Marijuana comes in various different strains, generally divided into three types: indica, sativa, and hybrid. Sativa and indica are two distinct types of marijuana plants, but the two can also be bred together to create hybrid plants. In addition to looking and growing differently, they may have different effects when inhaled.
In general, sativa strains are said to be more uplifting. They can make you more focused, creative, and energetic. Indica strains are believed to have a more sedating effect, often used for physical and mental relaxation. Hybrid strains offer properties of both in varying degrees.
So how is each strain used, and which is best-suited for different medical and recreational purposes? Let’s take a closer look at the differences between sativa, indica, and hybrid cannabis strains.
What is Cannabis Indica?
Indica plants are identifiable for being short and dense, with wide leaves. They are well-suited to cooler temperatures, often growing in cold, mountainous, climates. Cannabis growers often grow indica plants indoors. They grow much faster than sativa strains, fully maturing in around 8 weeks. Some can be harvested in as little as two weeks.
Indicas are high in THC, CBN, and CBD cannabinoids. Indica strains have a reputation for relaxing and sedating effects. They are believed to reduce anxiety, increase dopamine, and provide pain relief.
In medical dispensaries, indica strains are targeted at patients with cancer, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Strains of this type are common as they are easy to grow and harvest. Popular examples of indica strains include Hindu Kush, Bubba Kush, Northern Lights, and G13.
What is Cannabis sativa?
When compared with indica plants, sativa plants grow taller, thinner, and with narrower leaves. They generally have brighter leaves than their indica counterparts and take longer to grow. Once a sativa plant begins to flower, it can take up to sixteen weeks to fully mature. They are often grown outside and can grow up to 20 feet.
Sativa plants have a higher ratio of THC and less CBD than their indica counterparts. Sativa strains are considered to be stimulating. They are said to increase serotonin, promote focus and creativity, and reduce anxiety and depression.
Due to their uplifting effects, sativa strains are often used to treat ADHD, depression, and mood disorders such as bipolar. They’re also often used to treat chronic pain and terminal illnesses such as HIV/AIDs, glaucoma, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sativa strains are generally less common than indica strains. They take a longer time to grow and require a lot of sunlight, making them harder to grow indoors. However, a lot of marijuana can be harvested from sativa plants if they are given time to grow. Popular strains of this type include Sour Diesel, Green Crack, Amnesia Haze, and Purple Haze.
What are hybrid strains?
Many growers crossbreed indica and sativa plants, leading to a hybrid plant with properties of both. The attributes these plants inherit from each type can be unpredictable. For instance, they may offer the growth speed of an indica plant with the high yield of a sativa plant.
The strains obtained from these plants can also offer properties from both indica and sativa strains. They can be indica-dominant, sativa-dominant, or fall around 50/50 between both.
Hybrid strains are very popular on the marijuana market both for recreational and medical purposes. They’re marketed as offering the best of both worlds and targeting many medical symptoms. Popular examples include Blue Dream, OG Kush, White Widow, and Pineapple Express.
Are indica and sativa strains really that different?
Although marijuana sellers have a long-running history of distinguishing between these three strains, there has been much debate on how much they really differ. Some people believe that the differing effects of each strain are largely exaggerated.
This view isn’t uncommon. In fact, neurologist and psychopharmacologist Ethan Russo claimed in an interview that the indica/sativa distinction may be largely futile. He claims it is impossible to determine the biochemical content of these plants purely based on their physical properties.
That’s not to say that different strains don’t offer different effects. It’s been well established that high-CBD products offer a range of medical and therapeutic benefits. Products higher in THC, on the other hand, offer stronger psychoactive effects.
But many researchers agree these properties are not based on whether they came from an indica or sativa plant. Different strains have different chemical profiles. The different cannabinoids and terpenes contained within provide different aromas and effects.
One study showed that some indica and sativa plants are genetically similar to one another. The distinction between sativa and indica is useful for growers, and the growth and breeding of different plants will lead to strains with differing effects. However, marijuana buyers might be better served by more research of the cannabinoids contained within different strains.
Which strain is best for me?
The debates around the indica/sativa distinction can make choosing the right strain confusing. Some scientists say most marijuana strains act basically the same. If you’re looking for a basic high, you might be best served by picking the cheapest. However, they also admit that the different cannabinoids contained within different strains can make a difference.
The different types of strain are often used as a tool for marketing marijuana, but they can be helpful. Certain strains will have higher levels of THC, making them ideal for recreational users looking for a more stimulating experience. Products with lower THC and higher CBD are better for relieving many medical symptoms. Ask dispensaries and friends for recommendations before you choose.
Flower marijuana isn’t your only option. You could also look into different types of cannabis products. For instance, CBD Oil can give you medical benefits such as pain relief and reduced anxiety without the psychoactive effects of THC. Recreational users may prefer marijuana edibles to experience the potent effects of THC.
Wrapping it up
While different strains of weed can provide different effects, this is largely down to their content of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. Indica strains are generally considered more relaxing, and sativa strains more stimulating. However, this distinction is less important than it was in the past with hybrid strains taking over the market, with differing levels of medical and psychoactive properties. As the market grows and research grows with it, we’re likely to know more about how much strains differ in their effects in the future.