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The Difference Between Sativa and Indica

Sativa and Indica labels represent the two primary varieties of cannabis commonly found on the market—and you're here to learn about the difference. 

While many smokers are aware of the common feelings that these two cannabis varieties produce, this article is written to highlight some key information that further explains how these two varieties of cannabis differ from each other.  

After we uncover the driving force behind Sativa and Indica classifications, we'll be covering some additional critical differences related to their relationship with medical use, recreational use, and breeding. 

The Difference Between Sativa and Indica

Let's cut to the chase:

You might be surprised to learn that terpenes determine whether a strain falls under Indica or Sativa classification. 

So, what are terpenes? 


Terpenes are organic compounds that provide the specific smell and flavor that a cannabis strain produces. By interacting with other cannabinoids, terpenes can influence the effects of marijuana. 

You might be wondering where terpenes come from. 

Do you know those tiny hairs on cannabis plants that give the plant a crystal-like appearance? These hairs are responsible for terpene production in marijuana plants. 

Myrcene is the most typical terpene in marijuana and is known to help patients sleep, battle anxiety, and insomnia. If myrcene is greater than .5 percent in a strain, it's Indica. Less than half a percent of myrcene results in a Sativa classification.  

More than 100 different terpenes have been studied in cannabis plants. Different types of strains will gravitate toward a specific terpene type and makeup. 

The strong smell that terpenes create in the cannabis flower result from evolution as the aroma attracts pollinators and fends off predators. 

Now it's time for us to cover some of the traits that Sativa plants possess. 


Sativa plants feature leaves that are long and slim. 

The feeling a user gets from Sativa is more of a head high that results in:

  • Uplifting and euphoric mood
  • Creative stimulation
  • Higher levels of energy
  • Increased levels of alertness compared to Indica 

With the above list of effects, most people turn to Sativa strains if they decide to use cannabis.

An interesting fact about Sativa is that it dominates the marijuana black market. The reason for Sativa being predominantly sold on the black market is tied to the topic of medical marijuana. 

Indica strains tend to be used more frequently in medical marijuana because Sativa's effects are less helpful toward patients struggling with conditions that medical cannabis is commonly used to treat, such as chronic pain. 

After discussing how terpenes affect a cannabis plant's smell, it's important to note that Sativa produces a sweeter scent than Indica strains. For those looking to grow Sativa plants, note that the growing time for this variety of cannabis is longer than Indica plants and requires more light. 

We'll conclude our rundown of Sativa with some popular strains:

  • Sour Diesel 
  • Green Crack
  • Lemon Haze
  • Jack Herer


Indica produces many effects that are opposite of Sativa. Instead of an energetic wave of euphoria, Indica creates feelings of relaxation centered in the body. 

Additional common effects of Indica strains include:

  • Appetite stimulation
  • Tiredness 
  • Physical pain relief

It makes sense that smokers prefer Indica for nighttime use when accessing the side effects above. Indica leaves are shorter and bushier than Sativa leaves and produce an iconic "skunky" smell. 

Since Indica strains can do wonders for physical pain relief, it makes sense that people afflicted with conditions such as Parkinson's or MS have prescribed this variety of cannabis. 

Cancer patients are an essential group worth talking about when examining Indica's relationship with the medical marijuana industry. When undergoing treatment, people with cancer frequently suffer from a lack of appetite. The fact that Indica strains are known to stimulate appetite and relieve physical pain is a perfect example of how medical marijuana can mitigate cancer treatment's side effects. 

Some famous Indica strains include: 

  • Purple punch
  • Northern lights
  • Platinum OG
  • Granddaddy purple 


Hybrids are a more recently popularized variety of marijuana and consist of breeders crossing Indica and Sativa strains to produce a unique, original strain. 

Hybrids are a great option if you're looking to get both worlds' best with the effects that Indica and Sativa strains create. People often select hybrids that are either Sativa or Indica dominant for higher levels of strain customization. Medical marijuana breeders often cross strains to produce cannabis that's more adequately able to address a person's specific ailment or illness. 

Final Thoughts 

After explaining the differences between Sativa and Indica and how the two cannabis varieties are most commonly used, let's wrap up with critical points.

While Indica is more commonly used in medical marijuana, Sativa strains can help people dealing with conditions that include depression, PTSD, and anxiety. If you're using marijuana for medical purposes, we can't understate the importance of taking care in selecting the strain you choose as a means to maximize the efficiency of cannabis in treating your condition. 

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