Understanding the Difference Between Indica and Sativa Cannabis Strains

Indica Sativa Strains

If you have been into a dispensary recently, you may have noticed that there are three main types of offerings: Indica, Sativa, and hybrid. Sativa and Indica represent two distinct strains of cannabis and have different intended effects. As the name implies, hybrid plants are a combination of Indica and Sativa strains and provide the effects of each plant. Understanding the difference between the strains can help you make a well-informed decision regarding the formulation that will best meet your unique medical needs.


What Is Sativa?

Sativa Strain LeafThe Plant:

The Sativa plant is tall in stature and features narrow leaves. It has a longer flowering cycle that the Indica strain and is best suited to grow in warm climates.

The Effect of Smoking it:

In general, Sativa strains are said to produce invigorating effects that lend to creativity and social gatherings. Popular wisdom suggests that Sativa strains may be ideal for alleviating conditions like anxiety and depression because of its cerebral benefits.


What Is Indica?

Indica Strain LeafThe Plant:

Indica plants, by contrast, have a short stature and broad leaves. Their flowering season is comparatively shorter, and they are generally hardier, growing in a wider range of conditions.

The Effect of Smoking it:

Smoking Indica flower strains reportedly has sedating effects, so many recommend them as a form of pain relief or for nighttime and general relaxation purposes.

Are There Evidence-Based Chemical Differences Between Sativa and Indica Strains?

KindMedsStoreThere are general differences in the growing conditions of Sativa and Indica, as well as reported different effects. Is there a chemical difference between the two plants that could help support these claims?

Since medical marijuana is still a relatively new phenomenon, its benefits have yet to be fully explored. However, two of the leading researchers of medical cannabis and psychopharmacology say that the differences between the two essentially end at their physical differences and growing conditions.

Ethan Russo, a neurologist who researches the psychopharmacological effects of cannabis, explains that how the plant affects people has nothing to do with the look of the plant – whether the leaves are wide or narrow – the effects are the same.

Jeffrey Raber, a chemist by training who studies commercial cannabis, agrees, saying that there’s no research to suggest such sweeping recommendations. He bluntly states that it should stop immediately.

In essence, the question, “Sativa or Indica?” does not matter. The Sativa and Indica differences extend to physical appearance and growing conditions, but, according to research, not beyond. For example, lab testing of Indica, Sativa, and hybrid strains found that on average (across all selected strains), there is little difference in the ratios of CBD and THC across different plant types. As such, there must be a better method to determine which formulation will best work to meet the needs of a particular patient.

To better serve the needs of consumers looking to treat symptoms of medical conditions, dispensaries would be better served to educate on the chemical makeup of different plants and how those ratios may better provide symptomatic relief.

4 types of cannabis


How Composition of Cannabis Creates Different Effects

Rather than focusing on the “best” strains or side effects, it is more helpful to understand the composition of a particular strain and understand how it may affect you specifically. The cannabis plant is made of up hundreds of different compounds, but some of the most important to determining the effect are:

  • Cannabidiol, or CBD, are compounds within a cannabis plant that are known to reduce inflammation, control pain, and quell feelings of anxiety, among other things.
  • THC. The psychoactive component of cannabis, THC is what provides the “high” effect. It is effective in stimulating appetite, controlling nausea, and relieves pain, and can help reduce symptoms of insomnia.
  • Terpenes. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that are released from the fruit. Those interested in the aromatherapeutic effects of cannabis should be familiar with the main types of terpenes: myrcene, caryophyllene, limonene, and terpinolene. These terpenes work synergistically with CBD and THC to induce energizing and sedating effects, but the exact mechanisms are still being discovered. Some people simply like the bouquet that a certain terpene produces, which may contribute to a sense of tranquility that helps guide the experience.

When deciding on a strain, it’s best to understand if a strain is THC dominant, CBD dominant, or balanced. The exact effect a formulation has will depend on a person’s tolerance, chemical makeup (unique to your endocannabinoid system in the brain), and other factors. In general, however, a dispensary professional may recommend a THC dominant strand for someone seeking relief from chemotherapy treatments.

By contrast, a CBD dominant strain may be preferable for someone who suffers from social anxiety. A balanced strain will deliver the effects in equal measure and may be better suited for medical issues like insomnia or depression. However, it may take some trial and error to determine which strain works best to suit your needs and goals from medical marijuana therapy.


General Guidelines for Choosing the Best Cannabis Strain

Marijuana buds in glass jarsThe professionals who work in medical marijuana dispensaries are highly experienced and knowledgeable, but you want some idea of what you are looking for before you decide to purchase. There are a few questions you can consider when deciding on the right product for you:

  • Do you have experience with cannabis? If you’re trying medical marijuana for the first time, try a low-THC formulation and stick to a low dose.
  • Are you generally susceptible to side effects from other medications? If so, or if you are prone to anxiety, starting with a high CBD strain can help mitigate the risk of any possible side effects.
  • How long do you want the effects to last? In general, inhalation methods or using a tincture leads to shorter term effects. If you want a longer experience, try an edible.

This list is not exhaustive, and the exact effect that a strain of THC, CBD, and terpenes will vary in addition to your own chemical makeup. A professional can help you determine which products are right for you, based on your desired form of wellness and relief. At the same time, understand that each person’s experience is unique, and it may take some experimentation to find the perfect strain and amount.


For Arizona Medical Marijuana Patients

Kind Meds is a Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Mesa, Arizona. We work with our patients to help them each understand their own unique needs and make recommendations for the right strains and products.

Our staff carefully selects each product for our store from well vetted, certified partner brands and local farmers, ensuring your medicine is always the highest quality it can be. Our Budtenders truly care about our patients and want to speak with each one and learn about their needs so we can help them fully experience the unique benefits medical marijuana has to offer.

If you are an Arizona Medical Marijuana cardholder, come by and check out Kind Meds. We’d love to help you find the right strain or other cannabis products for your specific health and wellness needs.