The difference between Indica and Sativa?

September 25, 2019

If you are hearing and reading anything about cannabis – laws, benefits, industry more often now, it’s because of its increasing demand for medical use. In a cannabis legal state, you will find dispensaries selling a variety of cannabis strains that have different names. These names and the properties it contains can confuse anyone. 

There are two strains we commonly hear of:

  • Indica strains has calming properties that can help relax the body.
  • Sativa strains stimulate cerebral effects and influence your physical activity. 

They both have distinct effects on the user. If you want to purchase any cannabis product, you should have a general understanding of the strains to pick the right one. So here are a few differences between the two to help you figure out your preferences.


Origin and Physical Appearance

The origin of the names ‘sativa’ and ‘indica’ dates back to the 18th century. Sativa term was primarily coined to describe the hemp plants that gave fiber and seeds for use. These were found in Europe. The indica strains originated in the Asian subcontinent or Afghanistan, have various psychoactive properties. Cannabis indica plant was used for its fiber, seeds, and hash productions.

In terms of their look, Indica strains are short with broad and stout leaves. The strain has sedating effects. Sativa, on the other hand, is tall and skinny plants featuring thin or narrow leaves. These are more highly branched and have energizing effects on the consumer.  

Appearances are beneficial for the cultivators. But as a consumer, you need to know which one delivers what effects, both medically and recreationally.  

Medicinal Value

There might be a contrast between what commercially sellers label these two strains, and what their actual clinical effects are. Although clinical trials to test the differences are less, yet some subjective outcomes show the differences between the two.

Their difference in energy levels and efficacy differs. The indica strains may lower your energy to create a calming effect. People prefer to use it for pain management, insomnia, to help sedate and produce a euphoric effect. Cannabis indica users found that it tends to lead them to a condition where they do not wish to get up. Thus, such properties show that it is better to consume these in the evening or at night. People wanting to experience relaxation after work or any laborious activity most likely can choose the indica strains. 

Sativa strains do the opposite. It will awaken your senses and boost productivity. Sativas will energize and uplift your mental state, and make you resourceful. We can say that Indica strains deliver a ‘body high’ effect and Sativa strains a ‘mind high’ effect. A survey on medical cannabis users exhibits a few differences in the effects of indica and Sativa. But the evidence of its distinct physiological effects is not available.

Also, in comparison to indica strains, Sativa yield offers less significant medicinal value. Medical conditions like neuropathy, joint pain, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, etc. can be with the help of indica strains. However, remember do not purchase any cannabis medicine and consume them without the knowledge of the strain, potency, purity, and so on. That is why there are certain conditions for labeling cannabis products before launching them on the market. Buy cannabis medicines from only a valid online dispensary Canada or any other state where it is legal and make sure you know what you are ordering.

Some other differences that can come into consideration are- growth and aroma.

Plant growth: Growing Sativa plants is intricate in comparison to indica. They take around 12 to 14 weeks to grow and are well suitable for outdoor growing. Indica plants are easier to cultivate and can be grown even inside your homes within a bottle. Its flowering takes around 8 to 9 weeks.

Aroma: Sativa gives out a light fruity, sweet, and spicy aroma. For instance, the Strawberry Cough has a sweet flavor, Tangie has a citrus fragrance, and the Hulk has a lemon flavor. Indica plants produce an earthy, stale smell like the Hindu Kush and Super Shunk.

Terpenes are the chemical compounds of the plant responsible for the aroma, which differentiates Sativa and indica.    

Indica and Sativa Dichotomy- The Confusion  

It is difficult, or we can say scientifically irrelevant to distinguish the physiological effects of cannabis Sativa and cannabis indica strains. There are other factors to consider like chemical compounds, individual metabolism, tolerance capacity, dose, and methods of ingestion. The biochemical compounds of cannabis plants are chiefly responsible for its physiological and psychological effects. Some studies believe that the plant’s height, branches, or leaves structure cannot conclude the differences among cannabis strains. Classification of the strains should also depend on the plant’s chemical compounds- THC, CBD, THCV, CBDV, terpenes, etc. Let’s briefly understand the three of the most famous chemotypes associated with the cannabis plant. 

THC or delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol will have the psychoactive effect and give you the munchies and the high. Strains having high THC potency are a preferred choice to experience elevation. It also has medicinal efficacy with pain-relieving benefits and more. THC dominant strains will calm your mind and deliver benefits, especially during depression, anxiety, or insomnia. But if it makes you more anxious, avoid using it immediately. 

CBD or Cannabidiol is non-psychoactive and will not intoxicate. It has more medicinal benefits than THC, having the potential to treat pain, inflammation, non-migraine headaches, and several health concerns. CBD strains have low traces of THC.

If you are new to the cannabis experience, choose a balanced THC/CBD strains to obtain both medicinal and recreational benefits of the plant. Both strains show the properties of hundreds of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Terpenes besides giving the fragrance also can have stimulating effects on your mind and body.

Read more about the differences between Sativa, Indica and hybrid, and how to make your choice here


The next time you are at any dispensary or searching for a product online, make sure you pick the right strain. That will depend on your experience with the plant, your health concerns, or how long you want the effects to last. The science behind cannabis includes complications with numerous agents interacting with the human mind and body differently. Furthermore, the increase in cross-breedings has reduced distinctions.