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Indica vs. Sativa: What’s the Difference?
Cannabis has two main species, indica and sativa, each with their own unique characteristics and a distinctive high.
Anyone who uses marijuana likely knows that there are various strains available with different benefits and effects. Yet, what some novice users may not know is the role that indica and sativa play.
Learn the difference between these two types of cannabis — it could open your world to brand new strains.
Origin of Strains
Many experts debate whether cannabis is one species of plant, or two or three. Yet, most agree that the plant originates from the central Asian regions of Mongolia and southern Siberia.
In 1753, a biologist by the name of Carl Linnaeus identified Cannabis sativa as a single species. Thirty-two years later, in 1785, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck described a second species from India. Because its characteristics were unlike Cannabis sativa, he named the new species Cannabis indica. Today, sativa and indica are accepted as the two major subtypes of cannabis.
Sativa seems to thrive in the warmer equatorial climates, such as Colombia, Mexico, Thailand and Southeast Asia. Indica grows better in the cooler temperatures and high altitude of the Hindu Kush mountain range, including regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Nepal and Turkey.
The most accurate way of identifying whether a plant is sativa or indica is by physical appearance.
- Sativa plants are typically tall and thin and can grow upwards of 20 feet tall. Indicas are short and bushy, reaching a growing height of only 2 to 4 feet.
- Sativas grow long branches and sprout narrow leaves that are typically light green in color. Indicas have fewer, shorter branches with wide leaves that are darker in color.
- Sativas take longer to mature and are usually harvested between 10 to 16 weeks. Indicas mature in a shorter time span and are generally harvested between 6 to 8 weeks.
Sativa and indica strains each have their own unique high. While sativa strains are more stimulating, indicas tend to be more psychoactive.
A feeling of well-being and ease is often associated with sativas, making them ideal for social situations. The high from sativa strains is energizing, cerebral and well suited for daytime use. They are also said to promote deep conversation and enhance creativity.
Indica strains, on the other hand, have an opposite effect. They provide a “couch-lock” body high that is well suited for nights when you just want to wind down and be in your own head. Indicas are often used to relieve stress and aid with sleep.
Sativas have a high CBD:THC ratio, while indicas have a high THC:CBD ratio. Naturally, both have their own medicinal benefits.
Due to its high CBD content, sativas have a stimulating effect that improves alertness and optimism. So, patients may prefer to medicate with sativa during the day.
Sativa is commonly used to treat mental and behavioral issues such as depression and ADHD. Because it is so stimulating, sativa may also help encourage hunger in patients who suffer from anorexia or certain types of cancer.
The higher levels of THC give indica strains sedative properties, making them ideal for medicating during the evening.
Indica is commonly used to treat insomnia, chronic pain, muscle spasms and nausea. Indica may also be useful for fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis or lupus.
And then there are hybrids, which are crossbreeds between sativa and indica. Today, there is a wide range of strains available with characteristics from each species. Some hybrids contain a 50/50 mix, providing an all over, head and body high. Other hybrids are dominated by either sativa or indica.
For instance, a sativa-dominant hybrid might provide a stimulating celebral high while still relaxing the body. And an indica-dominant hybrid might provide a sedated high without actually putting you to sleep. Still, benefits and effect may vary according to the strain and each user’s biochemistry.
You might prefer a sativa high, indica high or a little bit of both. In any case, knowing the difference between indica and sativa will definitely steer you in the right direction next time you visit the dispensary.