD and lower THC levels are perfect for you.
The cannabis plant is not as simple as we think. But its intricacies and its range of effects make it an exceptional plant and product which can entertain all types of consumers.
The important things to remember for you as a consumer is to know about the strain’s potency, (CBD and THC levels), and chemical profile. And most importantly, you should be aware of your tolerance level to cannabis to help choose which strain is right for you.
Shopping by cannabis type (Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid) is an overall reliable way of getting the desired experience you are looking for, but you have to try multiple strains to find which is best for you, trail and error is a fun way to do this.
Perhaps it’s not as simple as you thought to find the perfect strain. Hopefully, after reading this guide, you are now able to make better-informed decisions when selecting strains for medicinal purposes and for recreational purposes.
Finally, I must say that choosing a strain is very much a personal experience. This guide is here to provide you with a basic knowledge of the differences between Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid strains. And also, for providing you the information you need before making a purchase decision.
Moreover, try different strains to feel the different experiences at different times of the day.
Now you know the basic and necessary information that makes these types of cannabis different. You can now identify an Indica leaf and a Sativa leaf by their appearance. Also, you understand the effects the different types of Cannabis have on the human body.
Don’t worry about what kind of strains are best for you if you use medical marijuana. There are so many cannabis strains out there that provide relief from different kinds of medical issues that may present themselves in your lifetime. You will eventually learn what type of cannabis is best for you, and what strains are most effective for your medical condition(s). It’s all about trial and error, and some recommendations from credible sources can certainly help narrow down your choices.
Cannabis is truly a complex plant with a complex pattern of remarkable health benefits. Its popularity is becoming mainstream worldwide that is encouraging more cannabis research that will benefit all humans and the sustained health of our planet.
Hopefully, you found what you were looking for when it comes to Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrids. If you have any further questions, please use the comments section below, and I will try my best to help.
The Chronic Beaver
Good read. I haven’t smoked weed in approx 15 years, and needed the refresher as I begin get my feet wet again!
Hey Willy, thanks for the comment, enjoy cannabis and be safe.