The two major types of marijuana plants are Indica and Sativa. Each hybrid bud has its own range of effects on the body and mind resulting in a wide range of medicinal benefits. Indica strains generally provide a sense of deep body relaxation. Sativa strains tend to provide a more energizing experience. In this article, we’ll discuss information about sativa vs indica.
Medicinal marijuana can be used to treat a wide variety of common conditions. Generally, medicinal cannabis results in the user having a sense of greater physical and mental relaxation, pain reduction, increased appetite, and better sleep. However, there are two main varieties of medicinal cannabis plants, and each offers a different set of benefits. Understanding the difference between the two is important in find the right strain for each patient. Cannabis is a species of flowering herb that is split into three subspecies: Indica, sativa, and ruderalis. Ruderalis plants are small and yield relatively little medicine; what they do provide lacks potency and is generally not appealing to patients. Because of this, ruderalis strains are typically avoided by breeders and cultivators; the focus of the medical cannabis community is on indica and sativa strains. With more than 1,000 strains of cannabis having been bred during the past several decades, it is critical that patients are aware of the different types of efficacy available to them in terms of cannabis medicine. Some varieties of cannabis are most appropriate for particular diseases and ailments, but not others. Choosing the right strain is critical to ensuring that patients receive the best therapy possible.
Indica and sativa plants differ not only in their physiological effects but also in their appearance. Indica plants are short and stocky, featuring leaves that are broad and “chunky.” Sativa plants tend to be taller and skinnier and may even be lanky in appearance, with leaves that are thin and pointed.
Sativa vs. Indica
Indica plants are typically short, bushy plants with wide leaves. Indica plants typically grow faster and have a higher yield than the sativa variety. Medicine produced from cannabis Indica plants have higher CBD and lower THC counts.
The major qualities of Indica medicinal strains include:
- increased mental relaxation
- muscle relaxation
- decreases nausea
- decreases acute pain
- increases appetite
- increases dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers)
- for night time use
Cannabis Sativa plants are opposite of the Indica strains and grow tall and thin with narrow leaves. Sativa plants are also generally a lighter shade of green than their counterpart, the Indica strain. Sativa strains take longer to grow, mature and require more light. Medicine produced from cannabis Sativa plants have lower CBD and higher THC counts.
The major qualities of Sativa medicinal strains include:
- treats chronic pain
- increases focus and creativity
- increases serotonin (a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of learning, mood, sleep, anxiety, and appetite) for daytime use
The most important difference between these two subspecies of cannabis, however, is in their medical effects and how they influence energy levels and productivity. Indicas tend to decrease energy and are better for consumption in the evening or at night, after the conclusion of the day’s work and activities. Potent indica strains may give some patients what is called “couchlock,” a condition in which they become so relaxed that they care barely get up from the sofa.
Sativas, on the other hand, are uplifting and cerebral, enhancing creativity and productivity. Indicas provide what has been called a “body high,” while sativas deliver more of a “mind high.” Unfortunately, sativa plants require longer to grow and yield less medicine (flowers) than indica varieties. This is why indica strains have traditionally dominated those available on the black market, where there is no concern for patient need and the sole focus is profit.
The fact that patients are given no choice of subspecies or strain when purchasing from the black market is a major reason it should be avoided. Patients should never trust or consume cannabis medicine without knowing its exact strain and that it was properly grown, dried, cured, and laboratory tested for purity and potential contamination.
Modern cultivators of medical cannabis purposefully breed and grow a wide spectrum of strains within both the indica and sativa categories for the purpose of making available the right medicine for a particular patient’s unique combination of disease, preference, and lifestyle. Often, patients must maintain jobs or family responsibilities that demand a particular energy level and can’t tolerate the sedative properties of many indicas. Other times, patients must seek the most potent non-opiate painkiller possible. Given the choice of chronic pain or the mellowing effects of a strong indica of a particular strain known for its medical benefits, most patients will choose the latter.
Because cultivators and dispensaries are sensitive to the subjective efficacy of particular strains for different patients, they grow and make available as many strains as possible for targeted ailments. Major conditions of focus include HIV/AIDS, cancer, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, Parkinson’s, all types of arthritis, and epilepsy, among many others.
In terms of particular ailments, sativa strains tend to be better for psychological disorders like depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Indicas are often the best for pain and inflammation and, thus, are beneficial for patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and cancer. However, because so many diseases are accompanied by side effects like depression and insomnia, a patient must consider treating both their core disease and also its daily symptoms. In the end, each patient will favor multiple strains that will likely fall within the categories of sativa, hybrid, and indica.
When it comes to aroma, indica strains tend to emit musty, earthy, and skunky odors, while sativas smell sweet, fruity, or spicy. This difference in the aroma is the result of terpenes, the molecules within the plant that are cousins to cannabinoids like THC and CBD. While these chemicals provide sometimes stunningly pungent odors, their greatest benefit to patients is actually their medicinal efficacy.
Hybrids are simply new and unique strains that are bred from parents of different types. A hybrid theoretically possesses many or most of the beneficial medical properties of both its parents. Breeders can “cross” any two strains they desire in an effort to create a new strain that delivers the best possible medical efficacy, sometimes for particular diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and epilepsy.
It should be noted that any two strains can be mixed to create a hybrid. While indica/sativa mixes are common and often noted for their “alert mellowness” and productivity, medical cannabis breeders can also mix indicas with other indicas or use two sativas as parents.
With so many hybrid strains available to patients, many are a compromise that possesses the ability to kill pain and fight inflammation while not putting a patient to sleep in the middle of the day. Patients who must medicate in the morning or mid-day, typically for nausea and pain, often prefer a sativa-dominant hybrid but will switch to an indica-dom strain in the evenings and for maximum pain relief.
Hybrid strains that display more indica than sativa traits are labeled “indica-dom,” while those that lean toward sativa are similarly dubbed “sativa-dom.” Often, a hybrid bud labeled with a sativa/indica ratio, like a 60/40 sativa/indica. Other times a strain will indicate only a percentage, such as “70 percent indica” or “80 percent sativa”. According to Robert Bergman, it is a good idea to gain some basic knowledge of the variations and the differences between the sativa vs. Indica. He said, “You’ll also want to understand the reasons why you’d want to separate them.”