Indica vs sativa

Indica vs Sativa: Differences, Effects and Popular Strains

In the world of cannabis, there is a question that almost every beginner user asks:

What’s the difference between Indica and Sativa?

And the answer is always the same…

They belong to the same species but they have TONS of differences.

To start off: they don’t look the same, they produce different range of effects, they have different taste and smell and they’re even usually consumed in different periods of the day.

That’s why we decided to do a fun but comprehensive guide on the differences between the two most popular strains of cannabis.

In today’s post we’ll discover:

  • The biggest differences between Indica and Sativa
  • Pros and cons of each for medicinal and recreational users
  • The most popular Sativa and Indica strains

And finally — I’ll let you in on 3 beginner tips that will help you make the most out of your cannabis consumption.

Ready?

Activate Three Little Birds.

Here’s every Sativa vs Indica difference you need to know

I am not the type of guy who likes to reincarnate Tolstoy when it’s not absolutely necessary. So we’ll keep things nice and simple.

There are essentially 5 important differences between Indica and Sativa strains: origin, anatomy, growing cycles, effects and cannabinoid profile.

Difference #1:

Sativa is tall and thin while Indica is short and bushy

Sativa and Indica are very different in their appearance.

Sativa usually grows up to 4 metres and is much less dense. It has an appearance that is best described as narrow and its leaves are on the lighter side of green.

Indica is short, bushy and dense. It grows up to 2 metres and its leaves are dark green, especially when compared to Sativa.

One of the major anatomical differences is in the density of their buds: Indica buds are dense and wide and Sativa buds are elongated and less dense.

Difference #2:

Sativa comes from Asia while Indica comes from Afghanistan and India

There are actually many theories regarding the origins of both Indica and Sativa, but the current consensus is that one strain came from southern Asia and the other from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

Geographically speaking, it all began in the steppes of Asia (current Mongolia) and it spread to southern Asia. We know about the origin of Cannabis Sativa through the ancient Chinese scriptures where their use of cannabis was very well documented.

Cannabis Indica, on the other hand, originated in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which is how most of the strains actually got their names (for example Purple Kush).

The differences in geographical origin of these two strains can also be seen in their growing cycles and chemical profiles.

But more on that later.

Difference #3:

Sativa has a lot of THC and no CBD while Indica has moderate levels of both THC and CBD

One of the most interesting differences between Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica is in their chemical composition.

To us, the most interesting is the cannabinoid profile, which is a great indicator of the potency and effects of each strain.

With that in mind, Cannabis Sativa flowers usually pack large percentages of THC with little, to no CBD at all. We’re talking 15-26% of THC and up to 0,5% CBD at the max.

Pure indica strains, tend to have less THC and more CBD than Sativa strains, which suppresses the effects of THC and produces a different high. Indica strains usually have around 12% THC and up to 1% of CBD.

Which leads us to the fun part.

Difference #4:

Sativa produces a cerebral high while Indica produces a bodily high

We just mentioned THC and CBD content of the two most popular strains. But it all means just one thing:

Sativa and Indica produce different effects when consumed.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not just due to the different cannabinoid profile.

Terpenes play a big role in that as well, as they are essential oils that differ from strain to strain. Sativa strains, for example, have a lot more myrcene than Indica strains. All of these subtle differences account for the difference in effects.

However, the most interesting part for you is this:

When you consume a pure Sativa strain, you get a cerebral high that is euphoric, uplifting, creative and energized.

Indica is the exact opposite, as it produces a couch-lock, relaxation, lethargy and is generally sedative.

This difference is reflected in the most ancient sentence of cannabis wisdom ever. I’m sure you’ve heard it a gazillion times:

Sativa during the day, Indica during the night.

This is, of course, a simple explanation when it’s best to use each strain.

For medicinal users, Cannabis Sativa produces an increase in appetite, focus and relief from depression and nausea. Cannabis Indica is effective at treating anxiety, pain and generally every condition that is reduced by being relaxed and calm.

Difference #5:

Indica flowers after 8 weeks while Sativa flowers after 12 weeks

Growers love Indica strains, as they have a shorter flowering time. The reason for that is something we mentioned earlier:

Different geographical origin equals different exposure to sun, which is why Sativa and Indica have different growing cycles. They just had to adapt to their location.

That is exactly why:

  • Cannabis Sativa matures relatively late and flowers after 12-14 weeks.
  • Cannabis Indica matures early and flowers after 8-9 weeks.

These differences fit together to form an idea that changed the cannabis industry — let’s combine Indica and Sativa and get the best of both worlds.

More on that later.

Pros and cons of Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica

When I first started learning about cannabis strains, I was dumbfounded.

I’ve read 3 books on cannabis and then I just sat there, in my room, not knowing with which strain to start. Information overload is real…

But what I soon learned is that I don’t have to choose between Sativa and Indica, because I can use both. It’s really as simple as that.

However, when you buy pure Sativa and Indica strains, you quickly realize that, even though they produce different effects — they can also produce different and, sometimes undesirable, side-effects.

So I decided to lay out my findings for your convenience but please be aware of the fact that each of these effects can vary from strain to strain and from batch to batch.

Pros and cons of Cannabis Sativa strains

Pros Cons
Cerebral effects Can promote anxiety
Promotes creativity Increases blood pressure and heart rate
Euphoric high Induces restlessness
Boosts appetite Can make you paranoid
Boosts energy Induces cottonmouth
Makes you chatty
Improves your focus
Treats depression & ADHD

Pros and cons of Cannabis Indica strains

Pros Cons
Body-oriented high Can make you too sleepy at times
Makes you relaxed Induces laziness
Induces a couch-lock Lowers blood pressure
Treats chronic pain & spasms Induces cottonmouth
Also boosts appetite
Reduces anxiety

Now, one of the things that you will soon realize (if you haven’t already) is that a lot of cannabis’ effects are subjective: what one person experiences is not necessarily the same as the other.

The reason for this is simple:

Every single cannabis strain is different…and every batch of that strain also differs in its chemical profile.

That is why you’ll see people talking about how pure Indica makes them euphoric or how their favorite Sativa strain makes them super relaxed.

Since we’re into the power of the people, let’s now explore some popular Sativa and Indica strains that you can try out right now.

40 most popular Sativa and Indica strains

Here’s something I’ve wanted to tell you from the start:

Pure Indica and Sativa strains are rare.

That’s right — the majority of flowers you can buy in dispensaries are actually hybrids. Hybrids are crossbreeds of two strains, usually one Indica and one Sativa.

They’ve been invented for two purposes:

  1. Hybrids produce bigger yield much faster
  2. Hybrids combine the best effects of both strains

That’s why you will most often see a “Sativa dominant” hybrid. You already know what that means: it’s usually a cerebral high, due to Sativa background, coupled with mild sedation, coming from its Indica genetics.

But that’s perfect, if you think about it. When you choose a well-developed and appropriate hybrid you get perfectly tailored range of effects but with significantly reduced side effects.

It’s all about finding your perfect match.

But how do you do that?

You try out as many strains as you possibly can.

Here are some top rated Sativa and Indica strains to get you started.

Best Sativa strains Best Indica strains
Amnesia Haze Grandaddy Purple
Sour Diesel Ice Wreck
Laughing Buddha Northern Lights
Strawberry Cough Aurora Indica
Moby Dick Blue Mystic
Lambs Bread Pineapple Kush
Maui Waui Sensi-Star
Chocolope White Cookies
Green Crack Purple Kush
Willie Nelson Critical Kush
Jack The Ripper Strawberry Banana
Ghost Train Haze Golden Lemons
Cinex God’s Gift
Chernobyl Kosher Kush
Durban Poison Critical Mass
Super Silver Haze Bubba Kush
Cinderella 99 Death Star
Haze Berry Bubble Kush
Royal Moby O.G. Kush
Dance World BubbleGum XL

Sources: herb.co, royalqueenseeds.com

You can save this to your phone and just show them to your budtender the next time you’re visiting a dispensary. He’ll tell you which ones they have in-stock and then you can just grab a couple and go from there.

Eventually, you will find your top Indica and Sativa strains that just feel good and bring you the most bang for the buck.

Bonus: 3 super important tips for newbie smokers

We’re gonna wrap this article up with 5 strain-related things I wish I knew before I started smoking. Consider this a bonus for making it this far:

If you’re new to smoking, start off with an Indica-dominant hybrid.

Indica’s and Indica-dominant hybrids are beginner friendly, simply because they’ll most definitely strap you to the couch. The highs are usually chill and mellow and it’ll help you not get too anxious or go into a panic attack. Although I have a cure for that, as well.

If you’re smoking Sativa, go really really slow to avoid getting too high.

Remember, too much Sativa can cause heart palpitations These are not life threatening but can scare the living hell out of you, especially when you’re high.

If you’re going into panic attack, use black pepper to reduce the symptoms.

Believe it or not, black pepper contains terpenes that bind to the same receptors as cannabinoids, helping reduce some of the negative side effects. One of the best uses for this is when you go into a panic attack or just get really anxious.

When that happens, just eat a cracker with a lot of black pepper (or just peppercorns) and it will quickly calm you down.

Hopefully I managed to shed some light for you on this ancient topic of Indica vs Sativa.

As you can see, there is no clear winner, just as there is no right or wrong. Remember that seasoned users regularly smoke both Indica and Sativa strains, only they are experts at picking out the best strains for their goals.

After reading this guide, I genuinely hope you are able to take the first step in that direction.


Editor in chief at Greencamp. Into all kinds of technical tutorials and topics related to cannabis culture. Professional at postponing workouts.

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