Sativa or Indica: What Makes Them Different?

by Duncan Ley| | Cannabis, education, Indica, Sativa

If you’re new to the cannabis scene, you may be baffled by labels that say “Sativa-dominant,” “Indica-dominant,” or “hybrid.” How can you decide what’s best for you, Sativa or Indica?

No worries. We’ve put together this short guide so that the next time you head to the dispensary, you’ll be able to shop like a pro.

Sativa or Indica: Appearance and Effects

Before the 1970s, all of the cannabis plants in the world were landrace strains. Landrace strains are plants that developed specific genetic characteristics based on the environment where they evolved. Some examples of landrace strains include:

  • Hindu Kush from the 800-kilometer mountain range west of the Himalayas
  • Durban Poison from South Africa
  • Thai from Southeast Asia
  • Acapulco Gold from Mexico
  • Panama Red from Central America

In the late 60s, members of the youth counter-culture began exploring the world and bringing back cannabis seeds. Indicas, coming from the Hindu Kush region, produced short, bushy plants with broad leaves and dense, resinous flowers. Sativas hail from tropical climates and feature lanky stalks, narrow leaves, and airy buds. 

After Nixon cracked down on marijuana as a way to repress anti-Vietnam voices, cannabis growing moved indoors, and breeders began experimenting with combining genetics to produce the high-THC strains we know today.

Sativa Effects

Generally, sativa-dominant strains produce energetic, cerebral highs that can encourage a positive mental outlook and ignite the imagination. Sativas are useful for daytime productivity, creative work, and laid-back social occasions.

Indica Effects

Indica-dominant strains tend to impart profound physical relaxation, which can help ease aches and pains and promote restful sleep. However, heavy indicas often produce a couch-lock effect and increase appetite, making indica-dominant strains more suitable for weekends and evenings.

Which Strain Should You Choose?: Sativa or Indica

Now that you have a little more understanding of cannabis genetics, you’re probably still wondering which strain to buy, sativa or indica. Unfortunately, you won’t find many pure landrace strains in your local or online dispensary. Most of today’s cannabis varieties are far removed from their landrace ancestors. 

Additionally, cannabis researchers have found that compounds called “terpenes” significantly impact the effects of cannabis buds. For example, a sativa-dominant strain with an exceptionally high myrcene content may impart a more pronounced body buzz than a pure sativa. In contrast, an indica variety with elevated limonene levels may have more sativa-like characteristics than a landrace Kush variety.

Before you head to the dispensary to purchase your buds, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:

    • What do I want to achieve from consuming cannabis? The answer could be anything from recreation and creativity to pain relief and restful sleep.
    • How do I plan to consume my cannabis? If you’re smoking or vaping, you’ll want to choose a strain that appeals to your taste. But if you plan to buy edibles, the stran’s flavor won’t be much of a factor.
  • When do I want to consume cannabis, during the workday or in the evenings?

If you’re still not sure about what you’re looking for in a cannabis strain, feel free to ask your local or online budtender for assistance. You can also try several different strains by purchasing pre-rolls, single edibles, and variety packs.

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