Indica and Sativa, How are They Different?

Liz Filmer
18 May 2022

Indica cannabis plants tend to be short and squat, featuring broad leaves. Sativa plants are taller and skinnier with thin, pointed leaves.

Indica and sativa plants differ in both their effects but also in their appearance. However, the most crucial difference between these two types of cannabis is their physiological effects and how they impact energy levels and productivity. 

Indicas generally tend to diminish energy and are better suited for consumption in the evening or at night, or just when you are looking to relax and not do much else. They deliver what is known as a "body high". Potent indica strains can induce what is known as "couch lock," where you become so relaxed that it's as if you cannot escape the comfort of your sofa!

Sativas, however, are generally perceived as being uplifting and cerebral. They deliver more of a mind high. Great for improving motivation, creativity and productivity. In terms of cultivation, Sativa plants take slightly longer to reach harvest and generally yield less than their indica counterparts.

This helps explain why Indica strains have always monopolised the black market because there are no concerns about the medicinal properties of the product. The sole focus is profit.

Cannabis is known for being a very smelly plant! With the differences being notable between Indica and Sativa strains.
Indica varieties tend to be more musty, savoury, earthy, and skunky. The difference comes from the ratio of terpenes or essential oils in the plant. Whereas sativas classically smell sweeter, fruitier, or maybe spicy.   

When it comes to the medicinal benefits of each variety, cultivators of medical cannabis intentionally breed and grow a vast spectrum of strains from both indica and sativa categories. This is so that they can produce accurate medicine for each patient's distinctive variety of needs, preferences, and lifestyles. 

Many patients need to get on with their daily lives, work, and raise families. All of which demands a distinct energy level that the sedative effects of numerous indica strains don't match up with. 
On the other hand, sometimes, patients are just looking for the most powerful non-opiate painkiller they can get their hands on. In which case, they will pick a robust indica strain above all else. 

Cultivators and dispensaries understand the effectiveness of different strains for different patients with conditions such as Parkinson's, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, arthritis, cancer and epilepsy, 
Sativa strains tend to be more suited to mental health issues like depression, PTSD, and anxiety. In contrast, Indicas perform best when it comes to pain and inflammation. So is the choice of patients living with cancer, arthritis and fibromyalgia.

However, it is not always straightforward as many conditions may induce feelings of both depression and inflammation. In this case, the patient will choose from a Sativa or Indica dominant hybrid of the two based on their most debilitating symptoms.

Whether you are team Indica or team Sativa comes down to personal preference, tolerance, medicinal needs and sometimes just what is available to you. There are, however, distinct differences between the two. 

It is probably more challenging for most of us to identify the differences. The cross-breeding of hybrid strains is so popular that you rarely see a true 100% Sativa or Indica strain anymore.

Liz Filmer