What are the differences between indica vs sativa cannabis strains? Knowing this is the foundation of being a savvy weed consumer. This guide will give you everything to become a world-class cannabis consumer.
To start breaking things down, let’s get scientific for a minute. The word “cannabis” is used to describe a genus of plant. And within that genus, there are three main species: Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa, and Cannabis ruderalis.
Cannabis ruderalis is commonly known as hemp, and it’s very low in THC, which is the chemical that gets you high. Because of this, it’s most often used for industrial purposes. Some medical marijuana companies also use hemp to extract CBD, the chemical in cannabis that has a lot of medicinal properties.
Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, however, have high levels of THC. These are the ones that get you high. For that reason, we’re going to focus on breaking down the differences between these two.
But wait, there’s still a little bit more. Each species has an enormous number of distinct strains. And each different strain has its own unique set of qualities.
The good news is that to be an expert weed consumer; you don’t need to know every fact about every strain. You only need to know the key differences between indica strains and sativa strains. This will give you enough information to help you find the particular kind of weed you’re looking for.
Indica plants are short, wide, and bushy. Their leaves are fat and broad and are a dark shade of green. They also mature quicker than sativa plants.
Sativa plants are tall and lanky with long branches and narrow, lighter colored leaves. They take longer to mature than indica plants. While indica plants start flowering around 45-60 days, sativas produce buds in the 70-100 day range.
Indica plants produce buds that are dense, heavy, and tightly packed. Depending on the specific strain, they’ll typically have a strong sour or sweet scent.
Sativa plants produce buds that are longer, narrower, and less densely packed. They smell more earthy and grassy than their indica counterparts.
For most smokers, the effects are what it’s all about. This is what matters most.
Chemical makeup is the thing that dictates how each species of cannabis effects you. According to one study, indica strains average a higher proportion of THC to CBD, while sativa strains average a higher proportion of CBD to THC.
In reality, though, there’s so much variance between strains that it’s hard to rely on this general rule. You can find sativa strains with way more THC than indica strains, just as you can find indica strains with more CBD than some sativa strains.
So instead of getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty chemical properties, it’s most helpful to focus on the general effects each species produces.
The most simple way to break it down goes like this. Indicas produce body highs. Sativas produce head highs. Want an easy way to remember it? Indicas leave you “in da couch.”
In general, the effects of an indica strain will center on your body. After smoking or eating an indica, you’ll feel calm, sedated, and sleepy. You may also experience some noticeable pain relief.
When you use a sativa strain, you’ll feel cerebral highs. Sativas can help you get energized, focused, and can give you a little creative boost.
These general differences in effects mean that people use each species for slightly different things. In general, indicas make great evening and night time strains, while sativas are perfect for wake and bakes and daytime use.
Indica strains can be especially useful for:
- pain relief
- relaxing muscles
- treating seizures
- coping with migraines and headaches
- insomnia and sleeping problems
Sativa strains are ideal for:
- feeling uplifted and happy
- getting a boost of energy, focus, and creativity
- fighting depression and other mood disorders
- treating mild aches and pains
One Final Note: Hybrids
One final note. For decades, weed breeders and growers have been cross-breeding indicas and sativas to create entirely new hybrid strains.
These hybrids end up blending different characteristics and qualities of the two species, and they produce a wide range of effects. There are now so many hybrids out there that they’ve almost become their very own species of cannabis.
But don’t worry. There’s no reason for you to start trying to memorize the specific qualities and effects of each and every hybrid strain. All you need is your basic toolbox of indica/sativa knowledge.
Hybrids are described based on which species are most dominant. So, you’ll have either an indica-dominant, a sativa-dominant, or a pure hybrid, which is basically an even split between the two.
This makes it easy to determine what you can expect from any given hybrid. If you’re looking at an indica-dominant hybrid, then it’ll have effects and characteristics that lean closer to the indica side of things. And if you’ve got a sativa-dominant hybrid, expect it to be more in line with other sativa strains.
If you live in a place where you can get weed at a legal dispensary, talk to your budtender about the detailed characteristics of a specific hybrid you’re interested in. By throwing hybrid strains into the mix, you can pinpoint strains with very specific effects. And this lets you tailor your weed-smoking experience to whatever you need.
The Final Hit
One of the best parts about smoking weed is the huge variety of buds that are out there. You could devote your entire life to testing out different strains, and you’d constantly encounter new experiences.
As you go out and explore new strains, it’s helpful to have a good understanding of how the cannabis family is broken down. Your knowledge of indicas and sativas is the starting place for how you go about choosing different strains.
But even with this understanding in place, always be ready for surprises. As breeders and growers keep developing new strains, the possibilities of what weed can do are literally endless. And that means infinitely unique smoking experiences. It’s a good time to be a pot smoker.