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What’s the Difference Between Indica and Sativa?

Apr 15, 2022 | Cannabis Blog

Are cannabis and marijuana the same thing or different varieties? Do CBD and marijuana come from the same plant? What is the difference between industrial hemp and cannabis? There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to cannabis strains—and understandably so.

Cannabis strains are commonly divided into indica, sativa, and ruderalis. However, the ruderalis variety contains very little THC and CBD. Therefore, cannabis cultivators have mainly focused on indica and sativa.

Among marijuana consumers, there is a general belief that indica is the relaxing and sedating variety while sativa is the energizing and uplifting one.

However, such a categorization can be too simplistic. As cannabis is a botanical compound, the differences can be subtle or profound, depending on the circumstances.

Before choosing between indica and sativa, read our post and make a more informed choice!

How Did the Cannabis Strains Occur?

The grand majority of cannabis strains on the market occurred through selective breeding and cultivation. Some strains do better in warmer and sunnier climates while others prefer cooler temperatures.

Certain blends of sativa and indica were developed because cultivators bred marijuana varieties to suit their growing conditions:

  • Sativa is a cannabis strain that thrives in warmer climates with long and warm sunny days.
  • Indica grows in cooler climates with less sunshine and shorter sunny spells.

The original cannabis strains that occurred in the wild too had distinctions between them, but it wasn’t largely until the 70’s that genetics started to diversify and carry heavier distinctions.

What Is Sativa?

Sativas have taller and light-green leaves that are thinner than their indica siblings. They tend to grow very tall—up to 10 feet high—before they mature. Since it takes them longer to grow flowers, they benefit greatly from naturally long warm and sunny days. Therefore, sativa is cultivated in warm and dry climates.

As a cannabis strain, sativa is usually associated with creativity, productivity, and mental focus. People prefer it for getting inspiration and overcoming creative slumps.

Many consumers use sativa for recreational rather than medicinal use and like its sweet and spicy aromas. Sativa is generally high in THC and low in CBD.

What Is Indica?

Indica plants have thicker, shorter stems and short, dense, deep-green leaves. They grow better up in the mountains, where temperatures are cooler, and mature quickly.

Indica strains are usually more balanced than sativa ones, being rich in both THC and CBD.

As a cannabis strain, indica is thought to be relaxing and good before sleep. It provides a calming effect on the body and mind and is considered good for anxiety, helping people relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that people also choose indica for pain management.

What Is Hybrid Marijuana?

Most of the cannabis strains you see on display in a marijuana dispensary will indicate they are hybrids. That means they are a cross bred strain with parents of different genetics, one sativa and one indica.

Of the over 1,000 cannabis strains available nowadays, most are hybrids. They have been created by selectively growing and cross-breeding strains with particular qualities. Cultivators and marijuana growers develop strains that respond better to their growing conditions and also display specific properties.

Even pure sativa or indica strains are hybridized strains that have been developed through cross-breeding particular sativa or indica strains.

There are very few original strains in the world. These are called landrace strains. Some farms still grow them, and they are among some of the most well known names in strains, Hindu Kush and Durban Poison are two examples. Besides still being popular in their own rights, landrace strains have become prolific parents, being the progenitors of many of the hybrid strains you see today.

What Is a Landrace Cannabis Strain?

Landrace strains have been growing naturally without human intervention. They have not been cross-bred and are the closest to their original cannabis ancestors. They have adapted on their own to their growing conditions and have retained their ancestral characteristics without being mixed or bred with other strains.

Most of the indica landrace strains are found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Sativa landrace strains are found in Africa, Mexico, South America, and parts of Southeast Asia.

Landrace strains are hard to find. They grow in particular regions and production is relatively small. Additionally, hybrid strains have been developed for their enhanced productivity. Unsurprisingly, then, more hybrids are available than landrace cannabis strains.

Does It Matter Whether It’s an Indica or Sativa?

There seems to be a widespread convention that indica should be taken for relaxation and sativa for mental focus.

However, there is more to cannabis than just the strain. Cannabis contains over a hundred cannabinoids and hundreds of other botanical compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids. Each strain has a different combination of these substances, which give it its particular cannabinoid profile.

Aside from THC and CBD, cannabis has cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG, CBDA, CBC, and dozens more. Each cannabinoid displays its own properties: anti-inflammatory, uplifting, anti-anxiety, pain-relieving, etc.

Cannabis also contains terpenes, which are aromatic compounds that give each plant its unique scent. When you smell your cannabis, you are actually smelling the terpenes. Terpenes define the terpenoid profile of each strain, making each cannabis strain smell differently. Different terpenes have different therapeutic potential such as anti-inflammation or anti-anxiety properties.

A cannabis strain offers a unique combination of all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids it contains. These botanical compounds work together to produce an improved effect on the body and mind. This effect has been called the entourage effect.

Instead of just focusing on whether the strain is indica or sativa, we suggest you take into consideration the full cannabinoid profile of a strain. Don’t fixate on the type of strain but check how you respond to a strain and how well it works with your body and mind.

How Should I Choose My Cannabis Strain?

When you enter your cannabis dispensary, you can choose from hundreds of cannabis products and strains. Aside from sativa and indica, there are many other variables that define how cannabis may fit your needs.

Why Are You Taking Cannabis?

Your budtenders are your cannabis experts. Tell them what your health purpose is. They will know every strain’s qualities and characteristics. They will guide you through strain types and strain properties and tell you which one to choose to best match your body and needs.

Start With a Low THC Strain or Small Amount and See How Your Body Responds to It

Your budtender will often suggest that you start with a low THC strain, or starting small with how much you smoke of something that might be more potent. Many hybrid cannabis strains have a high THC content, often exceeding 20%. Such high THC density delivers strong effects on the body. Many people don’t know how their bodies will react to such a powerful boost of THC.

Instead of stressing your body and mind, you can choose a cannabis strain with a lower THC content and see how you respond to it.

Keep a Journal of the Cannabis Strains You Have Tried and Their Effect on Your Body

You will want to remember how each strain felt. You might even want to write down how different methods of consumption felt: smoking a joint can feel different than eating THC edibles.

Keep notes of how you felt and how your body reacted to your cannabis consumption. Record the terpene profile of each strain and the cannabinoid potency. Then take a look and see which variety and consumption method best suits you.

Calibrate Your Dose to Find the Perfect Balance between THC and CBD

Choosing your marijuana is not just about indica or sativa. You will want to adjust your strain to find the perfect balance between THC and CBD. CBD is thought to in part counterbalance THC’s high, but in other ways, complement it. If you want to take cannabis but don’t want to experience a strong “high,” you may opt for a balanced cannabinoid profile.

As for your marijuana dosage, start with a low dosage and monitor how your body reacts. Increase the dosage slowly until you find the sweet spot where everything seems in balance.

Who Should Avoid Marijuana?

We suggest that you talk to your health care provider before using marijuana, especially if you are on medication, as cannabis may interact with several drugs.

Marijuana may help support your well-being but it’s not for everyone. People who should avoid it include people with a personal or family history of psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with liver, kidney, heart, or lung conditions.

Visit Hillside Natural Wellness and Our Budtenders Will Guide You

Hillside Natural Wellness is your marijuana dispensary in Anchorage.

Order your marijuana products online or visit our shop at 8639 Toloff St. Anchorage, AK 99507. Our budtenders at Hillside Natural Wellness are there to help you. They will answer your questions, listen to your hesitations, and guide you into making the best cannabis choice for you. Just tell them what you are looking for and they will find the cannabis product that best matches your needs!