Depending on state laws, medical marijuana patients have their choice of what cannabis strains to purchase and how to consume them. The blend of cannabis matters whether you use marijuana medicinally or recreationally.
Cannabis affects the mind and body through its active compounds, mainly tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)and cannabidiol (CBD). Botanists and manufacturers have developed potent strains of Indica and Sativa cannabis, the primary types of marijuana in medical products.
Getting your desired experience from cannabis requires identifying the symptoms you want to manage or how you want to feel. The nature and extent of your symptoms will guide you to the strain best suited for your needs.
Read on to learn more about the differences between Indica strains and Sativa strains, their different effects, and tips for choosing the best cannabis products to meet your goals.
What is Indica Cannabis?
Indica cannabis (or cannabis Indica) refers to the species of the marijuana plant, C Indica. It is a short plant with broad leaves that grows densely, like a bush. Indica plants have a firm stem and thin bark.
They reach two to four feet tall. Botanist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was the first European to write about C. Indica in 1785, naming the plant after samples he received from India.
Botanists now believe C. Indica originated in Afghanistan. The plant has a six to eight-week flowering time. Indica has a higher CBD than THC content. As a result, it is primarily associated with a “body high” and physical effects.
Indica is usually used to create a sense of calm and relaxation. Many individuals use it in the evening or on weekends to help them sleep or unwind from a stressful week.
Indica is often recommended medicinally for pain relief, inflammation reduction, and managing muscle tension due to its higher CBD content. Researchers believe CBD also dampens some of THC’s intoxicating effects, which may contribute to the strain’s body high.
What is Sativa Cannabis?
Sativa cannabis (or cannabis Sativa) comes from the C. Sativa plant, which is native to Central and Southern America. Lamarck also named Sativa in 1985, from the Latin word sativum, which means cultivated. The plant is lanky and tall, with thin, light green leaves. Sativa generally has higher levels of THC than CBD, giving it greater mind and mood-altering effects.
Most people report energizing and uplifting feelings from using Sativa. It is often used to sharpen mental focus and concentration. Many people report enhanced creativity and thinking from Sativa. It can also help with anxiety.
Sativa is often recommended medicinally for depression, fatigue, chronic pain, nausea, and stress. The energizing effects can help individuals with chronic diseases to re-engage with activity.
Differences Between Indica and Sativa
Indica and Sativa are native to opposite hemispheres. Indicia is found in the wild in Central Asia and grows in a cooler climate. Sativa plants are native to Southern America and thrive in a hot and wet environment.
The Indica has a bushier and stout appearance with broader leaves adapted to its harsher climate. The Sativa plant can reach up to 10 feet tall and spreads horizontally.
Sativa plants are more challenging to cultivate because they have a longer flowering period and produce fewer buds. They yield less usable marijuana than the heartier Indica plants.
Indica causes relaxing effects and a calming body high, while Sativa induces an energizing mind high in cannabis users. However, pure Indica and Sativa plants no longer exist. Botanists have now developed countless types of hybrid cannabis plants by blending the species to create plants with varying levels of CBD and THC.
This crossbreeding has enabled growers to grow medical cannabis that can target specific psychological and physical symptoms, particularly from chronic medical conditions.
Variables to Consider
Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds in cannabis plants that give them their physical and psychoactive effects. There are hundreds of cannabinoids, but THC and CBD are the most abundant in Indica and Sativa.
THC bonds to the human endocannabinoid system, altering messages through the nervous system to achieve mind-altering effects. Sativa plants have higher THC content. CBD binds to the endocannabinoid system and alters signals to the body and immune system, giving cannabis its bodily effects. Indica plants usually have higher CBD content.
Terpenes are the compounds that make up a plant’s essential oils, giving it aroma and flavor. Biochemically, terpenes complement cannabinoids by helping produce their effects. Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes. It produces calm and relaxation.
When breeding plants, cultivators consider a strain to be Indica when its myrcene volume is greater than 0.5%. Plants with a myrcene volume under 0.5% are classified as Sativa.
What are Hybrid Strains?
Hybrid strains contain blends of both Indica and Sativa. Botanists are constantly innovating new strains of cannabis to favor particular traits, emphasize specific terpenes, and create specific physical effects in the user.
Some hybrid strains can help ease muscle tension and pain, thanks to their Indica components, but have an adequate level of Sativa to offset any sedative effect.
For medical marijuana patients, hybrids can allow them to regain normal function by balancing symptom control with the ability to function. Conversely, hybrid strains can help ease depression symptoms thanks to their Sativa traits without inducing mania or over-alertness thanks to their Indica qualities.
Which Type of Cannabis is Right for You?
Choosing the right cannabis begins with a frank and open discussion with your medical marijuana doctor or a dispensary staff member. Be comprehensive about your symptoms and your expectations. They can then make recommendations based on your goals, the nature of your symptoms, and your medical history.
Also, consider your history with marijuana because tolerance impacts how your body responds. The packaging of dispensary products has clearly marked dosages and THC content. It’s always best to begin with the lowest dose at the longest frequency and then adjust based on your response.
It’s critical to remember that everyone’s body chemistry is unique. While we generally understand how Indica and Sativa interact with the body, you may have the opposite or no response. This is another reason to start low and go slow.
You should also consider how you want to consume cannabis. In most states, you can purchase flowers, dried cannabis, edibles, beverages, topical gels, patches, vape cartridges, and tinctures.
Smoking or vaping generally causes the fast-acting and most intense effects. Consumables and topicals enter the bloodstream slower, causing a longer but less intense high.
You also need to consider where you will use marijuana. Be sure to check your applicable state and local laws on cannabis consumption before consuming any cannabis products.
What gets you more high—indica or sativa?
This question is relative depending on how much you consume, the potency, and your tolerance. In general, Sativa causes a more intense head high, and Indica causes a more intense body high.
Many patients report feeling higher from Sativa because it affects the mind and perception more than Indica. You will likely need to experiment with various strains and concentrations to find the product that best suits the high you want and your tolerance.
Is indica an upper or a downer?
Indica is considered a downer, but its effects are more physical than emotional or mental. It contains higher levels of CBD and myrcene, which helps with sleep. Individuals with anxiety, insomnia, and conditions like muscle contracture often use Indica to help them relax and achieve calm.
What strain keeps you high the longest?
It depends on the type of high you want, how potent the cannabis is, and how you consume it. In general, edibles or beverages containing Indica will give you the longest-lasting body high. Consumables with Sativa will create the longest head high.
Is sativa or indica better for anxiety?
Sativa is generally better for anxiety because of its psychoactive properties and ability to be used during the daytime. Indica is often used to help people relax and calm down, so it may have value for helping the physical effects of anxiety.
In some individuals, cannabis can induce anxiety, exacerbating their symptoms. You should always consult with a qualified medical marijuana doctor before attempting to manage anxiety symptoms with cannabis.
John DiBella is a medical marijuana advocate, owner of The Sanctuary Wellness Institute, and a writer. When he’s not writing blogs about medical marijuana, he enjoys hiking, camping and sailing.