What is the difference between sativa vs indica?

Key Takeaway

"Sativa" and "indica" are often used to describe the subjective effects of cannabis as "uplifting" and "relaxing", respectively. In reality, cannabis can affect individuals very differently, making the experience highly personalized. While the sativa/indica framework is useful in budtender conversations, it is a relatively unscientific way to categorize cannabis.

What is the difference between sativa vs. indica? (and why it doesn't matter)

Cannabis products are often marketed and categorized into three main groups: indica, sativa, and hybrid. Initially the terms "indica" and "sativa" were used to distinguish between cannabis that grew in tropical zones (sativa) and cannabis that grew in colder, higher areas (indica). Today, these terms are often used by retailers and consumers to describe the general effects of a product.

When it comes to distinguishing between indica and sativa, physical characteristics of the plant are often used as a key factor. Indica plants are shorter and bushier with wider leaves, while sativas are taller with narrower leaves due to their natural adaptations to their environments.

While physical characteristics do not reliably indicate a strain's effects or potency, they can help consumers identify their preferences based on personal experience.

Although sativa strains are often associated with a more uplifting experience, and indica strains with relaxation, it's important to note that these classifications are not necessarily rooted in scientific evidence. The effects of cannabis are highly individualized, extending beyond the simple “this or that” often used when discussing cannabis effects — such as body or mind high.

Traditionally, these effects were attributed to whether the strain was considered an indica, sativa or hybrid. However, these effects actually vary based on each plant's chemical makeup of cannabinoid and terpene levels. Consumers may respond differently to the same strain as a result of personal chemistry.

The effects of cannabis strains are shaped much more by the unique combination of cannabinoids and terpenes present in each plant than whether or not it's labeled indica or sativa.

While understanding the chemical makeup of a strain is important, it is also necessary to consider that personal biology can impact the response. Two people may have completely different experiences smoking the same strain due to their individual chemistry.

As research continues, it will be essential to explore the interplay between cannabinoids, terpenes, and individual biology to develop targeted and effective cannabis experience.

What does indica "feel" like?

While individual experiences may vary, consumers may find that indica strains are generally more sedating and calming than other types of cannabis.
The effects of indica strains are often associated with relaxation or a "body high," making them popular for sleep aids, pain relief, and unwinding after a long day.

What does sativa "feel" like?

Sativa strains are often associated with an energizing, uplifting effect frequently referred to as a "mind high." This strain may enhance alertness and creativity, making it a popular choice for daytime use.

Why do terpenes and cannabinoids matter more than indica, sativa and hybrid strains?

The effects of different cannabis strains can vary widely from person to person and depend on individual factors. As a result, the cannabis industry is moving away from the broad categories of indica and sativa and instead focusing on the unique profiles of terpenes and cannabinoids.

Terpenes determine cannabis' taste and smell, while cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) determine its effects. Together, they create a unique profile for each strain, offering various medicinal and recreational uses.

The combination of these compounds offers a wide range of therapeutic and recreational options for consumers. Understanding the unique properties of each strain can help individuals choose the best option for their needs. As research continues to uncover more about cannabis, it is clear that both terpenes and cannabinoids play a significant role in its overall effects and profile.

The cannabis experience is multidimensional, and its effects vary from product to product. Cannabis plants contain over 100 different cannabinoids and more than 150 terpenes, each of which can influence the effects of the plant in different ways. As the discussion of cannabinoids and terpenes grows, more consumers are shifting their focus to full-spectrum cannabis.

What is full spectrum cannabis?

Full-spectrum cannabis refers to cannabis products that contain a wide range of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds naturally present in the cannabis plant. Full-spectrum cannabis products aim to provide a more comprehensive and holistic experience than products made with isolated compounds.

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