Indica or Sativa: How to Choose Which Type Of Cannabis Is Right For You

Sometimes when browsing a menu of tantalizing cannabis products, an important question is imminent: what kind of high do I want to get today? For the seasoned cannabis user, the decision is often based on the current mood, or the events that will follow that decision. Maybe a project is due, a party to go to, or maybe there is a looming sadness that can only be cured by some dank nugs. Whatever the scenario, the seasoned smoker knows where to go. However, what if you’re not so seasoned, though? What if a marijuana menu is an overwhelming catalog of confusion? In this blog, I’m going to explain the difference in Indica and Sativa, what in the world a hybrid is, and how your next cannabis decision can be informed and deliberate to maximize your experience,

Indica or Sativa: A Foundation in Science

I think it is important to first understand that cannabis is a plant. Specifically, a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. When speaking scientifically, we use the term “cannabis” to refer to ALL products from the plant cannabis sativa. This can range from the physical to the chemical. Of which, the cannabis plant contains about 540 different chemical substances.

Researcher Taking a Few Cannabis Buds for Scientific Experiment.

This brings up another important differentiation. When does one use the word cannabis versus marijuana? The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a department of the National Institute of Health, says, “the word “marijuana” refers to parts of or products from the plant Cannabis sativa that contain substantial amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the substance that’s primarily responsible for the effects of marijuana on a person’s mental state. Some cannabis plants contain very little THC. Under U.S. law, these plants are considered “industrial hemp” rather than marijuana.”

Great. We now know when to use cannabis, and when to use marijuana. We are going to continue referring to products that, in fact, contain substantial amounts of THC. So…

The Chemical Basics

As previously stated, the cannabis plant contains about 540 different chemical substances. 

From these 540, several main chemical substances are responsible for the “effects” you feel from smoking or ingesting marijuana. These substances are: 

THCTHC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. It’s responsible for the “high” or state of euphoria associated with cannabis use. Levels of THC have been increasing as growers try to create hybrids with a greater concentration of the compound.
CBDCBD is non-impairing or non-euphoric. It doesn’t cause a “high.” However, it may produce many physical benefits, such as reducing pain and nausea, preventing seizures, and easing migraine.
CBNCannabinol (CBN) is used to ease symptoms and side effects of neurological conditions, including epilepsyseizures, and uncontrollable muscle stiffness.
THCATetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) is similar to THC, but it doesn’t cause any psychoactive effects. Its potential benefits include reducing inflammation caused by arthritis and autoimmune diseases. It may also help reduce symptoms of neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and ALS.
CBGCannabigerol (CBG) is thought to help reduce anxiety and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorderpost-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
Information courtesy of Healthline

Further Understanding: What is a Terpene?

Young Researcher Smelling Cannabis Bud.

For the sake of learning, I would also like to briefly discuss terpenes.  Recent research has allowed scientists to identify another naturally occurring chemical substance in cannabis called a terpene. Terpenes directly affect the different wonderful aromas that marijuana emits. Research also shows that terpenes may influence the effects that strains produce. The following table identifies some commonly found terpenes and their characteristics:

BisabololChamomile, Tea Tree OilReduce Inflammation, Reduce Irritation
CaryophyllenePepperyReduce Anxiety, Ease Depression, Improve Ulcers
LinaloolFloralImprove Relaxation, Boost Mood
MyrceneEarthy, HerbalReduce Anxiety, Sedative
OcimeneBasil, Mango, ParsleyEase congestion, Anti-Viral, Antibacterial
PinenePineBoost Memory, Reduce Pain, Ease THC side effects
TerpinoleneApples, Cumin, ConifersSedative, Antibacterial, Antifungal
LimoneneCitrusImprove Mood, Reduce Stress
HumuleneEarthy, WoodReduce Inflammation
EucalyptolEucalyptus, Tea Tree OilReduce Inflammation, Fight Bacteria
Information courtesy of Healthline

Information courtesy of Healthline

Again, this table is for the purposes of learning. While it’s not directly associated with the main topic, it’s important to understand the chemical makeup of marijuana. Understanding this will help you choose what’s best for your needs at the moment or long term. This will save you some trial and error, and ultimately, money. 

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Basics on Indica

Now that we understand marijuana a little more, let’s talk about indicas. Personally, these are my favorite strains. They are a heavy high, and are really good for helping your whole body relax. The following list from highlights important notes of indicas, including some notable strains. 

  • Origin: Cannabis indica is native to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Turkey. The plants have adapted to the often harsh, dry, and turbulent climate of the Hindu Kush mountains.
  • Plant description: Indica plants are short and stocky with bushy greenery and chunky leaves that grow wide and broad. They grow faster than sativa, and each plant produces more buds.
  • Typical CBD to THC ratio: Indica strains often have higher levels of CBD, but the THC content isn’t necessarily less.
  • Commonly associated effects of use: Indica is sought after for its intensely relaxing effects. It may also help reduce nausea and pain and increase appetite.
  • Daytime or nighttime use: Because of its deep relaxation effects, indica is better consumed at night.
  • Popular strains: Three popular indica strains are Hindu Kush, Afghan Kush, and Granddaddy Purple.

I like to be intensely relaxed, and indicas certainly help achieve this desired effect. I also enjoy smoking after a long day of work, so the timing is perfect. To me, there is nothing like ending a stressful workday with a well rolled spliff ( I enjoy the combo of an indica, Raw Black paper, and American Spirit Perique tobacco in my spliff, but maybe you have another favorite). 

Basics on Sativa

Maybe your preference isn’t to cap the day, but rather, get it started. If that’s the case, maybe a sativa is the right situation for you. I enjoy a good sativa when going shopping, going out in general, or listening to hi-fi music. Let’s look to again for their breakdown on sativa basics:

  • Origin: Cannabis sativa is found primarily in hot, dry climates with long sunny days. These include Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia, and portions of Western Asia.
  • Plant description: Sativa plants are tall and thin with finger-like leaves. They can grow taller than 12 feet, and they take longer to mature than some other types of cannabis.
  • Typical CBD to THC ratio: Sativa often has lower doses of CBD and higher doses of THC.
  • Commonly associated effects of use: Sativa often produces a “mind high,” or an energizing, anxiety-reducing effect. If you use sativa-dominant strains, you may feel productive and creative, not relaxed and lethargic.
  • Daytime or nighttime use: Because of its stimulating impact, you can use sativa in the daytime.
  • Popular strains: Three popular sativa strains are Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, and Durban Poison.

What is a Hybrid?

If you want to think about it this way, you can use sativas to stand up, and indicas to sit down, but what about a balance? Maybe you like a balance of both of those effects. Luckily, hybrid strains sometimes offer the best of both of these strains. Let’s look to one more time to breakdown hybrid strains:

  • Origin: Hybrids are typically grown on farms or in greenhouses from a combination of sativa and indica strains.
  • Plant description: The appearance of hybrid strains depends on the combination of the parent plants.
  • Typical CBD to THC ratio: Many hybrid cannabis plants are grown in order to increase the THC percentage, but each type has a unique ratio of the two cannabinoids.
  • Commonly associated effects of use: Farmers and producers select hybrids for their unique impacts. They can range from reducing anxiety and stress to easing symptoms of chemotherapy or radiation.
  • Daytime or nighttime use: This depends on the predominant effects of the hybrid.
  • Popular strains: Hybrids are typically classified as indica-dominant (or indica-dom), sativa-dominant (sativa-dom), or balanced. Popular hybrids include Pineapple Express, Trainwreck, and Blue Dream.

Hybrids are great for all occasions, and sometimes hit that sweet spot that an indica or sativa can’t, or offer too much of. I think these are great for a first time or novice user, so you can feel the effects in general. From there, one can decide if they’d like to ‘stand up’ or ‘sit down.’

Indica or Sativa: In Conclusion

Young and mixed ethnicity group having fun together, having a party and a gathering, celebrating a birthday.

Consuming marijuana can be a very solemn, very personal, or very social experience. With that, the time you or your friends want to have can be heavily influenced by the type of marijuana and/or marijuana products that you consume. For a solid night in, I would say indica is a good choice. If you’re looking to explore or go out, I would readily suggest a good sativa. If you’re unsure about how you want to feel, a hybrid strain is perfect for either of these scenarios.

In conclusion, as a seasoned marijuana user, I prefer a very good Indica, because I prefer a very heavy body high type of experience, but you may be different, and that is OKAY! Your personal journey with marijuana is exactly that, yours, and how you want or like to consume marijuana is up to you. However you decide, just keep in mind that responsibility is important, but having a good time is the key, and hopefully I have been able to guide you on how to have the best time for you! Happy Smoking!

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