What is the difference between Sativa and Indica?
Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica are two main species of the cannabis plant, the other species being Cannabis Ruderalis which refers to the Hemp plant. Ruderalis is generally low in THC with content usually below .3% THC.
The two main botanical species of Sativa and Indica are categorized based on the location where they originate from, growth habits, appearance, and medicinal qualities.
Indica strains are cultivated in Japan, Korea, Asia, and Afghanistan and China. These plants are shorter, bushier, dense and not as fragile as Sativa plants. They generally grow faster and higher yield than Sativa plants. Typically Indica plants have a higher amount of CBD, but this can vary widely depending upon the strain.
The medicinal properties of Indica strains include mental relaxation, sedation, tranquilizing effect, and a decrease in nausea, pain, and muscle tension. Indica strains are best used at night and can cause sleepiness, sedation, and inactivity.
Sativa strains are generally cultivated in Europe, and the plants are taller, thinner, and have narrower leaves. They have a longer grow cycle and lower yield, and require more light and the leaves are greener in color and not as dark.
The prominent medicinal qualities of the Sativa plants include an uplifting, energetic effect useful to combat anxiety, depression, pain, and perhaps have a more pronounced psychoactive effect. Sativa strains can also increase focus and creativity, and are best used during the day. They generally have a lower CBD content and not as sedating as an Indica strain.
These distinctions form a general guideline between Sativa and Indica, and Hybrid strains can include characteristics of both.
It is also important to note that there are a wide variety of plants in both categories, and an important medical distinction can also depend on the THC:CBD ratio, the terpene content, and ratio of other cannabinoids in the plant. So, the category of Sativa vs Indica becomes blurred based on other components and special qualities of each strain. Different growing conditions can cause differences in potency and effect, and the Sativa vs Indica categories become less important when determining the medicinal qualities. In fact, to determine the actual targeted medicinal effects, a strain fingerprint is more useful, as this identifies all the cannabinoids and terpenes present in each strain (also called cultivar). There can be overlap of Sativa and Indica characterisitics depending upon many variables – growth style, harvesting time, nutrients given, processing techniques, terepene expression, and thc:cbd ratios.
The distinction of Sativa vs. Indica is no longer an exclusive determination of the cultivars effect as a medicine, and there are certainly other factors that play a more important role. Sativa vs. Indica can be used as a rough starting point, but due to the plants variability, this distinction is only a rough guideline and many other factors determine the plants medicinal and physiologic effect. These factors can be examined using the exact cannabinoid percentage of each cannabinoid present in the strain, and the exact terpenes present and their ratios in the sample being investigated. This information can be found on the labeled bottles, on the internet, as well as in a strain fingerprint. Steep Hill Labs makes available a variety of strain fingerprints on their web site for the major cultivars of cannabis and this information is perhaps more important in determining medicinal effects than the classification of Sativa or Indica.