01 Mar Indica vs. Sativa
One of the many exciting things about the cannabis plant is that every strain is unique. The different strains all look different, smell different, and taste different. They have varying THC levels and CBD levels. Most interestingly, each of the hundreds of different cannabis strains might have different effects.
Scientific researchers are still digging into the exact reasons for the subtle nuances that define different strains, but it’s becoming a bit easier to get at least some understanding. The easiest way to explain the differences between the types of cannabis strains is to discuss them in broad categories like the following:
- Indica Strains
- Sativa Strains
- Hybrid Strains
What’s the Difference Between Indica and Sativa?
Before we dive into this topic too much, it’s important to note that this is only the most general way of describing the differences between different cannabis plants. You could dedicate your entire life to exploring the science behind cannabis, and you still might not come up with all of the answers. With that said, diving into some of the basic differences between indica and sativa strains is an excellent way to start growing your understanding of cannabis.
Sativa Vs. Indica – How it Grows
Some of the most definable differences between indica strains and sativa strains are related to how they physically grow. These differences have to do with where the plants typically thrive, the entire plant’s shape, and even their individual leaves’ shape. Here’s what you need to know as far as those physical differences:
- Sativa plants normally grow into taller, thinner trees, while indica strains normally grow shorter and bushier.
- The leaves on sativa strains are often longer and thinner than the leaves on indica plants, usually shorter and wider.
- Sativa plants are believed to have originated in climates that are hot, wet, and close to the equator. This is because they require consistent sun and longer growing seasons on average. Indica plants may have originated in slightly cooler and dryer environments.
- In addition to growing quickly and flowering in a shorter amount of time, indica plants often produce higher yields. This makes them easier to grow than sativa plants.
These physical characteristics are mostly interesting to cannabis growers and enthusiasts who want to know every detail about the plant. For most average consumers, though, the other differences between indicas and sativas are more important. While the following descriptions of effects are not guarantees, they can help you get some idea of what to expect from indica strains vs. sativa strains.
Indica Vs. Sativa Effects
Indica strains are often associated with what’s called a “body high.” In other words, people often buy indica strains when they want to feel a deep state of relaxation that makes it easy to get comfortable on the couch, enjoy a large meal, and fall asleep. Because of these effects, indica strains are considered ideal for smoking at night, and our customers generally avoid them if they’re trying to get a lot done after enjoying some cannabis. Instead, you might want to choose an indica if you’re trying to soothe your body and mind, unwind a little bit, and get some rest.
On the other hand, sativa strains are commonly associated with a “head high.” That is, the deeply psychoactive effects may be felt more in your brain than in your body, though there will normally be some sense of tingle or physical relaxation as well. The uplifting, exciting, and energizing effects of sativa strains are considered ideal for daytime smoking. Most of our customers choose these strains when they want to focus, get a lot done, enjoy social activities, or feel creatively inspired.
What Are Hybrid Strains?
The hybrid category is definitely the broadest and most inclusive of cannabis strains, since everything that isn’t a pure indica or pure sativa technically falls into this category. Hybrids can be indica dominant, sativa dominant, or completely balanced. Some people say that they like to choose hybrid strains for a little bit of the best of both worlds. This makes them a potential anytime strain, since they don’t have quite as dramatic an effect on energy (one way or the other) as indicas or sativas do.
Cannabinoids and Terpenes
Once you have a general understanding of indica strains, sativa strains, and hybrid strains, you’re ready to take a deeper dive into the science behind the cannabis plant. This may not be interesting to everyone, but it’s the next logical step for cannabis enthusiasts who want a more detailed explanation of why some strains can have such different effects. After all, you may notice that even two strains that both qualify as indicas can make you feel significantly different.
The differences between strains that technically fall into the same category can be chalked up to cannabinoids and terpenes. The most popular cannabinoids are THC and CBD, but those aren’t the only two at play. Cannabis plants can also contain dozens of other cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG, and more. We’re still learning more about all of the different cannabinoids’ effects.
Even beyond cannabinoids, we’re realizing that the terpenes in cannabis are essential. Also found in other plants like flowers and fruits, these natural aromatic compounds are also called terpenoids in some circles. The easiest way to understand that terpenes are is to think of them as the essential oils in cannabis.
Every terpene has its own unique taste and smell. That’s why each cannabis strain offers a different flavor and aroma. The terpene profile of a given strain will affect how it smells, how it tastes, and possibly even its effects. For example, it seems that the terpene pinene may be most prevalent in indica strains, while limonene may be found more often in sativa strains.
Just like people buy different essential oils for aromatherapy, there is a growing school of thought that the various terpenes may all interact with your body differently. Over 100 individual terpenes have been identified in cannabis, which may help explain the nuances of different strains. The potential effects of terpenes contribute to something called the entourage effect, which goes way beyond indica vs. sativa.
What is the Entourage Effect?
You might behave a little bit differently if you’re out with your wildest friends from high school than you would at a family reunion. Similarly, cannabinoids may interact with your body slightly differently depending on the entourage they bring with them.
That is to say that the terpenes present in a given strain of cannabis can impact the way your body processes the other important components of the plant (such as the THC). As scientists do more research about the various cannabinoids and terpenes, we may be able to dial in on why certain strains produce different effects.
Image Credit: Soru Epotok/Shutterstock