Even non-users of marijuana often know that there are two main types of the cannabis plant — indica and sativa. There are various differences between the two, and many believe that it’s important to know exactly what kind you are buying. While many forms of marijuana today are indeed hybrids of indica and sativa, the two strains are commonly believed to offer users different kinds of highs.
In fact, if you were to ask most regular users or even budtenders what the difference between indica and sativa is, they’d probably start by telling you that indica provides a more calming, relaxing effect while sativa offers more energy and almost a “buzz” feel. Many marijuana products today are hybrids of the two strains in an effect to give users a mellow high that doesn’t make them want to go to sleep.
But while the two plant structures are indeed different, there’s actually no scientific evidence to support the claim that indica is inherently calming while sativa is naturally uplifting. Here’s what really distinguishes each plant strain:
- Indica – Has fuller-looking, almost “bushy” structure with wide leaves. Indica plants are often shorter in height than their Sativa counterparts. Indica plants do well in warm climates, but they also can grow quite well in colder temperatures with shorter seasons.
- Sativa – Has lengthy, narrow leaves and is usually taller in height than indica plants. Leaves also grow more spaciously, without the “bushy” effect that Indica plants often have. Sativa plants also have linger flowering cycles and thrive in warm climates with long seasons. While it is possible to grow them in colder climates with a lot of attention and care, they do not do well and will not produce as many leaves.
Now, it is important to know that these are the descriptions of “pure bred” indica and sativa plants only. Thanks to human intervention, there are an increasing amount of hybrid plants out there that may hold physical characteristics of both types. Hybrids of both will be either sativa dominant or indica dominant, depending on how they are bred.
One of the key things to know about cannabis plants is that it is their chemical composition that truly affects the user. If you’re like many people, you’ve probably heard of THC and CBD. Both of these are “terpenes”, or organic compounds that are highly aromatic and are produced in many types of flowering plants. CBD and THC are unique to cannabis plants though, and they are known as “cannabinoids”. There are actually many different cannabinoids in cannabis plants, but THC and CBD are easily the two that drive the “high effect” that users enjoy.
Here’s what to know about these cannabinoids and how they affect users:
- THC – Short for “Tetrahydrocannabinol”, THC is an intoxicating organic compounds that causes users to feel a wide range of effects. Common ones include an energized or “high” mental state, hunger, relaxation, pain relief and more.
- CBD – Short for “Cannabidiol”, CBD is a non-intoxicating organic compound that also causes users to feel a range of effects (though perhaps not as extreme or as varied as THC). CBD is known to help reduce anxiety and feelings of depression, help ease inflammation and pain, provide relaxation, and assist with the relief of many medical issues.
Go into any dispensary, and you’ll see a wide variety of edibles and other non-smokeable products for consumption that are labeled as THC, CBD or a hybrid of the two. CBD-dominant products will tend to have a more calming physical effect, while many people report feeling more of a “body high”. THC-dominant products meanwhile offer more of a cerebral high or a “buzz effect” that is often falsely associated with sativa.
Which One Should You Choose?
Again, no clinical studies have ever shown that sativa and indica offer different effects on their own. Therefore, the right type of cannabis for you will therefore depend more on the terpenes in cannabis rather than whether it is sativa or indica-dominant. For example, many people prefer CBD-dominant marijuana products if they are in need of the relaxing effects of marijuana without having it affect their mental state or ability to think.
It’s also important to look at the percentages of THC and CBD, particularly in edible products. Higher amounts (no pun intended) will have a stronger effect, especially on those who may not have much of a tolerance built up to marijuana. It’s important to start lower and wait at least an hour before consuming more.