Sativa vs Indica: Understanding the Differences Between Cannabis Types and Strains

Sativa vs Indica

Sativa and Indica are two different types of cannabis plants that have distinct physical and chemical characteristics, as well as effects on the body and mind when consumed.

Sativa strains are generally associated with an uplifting and energizing effect on the body and mind, with a higher concentration of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects. strains are often used during the day, as they can provide a boost of creativity, focus, and motivation.

Indica strains, on the other hand, are associated with a more relaxing and sedative effect on the body and mind, with a higher concentration of CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive compound that can have therapeutic effects such as pain relief and anxiety reduction. Indica strains are often used at night or before bed, as they can promote relaxation and help with sleep.

It’s important to note that there are many hybrid strains of cannabis that combine both Sativa and Indica genetics, and the effects of each strain can vary depending on the individual’s tolerance, consumption method, and other factors. Additionally, the effects of cannabis can vary greatly from person to person, so it’s important to start with a low dose and gradually increase as needed while being aware of potential side effects.

The two main types of cannabis, Sativa and Indica, are used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Sativa has an energizing effect primarily, while indica relaxes you and can help you sleep.

Things to consider, Sativa vs Indica

Sativas are known for their “head high,” a refreshing effect that can help reduce anxiety or stress and increase creativity and focus. Indicas are typically associated with full-body effects, such as increasing deep relaxation and relieving insomnia.

Although research examining these effects is limited, these plants have more in common than previously thought.

Many in the cannabis industry have moved away from the terms Indica, Sativa, and hybrid and started classifying the different “strains” or, more correctly, “chemovars” as:

  • Type I: High THC
  • Type II: THC/CBD combined
  • Type III: High CBD

More and more, the cannabis industry is moving away from the term “strains” and using chemovars (chemical varieties) instead since the word “strain” is often used to refer to bacteria and viruses.

In other words, the category or type of cannabis may not be the most significant indicator of the effects you’ll experience.

Here’s how to find the right plant for your needs, strains to consider, potential side effects, and more.

Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid

While shopping for cannabis online or in a dispensary, you probably encountered these strain group names: Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid. Even at Rise Dispensaries, if you go ahead and check our dispensary menu, you’ll see that our products can be filtered according to these criteria.

Regardless if you’re new to marijuana or are an experienced cannabis user, you surely want to know the difference between Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid strains.

Unfortunately, these terms can often be misunderstood and misused in the cannabis community. We’re here to make sure you know exactly what they mean and how this can help you navigate the variety of products your local dispensary offers. But don’t worry if you’re still confused; our friendly staff is always ready to help you understand which cannabis strain you might want to buy Sativa, Indica, or Hybrid.

Interesting to know

  • People commonly refer to sativa-dominant hybrid strains as Sativa vs Indica and to indica-dominant hybrid strains as indicated.
  • Sativa plants offer lower yields than India.
  • Indica leaves are broad, and sativa leaves are thin.
  • Indica plants are short, and sativas can reach over 10 feet.
  • The effects of cannabis depend on a combination of factors, including plant compound profile, human body specifics, etc., rather than the strain being an indica or sativa.

With no shortage of cannabis varieties, it’s common to have questions about which strains suit you.

The good news: with a bit of strain schooling, a few pro tips from our RISE patient care specialists, and some experimentation, you’ll soon be on the path to finding something you love.

When you visit a local dispensary, you’ll probably notice that cannabis strains are typically grouped into three categories:

  • Sativa
  • Indica
  • Hybrid

So, what are the critical differences between indica and sativa? What about a hybrid? And what does this all mean for you?

Additionally, you might’ve heard conflicting opinions about the effects of indica versus sativa. In this guide, we’ll distinguish between strain facts and stereotypes. We’ll also navigate the myths and truths regarding the effects of Sativa vs Indica and help you discover which pressure could be your perfect match with a convenient chart.

What should you look for to understand strain effects?

The often-applied rule of thumb is that sativas are more refreshing and energizing, while indices are more relaxing and calming — but it isn’t that simple.

Individual plants produce varying effects, even among the same type of cannabis. It all depends on the plant’s chemical composition and the growing technique.

Instead of looking at the type alone sativa or indica look at the description the grower and dispensary provide.

Often, the plant types are broken down into specific chemovars or breeds.

Their individual cannabinoid and terpene content distinguishes chemovars. This “cannabinoid profile” will provide the user with the best information to help them determine which chemovar is best suited for them.

Relying on names does not give the user the necessary information to pick the correct profile. These compounds are what determine the chemovar’s overall effects.

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Cannabis plants contain dozens of chemical compounds called cannabinoids.

These naturally occurring components are responsible for producing many of the effects — both negative and positive — of cannabis use.

Researchers still don’t understand what cannabinoids do, but they have identified two main ones — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — as well as several less common compounds.

These include:

  • THC. THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. It’s responsible for the “high” or the euphoria of cannabis use. Levels of THC have been increasing as growers try to create hybrids with a greater concentration of the compound.
  • CBD. CBD is non-impairing or non-euphoric. It doesn’t cause a “high.” However, it may produce many physical benefits, such as reducing pain and nausea, preventing seizures, and easing migraine.
  • CBN. Cannabinol (CBN) relieves symptoms and side effects of neurological conditions, including epilepsy, seizures, and uncontrollable muscle stiffness.
  • THCA. Tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) is similar to THC but has no psychoactive effects. Its potential benefits include reducing inflammation caused by arthritis and autoimmune diseases. It may also help reduce symptoms of neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and ALS.
  • CBG. Cannabigerol (CBG) is thought to help reduce anxiety and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.


Much attention is paid to the amount of THC and CBD in a given strain, but newer research suggests that terpenes may be just as impactful.

Terpenes are another naturally occurring compound in the cannabis plant.

The terpenes present directly affect the plant’s smell. They may also influence the effects that specific strains produce.

According to Leafly, common terpenes include:

  • Bisabolol: With chamomile and tea tree oil notes, the terpene bisabolol is thought to help reduce inflammation and irritation. It may also have microbial and pain-reducing effects.
  • Caryophyllene: The peppery, spicy molecule may help reduce anxiety, ease symptoms of depression, and improve ulcers.
  • Linalool: Linalool is said to help improve relaxation and boost mood with its floral notes.
  • Myrcene: The most common terpene, this earthy, herbal molecule, may help reduce anxiety and insomnia so you can sleep better.
  • Ocimene: This terpene produces notes of basil, mango, and parsley. Its immediate effects may include easing congestion and warding off viruses and bacteria.
  • Pinene: As the name suggests, this terpene produces an intense pine aroma. It may help boost memory, reduce pain, and ease some of the not-so-pleasant symptoms of THC, such as nausea and coordination problems.
  • Terpinolene: Cannabis with this compound may smell like apples, cumin, and conifers. It may have soothing, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
  • Limonene: Bright, zippy citrus notes come from this terpene. It’s said to improve mood and reduce stress.
  • Humulene. This terpene is profoundly earthy and woody, like hops or cloves. Cannabis strains with this molecule may help reduce inflammation.
  • Eucalyptol: This molecule is refreshing and invigorating with notes of eucalyptus and tea tree oil. It may also help reduce inflammation and fight bacteria.

Sativa in-depth, Sativa vs Indica

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  • Origin: Cannabis Sativa vs Indica is found primarily in hot, dry climates with long sunny days. These include Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia, and Western Asia.
  • Plant description: Sativa plants are tall and thin with finger-like leaves. They can grow taller than 12 feet and take longer to mature than some other types of cannabis.
  • Typical CBD to THC ratio: Sativa often has lower doses of CBD and higher amounts of THC.
  • Commonly associated effects of use: Sativa often produces a “mind high” or an energizing, anxiety-reducing effect. Using sativa-dominant strains may make you feel productive, creative, relaxed, and active.
  • Daytime or nighttime use: You can use sativa during the day because of its stimulating impact.
  • Popular strains: Three popular sativa strains are Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, and Durban Poison.

Indica in-depth

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  • Origin: Cannabis indica is native to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Turkey. The plants have adapted to the Hindu Kush mountains’ often harsh, dry, and turbulent climate.
  • Plant description: Indica plants are short and stocky with bushy greenery and chunky leaves that grow wide and broad. They grow faster than sativa, and each plant produces more buds.
  • Typical CBD to THC ratio: Indica strains often have higher levels of CBD, but the THC content isn’t necessarily less.
  • Commonly associated effects of use: Indica has been sought for its intensely relaxing effects. It may also help reduce nausea and pain and increase appetite.
  • Daytime or nighttime use: Because of its profound relaxation effects, indica is better consumed at night.
  • Popular strains: Indica strains include Hindu Kush, Afghan Kush, and Granddaddy Purple.

Hybrid in-depth

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Each year, cannabis growers produce new and unique strains from different combinations of parent plants. These cannabis hybrids are often grown to target specific effects.

  • Origin: Hybrids are typically grown on farms or greenhouses from a combination of Sativa vs Indica and Indica strains.
  • Plant description: The appearance of hybrid strains depends on the combination of the parent plants.
  • Typical CBD to THC ratio: Many hybrid cannabis plants are grown to increase the THC percentage, but each type has a unique balance of the two cannabinoids.
  • Commonly associated effects of use: Farmers and producers select hybrids for their unique impacts. They can range from reducing anxiety and stress to easing symptoms of chemotherapy or radiation.
  • Daytime or nighttime use: This depends on the predominant effects of the hybrid.
  • Popular strains: Hybrids are typically classified as indica-dominant (or indica-dom), Sativa-dominant (sativa-dom), or balanced. Popular hybrids include Pineapple Express, Trainwreck, and Blue Dream.

Ruderalis in-depth

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A third type of cannabis, Cannabis ruderalis, also exists. However, it isn’t widely used because it usually produces no potent effects.

  • Origin: Ruderalis plants adapt to extreme environments, such as Eastern Europe, the Himalayan regions of India, Siberia, and Russia. These plants increase, ideal for these places’ cold, low-sunlight environments.
  • Plant description: These small, bushy plants rarely grow taller than 12 inches but proliferate. One can go from seed to harvest in little more than a month.
  • Typical CBD to THC ratio: This strain typically has little THC and higher amounts of CBD, but it may not be enough to produce any effects.
  • Commonly associated products of use: Because of its low potency, ruderalis isn’t routinely used for medicinal or recreational purposes.
  • Daytime or nighttime use: This cannabis plant produces few effects and can be used anytime.
  • Popular strains: On its own, ruderalis isn’t a popular cannabis option. However, cannabis farmers may breed ruderalis with other cannabis types, including sativa and India. The plant’s rapid growth cycle is a positive attribute for producers, so they may want to combine more potent strains with ruderalis strains to create a more desirable product.

Potential side effects and risks

Although cannabis use is often associated with potential benefits, it can also produce unwanted side effects.

This includes:

  • dry mouth
  • dry eyes
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • lethargy
  • increased heart rate
  • decreased blood pressure

Most of these effects are associated with THC, not CBD or other cannabinoids. However, any cannabis product can produce side effects.

The method of use may increase your risk for side effects, too.

For example, smoking or vaping cannabis can irritate your lungs and airways. This may lead to coughing and respiratory problems.

Oral cannabis preparations, such as gummies or cookies, are less likely to affect your respiratory health.

However, though the effects are felt more slowly, ingested cannabis, primarily THC, is more potent as it converts to 11-hydroxy-THC, which produces more substantial psychoactive effects that can last for hours and, in some people, days.

Strains to consider for certain conditions

Strain Category CBD THC Conditions

Acapulco Gold Sativa 0.1% 15–23% Fatigue, stress, nausea, pain

Blue Dream Hybrid <1% 30% Pain, cramps, inflammation, insomnia, mental fog, PTSD

Purple Kush Indica <1% 17–22% Chronic pain, muscle spasms, insomnia

Sour Diesel Sativa <1% 20–22% Fatigue, stress, acute pain, mental fog, anxiety, PTSD

Bubba Kush Indica <1% 14–25% Insomnia, acute pain, nausea, low appetite, PTSD

Granddaddy Purple Indica <0.1% 17–23% Low appetite, restless leg syndrome, insomnia

Afghan Kush Indica 6% 16–21% Acute pain, insomnia, low appetite

LA Confidential Indica 0.3% 16–20% Inflammation, pain, stress

Maui Waui Sativa 0.55% 13–19% Fatigue, depression

Golden Goat Hybrid 1% 23% Depression, anxiety, mental fog, low energy

Northern Lights Indica 0.1% 16% Pain, mood disorders, insomnia, low appetite

White Widow Hybrid <1% 12–20% Low mood, mental fog, social anxiety

Super Silver Haze Sativa <0.1% 16% Stress, anxiety, mental fog, low energy

Pineapple Express Hybrid <0.1% 23% Mental fog, acute pain, social anxiety

Supernatural Sativa <1% 22% Migraine, glaucoma, headaches, low moods

Remember that the potency of cannabinoids and terpenes will vary among growers, and while certain strains may be helpful for certain conditions, your own experience may go.

How to choose the right product for you

When you’re looking for the right cannabis product for you, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Know what you’re trying to achieve. How you feel or will help you narrow your options. Talk with the dispensary employee about your goals for cannabis use, whether that’s treating insomnia, reducing anxiety, or increasing energy.
  • Understand your tolerance. Some strains, such as Pineapple Express, are considered “entry level.” Their effects are typically mild and tolerable. Strains with higher levels of cannabinoids may be too potent for a first-time user.
  • Consider your medical history. While cannabis is a natural product, it can cause intense effects. Before you try cannabis, you need to consider possible interactions with existing medical conditions and medications. Ask a doctor or other healthcare professional about your benefits and potential risks when in doubt.
  • Decide on a desired consumption method. Each technique for consuming cannabis has benefits and drawbacks. If you smoke or vape cannabis, you may feel the effects more quickly, but it can irritate your lungs and airways. Gummies, chewable, and foods may be easier to tolerate, but the results take longer and may be much more potent than inhalation.


Cannabis isn’t legal everywhere. A few years ago, all cannabis products were illegal in most parts of the United States. Today, many states have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational purposes or both.

CBD laws are also evolving. Some states allow it for medicinal purposes but heavily regulate the source to prevent THC-laced CBD products.

Before you attempt to purchase or use cannabis, you should know the laws of your state.

Keep in mind that cannabis is still illegal under federal law. You could face legal consequences if you don’t know the rules where you are.

Living outside the United States may be subject to different laws.

The bottom line

If you’re curious how cannabis might help you, talk with a doctor, healthcare professional, or knowledgeable cannabis clinician.

They can discuss its potential positive and negative effects on your health and help you find something that suits your needs.

Then, you can begin to explore your options. Finding the right choice for you may take time. You may also find that you don’t tolerate cannabis well.

If you live in a state that has legalized cannabis, you can visit a dispensary and talk with a trained staff member. They can recommend specific strains or other products to suit your individual needs.

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