You’ve probably heard people talking about strains of cannabis, cannabinoids, terpene profiles, and how sativa and indica work differently. We know all this weed speak can get a bit confusing, but the truth is that the science behind, within, and around your weed is super important to your enjoyment of cannabis.
Yet, one of the most significant purchasing decisions when buying weed comes down to wanting to know what to expect. How will it make me feel? How high will I get? Will I feel creative and uplifted ro super relaxed? When it comes to your expectations and desires, many can be answered with the strain–whether it’s indica, sativa, or hybrid. Below, we discuss what these terms mean and how you can spot one from the other. Hopefully this dose of knowledge will help remove any surprises and allow you to get more pleasure from your smoking experience.
Types of Cannabis
Cannabis is the umbrella term for hemp and marijuana. While all hemp strains are strictly sativa, marijuana plants can be either sativa, indica, or hybrid. Although sometimes confused with strain names, these terms are the different species of cannabis. Within these species, are various strains, or chemotypes.
Sativas come from either a female plant (marijuana) or a male plant (hemp). Cannabis sativa originated in warmer climates like Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. Sativas are often grouped as a “daytime” weed because they tend to offer an energizing, uplifting high, although some people can feel anxious when consuming sativas. Generally, they contain more THC than CBD.
Cannabis indica comes from Middle Eastern countries like Tibet, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. This term was coined to distinguish between hemp plants that were excellent agricultural crops, from the medicinal and therapeutic plants we know today. Indicas are still more closely associated with pain relief and relaxation, though this often has more to do with the specific strain.
A hybrid is exactly what it says—a hybridized crossbreed of sativas and indicas to produce something in the middle of the road. Hybrids tend to inherit the best of both parents, growing more quickly with higher yields and a balanced high.
Physical Differences Between Sativa & Indica Plants
Even an untrained eye can notice different characteristics when taking a stroll through a cannabis farm. Some are surprisingly short and fat while others are lanky,taking up endless space as they spread their branches and grow long and tall. Spotting the difference between sativa and indica is pretty easy once you know what to look for.
Sativas are tall and skinny, with more “fingers” on their leaves. They can grow up to 13 of these slim, jagged edge leaves and the colors vary from light to dark green shades. Sativa was the term coined initially for hemp throughout Europe and Western Eurasia in the 18th century.
Indicas are the olive-green, short fatties in the garden. They can be so thick you often can’t see the stalk inside. They have fewer fingers, usually seven to nine, and they are broader and fatter than sativas. Indicas were first discovered in India and were harvested for their seeds and fiber. Then, eventually, they were used to make hashish.
Hybrids can be pretty tricky to identify. They tend to look like their parents, so they are somewhat of a “mutt” regarding looks. They may have broad leaves on lanky limbs or have branches that are sparse and spread out on an otherwise massively round plant.
Sativa vs. Indica vs. Hybrid Effects
As the world responds to cannabis legalization, clever brand and marketing experts guide consumers to their purchasing choices with sayings like “energy”, “bliss”, or “sleep”. These can be helpful when you aren’t sure what you want and are often associated with cannabis species. But what do the terms sativa, indica, and hybrid tell us about how we might feel?
Sativas are best known for their energetic high. When smoking a sativa, you can feel it begin to buzz inside your head as the cannabinoids and terpenes begin to interact with your ECS receptors. With an affinity for the frontal lobe, the home of divergent thinking, sativas are excellent for increasing creativity and enhancing productivity. Try out a sativa for your next daytime high and see how you feel. Top daytime sativa strains include Sour Diesel, Green Crack, and Durban Poison.
Thank goodness for indicas when you need deep rest or healing from an injury or sickness. Indicas are often associated with relaxed, sedated highs and that wonderful “sinking into the couch” feeling. It’s true that many classic indica strains are great sedatives, but they also help alleviate worrying thoughts linked to anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Although not strictly medicinal, indicas are a go-to for relieving pain and inflammation or calming nausea. Tried and true indica strains include anything in the Kush family, Grandaddy Purple, and Northern Lights.
Yep, you guessed it—hybrids are the best of both worlds. They offer a full-body relaxation and general “mellow” vibe, but they also soothe the mind. Depending on the specific strain, you might experience various in-between results. Try favorites like White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies, and Chemdog.
The Ongoing Nature of Cannabis Science
There is so much more to understand about cannabis species and strains. For example, the role that terpenes play in overall affect and how cannabinoid ratios largely determine the medicinal values. The combination of terpenes and cannabinoids working together is where the magic happens, and we are really just at the tip of the iceberg as far as cannabis research is concerned.
It’s exciting to think about what we’ll discover in the coming years. For now, we hope this helps you gain a better understanding of the cannabis plant kingdom so you can more fully enjoy your toking experiences.