Indica and sativa are two common terms in the field of legal cannabis. They’re prominently featured on product labels and often dictate many buying decisions. But whether you’re a novice or a veteran cannabis consumer, you may have questions about the differences between the species. We’re here with answers, and to recommend thinking beyond indica, sativa and hybrids when you visit a dispensary.
Start at the species level
Each species of cannabis has its own physical characteristics and preferred growing conditions, and is generally thought to have different effects on the mind and body.
Indica plants originated in colder climates and are short, sturdy and bushy, with wide leaves and dense buds, sometimes with a purple color and with pungent aromas. Indicas are known for their sedating and relaxing effects. Indicas are used to help treat pain, inflammation, appetite, sleep, anxiety, stress, seizures and spasms, among others.
Sativa plants originated in warmer climates and grow tall and stringy, with thin leaves and lighter weight buds that are sometimes reddish in tone and with subtle citrus aromas. Sativas are known to be more uplifting or energizing, increasing creativity and focus. Sativas are used to help treat depression, headaches and migraines, nausea, appetite and more.
Hybrid plants, as the name implies, are a combination of both Indica and Sativa genetics. Most, if not all cannabis available in legal markets are hybrid. The benefit of these types of strains is their ability to produce, for example, the relaxation of an indica, but the increased creativity of a sativa.
The impact of compounds
The properties of cannabis that affect users go beyond plant species. The plant contains a multitude of natural chemical compounds, including over a hundred different cannabinoids, dozens of different terpenes and a wide variety of flavonoids. All three of these compounds have huge impacts on how the strain affects users. (We’ll discuss each of these compounds in greater detail in future posts)
The whole picture
So what’s the upshot of all these species, compounds and effects? The best way to consider a cannabis product is to look at it holistically. Factor in all of its specific qualities. Better still, give thought to which results you’d like from a cannabis product. Do you have specific medical conditions that need relief? How would you like your body to feel? How about your mind?
Remember that the chemical composition of each cannabis product, and its method of consumption, will have different effects upon different people. The good news is that a knowledgeable budtender can help you navigate all the available options. Coming prepared with questions or desired outcomes (write them down if you want!) will aid your budtender in getting you the best possible match. As you try new products, keep notes of each experience, to help you with future buying decisions.