Sativa vs Indica: Everything You Need to Know about Cannabis Classification

If you’ve spent time in our family of dispensaries, you’ve no doubt seen terms like “indica” or “sativa” on our cannabis products. But do you know what they really mean, or why you’d choose one over the other? While there’s fierce debate in the cannabis world about how useful these terms really are—more on that in a moment—we believe they provide real value to our customers.

Knowing what indica vs sativa really means—and more to the point, what indica vs sativa effects are—helps us make better informed, more useful buying decisions. Because we’re committed to helping you get the absolute best value from your cannabis purchases, we think it’s a pretty big deal.

That’s why in today’s post, we’ll delve into some of the principal differences between indica vs sativa effects, as well as exploring the world of indica vs sativa edibles and other products. By the end, you’ll know everything you need to know about these two major cannabis classifications. The result? More consistent, predictable and rewarding effects and a better overall cannabis experience.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Classifying Indica vs Sativa Strains

We’ve written about the terms “indica vs sativa” before, asking if 100% pure sativa strains really exist? They do, as do 100% pure indica strains, but they’re comparatively rare. That’s because centuries of cross-breeding have resulted in a great many hybrid strains that combine characteristics of the two. That’s one reason we lean on descriptive terms such as “indica-dominant hybrid” or “sativa-dominant hybrid” to help guide your decisions.

So, what are different characteristics of a sativa high vs an indica high? Historically, cannabis fans have noted a strong delineation between indica vs sativa effects. Sativas are often described as being uplifting and energizing, delivering a subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle!) cerebral stimulation. Indicas, on the other hand, are typically categorized as imparting a heavy, relaxing body-centered high.

Tracing the Origins of Indica and Sativa

The general effects of each cultivar jibe with the botanical names “indica” and “sativa.” The word “sativa”—a Latin botanical term meaning either “for good health” or certain types of crops grown from seed—was first applied to cannabis in the 1700s when German botanist Dr. Leonhart Fuchs published his text Herbarium. The general understanding of sativa plants was that they tended to be tall and tree-like with long, pointed leaves.

The name “indica” followed soon after. In 1785, the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamark first committed the name Cannabis indica to paper in his Encyclopédie méthodique. In contrast with sativa, Lamark described a plant noted for its squat and bushy appearance and its broad-bladed leaves, also detailing the plant’s euphoric effects.

As with so many topics in the world of cannabis, the story gets fuzzier from there. For one thing, some historians now believe Fuchs wasn’t describing Cannabis sativa, but actually referring to the cannabis plant’s wild cousin, hemp. And for another thing, not all botanists were convinced there were major differences when it came to indica vs sativa. In fact, modern-day molecular testing confirms this. Strictly speaking, there really is just one species of cannabis: Cannabis sativa L.

Confused yet? Hold tight.

Under the Umbrella of Cannabis Sativa L.

Even if these two types of cannabis are really one, most cannabis fans agree that the indica vs sativa labels serve a purpose in predicting a given strain’s effects. Why? Years of careful cross-breeding and study of a cannabis strain’s effects, cannabinoid and terpene content, and appearance are all valid clues to their effects.

Experienced growers such as the ones we source our top-shelf flower from know that a given strain’s effects also depend on such factors as the temperature, humidity, and the soil characteristics where it was grown.

So while a strain marked “indica” may actually be a “sativa,” botanically speaking, we feel confident that the connotations of an indica—again, a relaxing, body-centered high—are a better clue as to its effects.

Indica vs Sativa Edibles: A Deeper Experience

You may have noted that cannabis-infused edibles are often labeled “indica” or “sativa.” As with flower, vaporizers, or other cannabis products, that’s a useful way to characterize their effects. But because the cannabinoids in edibles are processed differently than other types of cannabis—through the stomach and liver as opposed to the lungs—their effects typically feel more intense.

You’re not imagining it. For one thing, this process converts the THC into a stronger form. If the edible also contains CBD, that can also contribute to the sense that the effects are stronger than with inhaled cannabis.

What’s the takeaway? Exercise caution with edibles. Because of their intensified effects (and because of their longer onset times), we recommend you wait at least 60 minutes after taking an edible to consume any more. If you do end up taking too much by accident, relax: In the vast majority of cases it’s not dangerous, though it can feel unpleasant. It’s better to start low and go slow.

Indica vs Sativa Cannabis: Wrapping Up

We hope that today’s post provides clear-cut guidance as to indica vs sativa effects, and how you might predict your experience from consuming a particular strain. If you’re looking to broaden your own cannabis vocabulary, simply choose the dispensary closest to you and enter terms such as “indica” or “sativa” to discover our options.

Better yet, visit any of our family of dispensaries and ask your friendly budtender for more information on indica vs sativa (or any other cannabis-related topics). We hope to see you soon!