Indica VS Sativa

Stephen Andrews
18 May 2022

Indica and sativa are two common terms used to describe and label cannabis strains with varying characteristics. According to the distinction, indica strains are more sedative, analgesic, and have earthy aromas, unlike more energizing sativa strains, which have sweet scents, and may even help you become the next Pablo Picasso as they also induce creativity. While it's good to have this classification in mind, not everyone is convinced that all indicas are happy or that all sativas are sedatives.

The distinction between Indicas and Sativas comes from botanists who classify Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica as two species of cannabis. Normally, the two species of cannabis have many traits in common, but they also have specific characteristics that help us tell the one from the other. For instance, indica plants are shorter and stockier with a woody stalk, and the leaf is also different; it's darker and broader. On the other hand, sativa plants are taller, the stem is fibrous and more elongated, and the leaf is skinny and light green.

But even for these distinct physical features of indica and sativa, there isn't a 100% scientific consensus. Some researchers claim that the differences are due to human intervention and not evolution and adaptation to geographic terrain itself. However, below let's see other highlighted differences between indica and sativa.

Indica Plants

In most cases of cannabis Indica plants, the following is true:

  • Indica plants generally have higher CBD content, however, they also have significant THC content. 
  • If sufficient time is left for some of the THC content to morph into CBN, you get an even more sedative and medicative indica plant.
  • The cannabinoid mixture in indica plants is superior for treating pain and has a full-body effect that results in deep relaxation and insomnia reduction. 
  • The high generated by indica is often described as couch lock, therefore indica is generally perceived as more of a stay-at-home after you toke kind of smoke. 
  • Because of the more lethargic effect, indicas are better recommended for nighttime use.
  • Some of the most famous landrace indica strains originate in the Middle East, such as Afghani (aka Pure Afghan) from Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush strain from the Hindu Kush mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
indica vs. sativa
Cannabis plants in an indoor setting. Judging the bushy structure of the plants and the form of the leaves, this appears to be an indica cultivar.

Sativa plants

In most cases of Sativa plants, the following is true:

  • Overall, cannabis sativa plants are prone to give the user a more energizing and happy high. This is because sativas tend to have higher THC concentrations.
  • Some people also use sativa strains to boost their imagination and creativity.
  • Most sativas are appropriate for social situations and interaction.
  • Sativa also has a range of medical uses, including treating depression, anxiety and mood disorders, nausea, and boosting appetite.
  • Because it's the more energizing type of cannabis, sativa can also backfire in some users and generate side effects such as anxiety and even paranoia. 
  • Since it's a better stimulant than indica types, sativas can be consumed for daytime use.
  • Some of the most famous landrace sativa strains originate from warmer climates, such as Thai strains from Southeast Asia and Durban Poison from Africa. 

Hybrid Strains

As much as the individual traits and characteristics are valid for the indica vs sativa classification of cannabis, it is important to note that some sativa plants may appear to behave like indicas, and vice versa, some indica plants may exhibit sativa-like properties. 

Things between sativa and indica plants become even more entwined as both growers and nature have created hybrid plants that contain genetics from both species. However, when humans breed hybrids, one priority is to craft plants that grow more quickly, generate bigger yields, and subtly balance out the energizing and calming effects associated with cannabis. Because of this, many hybrid cannabis strains sold in dispensaries are initially prone to uplift the user, then help them with a restful night of deep sleep.

indica vs. sativa
Cultivator employs the SCROG method to augment cannabis yields. Looking at the constitution of the plants in this greenhouse, they appear to have sativa-leaning characteristics.

While there are various hybrids out there, it's safe to say that a lot of them are either indica-dominant or sativa-dominant, as demonstrated in the lists below.

List of Indica Heavy Strains

  • Purple Kush (genetic profile: Hindu Kush x Purple Afghani, pure Indica; average THC content of 22%)
  • Bubba Kush (genetic profile: OG Kush x unnamed Northern Lights phenotype; THC content ranging from 15% to 22%)
  • Blackberry Kush (genetic profile: Afghani x Blackberry or DJ Short Blueberry, roughly 80% indica; up to 20% THC level)
  • Skywalker OG Kush (genetic profile: Skywalker x OG Kush, 85% Indica; THC level range between 20 and 25%) 
  • Strawberry Banana (genetic profile: Strawberry Bubblegum x Crocket's Banana Kush, 70% Indica; high THC level of 26%). 
  • Northern Lights (genetic profile: most likely it's a Thai x Afghani landrace strains cross, roughly 90% indica; most potent phenotypes rock 33% THC)
  • Purple Punch (genetic profile: Larry OG x Granddaddy Purple, 18-20% THC)

List of Sativa Heavy Strains

  • Acapulco Gold (genetic profile: comes from Acapulco, Mexico, but its genetics remain unknown; can have as much as 23%)
  • Sour Diesel (genetic profile: Chemdawg x Super Skunk, 90% Sativa; THC content range between 18 and 25%)
  • Amnesia Haze (genetic profile: Haze x Thai, Hawaiian, and Afghani landrace strains, roughly 70% sativa; average THC content is 25%)
  • Super Silver Haze (genetic profile: Skunk #1 x Northern Lights x and Nevile's Haze, 80% Sativa; relative THC content of 18%)
  • Green Crack (genetic profile: Skunk #1 x possibly Afghani landrace; THC content averages 16%) 
  • Maui Waui (genetic profile: originated as an outdoor crop on the island of Maui and quickly spread to all Hawaiian islands; can have as much as 23%)
  • Strawberry Cough (genetic profile: Erdbeer or Original Haze x Indica bred by Kyle Kushman, 80% Sativa; around 25% THC content)

Final Thoughts 

Whether it's an indica or sativa, users will react differently to consuming the various strains of cannabis. The explanation is simple. Each body is different, and while someone may be more tolerant to energizing, uplifting strains, others will be happy with more sedating strains.

When it comes to growing, today's growers employ different techniques and technologies to augment yields and harvest more potent buds. While there are some general directives on cultivating sativa or indica strains, there are also specific tips and tricks on supplementing each cannabis strain. Whether it's with the employment of special grow techniques, raw organic foods, or special light regimes to which you expose the crops, this is a science and wisdom of its own rights. It may take years to hone skills and become an expert grower of just a few different indica or sativa strains. 

Stephen Andrews