Indica Vs Sativa

June 2024

There are a variety of cannabis strains on the market. These can be split into three subsorts of which the most popular ones are so the called Sativa and Indica cannabis strains, with a huge number of mixes between the two. But what is the difference in effect between a Sativa and an Indica cannabis strain? On this page you can read all about the differences.





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Sativa Vs Indica

More than 1,000 strains of cannabis have been cultivated in the past few decades. This is why it is crucial that users (recreational and/or patients) are aware of the different types of efficacy available to them in terms of cannabis medicine. Some strains of cannabis are best suited for certain diseases and ailments, but others are not. Choosing the right strain is critical to ensuring that patients receive the best possible therapy.

Cannabis is a type of flowering herb that is broken down into three subspecies: Indica, sativa and ruderalis. Ruderalis plants are small and provide relatively little medicine; what they do provide lacks potency and is generally not attractive to patients. Because of this, ruderalis strains are typically avoided by breeders and cultivators; the focus of the (medicinal) cannabis community is on indica and sativa strains.

Indica and sativa plants differ not only in their physiological effects, but also in their appearance. Indica plants are short and stocky, with leaves that are broad and “thick.” Sativa plants tend to be taller and leaner and may even be lanky in appearance, with leaves that are thin and pointed.

The Difference In Effect Between Cannabis Strains

The main difference when comparing indica vs sativa, however, is in their medical effects. It’s about how they affect energy levels and productivity. Indicas tend to reduce energy and are better for consumption in the evening or at night, after the day’s work when activities are over. Powerful indica strains can give some patients what is called a “couchlock”. This is a state where they become so relaxed that they barely get up from the couch.

Sativas, on the other hand, are uplifting and cerebral, increasing creativity and productivity. Indicas offer what is called a ‘body high’, while sativas deliver more of a ‘mind high’. Unfortunately, sativa plants take longer to grow and produce fewer drugs (flowers) than indica varieties. This is why generally the indica varieties dominate on the black (illegal) market. Since there is no concern here for patient needs and the focus is a quick profit.

The fact that patients are not given a choice of subspecies or strains when purchasing from the illegal market is a major reason that this should be avoided. Patients should never trust or consume cannabis medicine without knowing the exact strain. They should also make sure that it has been properly grown, dried, cured and laboratory tested for purity and possible contamination.

Importance Of Choice: Indica Vs Sativa

Modern growers of medicinal cannabis purposefully cultivate and grow a broad spectrum of strains in both the indica and sativa categories. They do this to make the right medicine available for a particular patient’s unique combination of disease, preference and lifestyle. Often patients must maintain jobs or family responsibilities that require a certain level of energy. They therefore cannot tolerate the sedative properties of many indica strains. Other times, patients must seek the most potent non-opiate analgesic. Given the choice of chronic pain or the soothing effects of a strong indica from a particular strain known for its medical benefits, most patients will choose the latter.

Growers and dispensaries are sensitive to the subjective efficacy of particular strains for different patients. Which is why they grow as many strains as possible and make them available for targeted ailments. Major conditions of interest include HIV/AIDS, cancer, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, Parkinson’s, all types of arthritis, and epilepsy.

In terms of certain conditions, sativa strains are usually better for mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD and anxiety. Indicas are often best for pain and inflammation, making them beneficial for patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia and cancer. A lot of diseases, however, are accompanied by side effects such as depression and insomnia. Which is why a patient should consider treating both their core disease and everyday symptoms. Ultimately, each patient will prefer multiple strains that likely fall within the sativa, hybrid and indica categories.

When it comes to aroma, indica strains tend to have musty, earthy and skunky smells. Sativas, on the other hand smell sweet, fruity or spicy. This difference in aroma is the result of terpenes. These are the molecules in the plant that are cousins of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Although these chemicals sometimes give off stunningly pungent smells, their greatest benefit to patients is actually their medicinal efficacy.

Hybrid Cannabis Strains: Indica Vs Sativa

Hybrids are simply new and unique strains grown by “crossing” different strains. A hybrid theoretically possesses many or most of the beneficial medical properties of the crossed strains. Breeders can cross any two species. This is mostly done in an attempt to create a new species that provides the best possible medical efficacy. Sometimes the goal is to help with certain diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and epilepsy.

It should be noted that any two strains can be mixed to create a hybrid. Indica / sativa mixes are common and often noted for their “alertness” and productivity. However, medicinal cannabis growers can also mix indica strains with other indica strains or use two sativa as a source.

With so many hybrid strains available to patients, many are a compromise that has the ability to kill pain and fight inflammation while keeping a patient from falling asleep in the middle of the day. Patients who need to take medication in the morning or afternoon, usually for nausea and pain, often prefer a sativa-dominant hybrid. But they often switch to an indica-dominant strain in the evening for maximum pain relief.

Hybrid strains that exhibit more indica than sativa characteristics are referred to as “indica-dom”. Those that lean toward sativa are similarly referred to as “sativa-dom.” Often strains are labeled with a sativa to indica ratio, such as a 60/40 sativa to indica. Other times, a strain will only indicate a percentage, such as “70 percent indica” or “80 percent sativa.”

Landrace Cannabis Strains

Landrace strains are those that have evolved naturally in their native environment. They have not been bred and are not hybrids. Which is why landrace strains offer a very pure example of sativa or indica, without human intervention. In fact, landrace varieties are typically 100 percent indica or sativa. This is a result of tens of thousands of years of inbreeding in a particular weather climate and geography.

Inheritances are landrace strains that have been grown outside their native environment. These can be plants or seeds that have been professionally grown and originated on the other side of the world. Although their pure indica or sativa properties are sought after, such strains lose some of their unique characteristics when grown outside the climate in which they evolved.

Examples of landrace strains include Durban Poison, a sativa from South Africa; Afghan Indica, from Afghanistan; Malawi Gold, a sativa from Southeast Africa; and Panama Red, a sativa from the country that bears its name.

Landrace sativas appear in Asia, Anatolia, and North Africa. These climates provide the long summers and intense sun in which such species have evolved and adapted to thrive. Indicas are found in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Such strains will not reach their potential if they are grown in indoor. The same happens in outdoor conditions that do not match those of their native environment.

Eastern Europe, the Himalayan region of India and Siberia are home to landrace ruderalis varieties and are among the least desirable of these naturally developed plants. Often, as in the Himalayas, such plants are used to make traditional hand-rolled hash, with impoverished villagers in such regions living on the black market of the concentrate that eventually appears in smokehouses across Europe.

What Determines Sativa Or Indica?

It has been learned that the sometimes pungent aromas produced by many cannabis strains are the result of terpenes, the special molecules in the herb that are similar in many ways to cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. While many may guess that a particular cannabis strain is categorized as indica, sativa or hybrid based on the presence or absence of a particular cannabinoid in a particular volume, it is actually a terpene that determines this important status of a strain.

Myrcene, the most abundant terpene in cannabis, is known to help patients sleep, fighting conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. If present in a specific strain in a volume greater than 0.5 percent, the strain is considered an indica. If the amount of myrcene is less than half of one percent, the strain is considered a sativa.

This dynamic is a good example of the entourage effect, a theory that cannabinoids and terpenes work together in harmony to deliver medicinal efficacy to patients. Many terpenes buffer or enhance the effects of major cannabinoids such as THC.

New Cannabis Strains: Indica Vs Sativa

New cannabis strains, many of which are hybrids of existing strains that exhibit exceptional analgesic (pain relieving) or anti-inflammatory properties, are being created on a regular basis. While some strains are better at dealing with the nausea associated with chemotherapy (used to treat cancer and Crohn’s patients, among others), most strains of cannabis are very good at this.

With such dramatic differences between indicas and sativas in terms of medicinal efficacy and patient experience, those who legally use medicinal cannabis should work with their doctor and dispensary to experiment with different strains that are already known to provide exceptional benefits to other patients, especially those with the same condition.

Patients should strive to find the strains that best deal with their particular disease or ailment and its symptoms, including the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs or therapies. This is usually not an overnight project and may require months or even years of diligent effort. Patients are even encouraged to continually experiment with new strains in search of greater potency or a superior cannabinoid profile that provides enhanced relief. Because this efficacy is so subjective, the advice of other patients can only be given so much weight. The true test of a particular strain of indica or sativa only occurs when it is used by an individual patient when they need it most, such as during periods of pain, nausea or insomnia.

Indica Vs Sativa | Frequently Asked Questions

Can my doctor help me choose the right strain?

Yes, just make sure cannabis is legal in your state before you ask for advice.

Are indica and sativa only used for medicinal purposes?

No, these types of strains are also used for recreational purposes.

Which type of strain is better; indica vs sativa?

This is completely dependent on your needs and preferences.

Can I create my own new cannabis strain?

In theory you could, but it requires a lot of prior knowledge and experience in growing strains.

What is the main difference between indica vs sativa?

Indicas produce a mind high, where sativa produces a body high.