What is the difference between Sativa and Indica?

Sativa and indica are known cannabis variants. The former is associated with the "head high" experience while the latter supposedly provides a "body high". 

But is such distinction accurate?

If we enter a legit dispensary, is it enough for us to say that we want cannabis indica or sativa?

What do experts have to say in this issue?

What is the difference between Sativa and Indica?​

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Is there a difference between sativa and indica?

Cannabis users are very much familiar with the terms "sativa" and "indica." These are considered colloquial in the world of marijuana production and consumption. Typically, the understanding is that these words are the two types of cannabis that allow the user to become either "high" or "stoned."

However, researches done on marijuana corrected the false dichotomy.

According to Dr. Ethan Russo, a psychopharmacology researcher and neurologist, the distinction between Sativa and indica is questionable unless you are only referring to the morphology of the two. In one of his interviews, Dr. Russo suggested we consider abandoning the sativa-indica terminology because leading taxonomists who study cannabis have different positions on the issue.

Since the marijuana plant has been the subject of research in the past years, we now know that the chemical compounds present are responsible for determining your experience. Sativa-indica distinction only applies to the physical attributes of the plant and not much to its effects on the user.

Sativa morphology:

  • Tall in stature
  • Leaves are narrow
  • Longer flowering periods
  • Usually grown outdoors
  • Best grown in warm climates

Indica morphology:

  • Small in stature
  • Leaves are broad
  • Shorter flowering periods
  • Usually grown indoors
  • Best grown in colder climates

Now, despite this fact, as one enters a legit marijuana dispensary, the products are still categorized into three groups: (1) sativa, (2) hybrid, and (3) indica.

The distinction is not a disregard for the scientific experiments on cannabis, but this gives budtenders a good starting point in dealing with their buyers. In their related blog, Insider.com quoted Jeff Chen on this issue, "In the absence of any other useful system to classify marijuana, strain and indica-sativa dichotomy is all breeders and distributors have, kind of like what Winston Churchill said about democracy. It’s the worst system invented, but the best we have."

One downside of this grouping system is that users may use something they do not need or want. For example, clients eagerly seeking to relieve their pain might experience the opposite when asking for a sativa or indica marijuana.

What causes the different effects of cannabis varieties?

The environment where the plant is grown contributes to its effects. Temperature, humidity, soil nutrients, sunlight, and altitude are all factors that can influence how a person who consumes a marijuana product physically reacts.

Considering the environmental factor, a Bubba Kush grown in California provides a different effect than a Colorado-cultivated Bubba Kush.

The best explanation for the mixed outcomes of cannabis has something to do with its chemistry. When examined at the granular level, the chemical compounds present in its leaves explain the effects of cannabis. These leaves contain thousands of chemical compounds that work in concert to provide the user with a unique experience.

Despite the thousands of chemical compounds present, cannabinoids and terpenes are major players affecting marijuana users.

How should I differentiate cannabinoids and terpenes?

In a nutshell, cannabinoids affect the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), which influences our sleep, mood, appetite, memory, and reproduction/fertility. Terpenes, otherwise, characterize the plant’s flavor and fragrance.

1. Cannabinoids

According to one research, there are 80 to 100 cannabinoids in cannabis growth. However, only two are considered main drivers – THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). The former makes us feel hungry and high; it also helps deal with pain and nausea. The latter is responsible for mitigating anxiety, inflammation, and other medical disorders.

To learn about the duration of THC in our body, read this blog entry, "How Long Does THC Stay In the System?"

As you visit a dispensary near you, it is best to describe the experience you want basing on CBD or THC level. Such is an excellent alternative to employing the sativa-indica distinction.

If you want a euphoric experience, choose cannabis that is THC-rich. Patients who desire to treat their pain, muscle plasticity, glaucoma, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety feel disposed to THC-dominant cannabis.

CBD-rich strain provides the person with a clear-headed experience. Aside from this, this chemical compound helps deal with seizures caused by difficult-to-control forms of epilepsy.

2. Terpenes

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that provide a certain degree of aromatherapy to customers. These are known to be present in lavender flowers, oranges, hops, peppers, and cannabis.

Terpenes cause the aromas of cannabis, such as berries, citrus, pine, fuel, and others. These chemicals serve as the basis of many essential oils. Through these scents, the person would feel improved sensation affecting his/her mood and stress levels.

What terpenes does cannabis have?

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What are the differences between Sativa, Indica, hybrid, and ruderalis?

Sativa Details

Yes, not all sativa cannabis will energize a person, but most users recognized the tendency for sativas to produce "head high" or an uplifting and stimulating experience. Because of this general effect, the day is the best time to use sativa.

Below are some sativa strains according to healthline.com:

  1. Sour Diesel
  2. Jack Herer
  3. Green Crack
  4. Chocolope
  5. Super Silver Haze
  6. Durban Poison
  7. Strawberry Cough
  8. Harlequin GDP
  9. Super Lemon Haze
  10. Lucid Blue
  11. Sour Breath
  12. Red Congolese

Indica Details

Its generic effect on people as "body high" is common knowledge among cannabis patrons. Users who prefer indica experience pain relief and relaxation leading to a good shut-eye. Because of this, cannabis indica is preferable in the nighttime.

Healthline.com has listed the following indica strains:

  1. Granddaddy Purple
  2. Ice Cream Cake
  3. Purple Punch
  4. Northern Lights
  5. Bubba Kush
  6. Mendo Breath
  7. Do-Si-Dos
  8. GMO Cookies
  9. L.A. Confidential
  10. Zkittlez
  11. Slurricane
  12. Blue Cheese

Hybrid Details

Combining the effects of both indica and sativa, one produces hybrid cannabis. Since much crossbreeding has been done, it is difficult to find a pure sativa or pure indica cannabis. The effect of hybrids is dependent upon the dominant chemical present. If there are more indica strains in it, the results are highly characteristics of the mentioned pedigree.

Here are some of the bestselling hybrid strains in the market:

  1. Lemon Chem
  2. Purpetrator
  3. Grease Monkey
  4. Purple Fire
  5. Trinity
  6. Cinderella 99
  7. Red Dragon
  8. White Widow


Ruderalis Details

This type is the most uncommon. The cannabis ruderalis is a very short and compact plant with tiny, chunky buds and known to have grown amid extreme environments. Its THC contents are below 3% but have high levels of CBD.

Before, ruderalis has no significant role in the marijuana industry. However, growers began to reconsider it, primarily due to its autoflowering trait.

Amazingly, the plant does not rely much on daylight hours to bloom. Its cultivation in places considerably short summer seasons yet prolonged daylight hours could be the reason behind. Experts call this trait an autoflowering characteristic.

Now, growers use ruderalis for breeding indica and sativa strains. The logic is to endow the marijuana plant with the mentioned autoflowering trait. The resulting plant is now grown under a constant 18-20-hour light exposure throughout its growth stages.

By breeding ruderalis with other variants, it is notable that the growth cycle becomes shortened. One can expect a harvest 70 -110 days after the seed.

What type of cannabis is best for me?

Growers, nowadays, produce various cannabis strains that are readily available to the market. This fact compels you to know which cannabis variant would meet your needs. To determine this, read the considerations below:

  1. Determine your purpose for experiencing cannabis. Understand your "why" for using marijuana. By so doing, you will save yourself a lot of trouble or confusion as you approach any budtender. Ask yourself this question, "Is my purpose for using cannabis more recreational or medicinal?"
  2. Know the strain’s potency. Each variant has its unique potency, which affects your body. Some are THC powerhouse, while others are CBD-rich. The percentage of these cannabinoids needs serious consideration. Suppose you are just new in this activity; opting for lower THC or CBD is highly advisable.
  3. Ask a healthcare professional. This consideration is most especially true if you have a particular medical condition. Before any cannabis session, it is wise first to consult your physician to avoid any untoward incident.
  4. Choose a consumption means. There are many ways to consume cannabis. You can smoke it, vaporize it, eat it, or drink it.

    Inhalation (e.g., inhalation and vaporization) provides an immediate effect but lasts for a short period. Ingestion (e.g., eating and drinking) delays the effect but could last longer.

    For excellent smoking accessories, visit this online store.


The sativa-indica distinction no longer works because many hybrids between these two are easily accessible in the market. However, since many users are unaware of this, dispensaries still employ the sativa-indica grouping system.

Different breeds of cannabis are called strains. To provide a unique experience to consumers, growers produce many strains.

 A significant number of sativa strains are available over the past years. However, at least 25 sativa strains are known to many cannabis clients

Generally associated with a "mind high" experience, sativa stimulates the person. Recreationally speaking, it energizes one’s mood. On the medical aspect, sativa strains deal with anxiety. It is also an effective pain-relieving agent.

Thanks to cannabis farmers out there, hundreds of indica strains are now available in various dispensaries. However, at least 15 to 25 strains are known as bestsellers.

The primary recognized effects of indica are relaxation and sleepiness. This best explains why indica strains are also labeled as "nighttime strains." From a medical standpoint, indica helps patients experiencing insomnia. Increasing one’s appetite is another known effect of indica.

Crossbreeding both sativa and indica cannabis would yield to hybrid. Almost every year, new cannabis hybrids are being mainstreamed into the market. This contributes to the wide range of marijuana experiences.

Since hybrids have the effects of both sativa and indica, their impact results in a mixture of both. In purchasing hybrid cannabis, you must ask which between THC and CBD has a more dominant percentage.

Hybrid cannabis dominates known marijuana products in the market today. Leafly has over 3,600 variants of cannabis on their website.

This type of cannabis has a minimal THC percentage which is below 3%. Although ruderalis cannabis is not for consumption purposes, its autoflowering trait interests marijuana breeders.

 The fact that ruderalis is not advisable for consumption is the principal reason why it is unheard-of to many.

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