Cannabis 101

Sativa, Indica & Hybrids: What’s the Difference?

Alla Malyezyk January 23, 2020 2 min. read

The number of cannabis varieties is almost infinite, and classifying them into three categories is deeply rooted in our culture and popular thinking. For years, anyone selecting a type of cannabis would ask themselves: sativa, indica or hybrid?

What we’ve always been told

Indica

Although the effects of the different cannabis species have not been scientifically proven and vary from one person to the next, indica is most commonly described as having a calming and relaxing effect. When consuming indica strains, you may feel your thoughts and perception of time slow down. You may also experience drowsiness and full-body heaviness. Indica strains are considered ideal for winding down after a stressful day.

Sativa

The sativa plant is described as having the opposite effects to indica: stimulating, energizing, and even euphoric. It is said to produce more of a mind high, which can motivate you to get things done. Rumour has that this species inspires creativity by freeing the mind to wander and look at things from a new perspective.

Hybrid

Hybrid plants are a combination of sativa and indica strains. They are described as offering a good blend of both strains’ effects. Hybrids can be sativa- or indica-dominant, or a balance between the two.

Cannabis is an impressive plant that evolves and adapts to its environment, creating a wide range of qualities and effects. This also means that you can find the right variety for every occasion.

If only things were that simple…

This way of classifying cannabis into three categories has been around a long time, but the plant’s new legal status has opened the door to more in-depth studies. Discoveries about cannabis are frequent, and most scientists agree that there is little to no evidence that sativa plants are more energizing and indica plants more relaxing. The two species have long been described as total opposites when they are just two sides of a much broader and more complex spectrum.

Observable differences

The only real observable differences are the plants’ physical characteristics. Sativa plants are taller than indica plants with narrower leaves. They come from equatorial regions like Thailand, Cambodia, Mexico and Jamaica. They grow better in hot climates and have a flowering time of 60 to 90 days. The indica plant, which comes from Asia and the Middle East (Pakistan, Nepal, India, Tibet, Afghanistan, etc.) is shorter and denser. It has a stronger smell, both when growing and after it has been dried. It flowers more quickly; it can be ready for harvest in just 45 to 60 days. Indica plants can also grow in colder climates than sativa plants.

The terms sativa, indica and hybrid, which started as a way of classifying the plants, are now also used for selecting a strain with specific desired effects. Although this is a useful system, people should also take other criteria into account to make sure they’re buying the right cannabis for them.

The amount of cannabis consumed, the consumption method and the consumer’s tolerance is more determinative of how cannabis will affect a person.

Also, if one aspect of the plant is sure to help you choose the right variety for you, it’s the cannabinoids. Among the most well known are those that have the most significant impact on the effects experienced: CBD and THC. 

That’s why when choosing a type of cannabis, one should pay attention to the ratio of THC to CBD. Terpenes, another component of the plant that gives it its unique smell, also appear to play a significant role in the consumer’s experience. However, a single terpene cannot provide much information on the effects to expect; it seems that it’s the combination of terpenes that matters.

To summarize

Choosing the ideal type of cannabis for you can be more complicated than you might expect. Although the traditional way of classifying cannabis might seem simpler, the most realistic approach is to try different options with different terpenes and amounts of THC and CBD to see what works best for you.