Cannabis Sativa, Indica, or Hybrid?

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid?

What are the differences?

While the effects of any strain can vary from person to person, it is important to understand a few distinctions between two main classifications of Cannabis plants: Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica.  Their medical and psychoactive effects can be quite different. An understanding of these differences can help guide you in finding the strain most suitable for your needs and desires.  

Cannabis is believed to have evolved on the steppes of central Asia, with the first record of its cultivation dating back 12, 000 years, making it one of humanity’s oldest cultivated crops.  Scientifically, there is one species of cannabis, Cannabis Sativa.

While surely through world history, cannabis has had many other names, categories, and adaptations, modern scientific classification between Indica and Sativa began in the 18th century, when European botanists noted distinct characteristics in cannabis plants growing in certain geographic regions.

As breeders combined these over time, hybrid varieties have balanced their genetics in myriad ways.


Cannabis sativa plant
Cannabis sativa plant

Cannabis Sativa plants are much taller than Indica plants, reaching heights of up to 20 feet outdoors. Loosely branched, with long, narrow leaves, sativa tends to be lighter green in colour. Found in the warm, humid equatorial regions of Central and South America, Africa and Southeast Asia, sativa plants flourish outdoors between 0 and 30 degrees latitude. Flowering periods are much longer than Indica, ranging from 10 to 16 weeks, and flowers are much larger and less densely arranged.

Sativa plants are known for their highly pungent aromas and flavours, ranging from fresh, sweet and peppery to earthy with a hint of diesel fuel.

Popular among artists, philosophers and musicians, sativa strains are noted for their alert, energetic, stimulating effects. Common reports include feelings of clarity, well-being and ease; uplifting, cerebral thoughts and an increase in focus and creativity.

Often used to relieve mood disorders such as stress, anxiety, depression and ADHD, sativa strains have been known to induce contemplative, analytical, philosophical, and humorous states of mind.

More suited for daytime use, some people may find sativa strains too mentally and physically stimulating right before bed.


Purple Kush
Purple Kush

Cannabis Indica plants were found in the mountain ranges of Central Asia and the Middle East, the most famous being the Hindu Kush region. They are short, densely branched and tend to have thick, wide, dark green leaves. Their flowering period is short, between 7 and 10 weeks, and they tend to thrive in a cool environment, in areas between 30 and 50 degrees latitude.

Indica flowers are covered in a thick, sticky resin, to protect against harsh, dry climate conditions.

Indica buds are thick and dense, and their terpenes, the aromatic oils secreted in the flower resins, tend to have powerful sweet or sour aromas, with flavours ranging from floral pine to pungent skunk, to earthy hash.

Indica is known for its relaxing, sedative effect on the body and mind, with many users reporting a state of “body melt” or “couch lock.” Most recommended for nighttime use, or on a day of rest, indica strains can help to leave behind the stress of a long day, and are reported to relieve body pain, relax muscles, relieve anxiety or stress, increase appetite, ease spasms, reduce seizures, and aid sleep. Indica can thus also cause a mental fog or deep sleepiness, and is seldom recommended for high functioning times of day.

sativa vs indica

Hybrids are plants that have any combination of indica and sativa traits and genetics.

While there are many complex factors determining the effects of a given strain, it is helpful to consider an indica-sativa continuum of mind and body effects.

Simplified, the mental effects of indica flowers are more heavy and sedative, while those of sativa are more clear and cerebral. The body effects of indica are more relaxing and pain relieving while those of sativa are more uplifting and motivating.  Varieties further along the indica-dominant side of the continuum will demonstrate more indica characteristics and likewise for sativa-dominant strains. An even hybrid would most likely have a not too active, and yet not too drowsy effect.

Just as human genetics can be seemingly random and unpredictable when combined, so can cannabis plant genetics. Each strain’s effects, both medicinal and psychoactive, are created by a unique combination of cannabinoids and terpenes working together in ways that modern science does not yet fully understand. Not only do genetics have an influence on the quantities and combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes, but growing conditions also play a significant role in their expression, as we see in the indica sativa distinction.

Remember, the effects of any strain can vary from person to person, and our expectations can also play a role in our experience. It is common to work with a few favorite strains along the spectrum, for use in different times and situations.

Strain descriptions are based on consumer reports and reviews across a variety of widely used forums. We hope you enjoy exploring the wonderful world of cannabis genetics and strains!

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