Indica vs. Sativa

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

At most dispensaries you’ll find cannabis described in three different varieties: indica, sativa, and hybrid. Many times new patients will visit the dispensary and ask about indica vs. sativa strains and what are their differences.

Understanding the differences associated with varieties of strains can help patients find products for the symptoms they’re looking to treat or the effect they’re looking to achieve.

The most common symptoms that people seek to treat with cannabis include pain, appetite loss, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and stress.

It’s also important to address the time of day and frequency that a patient is looking to medicate. Choosing the right strain also depends on when patients typically medicate.

Different strains and products can be suggested by taking into consideration if a patient medicates at night or prefers to medicate throughout the day. The effects tend to differ among the different varieties of cannabis strains.

Some strains can create uplifting, energizing, and euphoric effects while others may create more sedative and relaxing body effects. Having an understanding of indica vs. sativa and hybrid strains can help patients when choosing products; however, it should be noted that the variety of the strain is not the main factor for the effects produced by a certain strain. Research is finding that cannabinoid and terpene profiles play a large role in a strain’s effects as explained by the entourage effect.

Cannabinoids are the hundreds of compounds found in the cannabis plant. The most widely known cannabinoids are THC and CBD.

Terpenes are the essential oils found in plants that produce the distinct aromas and flavors. We highly recommended that our patients smell different strains to find out what terpenes stand out or are pleasing to the patient.

In time you will gain a better understanding for what aromas or terpenes they prefer, which can help when selecting product. Below we’ll explain the origins and characteristics of the three varieties of cannabis strains: indica, sativa, and hybrid.


Cannabis Indica was named in the 18th century by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck for the cannabis plants found in India that were harvested for seeds, fiber, and hashish production. The plant structure of cannabis indica is known for its short and bushy stature. The terpene profiles range from skunky to sweet and fruity. Typically, indica strains have an earthy aroma/flavor.

Indica strains are often characterized as producing a relaxing or calming effect. A common phrase to remember this is “Indica in-da-couch.” The effects are typically felt more in the body than cerebrally, which has made this strain preferred by patients who are medicating for pain, insomnia, muscle spasms, and stress. Due to the relaxing or sedative effects, patients typically prefer indica strains for evening use.

It’s important to note that there are very few 100% Indica strains on the market as most are hybrids that have been crossed with cannabis sativa. Because of this, patients should expect a bit of a cerebral effect from the sativa genetics.


Cannabis Sativa was named in the 18th century by Carl Linnaeus for the plants found in Europe and Western Eurasia harvested for their seeds and fibers. The plant structure of cannabis sativa is typically tall and thin with narrow bright green leaves. Sativa strains usually take longer to grow, prefer warm temps and require more light than cannabis indica. The terpene profile tends to range from tropical to diesel/fuel to sweet and fruity.

Sativa strains are often characterized by evoking an energetic, euphoric, and uplifting effect; making them the preferred strain for daytime use. While the effect of indica strains tend to be felt more in the body, sativa strains tend to offer a more cerebral and psychoactive effect. These effects make sativa strains ideal for patients treating symptoms of depression and other mood-related disorders. Many patients report better focus, more energy, and an increase in creativity with sativa strains.

It’s important to note that some patients may have increased anxiety and/or paranoia after consuming sativa strains. For patients prone to anxiety, we suggest starting with a sativa-dominant hybrid, which can provide a more balanced cerebral and body effect.


A hybrid is created when an indica and a sativa strain is crossed to create a new strain. Because so many strains have been crossed numerous times, most growers will say all strains are hybrids and finding a 100% indica or 100% sativa strain is near impossible. There are many benefits to consuming hybrid strains as patients can get “the best of both worlds.” For patients looking for relief throughout the day without the sedative effects of an indica strain, a hybrid could be a great option. Hybrids are also recommended for patients who may be prone to anxiety or paranoia.

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