It is quite common to differentiate Cannabis Indica and Sativa as plants with different properties. Nonetheless, this assumption is not always right and the difference between Indica and Sativa are sometimes not well understood. For instance, we tend to classify Cannabis Indica as a cannabis variety with higher CBD:THC ratio and hence more suitable to reduce anxiety. On other hand, cannabis sativa is generally considered a plant with higher THC:CBD ratio and therefore a more psychoactive variety.

It is a matter of dispute if cannabis Sativa and cannabis Indica are separated species. Both are part of the cannabaceae family where we can also find another variety with very low THC levels, the cannabis ruderalis.

According to Antonio Escohotado, renowned for his research on drugs (General History of Drugs), the French naturalist Lamarck, had made the mistake of considering the Asian and Euro-American plants different families. Lamarck called them Cannabis Indica and Sativa, even though the active principle of both is identical.

Is Sativa and Indica the Same? Difference Between Indica and Sativa

There are two species of marijuana, namely Cannabis Indica and Sativa. In the 1700s, Jean Baptiste Lamarck described these two strains of weed. He noted that Indica has a firm stem, is smaller, makes the user happy and enables them to forget their sorrows.  

In modern days, his theory is still widely accepted. People associate indica with relaxation and link sativa to increased energy. In college dorms, weed experts also subscribe to this school of thought particularly those who buy or sell weed. They classify weed into sativa, indica and hybrids. It is common to hear them say that a person who is trying out weed for the first time should use indica and those who get paranoid should avoid sativa.

Scientists do not agree with this simple classification of weed. A Dalhousie University student who specializes in agricultural diversity, Sean Myles, believes that most people misuse labels when they categorize weed. Most scientists agree that sativa and indica are merely marketing jargon. In fact, some sellers have confessed that the labels are only used strongly on the website. However, it is true that different weed offers different experiences.

The different effects of weed are caused by the different chemical combinations in the weed such as CBD, THC, and numerous other cannabinoids. These chemicals developed in cannabis to prevent the plant from being attacked by diseases and insects. This is according to the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute director of research and development, Ethan Russo.

Difference between Cannabis Indica and Sativa

Cannabis Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis
Cannabis Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa leaf
Cannabis Sativa leaf

Sativa and cannabis Indica are slightly different plants. The main difference between Indica and Sativa are anatomic. For instance, cannabis sativa is longer in stature and more suitable for warm climates.

Cannabis sativas usually produce an earthy taste with a hint of fruitiness and sweetness. When a person vapes this cannabis strain, they tend to laugh hysterically with robust energy and they may appear as if they are having manic episodes.

It is best suited to those who desire to socialize with pen vapes or desktop vaporizers because they exude a stronger atmosphere. This is due to the greater THC content found in sativa strain.

In sum, sativa helps boost the immune system, helps improve concentration, increases physical energy level, and stimulates mood. It comes with several benefits including reducing nausea, improving depression, stimulating appetite, energizing the mind and body and acting as an expectorant for coughs.

However, it’s a common misconception to attribute mainly psychoactive properties to cannabis Sativa and sedating ones to Cannabis Indica. As a matter of fact, it depends on the cannabinoids and terpenes and not about the cannabis variety. For instance, there are Sativa plants with low THC and Cannabis Indica plants with high THC and vice versa.

Cannabis Indica

Cannabis Indica leaves

Initially, this variety of weed was grown in countries that produce marijuana, such as Afghanistan and Morocco. Indica are dense and shorter with broad dark green leaves. They mature one and a half to two months. The buds produce a scent that is described as sweet, fruity or a bit pungent. It makes you feel tired, so it is advisable to take a deep breath after consuming it and instead of doing household and office daily routines.

Cannabis Indica is shorter and more suitable for cold climates. As previously mentioned, it’s generally considered “less psychoactive” than Cannabis Sativa. However, this is not completely right, and we should focus on the chemical composition of the plant rather than the plant variety.

The greatest benefit of indica is that it has a medicinal value when one wants to induce a relaxed near sleep-like state and relieve pain. Most patients prefer it when it comes to relieving pain caused by illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cancer and pain sensations in specific parts of the body.

Both cannabis Sativa and Indica have cannabinoids and terpenes. Smoking or vaping cannabis Indica or Sativa will not necessary cause different effects. On the contrary, it’s more important to know about the chemical composition of the product we are about to consume. In other words, when we think about one or the other variety, we should focus on their chemical properties and terpenes. This is a better indicator of its properties and effects.

Vaping Cannabis Indica

Vaping this type of weed is usually recommended only when a person is at home or not engaging in activities. This is because the drug is too strong, especially when it is taken in large quantities. The reason why it has sluggish effects is its high cannabinoid levels and lower THC content than sativa. Therefore, it affects physical receptors more than brain receptors.

Briefly, indica has the following effects; it alleviates depression, minimizes anxiety, relieves pain and causes sedation and relaxation. These effects create benefits such as reducing intra-ocular pressure, relieving headaches, aiding sleep, stimulating appetite, reducing inflammations, reducing seizures in epileptic patients and relieving spasms.

Hybrids

There are also Hybrid cannabis plants. According to Leafly, hybrids generally inherit the shorter flowering time of the Indica variety and the psychoactive properties of Sativa varieties. In other words, hybrid plants have the anatomic characteristics of both cannabis Sativa and cannabis Indica.

Sativa vs Indica: Should we be Guided by Using these Terms?

There is a lot of debate as to whether categorizing weed based on the height of a plant and the size of its leaves is correct. Ethan Russo, a researcher and neurologist who researches on Cannabis Psychopharmacology demonstrates that businesses label sativa and indica incorrectly.  He observes that the clinical effects of cannabis chemovar are not dependent on a plant’s physical appearance. Jeffrey Rabar, a chemist, concurs with this ideology.  He says that weed sellers should not be guiding buyers by using broad terms like sativa and indica. Rather, we should be interested in finding out which cannabis composition causes which effect when consumed, in which method, at which exact dosage and by which type of users.

Therefore, based on their arguments, we can deduce that the effect of any kind of cannabis strain relies on several factors. This includes the content of compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes, the consumption method, dose, and a person’s unique tolerance and biology.

Active Components: Cannabinoids and Terpenes

There are many cannabinoids. We have already published a blog post about CBD and THC and their acidic forms (prior decarboxylation). However, there are other cannabinoids such as CBG (cannabigerol) or CBC (cannabichromene).

What is CBC?

CBC molecular structure
CBC molecular structure

CBC or cannabichromene is one of the six major cannabinoids. It doesn’t have the psychoactive properties of THC as it doesn’t interact with our CB1 receptors (part of our endocannabinoid system). Nonetheless, CBC has some promising properties and it might have anti-cancer properties (reduce inflammation and tumor growth).

It displays less psychotropic effects than THC, but it is thought that CBC can play an overall effect of the drug.

What is CBG?

CBG molecular structure
CBG molecular structure

CBG or cannabigerol is present in small proportions (less than one percent). In addition, It’s cannabis producers are trying to develop strains with higher CBG. Furthermore, some theories claim that CBG is a potent anti-cancer cannabinoid.

CBG-a (the acidic form of it) is the precursor of both CBD and THC. It has many promising properties, including the treatment of glaucoma and even inflammatory bowel syndrome.

It’s often considered “the mother of all cannabinoids”, it is been researched for its pain-relief properties.

It has very promising properties, including mood regulation. However, hemp contains very small amounts of CBG and therefore, lots of biomass is required to produce small amounts of CBG. To sum up, CBG is very expensive to produce.

What are the Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic compounds produce by plants. They produce strong odors that generally protect the plants of being eaten by herbivores. It’s not well-known to what extent cannabis terpenes have any health effects. However, there are some theories about its effects but it’s generally associated with aromatherapy. Some sources claim that the different terpenes can induce states of calmness, excitement etc. However, we can just speak about potential effects.

Conclusion: Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrids

Infographic about cannabis Sativa and Indica
Infographic about cannabis Sativa and Indica

The difference between Indica and Sativa are mainly anatomic. Sativa is higher in stature and Indica has broader leaves than Sativa. There are probably more Sativa varieties with high THC than Indica ones. However, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t Indica varieties with very high THC. Nonetheless, it is controversial whether cannabis sativa and indica should be classified as two different varieties or not.

The physical classification of cannabis was more important in times of Carl Von Linné (eighteenth century Swedish botanist) than it is today. After Von Linné, Lamarck identified another cannabis variety that he called cannabis Indica.  Human intervention has influenced the THC:CBD ratio of both cannabis Indica and Sativa. In other words, Sativa and Indica isn’t and indicative of higher THC or CBD as it was for 200-300 years ago.

We have mainly three varieties of cannabis: Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis. However, the ruderalis variety has almost no psychoactive effects because cannabis ruderalis is low in THC and high in CBD.

Hybrids of sativa and Indica inherit the shorter flowering time of cannabis Indica. There is almost no difference in THC or CBD levels between hybrids and Indica and Sativa.

Finally, terpenes also play a role in the effects of cannabinoids. We still don’t know to what extent terpenes influence the experience, but it is thought that they can induce calmness, energize sensations, euphoria among other feelings. Cannabis has many terpenes such as myrcene, limonene, pinene, caryophyllene and terpinolene.

In conclusion, it is not as simple as saying that Indica induces calmness and Sativa euphoria. That is to say, it is more important to focus on the chemical composition of the plant instead of the variety to which it belongs.