Sativa’s vs Indica’s: Find the right plant for your needs
Here’s how to find the right plant for your needs, strains to consider, potential side effects, and more.
Understanding strain effects?
The often-applied rule of thumb is that sativas are more invigorating and energizing, while indicas are more relaxing and calming — but it isn’t really that simple.
Individual plants produce varying effects, even among the same type of cannabis. It all depends on the plant’s chemical composition and the growing technique used.
Oftentimes, the plant types are broken down into specific chemovars, or breeds.
Instead of looking at the type alone — sativa or indica — look at the description the grower and dispensary provide.
Chemovars are distinguished by their individual cannabinoid and terpene content. This “cannabinoid profile” will provide the user with the best information to help them determine which chemovar is best suited for them.
Relying on names does no good to provide the user with the necessary information to pick the correct profile.
Cannabis plants contain dozens of chemical compounds called cannabinoids.
These naturally occurring components are responsible for producing many of the effects — both negative and positive — of cannabis use.
Researchers still don’t understand what all of the cannabinoids do, but they have identified two main ones — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — as well as several less common compounds.
- THC. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. It’s responsible for the “high” or state of euphoria associated with cannabis use. Levels of THC have been increasing as growers try to create hybrids with a greater concentration of the compound.
- CBD. CBD is non-impairing or non-euphoric. It doesn’t cause a “high.” However, it may produce many physical benefits, such as reducing pain and nausea, preventing seizures, and easing migraine.
- CBN. Cannabinol (CBN) is used to ease symptoms and side effects of neurological conditions, including epilepsy, seizures, and uncontrollable muscle stiffness.
- THCA. Tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCA) is similar to THC, but it doesn’t cause any psychoactive effects. Its potential benefits include reducing inflammation caused by arthritis and autoimmune diseases. It may also help reduce symptoms of neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and ALS.
- CBG. Cannabigerol (CBG) is thought to help reduce anxiety and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
The terpenes present directly affect the plant’s smell. They may also influence the effects that specific strains produce. Newer research suggests that terpenes may be just as impactful.
Terpenes are another naturally occurring compound in the cannabis plant.
According to Leafly, common terpenes include:
- Bisabolol. With notes of chamomile and tea tree oil, the terpene bisabolol is thought to help reduce inflammation and irritation. It may also have microbial and pain-reducing effects.
- Caryophyllene. The peppery, spicy molecule may help reduce anxiety, ease symptoms of depression, and improve ulcers.
- Linalool. Linalool is said to help improve relaxation and boost mood with its floral notes.
- Myrcene. The most common terpene, this earthy, herbal molecule may help reduce anxiety and insomnia so you can sleep better.
- Ocimene. This terpene produces notes of basil, mango, and parsley. Its primary effects may include easing congestion and warding off viruses and bacteria.
- Pinene. As the name suggests, this terpene produces an intense pine aroma. It may help boost memory, reduce pain, and ease some of the not-so-pleasant symptoms of THC, such as nausea and coordination problems.
- Terpinolene. Cannabis with this compound may smell like apples, cumin, and conifers. It may have sedative, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
- Limonene. Bright, zippy citrus notes come from this terpene. It’s said to improve mood and reduce stress.
- Humulene. This terpene is deeply earthy and woody, like hops or cloves. Cannabis strains with this molecule may help reduce inflammation.
- Eucalyptol. With notes of eucalyptus and tea tree oil, this molecule is refreshing and invigorating. It may also help reduce inflammation and fight bacteria.
- Plant description: Sativa plants are tall and thin with finger-like leaves. They can grow taller than 12 feet, and they take longer to mature than some other types of cannabis.
- CBD to THC ratio: Sativa often has lower doses of CBD and higher doses of THC.
- Commonly associated effects of use: Sativa often produces a “mind high,” or an energizing, anxiety-reducing effect. If you use sativa-dominant strains, you may feel productive and creative, not relaxed and lethargic.
- Daytime or nighttime use: Because of its stimulating impact, you can use sativa in the daytime.
- Popular strains: Three popular sativa strains are Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, and Durban Poison.
- Plant description: Indica plants are short and stocky with bushy greenery and chunky leaves that grow wide and broad. They grow faster than sativa, and each plant produces more buds.
- CBD to THC ratio: Indica strains often have higher levels of CBD, but the THC content isn’t necessarily less.
- Commonly associated effects of use: Indica is sought after for its intensely relaxing effects. It may also help reduce nausea and pain and increase appetite.
- Daytime or nighttime use: Because of its deep relaxation effects, indica is better consumed at night.
- Popular strains: Three popular indica strains are Hindu Kush, Afghan Kush, and Granddaddy Purple.
- Plant description: The appearance of hybrid strains depends on the combination of the parent plants.
- Typical CBD to THC ratio: Many hybrid cannabis plants are grown in order to increase the THC percentage, but each type has a unique ratio of the two cannabinoids.
- Commonly associated effects of use: Farmers and producers select hybrids for their unique impacts. They can range from reducing anxiety and stress to easing symptoms of chemotherapy or radiation.
- Daytime or nighttime use: This depends on the predominant effects of the hybrid.
- Popular strains: Hybrids are typically classified as indica-dominant (or indica-dom), sativa-dominant (sativa-dom), or balanced. Popular hybrids include Pineapple Express, Trainwreck, and Blue Dream.
Side effects and risks
Although cannabis use is often associated with potential benefits, it can also produce unwanted side effects.
- dry mouth
- dry eyes
- increased heart rate
- decreased blood pressure
Most of these effects are associated with THC, not CBD or other cannabinoids. However, any cannabis product can produce side effects.
The method of use may increase your risk for side effects, too.
For example, smoking or vaping cannabis can irritate your lungs and airways. This may lead to coughing and respiratory problems.
Oral cannabis preparations, such as gummies or cookies, are less likely to affect your overall respiratory health.
However, though the effects are felt more slowly, ingested cannabis, especially THC, is more potent as it converts to 11-hydroxy-THC, which produces stronger psychoactive effects that can last for hours and in some people, days.
Strains to consider for certain conditions
Keep in mind that the potency of cannabinoids and terpenes will vary among growers, and while certain strains may be helpful for certain conditions, your own experience may vary.
Choosing the right product for you
When you’re looking for the right cannabis product for you, keep these considerations in mind:
- Know what you’re trying to achieve. What you’re trying to feel or treat will help you narrow your options. Talk with the dispensary employee about your goals for cannabis use, whether that’s treating insomnia, reducing anxiety, or increasing energy.
- Understand your tolerance. Some strains, such as Pineapple Express, are considered “entry level.” Their effects are typically mild and tolerable. Strains with higher levels of cannabinoids may be too potent for a first-time user.
- Medical history. While cannabis is a natural product, it can cause intense effects. Before you try cannabis, you need to consider possible interactions with existing medical conditions and medications. When in doubt, ask a doctor or other healthcare professional about your individual benefits and potential risks.
- Consumption method. Each technique for consuming cannabis has benefits and drawbacks. If you smoke or vape cannabis, you may feel effects more quickly, but it can irritate your lungs and airways. Gummies, chewables, and foods may be easier to tolerate, but the effects take longer, and they may be much more potent than inhalation.