Sativa vs Indica: Do You Know the Difference Between the Types of Cannabis?


Sativa and Indica

Most commonly you will see cannabis plants labelled as either sativa, indica or a hybrid, which is a mix of the two types. Originally, it is believed that sativa was grown across Europe and Asia, and indica was grown in India. But now you will find both types grown across the world. 


Differences between Sativa and Indica

It is believed that sativa and indica have very different effects, so the one you choose will depend on whether you want the relaxing experience of indica or the uplifting energy from sativa. 


Effects From Using Sativa

  • An energizing experience that can be useful before physical activity or social situations 
  • Improved focus 
  • Cerebral effects resulting in a head high
  • Medicinal reasons — depression, anxiety or pain 


Effects From Using Indica 

  • A sedative and relaxing experience 
  • Full body effects 
  • Medicinal reasons — insomnia, anxiety and inflammation
  • Appetite stimulant


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Plant Appearance

The two types of cannabis can be distinguished by the physical appearance of each plant. Sativa plants are tall and have narrow leaves compared to the shorter indica plants with their broad leaves. It takes sativas longer to mature and they prefer warmer climates where they can have a longer flowering time. In contrast, indicas are quicker to grow and are more suited to colder climates with their shorter flowering times. 

Are they different? 

Unfortunately, predicting the effect of a type of cannabis based on whether it is sativa or indica is not as simple as it may seem. While these plants look very different, they can have a similar chemical make-up to each other. This means that sativa and indica do not always have predictable effects. Instead you should look at other factors to help you determine which type of cannabis will give you the desired effect. 


Looking at the different types of cannabinoids that cannabis plants are made up of, can be useful for predicting the effects that they might have when taken. This can be a much more accurate way to find a type of cannabis that will have the desired effect that you are looking for, or even help you avoid one that may have any undesirable side effects. 


There are two main types of cannabinoid

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) 
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)



Types of cannabis with high THC levels are known for having very potent effects and for giving a high experience. This is an effect that is undesirable to some cannabis users, particularly those using cannabis for medical reasons. So in these cases, it would be best avoiding high THC levels. Commonly, sativa is found to have higher THC levels. 



If you are sensitive to the effect of THC or want an experience free from any highs, then cannabis containing high levels of CBD will also be low in THC. CBD also has many medicinal effects including, reducing pain and nausea. Usually, indica has higher CBD levels. 


Mixed types 

A mixed type of cannabis will contain both THC and CBD levels, which will give a mild high effect. It will also ease the symptoms of some medical conditions. This is a recommended type to try if this is your first time using cannabis. 


More recently, terpenes have been discovered as natural compounds in cannabis plants that can contribute to the sedative or energizing effects experienced. There are many different terpenes for you to become familiar with, each one having different effects and producing a unique smell.


Common terpenes

  • Myrcene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Limonene
  • Terpinolene


This is an exciting area of development that is still undergoing much research but in the future terpenes may help predict the effects of different types of cannabis. 


The Ideal Type 

Choosing which type of cannabis is best for the effect you desire is not as simple as deciding between sativa and indica varieties. However, by having an understanding of cannabinoids and terpenes, and how they might influence the effects of a type of cannabis will allow you to discuss your requirements with a knowledgeable cannabis seller, who can help you make the best choice. 

Humboldt’s Finest Cannabis Sativa Vodka

Emerald contributor since April 2019


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