Indica, Sativa, or Does it actually matter?

Welcome back to the Stoner Blog, Wishers.  We hope everyone is having a happy high day.  In this article we will talk about Indica, Sativa, the differences between them, and which one may be right for you.  Because marijuana had been illegal for so long, many of us found our own ways to identify the buds we scooped up as being indica or sativa based on how they look or smell.  My own previous consensus was bigger, darker,  stinkier buds = indica and smaller, lighter, frostier buds = sativa.  Our knowledge was also limited to what our dealer would tell us, and who knows how accurate that information really was.  Chances are, most dealers don’t actually know the grower and sometimes even come up with their own catchy names for the buds they are slinging.  Due to the long history of crossbreeding strains, the reality is that most of the buds that we smoke are hybrids, either indica or sativa dominant.  “So how am I supposed to know what I’m smoking on?”, you may ask.  Here’s a nice little breakdown that may provide some answers.  However, keep in mind that the category (sativa or indica) may not be the best indicator of the effects you will experience.  The two terms are more useful to growers than to consumers.  Some people say sativa is higher in CBD, lower in CBD, higher in THC, lower in THC, but what do we really know?


For many of us who wake and bake and smoke throughout the day, sativa may be the ideal choice.  Sativa plants are taller, skinnier plants, and they are better suited for warm climates with a longer season.  Sativa plants also have longer flowering cycles and produce less flower, or medicine.  They can also grow up to 12 feet tall!  Sativa is widely associated with a “head high”, and tends to provide a more energizing experience.  The major medicinal qualities associated with sativa strains are : anti-depression, treats chronic pain, increases focus and creativity, and increases in serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of learning(study high = score high?), mood, sleep, anxiety, and appetite.  Some of the best ideas are thought of when we’re high.  Could it be a sativa strain? Some of the most popular sativa dominant strains in America are Sour Diesel, Lemon Haze, Green Crack, Strawberry Cough, Jack Herer, and Maui Wowie.  Chances are that most of us, if not all of us, have smoked one of these strains before.  My personal favorite from this list is Strawberry Cough.  Many sativa advocates will say that they enjoy sativa because it helps alleviate anxiety and stress, and improves their focus and creativity.  However, there is also a large chunk of smokers who say sativa actually gives them anxiety.  Is this a placebo effect, or is there really that much of a difference between sativa and indica?  We will get to that later…


And then there is sweet, sweet indica.  From talking about this topic on live shows, it would seem that a majority of you Wishers prefer indica over sativa.  Indica plants are shorter, bushier plants with more broad leaves as opposed to skinny leaves on sativa plants.  Indica plants also have shorter flowering cycles and yield more flower with bigger buds.  They are more suitable for colder climates with a shorter season.  Indica is widely associated with a “body high”, and are believed to be more calming and sedative in nature.  The major medicinal qualities associated with indica strains are : increased mental relaxation, muscle relaxation, helps with nausea, decreases acute pain, increases appetite, and increases dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.  For many of us, when we smoke our indica at night time, it feels like that second cozy blanket that comes over us to make bedtime that much better.  For me, it’s hard to imagine not smoking an indica strain before bed.  Some of the most popular indica dominant strains in America are Blueberry, Northern Lights, Grape Ape, Bubba Kush, Grandaddy Purp (awww yeah), and Blue Cheese.  Once again, the chances are that most of us if not all of us have tried at least one of these strains.  Most indica proponents will say that they enjoy indica because it doesn’t give them the anxiety that sativa strains do.  We like to stick with the body high and the munchies rather than the impending doom that a dab of straight sativa will bring.  But some researchers believe this may all be in our head…which leads us to the question.  Is there really much of a difference in effects between indica and sativa?

Does it Actually Matter?

Our intuition tells us that it does matter.  We swear that we can really feel the difference between a sativa strain and an indica one, but are these differences solely because of the category?  Most researchers will say no, and that it’s a myth.  It was also long believed that indica strains contained more CBD and sativa strains contained more THC.  Studies have shown that sativa and indica strains usually contain, on average, similar levels of THC and CBD.  Researchers say that sativa and indica are not the best indicator of the effects you will feel from a strain.  This means that not all sativas will energize you and not all indicas will sedate you.  Instead, they recommend paying attention to the chemical ingredients that make up a strain to find strains that agree with your body.  The effects of any given strain depend on a number of factors, like your unique biology and tolerance, dose, and consumption method (think edibles, dabs, pipes, or bong rips).  The cannabis plant is composed of numerous chemical compounds that create a harmony of effects, mainly led by cannabinoids.  Cannabinoids we are familiar with, like THC and CBD, are the main drivers of a strain’s effects.  THC is the intoxicating compound that makes us feel high and hungry, and is good for treating symptoms like pain and nausea.  However, THC is also associated with anxiety.  CBD is the non-intoxicating compound known to help with anxiety, pain, inflammation, and numerous other medical conditions.  So, before you look for a strain based on sativa or indica, try considering the THC:CBD ratios.  If you notice that a strain makes you feel more anxious than others, it’s probably because it has a higher THC:CBD ratio.  For many of us, we’ve always believed we wanted buds with the highest THC level.  But if the purpose of smoking weed is the euphoric feeling and other medical benefits, then maybe that’s not the best gauge of what strain is ideal for us. To find the right strain for you, it would be good to start with a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio strain, and then taper it on the higher or lower end of THC content.  

Moral of the story -- You’ll be able to better estimate the effects of a strain when you pay attention to the cannabinoid and terpene content.   Next time you find yourself in a dispensary, think outside the sativa-indica box.  Let’s say you are prone to anxiety.  If you tell the budtender that you avoid sativas because of anxiety, they may very well still grab you a high THC, low CBD indica simply because it’s not a sativa.  However, a sativa strain with low levels of THC and high levels of CBD may actually be a better fit for you.  Finding the right strain will be a series of trial and error, and it is much more complicated than sativa vs. indica.  Some say that terpenes can tell more about the effects a strain will produce, and we can talk about terpenes in a later article.  Some of us are happy to sit down with any strain, and that’s perfectly ok, but cannabis is a personal experience and how we choose the strains we smoke is also personal.  Don’t be afraid to mix it up and try new strains.  Choosing the right strain is paramount to having a good experience, and feeling good is what smoking weed is all about!

Much love, 

Stoner Wishlist Team

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