Strains sold in dispensaries are often labelled as indica or sativa.
Cannabis has two main types or species: indica and sativa, each with their own unique characteristics and a distinctive high.
Learn the difference between these two types of cannabis — it could open your world to brand new strains.
Indica vs SativaIndica and sativa strains each have their own unique effects. Sativa strains are more stimulating, while indicas tend to be more psychoactive.
The high from sativa strains is energizing, cerebral and well suited for daytime use. A feeling of well-being and ease is often associated with sativas, making them ideal for social situations. They are also said to promote deep conversation and enhance creativity.
Indica strains tend to have an opposite effect. They provide a “couch lock” or body high that is well suited for nights when you just want to wind down and be in your own head. Indicas are often used to relieve stress and aid with sleep.
Sativas have a higher CBD:THC ratio, while indicas have a higher THC:CBD ratio. Naturally, both have their own unique benefits as well.
What’s better during the day?
Generally speaking, a sativa strain would be the preferred choice for a daytime high.
The effects of sativas are largely cerebral, focusing on the mind, and typically will not cause that sleepy body high associated with indicas.
Sativas are known for being energetic and uplifting — the perfect choice for getting things done during the day, rather than relaxing on the couch.
Both sativas and indicas usually have high THC, but the comparatively high levels of CBD in sativa strains allow for the euphoric and energizing effects to dominate.
Popular sativa strains:
- Sour Diesel
- Green Crack
- Jack Herer
- Durban Poison
- Lemon Haze
- Super Silver Haze
- Strawberry Cough
- Maui Wowie
What’s better during the night?
It’s a great feeling to finally get home to relax and unwind after a long day, and indica strains are perfect for that laid back, evening mood.
Indica is best known for its relaxing effects, making it a great choice for sinking into the couch to catch up on some good TV shows.
Often described as a “body buzz” or “couch lock”, indicas produce a sleepy body high and spacey mental effects, which while not ideal for productivity are excellent for ending the day.
Many people also find that the sleepy feelings help with insomnia, or even to simply wind down and get to bed on time.
Popular indica strains:
- Granddaddy Purple
- Master Kush
- Northern Lights
- Purple Kush
- Blue Cheese
- Grape Ape
- LA Confidential
Hybrids are strains of cannabis bred with both indica and sativa genes. They can take after either parent, or be a blend of both. The goal is usually to create a strain with desirable characteristics from each parent.
Hybrids are actually quite common, and many popular indica and sativa strains have hybridization somewhere in their ancestry.
In some cases, a hybrid strain may be more characteristic of one species (indica or sativa).
These strains are referred to as indica-dominant or sativa-dominant. For example, Northern Lights is a 90% indica-dominant strain.
Hybridization, also known as crossbreeding, can be useful for many different reasons.
Growers consider indica, with its 6 to 8 week maturation time and it’s shorter, hardier stature to be easier to cultivate, and so it can be helpful to breed some of these characteristics into sativa strains.
Crossbreeding can also be used to “mellow out” a sativa strain that tends to cause paranoia, or to decrease the tiredness caused by a certain type of indica.
These new hybrid strains can produce a range of different highs, and growers will often have a specific set of effects they’re trying to achieve when crossbreeding.
Sometimes the best things happen by accident — but others, like the Charlotte’s Web strain (a high CBD strain used to treat children with severe epilepsy), were the result of careful selection.
Benefits of Indica and Sativa
Since different strains can produce such different effects, the medical community has had to learn which strains are best suited to specific conditions.
This trial and error process can be costly, and can result in patients picking strains that don’t work for them.
Luckily, there are tendencies within the indica and sativa groups that can help patients make the most informed decision possible when choosing a medication. (Until science catches up, it’s the most effective system we have.)
Generally speaking, indicas are best for physical ailments such as pain and inflammation, and sativas are best for mental conditions such as depression and ADHD.
However, there are certainly exceptions based on the individual.
Common Uses of Indica
There are plenty of conditions that may benefit more from an indica rather than sativa, and they tend to be physical, chronic ailments.
Patients dealing with conditions like multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, and sleep disorders tend to benefit from indica’s full-bodied, muscle relaxing effects.
Indicas are excellent for pain relief, and since the endocannabinoid system affects all parts of the body, including the digestive system, it is also an ideal candidate for treating nausea or stimulating appetite.
Indica can also be used to treat anxiety, while many find that sativas can exacerbate anxiety or create paranoia.
Sativa strains can also be used for moderate relief of these conditions, and some patients will trade the increased relief of indicas for the energy-boosting effect of sativas during the day.
Common Uses of Sativa
Due to its cerebral, optimistic, and energizing effects, sativas are a great choice when treating mental ailments.
Sativa strains are often used to treat conditions like anxiety, ADD/ADHD, depression, and other mood disorders.
The stimulating effect of sativa strains can improve mental focus and inspire creativity, which is excellent for those with ADD/ADHD.
On the other hand, the optimistic and mood-enhancing effects of sativas are great for those with depression and anxiety.
However, some people may find that certain sativa strains increase their anxiety, so it is always important to test out a new strain before committing to it as a medication.
Choosing A Strain
Due to the complicated legal status of cannabis, there aren’t many options available when trying to find a new strain.
Most people end up trying everything before figuring out which strains they like best. If you have a specific effect or goal in mind though, it’s good to start by doing a bit of research to see if an indica or sativa would be the best match.
Once that’s been narrowed down, picking a specific strain can be daunting. Patients choosing from a set selection of strains are encouraged to sample a few candidates, and record the effects to figure out which one works the best.
Sites with strain databases can also be useful. Users can leave reviews for strains they’ve enjoyed and will often include what they were using it for as well as a rundown of the effects experienced.
Still, even with all of this information, people have different preferences. The best method is to narrow it down to a few strains and see which ones work and which don’t.
Many people enjoy a variety of strains and don’t mind trying something new each time, while others like to stick to a favorite.