When you read a description of a cannabis seed, it will often mention whether it is an Indica or a Sativa or a hybrid with elements of both. But what does this actually mean and what influence does it play on the effects of the weed? Even if it may seem to many beginners that all marijuana plants look the same, when it comes to growing cannabis, it does matter which type of cannabis you choose.
In principle, there are many other types of cannabis, but Indica and Sativa are the most important two. This article is about all the differences and which type of cannabis is best for which kind of effect.
Effects: Stoned vs High
A general assumption by marijuana enthusiasts and growers is that Indicas have a more physical sedative effect (“stone”) while the high of Sativas is mentally stimulating and creative. But this is only partially true.
New studies on the effects of cannabis indicate that the effect of smoking or taking marijuana depends on many other things, such as the specific content of terpenes of one variety (terpenes are the aromatic components of cannabis) and the proportion and balance of the two cannabinoids THC and CBD.
Most cannabis strains today are crosses of Indica and Sativa. Thanks to such “hybrid strains” there are almost infinite possibilities for marijuana species and therefore also for their effects. For example, a strain can have 30% Indica and 70% Sativa, and combine the best properties of both types.
In practice, this means that such a strain does have the soothing physical “stone” of an Indica, for example, but also with the stimulating head high of a Sativa. And even if we speak of pure cannabis strains, the effect can also vary depending on the strain.
What are the effects of Sativa?
When it comes to the effects, the amount of THC or CBD in the plant is much more crucial than the actual variety and proportion of Sativa/Indica.
THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis that is responsible for the “high”. The other cannabinoid CBD has no psychoactive effect. CBD is useful in the treatment of a wide range of diseases because it only provides soothing properties and does not produce a “high”.
It is also interesting that the two cannabinoids influence each other in their effects. A higher amount of CBD in a cannabis strain counteracts the THC for a milder and more balanced effect.
What are the effects of Indica?
Indica effects are more of a “physical” high, which is very calming and often leads to tiredness. For this reason, Indica varieties are commonly used for pain-relieving purposes or for sleep disorders. It is often claimed that the perception of music, television or even the taste of food is improved. Because of the very body-heavy effect, the effect is very often referred to as stoned. In other words, you feel like a heavy stone that just doesn’t want to move.
The effect of Sativa, in contrast to Indica, is very top-heavy and stimulates thought. It often increases attention and is, therefore, mostly consumed during the day. Powerful Sativa strains with extremely high THC levels can even cause weak hallucinations and have a very trippy effect. It is not without reason that the effect is often called high.
Indica vs Sativa effects for medicinal use
For the medicinal use of cannabis, the first thing to consider is which effect is actually desired. Here some examples:
- Indicas or hybrids that contain relatively little THC are suitable for calming and for stress or sleep disorders.
- An energizing Sativa is probably more suitable for raising the mood in the case of depression or tiredness and general listlessness.
- For chronic pain, tension and other diseases, cannabis strains with a high proportion of CBD (both Sativa or Indica) can help. However, it also depends on the individual effect and the desired effect:
- Some patients prefer varieties without a “high” for self-treatment, i.e. cannabis with low THC.
- Other medical users don’t want to be high without them because it helps them treat their symptoms.
The effects mentioned above of Indica and Sativa are more of a rough starting aid if you want to quickly find a strain with a special effect. Not all pure Indicas (or pure Sativas) have the same effect, and an Indica does not always have sedative properties, and Sativas don’t always induce creative and lively highs.
Although the differences between Sativas and Indicas offer a good rule of thumb, we recommend trying out various strains for yourself to discover which variety is best for you!
Sativa vs Indica chart
Below you see a chart where you can see the differences in a visual way,
Something important to know before your start growing your own weed is that there are differences between Indica en Sativa species besides the effects. We have listed te most important differences below:
Where do the two cannabis species Sativa and Indica come from? One theory is that the climate played a role in the evolutionary development of the two species. Sativas originally grew in humid climates. It is believed that the thinner, long stems and long, narrow leaves of the Sativas allowed better breathing and oxygen uptake in such environments.
In contrast, Indicas originally came from dry, arid areas. Over thousands of years of evolution, this type of cannabis became a rather short and stocky plant, with shorter and thicker leaves so that the plants could store water better.
The common assumption today is that the original Indicas, like the typical short Afghani, grew in higher altitudes where the air was thin and water scarce. The Sativas grew in the valleys below where they protruded from the lush and humid forests.
Where does the division into Sativa and Indica come from?
The first scientific report on the classification of cannabis dates back to 1753. A young scientist, Carl Linnaeus, was the first to give the plants the name cannabis. However, he assumed that there was only one type of marijuana, which he called Cannabis Sativa L. (The “L.” here stands for his name).
Not much later came another scientist and biologist, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who identified another type of cannabis. The plants that he had from India he called Cannabis indica Lam. The third type of cannabis, ruderalis, was identified by a group of Russian botanists much later in the early twentieth century.
Cannabis Indica plants usually don’t grow very tall, in most cases, less than 200cm. The leaves are very broad and basically have a darker green than Cannabis Sativa. The branches are relatively short and have a lot of thick, firm buds that usually ripen around the beginning of September.
Due to the low height, the small stretch and short flowering, Indica plants are perfect for growing cannabis indoors.
Cannabis Sativa can grow incredibly tall. Some varieties even manage up to 7 metres. The plants reach an average height of 3-4 metres. The leaves usually have long and very narrow “fingers” that have a lighter shade of green. The shading of the leaves can give an indication of the environment in which the cannabis plant grew:
- Lighter leaves were usually exposed to too much light
- Darker leaves have probably received too little light
Unlike Indica, Sativa cannabis plants have slightly fewer flowers that can be really huge. Basically, the harvest of Cannabis Sativa is smaller than that of Indica, which is why growers who grow cannabis commercially mostly choose one of the countless Indica strains.
Indica blooms in a relatively short time. The flowering phase usually lasts 6 to 9 weeks. This is why Indica-heavy varieties are particularly suitable if you want to harvest quickly or are late with an outdoor grow and the plant only releases in May or June.
Sativa strains take a little longer to bloom. It usually takes 9 to 12 weeks for a Sativa plant to complete its flowering phase. The growth phase is a little shorter than that of the Indica plant. In the flowering period, the Sativa typically grows 2 to 3 times as high (200-300 percent stretch).
As soon as a cannabis plant blooms, it does not stop growing upwards. Depending on the variety and genetics, the plant increases in size by 1 to 5 times until it is ready for harvest. This is called stretch.
Indica plants do not rise so much in the flowering phase – you can expect a 50 to 100 percent increase in height. Pure Indicas or Indica-dominant strains are therefore very suitable for small grow boxes.
Most 40x40cm grow boxes are only 120 cm high and offer just enough space for Indica varieties. With 30x30cm grow tents, you are even more restricted – there they are only 60cm high.