Indica vs. Sativa – What is the Difference?


If you have been using weed for a long time or you are someone who is just about the start, you have probably already heard the terms indica and sativa. When you are looking for and buying cannabis at your local dispensary, they are often categorized into three big groups: indica, sativa, and the third one are hybrids, which is a combination of indica and sativa. So if you want to more of the differences between indica and sativas, you have surely come to the right place.

Indica and sativa are the two most basic varieties of cannabis plants, and within that category are specific strains with unique and varied effects on the body and mind. Basically, the indica strains can produce bodily effects that make the user calm and relaxed. The sativa ones, on the other side, are known to produce cerebral effects that typically energizes and uplifts the user.

It is important to know what you need and use them according to the benefits and effects you desire. We will be focusing on the important things you should know about the two major categories of cannabis, and hopefully, we will be able to help you find which one will work perfectly for you!

Cannabis Strains: Basic Information

Getting to know the basics of cannabis shopping, such as the strains and other important classifications, is vital to get you started. A good example is getting mixed up with using the right strain for the wrong reasons. You may have started puffing a sativa one with the intent of having a relaxed and calm night, but instead, you got the opposite. However, for some other users, consuming a sativa weed at night will be beneficial to them. It can be difficult for you to predict how a particular strain will affect your body; that is why it is always important to gain adequate knowledge and do a trial and error on the cannabis strain you think will work well for you.

Suppose you try to look around and choose something for yourself at a cannabis dispensary. In that case, you will notice that the items in there are categorized into indica, sativa, or hybrids before they are again classified into more specific categories. Many consumers use these categories and classifications to work their way through fin finding the best cannabis for them. Essentially, the indica vs. sativa concept has long been a guide or point of reference for every cannabis consumer and is basically something they can’t live without.

Cannabis sativa’s effects are commonly described as energizing, heady or cerebral, and uplifting. While the indica strains, on the other hand, produce effects that are relaxing, sedating, and full-bodied, giving you a couch-lock and lazy feel. However, you need to understand that not all effects are similar for each person. That is why it is crucial to understand the descriptions, “indica-like” and “sativa-like.”

Indica: Things you need to know

The Cannabis indica is known to originate from Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, and India. This strain was able to adapt and thrive in very dry and harsh climates while being able to grow with a good amount of buds per plant. The indica plants have a stout and stocky form with wider leaves to protect the plant itself.

Indica strains typically have higher CBD to THC ratios compared to the sativa ones. This ratio is a huge contributing factor to indica’s notable characteristic: its ability to provide great relaxation to users. This is also why indica users prefer to use them at night or late in the afternoon since it can be super relaxing and, paired with its sedative effects, will really make it good nighttime cannabis. In short, indica strains are known to produce a body high that keeps you feel relaxed and lazy that melts you into the couch.

Medical Benefits and Therapeutic Effects of Indica Strains

Patients who have been using Cannabis indica for their daily dose of medical marijuana often use this to relieve muscle spasms, chronic pain, and inflammation. Indicas also aid in the treatment of mood disorders, stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. This strain can also help appetite stimulation, decrease nausea and headaches, and even work as an effective supplement to treat insomnia.

Indica offers a body high that will make you feel relaxed and sedated but in a good way. Typically a great strain if you just want to chill and hang, or watch good movies while feeling lazy and calm.

What does an “indica high” feel like?

If you are still not familiar with what a body high feels like, it is generally an uncontrolled and weightless feeling combined with elation and euphoria coming in and going. If you have taken tons of weed, the body high feeling will eventually be deeper, resulting in an altered perception of time and other sensory changes.

A body high will be physically observed because of red eyes or a rapid heart rate resulting in shakey hands. Indica medical marijuana works by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, affecting the pleasure and reward centers in our body. These effects are linked to appetite and pain regulation.

Indicas are also known to have a strong and very distinct aroma. We suggest reading these three popular indica strains that we have already reviewed for you: Critical Mass strain, Grand Daddy Purple strain, and Northern Lights strain.

Sativa: Things you need to know

The Cannabis sativa plants grow and thrive even in dry and hot climates that have longer and sunnier days. They have adapted for a reliable growing climate with a longer maturation time compared to the indica ones. The sativa plants can physically grow taller than twelve feet with slender branches and thinner and lighter-colored leaves.

Sativa strains have high levels of THC and lower CBD to THC ratio. The high THC content of the sativa strains is the reason for their reputation of producing an intense mind or head high with an anxiety-reducing and very energizing effect. Sativa users often feel productive, creative, and socially active, making it a suitable strain for daytime use. We suggest you use sativa strains if you need some energy for a task-filled day and if you have many things on your plate for the day. The sativa strains are also perfect for patients who need to do daytime marijuana medication, making it popular among medical marijuana patients.

Medical Benefits and Therapeutic Effects of Sativa Strains

The main health benefits of the sativa strains include energizing properties that will help the users improve focus and enhance creativity. Since this strain can stimulate energy, they effectively fight chronic fatigue, and unexplained tiredness is often felt by patients diagnosed with depression. Sativas also contribute to the increase of serotonin levels in our body to effectively elevate and uplift the mood while easing anxiety and stress. They are effective in the treatment of ADHD and nausea as well.

What does a “sativa high” feel like?

Sativas generally provide invigorating and uplifting cerebral or head high that will work best if you have tons of work to do or a social gathering to attend to. The high you can get from sativa strains are often referred to as head high or cerebral high. This is typically described as a clear-headed and highly functioning creative high. A sativa high will be perfect for people who will be working on something that will require intense focus, such as writing, creative work, and others. Often, consumers prefer to use sativa strains throughout the day because of their psychoactive and stimulating high.

Sativas are known to have a subtle but defined aroma and good flavors. You can read the reviews of the most sought after sativa strains that we already laid out for you: Green Crack strain, Acapulco Gold strain, and Strawberry Cough strain.

Physical Difference Between Indica and Sativa

Even though indica and sativa are cannabis plants, they are different and have distinctions, and can be easily distinguished apart from each other.

Indica Plants Physical Appearance

The indica plants are a lot shorter than the sativa ones, usually not more than 6 feet. Despite its short appearance, this plant has stouter and fatter leaves to protect the plant from the harsh climate and heavy weather.

Because of their dense nature, cannabis indica plants are robust and are essentially resistant to diseases and plant health problems, therefore able to produce large and good yields. Indica buds appear to be a lot thicker than sativas, and they begin to flourish near the root of the plant. Indica leaves are wide and flat and basically looks like a sativa leaf that doubled its width, making the leaves appear short and stout.

Sativa Plants Physical Appearance

Cannabis sativa is native to tropical areas that are close to the equator. In terms of their physical appearance, sativa strains are tall and may grow up to 12 feet high when grown and cultivated outdoors. The leaves of the sativa plants look slender and spread far apart, and grow upward.

The majority of the sativa plants sprout halfway up, with their buds growing towards the plant stalks. Because of their growth characteristics, the sativa plants will require a lot of space to grow if you choose to grow them indoors. Typically, they will do better when grown outdoors, but indoor growing will work given that you have the right amount of space for your plants to grow in. Additionally, sativa plants are a lot thinner compared to indica plants. They have slender and scrawny leaves showing off the classic marijuana leaf look that all of us know.

What Impacts Indica or Sativa Effects?

Aside from THC and CBD, another compound in cannabis plants that play an important role in producing effects is the terpenes. Terpenes typically resemble cannabinoids, and they play a significant part in the production of indica or sativa effects.

For example, myrcene is a type of terpene that helps users achieve relief from insomnia and anxiety. A higher level of myrcene in a strain will produce indica effects, which is relaxing and calming. Another type of terpene is limonene that can effectively boost your energy levels and uplifts the mood. Having these terpenes work together with THC and CBD is a display of the entourage effect; this is how the different compounds found in cannabis plants can work together to provide effective and fast-acting medical benefits.

It has been discussed that the categorization of indica vs. sativa can be greatly predictive of effects. However, other factors may contribute to how a strain can be affecting you in general. This includes the more detailed chemical compound of the cannabis product that you use, your body’s tolerance and mechanism of action towards cannabis, the dosage, and the method of consumption as well.

Others: Hybrids, Landrace, and Heirloom

Hybrids are basically a mix of sativa and indica in one cannabis strain. They are often categorized into indica-dominant and Sativa-dominant strains. These hybrid strains essentially represent a compromise for patients and recreational users who need the best of both worlds. They make it possible for medical marijuana patients to retain the indica body high without losing the energy they need to get them through the day.

You may have also heard of the landrace strains of the cannabis world. The landrace strains are typically the OG of the cannabis species since they have grown in the wild and could evolve based on their natural environments without being bred or tending to. Landrace strains are varieties of cannabis that are not hybrids and are surely a hundred percent pure indica or sativa.

Although rarely mentioned, there are also ones that are referred to as heirloom strains. Heirloom strains are basically landrace cannabis plants that have been picked from their natural environment, transported, and eventually grown in another environment, either indoor or outdoor.

Choosing the Perfect Fit – Which Cannabis Strain?

After gaining the important knowledge and the details that matter, you may have already had an idea of which strain will be perfect for you. Having an idea of the effects of indica and sativa and how they work will greatly help you choose. However, you can always ask the experts who work at the cannabis dispensaries to choose to achieve your desired effects. The experts can always provide you with helpful insights to pick the strain that will perfectly fit your wants and needs.

Always choose to buy from companies and sellers reputable and provide you with laboratory results provided by a third-party laboratory. That way, you can be sure that the cannabis you are getting is of high quality and free from contaminants. These reputable companies will also be able to provide you with not just the THC and CBD levels but also the terpene profile. This way, you can have a better view of how that particular weed will have an effect on your body.

If you have been using cannabis for quite some time and might want to try another strain, consider your previous stash experience. If you have observed that you have a low tolerance to THC, always turn to those with a well-balanced ratio to CBD, or you might want to try entry-level strains that tend to be mild and avoid overwhelming your system. Also, refer to your experience to decide if you might want an indica, sativa, or a hybrid strain. If you are still in doubt, never hesitate to ask help from your physician or health care providers with knowledge on cannabis usage so that they can further explain the more specified benefits and potential risks, if there are any.

The latest updates regarding Indica and Sativa:

  1. Chemical Composition:
    • Recent research has challenged the traditional Indica-Sativa classification, suggesting that the effects of a strain are more influenced by its chemical composition, specifically the ratios of cannabinoids (e.g., THC and CBD) and terpenes.
  2. Terpenes and Cannabinoids:
    • Terpenes, aromatic compounds found in cannabis, play a significant role in the plant’s effects. Different terpene profiles can lead to variations in aroma, flavor, and potential therapeutic benefits.

Emerging Trends and Developments

  1. Hybrid Strains:
    • Hybrid strains, combining Indica and Sativa characteristics, have gained popularity due to their diverse effects and flavor profiles.
  2. Microdosing:
    • Microdosing cannabis has become a trend, with users consuming small, controlled amounts to experience the benefits without the intense high.

Consumer Preferences and Legalization

  1. Consumer Education:
    • With increased access to legal cannabis, consumers are seeking education on responsible consumption, dosage, and potential side effects.
  2. Legalization Updates:
    • Keep an eye on recent changes in cannabis legalization, as these can influence strain availability and consumer choices.

Summary on Indica vs. Sativa

Cannabis can truly be a complex plant, yet it is full of wonder and awesome things. Each person has a different preferred type of high, and understanding the difference between indica and sativa will greatly help them achieve what they need. These strains can offer you feelings of calmness, relaxation, and sedation and, on the other hand, will be able to uplift your mood and boost your energy too!

After reading this article, you will now be able to identify indica apart from sativa strains and know that these strains will have unique reactions and effects on your body. If you are trying to achieve a calm and relaxed night, you may want to turn to indica strains. Otherwise, you can use a sativa strain if you have tons of stuff to do that require a lot of energy, focus, and productivity. Just make sure that you use and consume what your body is comfortable with to avoid unwanted side effects.

However, if you desire to achieve a mixture of both strains, you may want to look at hybrid strains, which are a product of crossing both indica and sativa. You may check out the Best Marijuana Strains‘ to help you choose which strain will be right for you.

We truly hope that you enjoyed reading the indica vs. sativa comparison and learned a lot from this article as well.