Marijuana 101: Indica vs. Sativa

Herbal Relief CentreEducation, General


If you were to talk to a cannabis botanist, the field of marijuana is vast. VAST. So vast, in fact, that here is an article of 100 strains you must try. Humans have been hybridizing marijuana for their psychoactive effects since the 70s (at least). Because of this fascination with the plant, there are a number of strains to try out, all with fun names like Super Silver Haze and The Chernobyl.

For an individual just testing the waters with cannabis, there are so many strains it’s overwhelming. We’re here to make it easy and accessible. So before you get bogged down in the annals of Leafly reviews, there are two basic strains from which all the rest are derived: sativa and indica. Knowing these two can give you a better understanding of how marijuana can benefit you the best.

An important note: the way marijuana affects each person is dependant on body chemistry, environment, and mood. Consider alcohol – even drinking the exact same liquor can affect a person differently on different days. Marijuana is a psychoactive substance and these generalizations are just that, generalizations.

“Sing It” Sativa

Sativas are more uplifting and energetic. A mnemonic to help you remember is “sing it sativa.”

The Plant

The sativa plant is much taller than indica. It can grow anywhere from five to 25 feet tall. The branch structure is sparse, the buds long, and the leaves are thinner. These plants have a longer bloom phase.

The Bud

Sativa has a much sweeter smell, and can be called spicy, tangy, or even citrusy. The appearance of the bud is fluffier, and typically much lighter than that of indica.

The Effect

Sativa has a higher amount of THC making it have more psychoactive results. Users will feel higher, energized, and uplifted. Counter to those effects, sativa can create some feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and agitation.

Medicinal Use

This strain has proven useful for a reduction in depression, anxiety, pain, and as an appetite stimulator. It increases serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for mood and sleep regulation, and incites creativity. Some report an increased libido and motivation. This is definitely a day time form of cannabis.

“In Da Couch” Indica

Known for its sedative effects, indica will put you “in da couch.”

The Plant

The indica plant is stubby, growing only to 5 feet tall, but incredibly dense. The leaves are broader and the buds are tightly packed. Even the flowering phase is more intense, lasting only 6 to 10 weeks.

The Bud

Indica buds are quite compact. Usually darker than sativa, the buds are deep green and sometimes purple, They are very pungent and smell skunky or sometimes fruity.

The Effect

The lower THC content of indica make this strain more relaxing. Users feel a deep body high combined with a peaceful mental state. However, indica can cause a complete lack of motivation or cause you to become “couch locked.”

Medicinal Use

Thanks to the higher CBD count, indica strains are very good for combating acute pain, inflammation, muscle and mental relaxation, and decreased nausea. It is the best choice for insomnia and for increasing dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for the pleasure center in your brain. Definitely a night time cannabis.

The Reign of Hybrids

Breeding marijuana has exploded in the last ten years and has almost eradicated pure strains of sativa and indica. According to this article, only five to 10% of the cannabis worldwide is pure. Today, conscientious growers are looking to the THC and CBD ratio more than genetic heritage. Strains are still considered sativa-dominant or indica-dominant, so it an important starting point.