When browsing through cannabis strains or shopping for cannabis in a store, you may notice that the strains are commonly divided into two distinct groups: indica vs sativa seeds. Most consumers have used these two types of cannabis as a touchstone for predicting effects:
- Indica cannabis strains are believed to be physically sedative, perfect for relaxing with a movie or as a midnight snack before bed.
- Cannabis sativa tend to provide more uplifting and uplifting cerebral highs that pair well with physical activity, social gatherings, and creative projects.
This belief that indica vs sativa cannabis produce distinct effects is so deeply ingrained in traditional cannabis culture that they typically start their recommendations by asking you which of these two types you prefer.
Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa: origin and evolution of the terms
The words “indica” and “sativa” were introduced in XVIII century to describe several cannabis species: Cannabis of sativa variety and Cannabis indica. The term sativa, called by Carl Linneaus, described hemp plants found in Europe and western Eurasia, where it was grown for its fibers and seeds. Cannabis indica, named by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, describes the psychoactive varieties discovered in India, where it was collected for production of seeds, fibers and hashish.
Although the cannabis strains we consume largely derive from Cannabis indica, both terms are used, albeit incorrectly, to organize the thousands of strains circulating on the market today.
Here is how the terms have moved from the first botanical definitions:
- Today, sativa strain refers to tall, narrow-leaved sativa cannabis strains that are thought to induce energizing effects. However, these narrow-leaved drug varieties (NLDs) were originally Cannabis indica ssp. Indica.
- Indica strain has come to describe robust, broad-leaved plants thought to provide sedative effects. These broadleaf drug varieties (BLDs) are technically indica ssp. Afghan.
- What we call “hemp” refers to industrial, non-intoxicating varieties harvested primarily for fiber, seeds and CBD. However, this was originally called Cannabis sativa.
Confused? Understandably so. As you can see, with the mass commercialization of cannabis, the taxonomic distinctions between cannabis species and subspecies have flipped and calcified.It appears that the contemporary use of indica and sativa descriptors is here to stay, but as an informed consumer, it’s important to understand the practical value of these categories, which leads us to research.
Indica vs Sativa Effects: What Does the Research Say?
What are the differences between indica vs sativa? This three-type system we use to predict the effects of cannabis is undoubtedly convenient, especially when entering the vast and overwhelming world of cannabis for the first time. With so many varieties and products to choose from, where should we start?
The answer is cannabinoids and terpenes, two words you should put in your back pocket if you haven’t already. We will get to know these terms briefly.
“The way Sativa and Indices labels are used commercially doesn’t make sense,” Russo told Leafly. “The clinical effects of cannabis chemovar have nothing to do with whether the plant is tall and sparse compared to the short and bushy one, or whether the leaflets are narrow or wide.” The flowering period will also vary greatly depending on the indica or sativa origin of the plant. In fact, it is known that indica strains will take less to flower than sativa hemp.
Raber agreed, and when asked whether budgenders should lead consumers with terms like ‘indica’ and ‘sativa,’ he replied, ‘There is no factual or scientific basis for making these broad recommendations, and you must stop today. What we need to try to better understand is which standardized cannabis composition is causing which effects, when dispensed in which fashions, at what specific dosages, to which types of consumers. “
This means that not all sativas will turn you on, and not all indicas will seduce you. You may notice a tendency for these so-called sativas to be uplifting or for these clues to be soothing, especially when we expect to feel one way or another. Just note that there is no hard and fast rule and no determinant chemical data that supports a perfect predictive model.
If Indica vs Sativa isn’t predictive of effects, what is it?
The effects of each cannabis strain depend on several factors, including the chemical profile of the product, the unique biology and tolerance, dose and method of consumption. Understand how these factors change the experience and you will have the best chance of finding that perfect strain for you.
Indica or Sativa Effects
Indica vs Sativa effects, what are the differences? The differences between indica and sativa are huge. The traditional and not weakened Hemp Sativa has very stimulating and energizing effects; well known for increasing concentration and creativity. It also reduces stress and anxiety. Instead, as far as the indica strain is concerned, it is known for its calming effects, with a deep physical and mental relaxation and a strong reduction of insomnia. Diminished hemp sativa refers to legal cannabis strains almost everywhere in the world today. Cannabis light has no psychoactive effects, only strong physical and energizing relaxation; moreover, light cannabis with a high cbd content is also used for therapeutic use.
The cannabis plant is made up of hundreds of chemical compounds that create a unique harmony of effects, which is mainly driven by cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD (the two most common) are the main drivers of the therapeutic and recreational effects of cannabis:
- THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) makes us feel hungry and high and relieves symptoms such as pain and nausea.
- CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-intoxicating compound known to relieve anxiety, pain, inflammation and many other medical ailments.
Cannabis contains over a hundred different types of these cannabinoids, but get familiar with these first two. Instead of choosing a strain based on its indica or sativa classification, consider basing your selection on these three buckets instead:
- Strains high in THC are primarily chosen by consumers looking for a powerful euphoric experience.These strains are also selected by patients who treat pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia and more. If you tend to feel anxious with THC-dominant strains or don’t like the other side effects associated with THC, try a strain with higher CBD levels.
- High CBD strains contain only small amounts of THC and are widely used by those who are extremely sensitive to THC or patients needing relief from free head symptoms.
- Balanced THC / CBD strains contain balanced THC levels, offering mild euphoria and symptom relief. These tend to be a good choice for novice consumers looking for an introduction to cannabis signature.
It is worth noting that both indica and sativa strains exhibit these different cannabinoid profiles. “Initially, most people thought that higher CBD levels caused sedation and that CBD was more prevalent in indica crops, which we now know is most of the time not true,” Raber told Leafly. “We are more inclined to see some CBD in sativa-like cultivars, but there is no systematic rule or relationship in that regard.”
If you’ve ever used aromatherapy to relax or invigorate your mind and body, you understand the basics of terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic compounds commonly produced by plants and fruits. They can be found in lavender flowers, oranges, hops, pepper and, of course, cannabis. Secrets from the same glands that exude THC and CBD, terpenes are what makes cannabis smell like berries, citrus, pine, fuel, etc.
Like essential oils vaporized in a diffuser, cannabis terpenes can make us feel stimulated or sedated, depending on which ones are produced. Pinene, for example, is an alarming terpene while linalool has relaxing properties. There are many types of terpenes in cannabis, and it pays to familiarize yourself with at least the most common.
“Terpenes appear to be the major players in driving the sedative or energizing effects,” Raber said. “Which terpenes cause which effects is apparently a lot more complicated than we would all like, as it appears to vary based on specifics and their relative relationship between them and cannabinoids.”
According to Raber, the indica or sativa morphology of a strain does not specifically determine these aromas and effects. However, you may find consistency between the individual strains. The Tangie strain, for example, offers a distinctive citrus aroma, while DJ Short’s Blueberry should never fail to deliver the distinctive scent of ripe berries.
If you can, smell the strains you are considering for purchase. Find the aromas that distinguish you and try them. Over time, your intuition and knowledge of cannabinoids and terpenes will guide you in your favorite strains and products.
Method of biology, dosage and consumption
Finally, consider the following questions when choosing the right strain or product for you.
- How much experience do you have with cannabis? If your tolerance is low, consider a low-THC strain in low doses.
- Are you susceptible to anxiety or other side effects of THC? If so, try a high strain in CBD.
- Do you want the effects to last a long time? If you do, consider edible foods (starting with a low dose). Conversely, if you are looking for a short-term experience, use inhalation methods or a tincture.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a strain, but if you truly find that Indica strains consistently provide a positive experience, then by all means, keep getting them. However, if you are still looking for that ideal strain, these are important details to keep in mind.