Sativa vs. Indica: What’s the Real Difference

We’ve all been there, you enter a dispensary and are unsure where to start to find the perfect cannabis strain to match your needs. Your Patient Consultant will most likely ask you if you prefer a sativa dominant, indica dominant or hybrid strain based on whether you want to feel stimulated, sedated or a calming balance. For decades people have rooted stereotypes of sativa versus indica into canna-culture, so most people associate sativa strains with a stimulating and euphoric feeling while they paired indica strains with a more sedating and calming feeling. Let’s break down where these myths come from, and find the truth about what sativa and indica actually mean for cannabis patients.

Myth of Sativa vs. indica: what are they and where did they come from

Back before cannabis was legalized, underground cultivators used the terms “sativa” and “indica” to profile their strains because of the two different plants that were used. Since there was little information about cannabis, the plant and the effects, these two terms became popular profiles and are still used today. For centuries, cannabis growers bred pure sativa and pure indica strains, but due to the plant becoming popularized over the past few decades, people started growing underground hybrid strains by combining the two plants. For this reason, not only do we have a plethora of strains, but the majority of the strains on the market are hybrids.

The most common misconception about sativa is that all pure sativa and sativa dominant strains are uplifting, euphoric and great for daytime use. Sativas are often known as stimulating strains for a “head high” and are famous for producing an overall sense of well-being that may help reduce depression and boost creativity and focus. Indicas, on the other hand, are known to have the opposite effect: being sedating, relaxing, and having a “couch-lock” effect on the body. Indicas are famous for giving you the munchies and help ease physical aches and pains, and are commonly used at night to help promote heavy sleep.

While you may notice these effects while using sativa strains or indica strains, the main effects come from the cannabinoids and terpenes in the cannabis plant. These cannabinoids and terpenes interact with everybody’s body chemistry differently and effect your high in a unique way. 

Facts about Sativa and Indica: The more you know

The real difference between sativa and indica are differences in the plants themselves, not how they make you feel. Sativa plants are taller and slimmer with long, thin leaves. These plants take longer to grow than indicas, which is the main reason there are more indica-dominant strains on the market today. Indica plants are shorter and bushier plants with wider leaves. 

Most strains on the market are hybrid strains or more indica-dominant hybrid strains. Because of the combination of strains that have been produced throughout the years, it is nearly impossible to find a pure sativa or a pure indica strain.

How to find the perfect strain

What really gives strains the effects of euphoria, happiness, or sedation has everything to do with the cannabinoids and terpenes in each strain. The most common and most researched cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical that produces the “high” consumers feel when consuming cannabis. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the chemical that produces similar benefits to THC but does not give an intoxicating effect. Strains with higher percentages of THC allow patients to not only get a stronger high, which is typically desired by more veteran consumers, but also allow all of the medical benefits that come with them. 

A higher percentage of CBD may give you a more sedated feeling without the feeling of being high. CBD is perfect for someone who is always on the move because it keeps the mind clear while still getting the benefits of cannabis. A balance of THC and CBD will still provide benefits of both while reducing the unwanted side effects of consuming only THC, like heightened anxiety and paranoia. 

Terpenes can also influence how the strain interacts with your body chemistry. These are the aromatic compounds that produce the smell of the flower such as pine, citrus, pepper, floral and more. While there are terpenes in all plants, they are most commonly associated with the cannabis plant for the high concentration found in the buds. Each terpene has specific benefits like helping with inflammation, sleep, depression, pain and more, just as cannabinoids do. Check out our page on terpenes, to see which terpenes would be best for your needs.

Talk to your Patient Consultant about the right ratio of THC:CBD and what terpenes may be best for you. These steps will help you find your perfect strain and enhance your smoking experience.