Sativa vs. Indica - Is There Really a Difference or Is It a Myth?

After years of research, the cannabis industry want you to believe that there is no difference between sativa, indica, and hybrid cannabis strains. However, many people who use cannabis vaporizers - both recreational and medicinal - are certain based on their experiences that each have very different effects.

So what is the truth?

The Origin of the Terms: Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid

The terms sativa, indica, and hybrid are pretty new, given the 10,000-plus history of the popular and potent plant. They were first coined in the 18th century by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. At the time, Linnaeus was one of the few people researching cannabis.

He observed two main types of cannabis plants—those that grew tall and thin, with loose clusters of flowers, and those that were short and bushy, with thick flowers. These two types were later named sativa and indica respectively by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who was another significant influencer in cannabis research.

Hybrid is a term used to describe a plant cross between two different species. With cannabis, hybrid strains are a mix of sativa and indica.

 

The Differences Between Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid Cannabis Strains

For the most part, the effects of sativa, indica, and hybrid cannabis strains are the same. The primary difference between these types of cannabis is their appearance and growing time.

Sativa plants are tall, thin leaves and can take up to ten weeks to flower. Indicas are shorter, thicker leaves and usually flower in around eight weeks. Hybrid plants have a mix of both sativa and indica characteristics and typically bloom in about nine weeks.

 

How Do the Effects Differ Between Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid?

Many people rely on the antiquated definitions of sativa and indica when choosing a cannabis strain, believing that sativas will give them more energy. Indicas make them feel more relaxed. In these terms, a hybrid provides the best of both worlds.

In reality, though, the effects of cannabis are determined by many factors, including genetics, terpenes, cannabinoids, and the individual consumer. This means that the impact of any cannabis strain can vary significantly from person to person.

Popular Sativa Strains

Popular sativa strains include:

  • Maui Wowie
  • Durban Poison
  • Jack Herer
  • Sour Diesel

Each strain is unique, but sativas are known for their cerebral, uplifting effects. These may treat anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Popular Indica Strains

Popular indica strains include:

  • Granddaddy Purple
  • Northern Lights
  • Afghan Kush

Indicas are renowned for their calming qualities and powerful body highs. These may relieve pain, stress, and insomnia.

Hybrid Strains

Popular hybrids vary by the percentage of each variety. Common favorites include:

  • Girl Scout Cookies 
  • Bubba Kush 
  • Blue Dream 

High-quality hybrids may provide the best of both worlds, offering consumers a balance of mental and physical effects.

The Best Way to Choose the Right Cannabis Strain for You

Review product labels for the terpene and cannabinoid profile. Some strains may provide information on flavonoids, but this data and research are relatively new. Different terpenes and cannabinoids can produce other effects, even within the same strain.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are compounds produced by plants that carry different flavors and aromas. There are over 20,000 terpenes globally, and researchers have found at least 200 in cannabis.

Common terpenes include:

Myrcene: This terpene has a musky, earthy flavor and is found in some strains of cannabis. Research shows myrcene increases the effects of cannabinoids, and some experts believe that one percentage point of myrcene can double the potency of THC.

Cannabis strains high in myrcene include Bubba Kush, Harlequin, and White Widow.

Limonene: This citrus-flavored terpene is found in lemons and is an active ingredient in many cleaning products. Research suggests that limonene can help with depression and anxiety.

Marijuana varieties with a significant amount of limonene include Jack Herer, Super Lemon Haze, and OG Kush.

Caryophyllene: This spicy terpene is in black pepper and cloves. Researchers know caryophyllene for its anti-inflammatory effects and may help with pain relief.

Cannabis strains high in caryophyllene include Sour Diesel, Bubba Kush, and Chemdawg.

What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds unique to cannabis that produce many effects within the body.

THC: This psychoactive cannabinoid produces the sensation of being "high." It's the most abundant cannabinoid in most strains. It may help with pain, inflammation, and anxiety.

THC potent strains include Trainwreck, Critical Kush, and Bruce Banner.

CBD: This non-psychoactive cannabinoid does not produce a "high." CBD is more abundant in hemp varieties of cannabis and may help reduce pain, inflammation, and seizures.

The most CBD-rich strains include ACDC, Charlotte's Web, and Harlequin.

CBG: This cannabinoid is a precursor to THC and CBD. Research suggests that CBG may have antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.

Although CBG is one of the newest cannabinoid breeders are working to increase, there are some strains to discuss, such as Jack Frost and White Widow.

What are Flavonoids?

Flavonoids are a type of phytonutrient, substances that plants produce to protect themselves from pests and disease. Flavonoids are found in many fruits and vegetables and provide color, aroma, and flavor.

Cannflavin A and B: These two flavonoids are found in cannabis. They are non-psychoactive and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects similar to aspirin.

Naringenin: This flavonoid is found in grapefruit and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective qualities.

Quercetin: This flavonoid is found in many fruits and vegetables. It may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer potential.

 

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So to conclude: What we really mean when we say "Indica", is that the plant is from the northern hemisphere and has dense nugs. On the otherhand, tropical varieties, which grow taller are referred to as "Sativa". 

However, it's important to note that leaf structure also does not dictate how the herb will affect you when you vape it. It's the terpenes and cannabinoids inside the plant that direct how the high affects you, nothing else.