Indica Vs. Sativa: What’s the Difference?

indica, sativa, cannabis, strains, dispensary

If you’re interested in cannabis, you’re already aware that there are three main species, cannabis indica, cannabis sativa, and cannabis ruderalis, and that each has unique properties and offer a different type of high. But what, exactly, does this mean? And how does it affect you when it comes to choosing the type of cannabis that best fits your needs? What about hybrids? This article will function as a guide to answer the most common questions about indica vs. sativa as well as help you decide what type of marijuana is best for you.

How do I identify the different types?

It’s actually relatively easy to discern indica vs. sativa by the physical appearance of the plants themselves. If you have a plant that you’re unsure about, start by looking at the leaves. Indica plants have a very broad, thick and dark green leaf that is often purple or blue, while sativa plants tend to be more slender and lighter in color. A hybrid strain can appear either way, or its leaves can be a combination of both.

When it comes to the plant itself, sativa will usually be much taller and have longer branches. In fact, a cannabis sativa plant can grow to over 8 feet in height. Indica plants, on the other hand, generally only grow from about 2 to 4 feet in height and consequently will have much shorter branches.

Due to their larger size, sativa plants take a bit longer to grow and should be harvested when they have matured for around 10 to 16 weeks. Indicas mature more quickly and can be harvested between 6 and 8 weeks. When identifying hybrids, they can sport qualities of either species.

As for the buds themselves, sativa strains produce skinnier buds that take longer to grow. However, the wait is often worth it as this strain is usually more potent and has a higher concentration of THC. The shape, specifically, was an evolutionary change as it helped the plant protect itself against mold outbreaks and other diseases in humid climates. On the other hand, indica has dense buds that tend to grow in fragrant clusters, which is more optimal in dry climates.

What are the effects of indica vs. the effects of sativa?

The effects of indica vs. sativa are very different; while hybrids offer a combination of both. Sativa is known for its cerebral, energizing high; indica is known for the body high it provides and the “couch-lock” effect that it has. Which species you prefer will depend on your personal desires. During the day, if you’re looking to be active, sativa is the best choice. In the evening, as you are getting ready to sleep, indica is your best option. There are also hybrid strains that can provide you with a combination of effects. With so many strains available today, you will find at least one that meets your needs and our knowledgeable Bud Tenders are available to help you navigate the many options.

What about the medical effects?

Cannabis strains carry two main molecules: tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD. Each of these has a variety of different medical benefits. Sativa has a high THC content and is relatively low in CBD; indica has a higher ratio of CBD to THC. Each molecule interacts with your brain differently.

When you consume THC it binds with and activates with protein-coupled cannabinoid receptors, CB1, located in your central and peripheral nervous systems. Similar to when your body naturally binds anandamide (the ‘bliss’ molecule) with CB1 receptors, when THC and CB1 receptors bond together, it stimulates the THC and you will likely feel more euphoric and a heady high, as well as possibly more anxious and paranoid depending on the amount of THC consumed, especially in relation to the ratio of CBD.

Unlike THC, CBD does not bond with CB1 receptors and can actually block THC from binding with said receptors. This is when you will feel more relaxed, have improved sleep, and decrease your anxiety after consuming cannabis.

THC and CBD alter the chemicals in your nervous system very differently. For this reason, sativa strains with higher THC are best to use when treating depression, fatigue, and decreased appetite while indica strains with higher CBD are better for insomnia, anxiety, nausea, and inflammation

Certain strains are also bred to be very high in CBD and very low in THC; because of this, they have very little in the way of psychoactive effects but can help with problems such as seizures. When considering indica vs. sativa it helps to research the condition you are attempting to treat.

Does cannabis come in multiple flavors?

The “flavors” between strains do vary. Actually, it’s the terpenes, or fragrant oils, that give cannabis its aroma. To date, more than 100 versions of terpenes have been identified in cannabis plants, which explains the multitude of scents you will come across from pungent to sweet to musky and many more.  

Cannabis is often also added to food and drinks, which alters what you will taste. Instead of a sweet flavor, you might only taste the chocolate when it’s added to a Honu edible.

What if I need more information?

There is a huge amount of information on indica vs. sativa online and in books; ultimately, however, you will want to start discovering for yourself what strain is best for you and your specific needs.

A trip to your local dispensary will help you begin the learning process. If you live in the Vancouver, Washington area, check out Mary Jane’s House of Grass. We will provide an extensive list of cannabis strains including THC-dominate options, CBD-dominate options, and many hybrids. We can also help you navigate various smoking devices, edibles, and storage solutions.

It’s important to look for a shop that vets its plants carefully, like Mary Jane’s dispensary in Vancouver, WA, and ensures only the finest quality products are kept in stock. You will also want to seek out a business that employs knowledgeable staff as customers regularly share that recommendations are an invaluable part of the decision-making process when they visit our dispensary.

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