Indica vs Sativa: The Difference Between Indica and Sativa Cannabis

Pretty much any kind of cannabis is awesome.

But, when it comes to indica and sativa which one should you go with?

Is there even a difference between the two?

Today, we will explore if the fancy names mean anything at all, if there are any differences when growing, and a deep dive into hybrid cannabis. 

Plus, a look into the less talked about genus—cannabis ruderalis.


Is There Even a Difference Between Indica vs Sativa?

When shopping for new buds, everything you see will be labeled indica, sativa or hybrid. You need to know how you’ll react to each one to make an informed decision.

If you’re looking for a quick answer, cannabis Indica is more of a sedating high, while cannabis sativa is more uplifting/energizing. Or, so we're told.

But then you have experts like, Jeffrey Raber P.h.d, that claim the difference between them is simply morphology, and that there is no difference in the highs. Well, which one is it?

If you're looking to buy seeds online, check out this guide.

Do the fancy names and classifications matter when it comes to medical marijuana? No, they don't. In fact, most of it is just marketing these days.

If you are trying to decide which strain to buy, don't just go off of the name. Instead, research into terpene profiles to decide on the right strain for you. You c

But we are here to take a look at indica versus sativa versus a hybrid. So, keep reading to see how they compare!

What Is Cannabis Indica?

Indica plants are use to growing in much harsher environments than their sativa counterparts. Having to adapt to the cold and turbulent conditions of the Kush mountain regions, they evolved to be dense, short and stubby.

They also evolved to produce thick THC resin to help protect itself from its environment. Indicas also naturally have high levels of CBD, making them a favorite of many looking for a pain-killing cannabis strain.

What Is Cannabis Sativa?

The scraggly cousin of indica, sativa, is different not only in appearance, but also in the effects it has on your body, its THC to CBD ratios, cannabinoids and terpenes.

Sativa is often paired with coffee thanks to its naturally uplifting properties.

The plants tend to be tall and lean with leaves that have a thinner face, very much unlike the typical indica marijuana leaf you see plastered all over bongs and grinders at festivals.

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What are Their Differences

There are two camps when it comes to the how they differ: those who boldly claim that all indica and sativa give you a certain high and those starting to test and see if it boils down to more than just the different species of the same genus.

After all, some sativas can give you the “indica” high, and the same goes vice versa. But we’ll dive more into this research in just a bit. For now, let’s take a look at the what we do know.

Geographic Origin

First named in 1785 by, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Indica was named after where the plants were collected—India.

I briefly mentioned earlier that indica evolved in the kush mountains.

More specifically, it grew wild in the areas between 30° and 50° latitudes. This climate is susceptible to intense, cold winter and warm summers.

Sativa was named earlier than indica, 1753, and was first thought to be the only species of cannabis.

It originates from areas that are between 0° and 30° latitudes. Namely, equatorial regions of Mexico, Colombia, Thailand and Southeast Asia.

Being subject to the harsh heat of these areas, sativa evolved to be long and lanky to conserve water.

How to Tell the Leaves Apart

Thankfully, you don’t have to do chemical composition tests to tell the species apart. You can easily tell the difference between the two by their leaf shape.

An indica leaf is broad and thick. More akin to the prototypical marijuana leaf you see everywhere. Sativa leaves, on the other hand, are skinny and scraggly like the rest of the plant.

You won’t have any luck using this method to identify a hybrid, though. They can have a mix of the two or one or the other.

The Effect

Cannabis Indica and Sativas Effect

Indicas will generally give you a more relaxed, body high. The calm, sedating effects are ideal for when you're looking to chill out after a long day, binge-watch Netflix or sleep.

It’s also known to enhance sensations such as sound, taste and touch.

  • Relieving pain
  • As a muscle relaxer
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures

Sativas tend to be more of a cerebral, energized high that can lead to an increase in creativity and a more psychedelic high. This high is perfect for anyone looking to smoke early in the day without feeling like a zombie the rest of the day.

It’s also a great high for reading, writing and making art.

  • As an energy boost
  • Problems focusing
  • Mood disorders such as depression
  • Mild aches and pains

Just wanted to drop another disclaimer here before we look at the symptoms a particular genus can help with.

Make sure to work with your doctor to develop your personalized medical marijuana plan. The result will vary from strain to strain, and this should just be used as a general guideline to help you in the right direction.

Which one has more THC?

Now, thanks to the advancement in breeding were able to achieve cannabis plants with up to 51% THC. That’s crazy. But what about when we just look at pure strains?

Well, one study has, and they found that, on average, indicas tend to be significantly higher in not only THC but CBD as well. The big flaw with this study is that it only looked at six different strains. has over 720 indica strains and 1177 sativa strains as of 2017, and the number is only going to keep on growing.

We need a bigger picture and thanks to data that’s being collected by cannabis testing labs I’m sure we’ll get it.

The Differences in Growing 

Where you are really able to tell the differences is when you are growing them side by side. Never will you be able to see such definitive differences.

Can You Tell the Buds Apart?

Indica buds are dense, and they also tend to condense themselves in clusters around the nodes. The buds internodal gaps are almost non-existent.

Indica buds are known for being the buds with the strongest odor too.

With sativa buds, It’s pretty common to have a reddish hue when grown in warm environments and purple when grown in colder climates. They also are far more spread out on the branches.

You can expect them to weigh less than indica after drying because they are less dense buds.

Plant Height

Indica's are the best cannabis strains to grow indoors.

Commonly growing to be 3 to 6 feet tall they make the perfect plant for closets or grow tents that have a defined ceiling.

You can grow Sativa indoors, but be prepared to fight it and do some extensive plant training.

Believe it or not, sativa cannabis grows to be up to 20' tall! Many breeders like to mix indica into sativa strains to try and tame this height.

Flowering Time & Yield Size

Indica cannabis has a much faster flowering time than sativa coming in at between 8 to 9 weeks. This is even faster than autoflowering plants that are usually around ten weeks.

It’s not just the fast flowering time that makes indica a favorite of many growers. They also boast larger yields. Check out this article if you want to see the best outdoor strains for high yield. You'll see the list is indica heavy.

Sativa plants will usually flower between 12 to 14 weeks making them the longest flowering species of all.

The fact that most sativa plants take longer to harvest and yields less has made breeders insert some of those traits into indicas to get a better-growing plant while maintaining a sativa high. And that brings us to our next topic—hybrid cannabis.

Hybrid Strains

When browsing the local dispensary, it’s not just indica and sativa you’ll see behind the glass. Hybrids will also be proudly on display, and the brings us to our next question.

Hybrid strains aren't new to the cannabis scene. As master breeders began the search for the perfect cannabis, they started to selectively pick traits from various indica and sativa strains creating a hybrid of the two.

Hybrids can fall into any of three categories:

  • Sativa-dominant Hybrids
  • Indica-dominant Hybrids
  • 50/50 Hybrids

Hybrids can be the best of both worlds. Let’s look at the most popular hybrid of all time—Blue Dream.

Blue Dream is a sativa-dominant strain forged from mixing Blueberry indica with sativa Haze. This combination gives you a relaxed body while also giving you a light head high—creating a perfect, calm euphoria.

A hybrid strain like this can provide quick symptom relief all while avoiding the sedative side effects.

Now that you know your strains, check out this review to see our favorite seed bank.


When it comes to indica vs sativa a lot is still unknown.

We need more studies done on the different effects of the two, so we can provide a better experience for recreational users and better medical care for medical users.

Hopefully, with states legalizing marijuana, we will start to see real progress made that will tell us if it’s the strains or the cannabinoids and terpenes that we need to focus our attention on to make the best cannabis we can.

Did I miss any differences? Can you tell the difference in highs? If so, let me know in the comments below! And be sure to check out this article to learn about growing weed in a greenhouse.

12 thoughts on “Indica vs Sativa: The Difference Between Indica and Sativa Cannabis”

    • This was more of an article on cannabis species than a look at cannabinoids. There are high CBD strains all across indica, sativa and hybrid strains. A lot of people that smoke cannabis to calm down prefer CBD to THC, so I’m not surprised to hear it works well for your ADHD!

      • dear mr. hand,
        i, too, have adhd and taking adderall xr from my psychiatrist.
        when i was younger i used to be able to smoke marijuana with no major
        problems – a little paranoia, hunger or lack of oxygen.

        i did not not smoke for 15 years and then became curious after “vaped”
        oil, which to me is another world. i don’t smoke much now because of side effects – concentration on a nil level, lose the subject i or others start.
        other times i’m just fine with it.

        i heard that there are two major chemical reactions,thc and cbd. am i experiencing two completely different experiences ?
        indica-i find is more of an excellerated. high energy high.
        sativa- i find to be more of a mellow effect/affect.

        what would you recommend of the two if i just want to relax and enjoy things around me, then get some SLEEP (the dexidrine in the adderall xr does exactly what it’s supposed to) and sometimes i lie down with a book and my cat, but don’t really sleep, more like passing in and out of reality and i’d like to be mellow so that i can really sleep.

        do you have an answer for me ?

        a myriad of gratitude.

        • Hello Lesly, thanks for the question. SO, let me start off by saying I can’t give you any medical advice because I am not a doctor. With that said, THC and CBD are not chemical reactions but rather cannabinoids. In some studies, CBD has shown no help with sleeping. So I would stick with a THC dominant strain. And as far as trying to pick between indica and sativa, don’t focus on that so much. Play around with different strain types till you find a terpene profile that works well to help put YOU to sleep. Another suggestion is to integrate some CBN (another cannabinoid) into your regiment. CBN is way more sedating than THC and is formed as the THC degrades over time. Talk to your local dispensary budtenders to see if they offer CBN. A final tip is to switch from vaping/smoking to edibles. They may take longer to take effect, but the effects last longer help you sleep better for a longer amount of time.

  1. I tend to eat a lot when I smoke. I am looking for something that gives me the mellow high but not the munchies. Does that even exist.

  2. “With the rise of legal marijuana, breeders have been able to really hone in on their skill.” So you say, and so I thought, no more crappy street weed. But I’ve been to 4 different dispensaries and I always buy their “best” and it’s always crap.

  3. The two major types of cannabis plants are Indica and Sativa. Each strain has its own range of effects on the body and mind resulting in a wide range of medicinal benefits. Indica strains generally provide a sense of deep body relaxation. Sativa strains tend to provide a more energizing experience.


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