Sativa vs. Indica: What’s the Difference?

There’s a common misconception that all cannabis-derived products are supposed to get you high. That’s not true. Different strains do different things.

For example, medicinal marijuana products tend to lean more towards indica strains. Now let’s say you’re looking to purchase medical marijuana and you walk into a shop asking for an indica product, not sativa. You’ll probably get asked more questions to narrow down the exact strain you’re looking for. That’s why referring to reputable sources of information on the different strains and their purposes is so important. That way, you get exactly what you want, and more importantly, know exactly what you’re getting.

What Are Marijuana Strains?

There are several varieties and sub-species of cannabis. Farmers have been breeding different varieties with certain characteristics for a long time. Some even breed hybrids and other very specific strains.

Each strain has a different concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other compounds. Producers grow marijuana plants to have a certain taste, look, and effect on the user. There’s a science to it that most people aren’t aware of.

Some of the more popular strains include:

  • Kush (Pure Cannabis indica or Cannabis indica hybrid)
  • Afghan Kush, Hindu Kush, Green Kush, Purple Kush (Pure Cannabis indica)
  • Blueberry Kush, Golden Jamaican Kush (Cannabis indica hybrid)
  • Diesel Haze (Pure Cannabis sativa or Cannabis sativa hybrid)

Experts believe there are over 700 strains of cannabis, with producers crossbreeding plants to develop new strains all the time.

One important thing to note is that due to the hybridization and crossbreeding of plants, people aren’t able to tell exactly how much THC is in a particular plant. In fact, experts believe it to be impossible to guess the composition of a marijuana plant based on its height, branching, or leaf appearance.

There’s only one way to know the chemical composition of a cannabis-derived product and that is by biochemical analysis.

Most of the research done on the medical benefits of cannabis have been focused on THC and CBD – two types of cannabinoids that effect the body differently because they target different parts of the brain. Learn more about THC and CBD here.

Now, What’s the Difference Between Sativa and Indica?

The names sativa and indica derive from the biological classification of these species. Cannabis indica plants are short with broad, dark green leaves. Cannabis sativa plants are taller with thinner, light green leaves.

In the past, these names were used to differentiate the plants in terms of their effects and THC and CBD contents.

People used to believe cannabis indica plants contained higher levels of CBD, which lead dispensaries and producers to market indica-derived strains as a product that would give a ‘relaxed high’. Whereas, cannabis sativa-derived strains contained higher levels of THC, meaning users would get a more energetic high.

Today, experts caution against this generalization, emphasizing that even if it were true, it’s still impossible to be sure of a strain’s exact chemical makeup. Again, to know exactly what’s in a cannabis product, it must go through biochemical analysis.

This topic continues to cause debate, and it’s easy to see why. Cannabis is such a complex plant, and since each person has a different experience, there’s no simple way to categorize the various strains by their effects.

For example, some people describe cannabis indica-derived products as sedating. The thing is, other components of cannabis can cause sedation, along with other psychoactive effects. These compounds include linalool, myrcene, limonene, and alpha-pinene. You typically won’t find these components listed in the description of a cannabis-derived product, which is why experts have suggested that manufacturers stop labeling their products as sativa or indica. These terms are much more complex than people realize. So again, if you walk into a dispensary asking for an indica or sativa product, that doesn’t really narrow down your options by much.


Indica strains are ideal for alleviating symptoms related to insomnia and pain, but they can also help with symptoms of other diseases and disorders, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinsons
  • Chronic Pain


Sativa plants are well-known for their ability to relieve symptoms, while still allowing a patient to live their daily life without feeling too tired. Sativa strains can help with symptoms related to:

  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Low/no appetite
  • Glaucoma/Intro-ocular disorders
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Chronic pain

Learn more about the differences between these two plants as well as hybrid plants here.

That’s it for today! Thanks for checking out this post, and as always, don’t hesitate to reach out for more information!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>