Difference between Sativa and Indica

Knowing your cannabis is important. If you visit a cannabis shop you will see that everything is classified in one of three groups: Hybrids, Sativa, or Indica. The latter two are responsible for very distinct highs.

How Indica and Sativa differ in chemical profile and resulting highs:

Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are two different species of the same plant.

Sativa strains are tall in stature. They have narrow leaves with longer flowering cycles. They grow better in warmer climates with longer seasons. Popular strains include Panama Red, Durban Poison, and Acapulco Gold.

Indica, by comparison, is shorter in stature with broader leaves. The flowering cycles are shorter. This varietal is best suited for colder climates where the growing seasons are shorter. Popular strains include Mazar I Sharif, Afghan Kush, and Hindu Kush.

What is the difference between Indica and Sativa highs?

It is traditionally believed that Sativa strains give users more invigorating and uplifting cognitive effects, commonly called a “head high”. This means you will feel the effects cognitively rather than all over. These effects fair well with physical activity, creative tasks, or social gatherings.

By comparison, Indica strains are better for sedating situations, such as relaxing before bed, or relaxing to watch a movie and produce what is commonly called a “body high” where you feel the high throughout your body.

But research indicates that this is not a guarantee. Not all strains of Sativa will uplift you cognitively just like not all strains of Indica will sedate you. The more important things to verify are the levels of THC, CBD, and the terpenes in the strains.

How the terpenes in each affect you:

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that you find in fruit, vegetables, and plants, including cannabis. These compounds are secreted by the same glands that produce CBD and THC. They are responsible for the aromas associated with cannabis. But more importantly, they are actually the most profound component when it comes to the high you will achieve, no matter the strain. While you can sit and debate Indica versus Sativa all day, what you want to look for are the terpenes in the strains themselves. Being Indica or Sativa does not determine the effects or aromas of cannabis: terpenes do. What are the most common?

  • Terpineol has a lime blossom scent, with hints of lilac. It will relax your mind and provide energy.
  • Mycrene has a musky scent, with hints of citrus and cloves. It is responsible for relaxation, sedation, and enhancing the psychoactivity of THC.
  • Linalool has a lavender scent and is good for sedating and calming yourself if you have anxiety, depression, stress, or insomnia. You can find use it for convulsions and pain management too.
  • Limonene has a citrus scent, and has been used as anti-seizer therapy, to dissolve gallstones, kill microbial bacterial, and relieve acid reflux or heart burn.
  • Alpha and Beta Pinene has a strong pine scent and has been used heavily to treat inflammation and asthma.
  • Humulene has a rich woody, Earthy scent and is known for its pain management abilities, anti-bacterial properties, and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Beta-Caryophyllene has a rich woody, spice to it, and is used to treat insomnia, pain management or muscle spasms, and for its antioxidants and its anti-inflammatory properties.

Is Indica or Sativa better?

Realistically, one is not better than the other. It is all based on the type of effect you are trying to achieve and the strains you are using to produce that effect.

Sativa will give you a head high and is best for daytime use. It will reap, more often than not, a euphoric effect, give you increased energy, improve your alertness, and increase your creativity levels.

Indica will give you a body high which is why it is best for nighttime use. It is great for pain relief, sleep aid, and relaxation. It is also an appetite stimulator.

When you set about finding the right strain for you, consider:

  • Your tolerance: if you have little to no experience with cannabis, your tolerance will be low so a low THC strain is best, regardless.
  • Your susceptibility to anxiety or THC side effects: if you are highly susceptible, a strain with higher CBD is going to be better.
  • How long you want to be high: if you want something to last a long time and are in no rush, edibles might be better suited to you. If you want a short term, immediate experience, inhalation is better.

Is Indica or Sativa better for anxiety?

The answer here is yet another one of those vague results. Indica strains are more sedating, great for relaxing after you had anxiety while Sativa strains are better for their uplifting cerebral effects, ideal prior to social gatherings or creative projects about which you have anxiety. So the “better” option is based on your circumstances.