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Indicas and Sativas...Oh My! What's the Difference?

  March 23, 2019
  • https://sensiseeds.com/en/info/faq/difference-between-indica-and-sativa/

Chances are, when you walk into a dispensary and talk to a patient care specialist, the first question you will be asked is “Are you looking for an Indica or a Sativa?” Interestingly, however, the majority of cannabis strains available today are hybrids; a combination of the two varieties. Thus, rather than focusing on which variety you prefer, the real question should be “What effect are you looking for?”


  • The leaves on these plants are short and bushy with broad and tightly serrated leaves.
  • Typically sedating and relaxing properties and recommended for night time use. Its effect are often described as a “body high.”
  • Its uses include pain relief, appetite stimulant, nausea suppressant, stress and anxiety relief and especially as a sleep aid.
  • The “Munchies” and “Couchlock” are often times associated with Indica dominant varieties.


  • The fan leaves on these plants are tall and slender, with long, narrow leaves and fine-toothed at the edges.
  • Typically described as invigorating, uplifting and euphoric and is recommended for day time use. Its effect is described as more of a “cerebral high.”
  • Known to help with focus, alertness, increased energy, creativity and in other cases, depression.

The characterizations of these two varieties describe their generic extremes. For that reason, the majority of cannabis strains produced today are a combination of Indica and Sativa species which actually result in a wide range of possible effects determined by a number of factors including climate, nutrients, maintenance and more. Through the breeding process, cultivators are able to conserve the best aspects of the two varieties to produce the most beneficial strains for the majority of consumers. Consumers, on the other hand, frequently seek particular varieties to find strains containing the profile most beneficial for their specific use and purpose. A typical profile consists of hundreds of different terpenes and cannabinoids that create an endless amount of possible combinations.

Two prominent cannabis researchers, Dr. Jeffrey Raber, a chemist with the University of Southern California and scientific director of Bellevue’s WERC Shop cannabis lab, and neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, Dr. Ethan Russo believe that patient care specialists are doing a disservice to their patients by choosing strains based on the Indica/Sativa parameters. Further conversations from consumers confirm needing better ways to identify optimal products in order to avoid an expensive trial and error process.

According to Dr. Russo, “The clinical effects of the cannabis chemovar, [the chemical composition based on its growing conditions] have nothing to do with whether the plant is tall and sparse vs short and bushy, or whether the leaflets are narrow or broad.”

Dr. Raber agreed, “What we need to seek to understand better is which standardized cannabis composition is causing which effects, when delivered in which fashions, at which specific dosages, to which types of [consumers].”

Which terminology should patients use to get the best strains for their conditions?

Here is what the two experts are suggesting:

THC-dominants are most beneficial for those who enjoy the psychotropic effects. They are most effective in treating insomnia, pain, anxiety, depression and much more.

CBD-dominants are recommended for those who do not like the psychotropic effects of THC. Those who need to be clear-headed and focused while managing their symptoms will do best with these strains.

Balanced THC-CBD strains will appeal to those who can tolerate minor psychotropic effects while controlling their symptoms.

Please be aware that there is always trial and error in finding the best strains for each individual! And most importantly, when consuming, start low and take your time!




Author Bio

The National Association of Cannabis Businesses is the first and only self-regulatory organization (SRO) in U.S. cannabis. Our members function as a self-governing community, focused on differentiating themselves to regulators, the public and others as the most legitimate, professional and trustworthy businesses in the industry.