Sativa vs Indica Strains

Sativa vs. Indica Strains The Ultimate Guide

Trying to make sense of the world of marijuana can be confusing, especially if you haven’t had much exposure to this plant that has been praised and criticized for generations by different groups of people.

To some, it’s a wonderful natural remedy that many say can help all sorts of mental and physical health conditions, from anxiety to chronic pain.

But to some critics, the product is questionable at best or dangerous at the worst. It’s been blamed for more than a century for many of society’s woes and ills, everything from causing crime to increasing a simple lack of motivation among enthusiasts. Although Canada recently made adult-use cannabis legal at a federal level, which was added onto a thriving medical marijuana marketplace, many of us still have questions about how to get started, the different products available, and the ideal marijuana strains for their health condition, lifestyle or interest.

Knowing this information ahead of time will make it easier next time you visit a cannabis store. Although the staff at these types of retail outlets is generally knowledgeable and happy to assist any legal customer, it always helps the consumer to have something in mind about what they want or need. That will help them have a better experience at their favorite local cannabis store.

Ultimately, it comes down to knowing the fundamentals of the plant itself, which can start with basic plant biology. There are generally three types of cannabis strains that will be encountered: indica, sativa, and hybrids that include some properties of both types.

Indica

Some of those familiar with sativa vs indica strains jokingly say that the best way to remember is that indica will put you  “in da couch,” meaning it has properties designed primarily to relax your whole body, so much so that you may not want to move. Depending on ingredients found in the plant, an indica strain is likely to promote rest, relaxation, and calmness.

Some indica cannabis strains are designed to help you relax, whether you want to take a full break or briefly tune out, perhaps something you take before bed to help you sleep better at night. A full-body high is sometimes just the thing for someone seeking relief from body pain. These types of strains are recommended highly for many medical conditions, including cancer, since they are known to decrease pain, reduce nausea, stimulate appetite and increase dopamine, a compound that improves one’s mood.

Physically, indica plants are short and stout. The leaves are generally broad and chunky rather than skinny and slender. Indica plants are often harvested for their fiber, along with seeds and potential as an extract.

Their scientific classification is “cannabis indica afghanica,” which tells something of the origins of this type of plant in areas of Central Asia, especially in colder yet drier and more mountainous areas. How old is this type of plant? Historians and botanists continue to research the ingredients found in certain strains and historical evidence for it, and have found some cultures were using indica plants thousands of years ago for medical, religious or ceremonial needs.

Common strains include Afghan Kush, Bubba Kush, and Granddaddy Kush.

Sativa

People trying to define differences between indica and sativa cannabis plants often suggest that sativas should be thought of as the complete opposite of indicas.

Where an indica is designed to provide a nice relaxing body high, some sativas are designed to naturally energize mind and body. Sativa strains are often recommended for people seeking a mental boost, perhaps before approaching a creative task where it’s OK to open your mind wide and start thinking like crazy. While sativas shouldn’t be thought of as a strong stimulant, such as caffeine, they do have a nice reputation for helping ‘clear away the cobwebs’ and improve one’s thinking and even boosting productivity.

Generally, they have a reputation of being more uplifting and enhancing experiences while reducing anxiety and stress, and are said to be a good choice to start one’s day. They’re also recommended for those battling depression as a good way to boost serotonin levels.

Physically, both types of plants are different. If you’ve only seen tall, skinny cannabis plants with narrow leaves, sometimes up to 12 feet, you’re likely looking at a sativa. These plants have been found in hotter, dryer climates with constant sun, including northern Africa and Central America.

Genetically, this type of plant is known as “cannabis sativa” and also has been prized for its fiber and seeds.

Some prominent sativa strains that are still popular are Acapulco Gold, Sour Diesel, Durban Poison and Panama Red.

Hybrids

As cannabis has increased in popularity and availability, some botanists, both at the amateur and professional levels, began looking for ways to blend flavors and certain characteristics rather than sticking with the original types. For instance, someone may like some properties of one type of plant and try to mix it with another to see what emerges. This is a good way to accent certain flavors or increase potency, or blend body and mind highs.

This cross-breeding has resulted in all sorts of variations that can equally intrigue and confuse consumers. These hybrids often represent the best of both worlds, which you may learn at your next visit to a cannabis store. A hybrid’s label will discuss a strain’s parentage and whether it is indica dominant, sativa dominant or a balanced blend of both. This means that it may have some but not all of the effects.

These aren’t always found in nature but grown in indoor or outdoor locations. White Widow, Blue Dream and Shipwreck are well-known types.

A caveat

Contemporary cannabis experts advise new consumers or curious consumers that the “type of plant” is really more of a starting point and a good rule of thumb vs. an absolute. Knowing whether something is a sativa, an indica or a hybrid may provide a good idea of a plant’s general genetics, but won’t necessarily tell you how every strain will always act and make you feel 100 percent of the time.

Each strain includes a variety of other ingredients that can be factored in a strain’s profile, including:

  • Cannabinoids, which are more than 100 molecular compounds in cannabis that can cause varying mental or physical behaviors in the body. The most widely known ones are THC, which provides the temporary ‘high’ feeling and good feelings associated with all cannabis, and CBD, which provides pain-reducing properties, but not necessarily the mental release. (CBD is also the active ingredient in commercial hemp products.)
  • Terpenes. These are the genetic blueprints in all plants, not just cannabis, that provide certain tastes, smells and other characteristics. Just like there are different types of roses within the general rose family that all have slightly different colors and scents, the same is true in cannabis strains.

Additionally, the increased research into hybridization has also led to more focus on accenting or downplaying certain terpenes or cannabinoids, which means that knowing that a plant is a sativa or indica is less critical than what effect it is intended to have.

Because the cannabis conversation now goes beyond “sativa vs indica strains,” and everyone’s experience is different, people wanting to get more information about what works best for them can talk to their health provider or someone they trust at a cannabis store near them.