Differences between Indica and Sativa

A quick guide to Indica and Sativa

When searching for cannabis products, you’ll end up running two main groups of cannabis. Indica and Sativa are the two groups of strains you will see, with hybrids containing a mix of the two. You’ll see budtenders, and consumers use these terms to label a strain of cannabis and its effects. Although, this naming scheme is being phased out, due to more research and information being spread about cannabis. We’ll explain if there are differences between the strains, why the naming scheme is still used today, and how you should go about picking the right strain for you.

A quick guide to Indica and Sativa and their effects

When you search for cannabis products, you’ll end up looking for Indica or Sativa, or a hybrid of both. Here’s a quick guide to how each strain has its effects and uses.


Indica is meant to be the relaxing strain of cannabis that grows in colder climates. Because of their short and dense growth, they are harvested quicker before the fall. Indica is mostly understood as having a more relaxing “down” effect. Making it an ideal choice if you’re looking to settle down for the day, or as a nightcap.


Sativa is meant to be the energizing strain of cannabis that grows in warm and humid climates. Because of the conditions, it grows longer and flowers or produces buds. Sativa is known for giving you energy and focus in a more “up” effect. Which makes it suitable if you’re looking to be active throughout the day, working on projects or socializing. EU Hempflower Article


Hybrids will mix in both Indica and Sativa strains to give a balance of both effects. Whether it leans to more of an upper or downer or middle of the road, hybrids will vary depending on their contents.

two cannabis plant
cannabis big leaf

Are there any differences between Indica and Sativa?


When talking about the differences between Indica and Sativa, most people tend to talk about the effects of the two types. The truth is there is a lot more going on in cannabis that can just be simplified into two types. Starting with the naming of the plants themselves. 

In 1753 Carl Linnaeus classified all cannabis plants under one group “Cannabis sativa L.”. Later in 1785, the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck updated the naming into two distinct species: “Cannabis sativa,” and “Cannabis indica”. This is due because of their physical structures mentioned previously and possible places of origin. While using Indica and Sativa are common for describing cannabis strains. The reality is that the cannabis industry wants to move away from using Indica, Sativa, and hybrids to classify products. Not to mention using the term “strain” is more related to germs and viruses. CBDA Oregon State Study Article

woman happy


When talking about the effects between Indica and Sativa these different effects will be mentioned for each type: CBD Hash for Sleep: How it Can Help You Get a Good Night’s Rest Article

  • Indicas give you a calm, relaxing effect that’s meant to make you feel relaxed, euphoric, happy, and sleepy. This is why it’s marketing as a relaxing strain.
  • Sativa gives you an upper effect that includes feeling energetic, euphoric, and happy. This is why its marketing is a strain on my active moments and times.

While using the two types for selling makes it easy for customers, it doesn’t accurately describe the effects of each type. You can end up with a Sativa strain that makes you sleepy, or an Indica strain that peps you up. Every person reacts differently, as their body chemistries differ. There is also the fact that cannabis strains can have different chemical profiles, even though they are considered to be in the same strain. So how do you properly find a strain that works for you?

To do that, you’d have to go into detail with the chemical profile of a strain and understand your body chemistry. With the increased information on cannabis and the research being done and published, we are learning more and more about the chemical profiles of cannabis. This is where looking and cannabinoids and terpenes will show the real differences in cannabis strains.

How to tell apart strains in detail

When looking at a strain of cannabis, you’d want to keep an eye on the cannabinoids and terpenes present in a particular strain. These are the main chemicals you’d be looking at when you want to understand what kind of effects a strain can have on you. We’ll give you a quick primer on cannabinoids and terpenes:

  • Cannabinoids are present in cannabis plants and they are chemical compounds that give unique effects. THC and CBD are the most well-known cannabinoids. THC or Delta-9 THC is the compound that gives you a high feeling and helps with pain and nausea. CBD helps with chronic pain and inflammation, anxiety, and other medical issues. A guide to Cannabinoids Article
  • Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that you find in plants and fruit. Think of the scents you get from flowers, fruits, and the like. You’ll also find them in the same glands that you find THC and CBD in cannabis. That’s why cannabis can also carry other scents with it. Common terpenes you’ll see can include Myrcene, Caryophyllene, Limonene, and Terpinolene.

Understanding what the cannabinoids and terpenes are present in a strain of cannabis will help you tell apart strains in detail on their possible effects and potency. You can look at the THC and CBD content of a particular strain first, then check which terpene model would fit your tastes. Although it’s also worth noting that your body chemistry will be a key factor in how potent a strain is. Your tolerance and the dosage in the strain can be the difference between a couple of puffs giving you a full effect, or an entire joint barely kicking in. It’s always best to start low and work up if you aren’t sure.


While Indica and Sativa do have their differences, this is based on an older model that takes into account botany and the estimated general effects. Indica and Sativa strains can give similar effects, and the naming doesn’t specify effects, rather it’s a botanical name. So if you’re looking to properly tell the differences between strains, look at their cannabinoids and terpene profile. This way you will be able to find a cannabis strain that suits your needs and body chemistry. Cannabis Terpenes Article

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