Indica vs Sativa

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You may have heard the names “Indica” and “Sativa” before, but what do these labels mean to you? Sativa and Indica are the two primary types of cannabis from which all other cannabis plants are bred. They are each associated with different effects and provide unique experiences. People often have a lot of questions about these cannabis classifications, especially when it comes to deciding which one is right for them

The most notable difference is how indica and sativa affect a person when smoked or consumed.

Although every person can experience cannabis in their own way, generally speaking, indica tends to relax people and help them rest, whereas sativa may provide a more invigorating experience. Choosing the right strain is the first step in cultivating your ideal cannabis experience.

What is Cannabis?

The cannabis plant is categorized into three subspecies: Indica, sativa and ruderalis. Indica and sativa are primarily harvested because they produce a more potent flower and secretion. Ruderalis plants do not offer much usable product and are a much smaller plant than sativa and indica. 

Cannabis is known by many names, most commonly hashish, weed or hemp.

Nowadays, the cannabis plant has become very recognizable with its straight stem and distinct, serrated leaves. Cannabis is also harvested to create hemp fiber which is used in a wide range of products from clothing to soap to beer. 

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive element of cannabis that provides the well-known “high.” Whereas CBD, or cannabidiol, does not create a “head high” and may have medicinal effects such as treating inflammation and pain. In its native form, there is very little THC or CBD in the cannabis plant. Heat must be applied to release the signature effects of cannabis.

In the case of products like concentrate, topicals, and edibles, cannabis is processed to trigger is decarboxylation and change the molecular structure of the cannabis.

What is Indica?

The primary difference between indica or sativa-based highs are how they tend to impact energy levels. Indicas often cause deep relaxation in the body and are recommended for when you want to rest. The effect they often produce is referred to as a “body high.” 

A popular short-hand reference you can use to differentiate the two strains:

Indica = In-da-couch

The Cannabis Indica Plant

Historically, cannabis indica is a native plant to countries in the Middle East and Eastern countries such as India, Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan. The plants are used to dry, cold climates that have short seasons.

Indica plants are identified as being dark green, short, bushy and have broad leaves.

Traditionally, indica plants grow fast and have a strong smell that is described as earthy. Indicas are also known for that “skunk” smell that is so often associated with weed. 

Indica Benefits

Indicas may help with a variety of issues like:

What is Sativa?

Cannabis sativa are often characterized as offering a more alert, more “energetic” experience. Sativas are popular with those who aim to increase their creative energy and help them concentrate on expressive tasks. Sativa strains are more often used throughout the daytime.

The Cannabis Sativa Plant

Sativa plants have historically developed in Africa, Central America, parts of Asia and Southeast Asia.

These plants are lighter green and often grow tall and skinny. Their leaves differ from indica plants in that they grow narrow and to a point. Sativa plants are often characterized by sweeter fruity smells and may even be described as spicy. 

Sativa Benefits

Sativa strains are often taken to improve:

  • Moods including sad or depressed feelings
  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Focus
  • Creativity
  • Productivity

What Are Cannabinoids?

Although there are assumptions based on how indica and sativa classifications impact the consumer, each person’s experience will be their own. Nowadays, the prevalence of cross-breeding has made it harder to determine if you can actually get a pure indica or pure sativa. A more consistent way to get the results you want is to read the package label and see how much THC and CBD are in the product.

What are THC and CBD?

THC and CBD are the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.

THC is the active ingredient responsible for a psychoactive “high,” the feelings of euphoria and the munchies associated with cannabis. THC-rich products are often used to reduce pain and nausea. CBD does not create a head high and is often used to reduce inflammation, pain, and can even help relieve anxiety. CBD is a good option for individuals who do not like the side effects of THC or are uninterested in experiencing a head high.

THC and CBD balanced products may be preferable for people who do not want an intense head high but do want the elated feelings of THC alongside the relief offered by CBD. 

To learn more about the difference between THC and CBD, click here.

Why are Sativa and Indica Highs Different?

The different highs associated with indica versus the ones associated with sativa are actually based on the ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes present in the product. Cannabinoids definitely have an effect, but terpenes seem to play a larger role in whether the strain is invigorating or sedating and leads to a head or body high.


Terpenes are molecules within the plant that come from the same glands as THC and CBD. Terpenes are responsible for the variety of cannabis aromas like spicy, fruity, or musty.

The aroma has a large effect on the mind and how it impacts your senses. Brighter smells like “berry” have a more energizing effect whereas earthier smells tend to be sedating.

If you know what kind of high you are trying to achieve, a good idea may be to smell your options and determine which palate is more appealing to you. This will play a role in your experience.

Which is Better: Indica or Sativa?

The best strain for you will depend on what you want from your experience. Indica products tend to provide a relaxing effect whereas sativa products are known to help with concentration and mood. The label on the indica or sativa product will provide a more accurate depiction of how the product will influence you. If you are looking for the characteristic effects associated with indica, look for a product with lower amounts of THC and a rich earthy smell. For the effects of a sativa, higher THC levels and a fruity scent are best. 

Don’t underestimate the effects of terpenes. Make sure to smell the product you are interested in and, if you remain unsure, ask an experienced budtender to help you find the right product for your needs.

What Smells Stronger: Indica or Sativa?

Indica and sativa tend to have strong smells but some may be more pungent than others. Indica is often characterized by musty scents. These smells are often heavier and more noticeable than the lighter, fruity smells of sativa. It’s always a good idea to keep flower in air-tight containers so that smell is contained and the product does not oxidize. Oxidation can convert the THC in cannabis flower to cannabinol (CBN), a cannabinoid with non-psychoactive properties. 


Hybrids are often grown in greenhouses or farms.

Hybrid products are new strains that are created from crossbreeding different forms of indica and/or sativa-dominant plants. Hybrid plants will Hybrids are often grown in greenhouses or farms. based on their genes. One of the main advantages of hybrids are that they can be grown with a variety of  THC and CBD ratios. Hybrid strains are often identified with ratios or percentages, such as 70/30 sativa/indica or 70 percent sativa.

For the past fifty years, cannabis cultivation has included crossbreeding. Nowadays, technically, there are no completely 100% indica or sativa plants. Instead, today’s plants Hybrids are often grown in greenhouses or farms. . When you purchase an indica or sativa strain, that means the particular plant sides with one end of the spectrum more than the other. Because of this spectrum, it makes reading the product label that much more important.

A good way to tell what kind of high the product will produce is by reading about the THC and CBD content.

Hybrid Indica

An indica hybrid is a product that is either an indica hybrid or both an indica and sativa hybrid. The hybrid will lean further onto the indica side and provide more effects that are associated with Indica.

Hybrid Sativa

The opposite of an indica hybrid, a sativa hybrid will lean stronger towards Hybrids are often grown in greenhouses or farms. and is supposed to be a good product to use in group settings or for creative projects. A certified budtender can help you determine your best hybrid.

What’s Better: Indica, Sativa or Hybrid?

The product that is best for you will depend on what you are trying to achieve. This article should provide the groundwork for you to have a basic understanding of the differences between indica, sativa and hybrids.

Make sure to read labels and don’t be afraid to ask your budtender to help you find your preferred product!

Sativa, Indica and Hybrid products include but are not limited to edibles, oil, topicals, flower, tinctures, concentrates, etc.


Weed experiences are personal and a product that provides certain effects for you may not provide the same effects for another person. A more accurate way to get the results you want is not to ask for a sativa or indica strain but to ask for a THC or CBD ratio. Shop around and try to find ratios, scents and products that indicate the results you are searching for.

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