For new patients, one of the first decisions you are faced with is what strain to smoke. With literally thousands of different strains out there this can be an overwhelming decision! Ultimately, it takes a little experience earned through trial and error to figure out which strain is right for you, but to help you get started we’re going to break down the two main species of cannabis and how they differ in effects. Knowing the difference between indicas and sativas will give you a starting point when you head into the dispensary.

The Basics: Indica vs Sativa

Characteristics of Indica
The first major species of cannabis that we will be covering is Cannabis indica. Indica was first discovered by western science in 1785 by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and got its name because the specimen came from India. Aptly named, this species originates in the Indian subcontinent, specifically in the northern regions that cover the Kush mountains. Kush may sound familiar because it lends its name to many popular Indica strains like Purple Kush and the world famous hybrid, OG Kush.
Due to the cold, severe winters and hot summers of this region, indica plants tend to be hardy and able to withstand harsher environments. Indica plants tend to have a more bush like appearance with their broader leaves, denser branches and shorter height. The average height of an indica plant ranges between three and six feet. This smaller, space saving stature makes them a favorite for indoor grows. Indicas also tend to flower early, usually within eight to nine weeks.

When smoked indica strains tend to have more of a body buzz that has a relaxing and calming effect that can be sedative in some users. Because of that, indica strains are prime for nighttime use and treating insomnia. One reason for that may be that indica species contain higher concentrations of the terpene myrcene which along with giving strains a strong, earthy aroma is known to enhance the effects of THC. In fact, Steep Hill Labs found that strains with a myrcene concentration of .05 and above were all indicas. Indica strains are the perfect choice for those looking for pain relief, relaxation or a good night’s sleep.

Characteristics of Sativa
The second species that we’ll be covering is Cannabis sativa. Where indica is short, dense and stubby, sativa tends to be tall and treelike with longer, thinner leaves and branches that are less dense than indica. Sativas thrive in warmer climates like Central America and Southeast Asia where they grow to an average height ranging between eight and twelve feet although they can grow to an astonishing eighteen feet under the right circumstances. Due to their height, sativas are favored for outdoor grows and flower usually flower within twelve to fourteen weeks.

Sativas differ from indicas not only in their physical stature and growth patterns but also in how they affect the mind. Sativas are famous for their energizing head highs and potent cerebral effects. Most favor sativas for daytime use because of this quality and use it give their day a euphoric lift or to spark creativity. In addition, sativas tend to have an overall lighter aroma reminiscent of various fruits.

The Basics: Indica vs Sativa

Hybrid Strains
By crossing indicas with sativas, we get hybrid strains of cannabis. Through hybridization many potent and popular strains like Blue Dream have came into being. Hybrids can have a mixture of effects from either their sativa or indica parents depending on how they have been bred. This is why some hybrids are more like a relaxing indica than an energizing sativa. Hybrids open up endless possibilities for breeders, for example, the creation of hybrid strains that lean sativa in their effects while having a shorter, indica like stature that makes them more suitable for indoor grows.

Knowing the Difference
Now you know the basic differences between a sativa and an indica and will have a general idea of what to expect from these two species of cannabis. If you start to get the two mixed up an easy way to remember the difference is indica is for indoor and insomnia while sativa is for sunshine and daytime! However, that is a generalization and it would still be in your best interest to ask your budtender for a recommendation based on your intended use!