Smoke Smart! Here’s the Difference Between Indica and Sativa Cannabis

difference between indica and sativa

Did you know that there are over 779 recognized strains of cannabis?

If you are purchasing cannabis, you have likely been faced with an array of strains and hybrids to choose from. For a new consumer, this can be quite confusing!

Fortunately, there is a simple way that you can distinguish between different strains, and be able to gauge to some extent what their effects and uses are.

To do this, the first thing you will need to know is the difference between indica and sativa strains. A combination of these two traditional strains makes up the majority of hybrid strains available today.

By knowing what the difference is between these two sets of genetics you will be better able to understand the hybridized strains that are on offer.

This is turn will make it easier for you to pick the right strains for your needs.

If you want to know what the differences are between indica and sativa, read on.

How the Plants and Buds Differ in Looks

Although cannabis sativa and cannabis indica are both marijuana plants, the pure varieties of these strains can look quite different from one another.


Sativa plants generally grow taller and lankier than indica varieties. Their leaves are also thinner and they often sport a lighter green colour than their chunkier indica counterparts.

The bud formation tends to be looser.


Indica plants, on the other hand, tend to be shorter and have broader and fatter looking leaves that are generally dark green. Their bud formation is tight and nugget-like.

The Effects: Sativa vs Indica Cannabis

For a long time, the cannabis community has determined the potential effects of strains based on whether they are sativa or indica dominant. The reason for this is that the effects of either a pure indica or a pure sativa, are quite different.

Sativa Effects

Sativa strains have a reputation for producing what is known as a cerebral high. A cerebral high is characterized by feelings of mental stimulation. These can include increased creativity, inspired thoughts, new perspectives on subjects and a feeling of euphoria.

At the same time, sativa strains can also elevate one’s energy levels.

This mix of mental stimulation and increased energy makes sativa strains ideal for certain things. Such as creative endeavours, parties, or even house cleaning.

On the flip side, because sativas have a stimulating effect on the mind, they can bring on feelings of anxiety and paranoia in some people.

Indica Effects

Indica dominant strains are known for having very opposite effects to that of sativa strains. While sativas make you want to get up off the couch and get carried away with something, indica strains often induce what is known as a body high. And the couch—is a perfect place to have a body high.

A body high is characterized by deep relaxation in the body and more gentle cerebral effects. This makes indica dominated strains perfect for times when you need to unwind and release tension.

For example, an indica might be the ideal strain to select on an evening after work when you just need to chill out and release the stress of the day.

Indica varieties are also widely used for managing insomnia.

Not All ‘Indica’ or ‘Sativa’ Strains Will Have These Effects

Although you can use the indica vs sativa traits as a guideline when selecting cannabis strains, this is a very rough rule of thumb.

Thanks to high levels of hybridization, you can’t assume that a strain will definitely have mostly sativa traits because it is sativa dominated, and vice versa with indica.

Science has revealed that differentiating strains based on whether they are indica/sativa is not an exact method. Thanks to this there is a growing awareness that using this rule of thumb for determining the potential effects of a strain is fraught with room for error.

The reason for this is that no matter what the plant looks like, each strain of cannabis has a unique combination of cannabinoids (such as CBD, THC, and THCA) as well as terpenes. These interact together to produce specific effects. Our bodies also react in different ways to certain compounds, which adds further room for error.

So, don’t be too surprised if you try an ‘indica’ strain only to find that it produces an energetic high that is a little trippy.

At the same time, until budtenders hand you a complete taxonomical report to peruse for each strain, using the indica/sativa distinction is a pretty useful way of selecting new buds to try. Being able to crudely gauge the high that a variety might produce is a nice way to explore new strains.

Determining Which Strain Is Best for You

Okay, so sativa strains and indica strains have different effects (although you can’t always rely on this method of determining a strain’s high). So at the end of the day what is the right strain for me?

Well, that will ultimately depend on you and what you need. Many people like to have a few different strains on hand, with often a sativa slanted strain for daytime consumption, and an indica based strain for nighttime relaxation.

However, in some cases, either spectrum of effects might not be for you. If you are prone to weed induced anxiety, then sativa dominant strains are definitely something to stay away from.

On the other hand, if you suffer from high levels of fatigue, and would love a brain boost, then a sativa might be perfect.

Ultimately, you will have to try out different strains and see what works for your body and your particular needs.

On a side note, if you are wondering what strains to use to combat anxiety, check out our guide on the best strains for anxiety!

Now You Know the Difference Between Indica and Sativa

When purchasing cannabis, most budtenders will ask you if you are looking for a sativa dominated strain, or an indica dominated strain. Once you know what the traits of these two ancient gene lines of cannabis are, you will be able to make an informed choice.

Now that you are clued up on the difference between indica and sativa strains, go and check our extensive strain collection!

Leave a Reply