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What do indica and sativa mean?

Indica and sativa are the two primary foundations or subspecies of the cannabis plant. They are the main strains used to create the thousands of varieties of Marijuana plants available today. The word indica was termed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who, during the 18th century, was researching different plant specimens from India. Sativa, on the other hand, is a Latin derivative from the adjective sativum, meaning cultivated. Level one complete – you should be feeling smarter already!

What is the difference between indica vs sativa?

Even before you started reading this article, you’ve most likely heard the terms indica and sativa being tossed around. There are several differences between indica vs sativa plants. This is important to keep in mind when choosing which strain to consume as they produce different effects. 

Indica plants thrive best in high altitudes (picture mountainous areas) and colder, dry climates such as Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, and India. Visually, the leaves are stockier – usually wide and short with compact flowers. Some popular strains of indica include Ice Cream Cake, Purple Punch, and Zkittlez, to name a few.

The sativa plant, in comparison, is the total opposite. It is tall and thin; even the leaves are slender and finger-like. Sativa plants prefer a generous amount of light and enjoy warmer climates such as Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America. Sativa takes longer to grow than indica plants, but the wait is well worth it. Some popular strains of sativa include Sour Diesel, Jack Herer, and Trainwreck.

Like the Never-Ending Story, you can dream a dream and what you see will be. For everyone who isn’t riding the nostalgia train right now, you can basically think of any strain combo, and chances are there’s an indica, sativa, or hybrid to make your dreams come true. Due to years of cultivation and intense breeding, indica and sativa plants exhibit less differentiation. However, the distinguishing characteristics remain, and the terms make it easier for consumers to understand what they’re buying.

Typically, sativa strains contain more Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels than Cannabidiol (CBD). As a result, sativa provides a more psychoactive experience, which is why most users describe it as a cerebral high. Indica is known for its sedating effects that can leave you glued to the couch. However, the body numb is also used as an effective pain reliever and sleep aid.

What are hybrids?

Hybrids are a combination of indica and sativa strains. There are many variations of hybrids depending on their dominant traits. With years of cultivation and intense breading, as mentioned above, hybrids have exploded on the market. We can thank cannabis cultivators for blessing us with so many strain variations that it could take months, or even years, to figure out which hybrid you like the best. This kind of experiment will probably beat your grade 9 chemistry lab. All in the name of science, right?

Hybrids are generally a fan favorite because you get a sweet combo of both strains. Most hybrids will have dominant indica or sativa traits, but there are a handful of balanced hybrids with an equal ratio. Choosing between indica vs sativa dominant hybrids will rely on the effects you want to experience, but it can’t hurt to try a couple until you find your match, right? Some popular hybrid strains include GG4, Wedding Cake, and Blue Dream.

difference between indica vs sativa

Pros and Cons of Indica vs. Sativa

While we will list some pros and cons, they are usually anecdotal and really depend on the type of high you are looking for and if the strain you chose delivered on your expectations. Most people would agree that when it comes to indica vs sativa vs hybrids there is no real winner or loser. However, your session can take a left turn if you smoke the wrong strain for the type of activity you paired it with. Imagine hauling on some indica before going to a party. Unless your superpower is shielding your endocannabinoid system from absorbing THC, your pre-party indica sesh will most likely kill your social buzz.

Indica consumers often report an overwhelming sense of calm paired with a side of feeling laziness and a strong desire to melt into the couch. Normally, this experience comes with a body-high rather than the head-high you get with sativa. Indica is the perfect companion if you’re taking it easy at home. However, you may not want to choose an indica strain if you plan to be in a social setting. The popular saying indica means in da couch should give anyone a clear indication of what not to choose if you want to stay awake past 10pm.

A sativa strain is usually the better choice for a social setting, giving you a nice little cerebral buzz. It will get the creative juices flowing and an uplifting sense of euphoria. Meeting up with friends at the local hot spot? Trying to get over your writer’s block? Get into some sativa and let the buds do the rest. It will help take the edge off but still allow you to enjoy yourself.

Hybrids will produce similar negative effects if you’re choosing a strain that doesn’t match your vibe. Hybrids really open up the possibilities to fine-tune your experience. For example, if you’re looking for a creative, more active high with a physical sensation, you should seek out a sativa-dominant hybrid. Don’t be surprised if some giggles sneak their way into your session.

Likewise, if you’re looking for a more relaxed, chill vibe without the feeling of becoming one with the couch, you will probably get where you need to go with an indica-dominate hybrid. Generally, consumers will stick to the same strains time after time because they enjoy the high, know what to expect, or simply like the name. Just like any product, it is good to experiment until you find the right fit. Keep lighting up until you hit gold.

Medical applications of indica vs sativa

Marijuana is used for medicinal purposes as a treatment for pain, nausea, anxiety, sleeping disorders, and many other physical and mental health issues. Of course, the use of marijuana for medical purposes should always be assessed in consultation with your doctor, but many people have found that smoking weed has helped with a multitude of health issues. Additionally, studies have shown that medical marijuana can also reduce opioid consumption and decreasing opioid overdoses.

It is important to know the appropriate amount of weed to consume before jumping in, as there is such thing as greening out. This side effect can make you feel dizzy and nauseous or cause you to become very lethargic. There are also cases of consumers suffering from psychotic breaks due to chemical imbalances in the brain. Therefore, it is super important to do your research and start slow, especially for people who are new to cannabis.

Indica is recommended to use at night because of its body-numbing effects. Medicinal uses of indica typically help users relieve muscle pain and sleep disorders. Sativa is recommended for daytime use because of its intellectual stimulation and energetic buzz. Consumers use sativa for medicinal purposes to reduce anxiety and depression, in addition to increasing focus to minimize symptoms of attention deficits.

Cannabinoid/terpene content

Whether a cannabis plant produces a sativa vs indica strain is determined by terpenes. Terpenes are organic compounds that plants, especially conifers, produce. Conifers is a fancy word for resinous, cone-bearing trees and shrubs. The presence of terpenes is usually indicated by strong odors that protect plants from herbivores.

There are different levels of THC as well as terpene contents in cannabis strains. Indica vs sativa strains carry less THC and more CBD. The reverse is true for sativa, which is chock full of THC. Terpenes are aromatic oil compounds and produce distinctive flavors and scents in cannabis varieties. Terpenes are interesting (at least they are to us) in that there are over 100 different types and compositions. Also, many factors influence the development of terpenes in a cannabis plant. These factors include climate, weather, fertilizers, soil type, and even the time of day.

Among the many different types of terpenes, myrcene is the most widely occurring terpene in cannabis. If a cannabis plant has myrcene content above 0.5 percent, it automatically falls under the indica category. On the other hand, if the myrcene content is under 0.5 percent, the plant falls under the sativa category. There are other common cannabis terpenes that are distinctive based on their different colors and other unique characteristics.

Some people believe that terpenes will affect or enhance the high a person gets from using cannabis. This is known as the entourage effect, and it implies that terpenes enhance or alter the effects of THC and CBD in the body. Another interesting fact is that terpenes carry medicinal properties that can add therapeutic value. A study in Chemico-Biological Interactions reports that many terpenes have demonstrated beneficial effects on the body and could serve as alternative medicine or therapies.