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Indica Vs. Sativa Vs. Hybrid: Knowing The Difference

Last updated: 26 February 2024

indica vs sativa

If you’ve ever been to a marijuana dispensary or have been around the cannabis scene for a while, you’ve likely noticed that cannabis strains are usually broken up into distinct categories referred to as Indica, Sativa and hybrid. The properties of Indica vs. Sativa vs. hybrid strains are varied, and most cannabis consumers use these terms to inform themselves on what effects can be expected from a particular strain.

However, it’s not just the effects each type of strain provides that makes them different. Their appearance, bud features, yields and more are considerably diverse as well. Here, we’ll take a look at all there to know about Indica, Sativa and hybrid effects, aroma and flavor, appearance and more.

What Are Indica Cannabis Strains?

indica vs sativa plant

It’s suggested that Indica strains originated in the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan. When it comes to their general appearance, Indica marijuana plants are known to grow short and bushy compared to their Sativa counterparts. Growers interested in high-yielding cannabis strains will do well with Indica strains, as they tend to produce larger yields come harvest.

Most people who enjoy Indica cannabis strains do so because of the sense of calm and deep relaxation they offer. In the medical marijuana community, Indica cannabis strains are generally turned to for pain and inflammation relief. Because of their sedative-like effects, they’re also commonly used to treat insomnia and other sleep problems. The relaxing effects of Indica strains make them perfect for evening use or for days when one doesn’t have many responsibilities to attend to.

Indica strains Open collection

So What Is Cannabis Sativa?

sativa vs indica chart

Sativa cannabis strains are said to have originated in Central and South America, and are known for their uplifting, euphoric and cerebral effects that are perfect for socializing, creative endeavors, and providing the mental and physical energy needed to get things done.

The appearance of Sativa cannabis plants is easily distinguishable from Indicas by their tall, lanky features. Some exceptional Sativa strains can grow up to 20 feet tall! Leaves tend to be longer and skinnier than those found on Indica plants, although overall yields at harvest tend to be less than with Indica strains.

Sativa strains are known to have the opposite effect of Indicas. Instead of calm and relaxation, Sativas tend to offer an energetic and uplifting high that’s largely cerebral. In the medical marijuana community, Sativa strains are often used for depression and anxiety, as they’re known to be excellent for alleviating symptoms associated with both.  

Sativa cannabis strains Open collection

What’s The Difference Between Heirloom And Landrace Cannabis Strains?

When considering pure Indica vs. Sativa, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what landrace and heirloom strains are.

Cannabis is an ancient plant that has developed naturally in distinct areas throughout the world. Landrace strains are considered pure Indicas or Sativas that have developed on their own in various climates and geographical regions.

Pure Indica landrace strains stem from India and Central Asia in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet and areas in northern India. Some of the more well-known landrace Indica strains include:

  • Hindu Kush (Hindu Kush Mountain Range)
  • Afghani (Afghanistan)
  • Mazar/Sharif (Afghanistan)
  • Lashkar Gah (Afghanistan)

Pure Sativa landrace strains have origins closer to the equator in countries such as Mexico, Jamaica, southern India, Thailand and parts of Africa. The strong sun and long growing season in these regions have led to the evolution of landrace Sativa strains such as:

  • Durban Poison (South Africa)
  • Acapulco Gold (Mexico)
  • Lamb’s Bread (Jamaica)
  • Columbian Gold (Columbia)
  • Panama Red (Panama)

Heirloom strains are simply landrace strains that have been removed from their native environment and cultivated elsewhere in the world. Heirlooms are grown for their pure Indica or Sativa effects but tend to lose some of their exclusive properties when grown outside their native region. When grown outside the conditions in which they originated, heirloom strains can’t reach their full potential if these conditions aren’t an exact match to the native conditions from which they originated.

Indicas And Sativas: How Do They Differ In Appearance?

Indica and Sativa strains differ dramatically in appearance, making it easy to distinguish between the two types simply by looking at them.

With their Middle Eastern dry climate origins, Indicas grow to be short, stocky and bushy. With heights that average 3-6 feet (1-2 meters), they’re ideal for indoor cultivation. The leaves of Indica strains are short and wide, and tend to be a much deeper shade of green than Sativa strains.

Sativas are accustomed to equatorial climates where the weather is hot and humid, and they’ve adapted over thousands of years to be well-suited to this type of environment. Sativa strains can grow to be up to 20 feet (6 meters) in height and have a much longer and lankier appearance than Indicas. Their leaves are long and thin, and much lighter in color than the deep green hues of Indica strains.

Indica Vs. Sativa Bud Features And Yields

indica buds vs sativa buds

There’s a big difference when it comes to Sativa vs. Indica buds and overall yields come harvest time. Sativa vs. Indica buds are very similar to the plant’s structure itself – either long and thin, or dense and stocky.

Like their overall structure itself, Sativa buds tend to be long, fluffy, thin and less compact than Indica buds. Sativa strains typically produce a smaller yield than Indica strains yet have a longer flowering period. Sativa buds might look bigger than Indica buds but tend to weigh much less.

Indica strains tend to be a popular pick among growers, as they typically offer higher yields with a shorter flowering period. Indica buds are much denser than Sativa buds, and they have a wider and more bulky structure. When dried, Indica buds weigh considerably more than Sativa buds.

Is There A Difference In Indica Vs. Sativa Terpene Profiles?

The distinct aroma of all cannabis strains is due to their individual terpene profile. Terpenes are the aromatic molecules in cannabis and other plants that lend to their aroma and flavor profile, as well as the therapeutic effects that cannabis strains contain.

Indica strains smell more earthy. The classic cannabis “skunk” smell is typically always an Indica. Pine is another flavor and aroma associated with Indica strains, although some tend to have a sweet, fruity flavor. Alpha-Pinene is one of the most common terpenes found in Indica strains, which is also found in several pine tree species, as well as in sage and rosemary.

Sativa strains are known for their intensely pungent aroma. Because of their geographical origins, Sativa strains tend to smell tropical, fruity or citrusy, with some containing the classic “diesel fuel” aroma some strains are famous for. Limonene is a prominent terpene in many Sativa strains, which is also abundant in citrus fruits like lemon, lime and orange.

What Are The Different Effects Of Indica And Sativa?

Aside from their difference in appearance and aroma, one of the most notable differences are the effects of Indica vs. Sativa strains. An Indica vs. a Sativa high is quite different, with each type having their own unique effects and properties. Here, we’ll take a deeper look at the general effects of Indica vs. Sativa strains.

Effects To Expect When Consuming Indica Cannabis Strains

indica vs sativa effects

Indica strains are associated with feelings of deep relaxation and calm. They’re great for slowing down the mind and gently easing the body into a relaxed state. Indica strains are famous for the “couch lock” sensation some cannabis strains deliver, making them ideal for nighttime use or on days when there isn’t much to be done other than unwind and take it easy.

Quite The Opposite With Sativa Strains

indica vs sativa high

Sativas are known for having the opposite effect of Indicas, and are famous for their uplifting feelings that invoke a sense of increased energy and euphoric bliss. They’re great for creative insight, socializing and physical activity, so are ideal for daytime use. Sativa strains are typically associated with a “head high,” while Indica strains are usually associated with a “body high.”

What’s The Average THC And CBD Content Of Indica Vs. Sativa Strains?

There’s speculation that Indica vs. Sativa strains make you feel different because they contain different levels of THC and CBD. It’s well-known that different strains contain varying THC levels, but does this have to do with being Indica vs. Sativa? Not exactly.

Lab testing indicates that when it comes to Indica and Sativa THC levels, the two are virtually identical, with each containing an average of 17.6% THC. CBD content in THC-dominant strains is much lower, with most strains that are high in THC containing between 1-4% CBD. Strains that contain up to 4% CBD are regarded as being high in CBD.

Do Indica And Sativa Strains Have Different Medical Benefits?  

sativa cbd vs indica cbd

Both Indicas and Sativas are popular for their medical benefits, with each type of strain offering relief for various health conditions. Medical marijuana patients will find that one usually works better than the other to meet their personal medical needs.

When it comes to particular medical conditions, Sativas tend to be best for conditions like depression, anxiety and PTSD. Indicas, on the other hand, are typically used to treat conditions such as pain and inflammation. With their sedative-like effects, Indicas are also often excellent for those suffering from insomnia.

When considering using Sativa vs. Indica for pain, or an Indica vs. Sativa for depression, it’s important to take a patient’s general symptoms into consideration. Depression and anxiety, for example, are often accompanied by physical pain and insomnia. Because so many conditions have an array of various symptoms, many medical marijuana patients tend to use a combination of both Indica and Sativa strains to meet their wellness needs.

What Makes Indica Vs. Sativa Cultivation Different?

When it comes to cultivation, there’s a bit of a difference considering Indica vs. Sativa strains.

With their short and bushy stature, Indica strains tend to be best suited for indoor growers. When cultivated outdoors, Indicas tend to do better in cooler environments with shorter summers. Once they begin to flower, Indica strains can rapidly increase in height up to 50% or more, but don’t tend to grow too huge due to their genetic background.

Conversely, Sativa strains are best suited for outdoor cultivation because of their tendency to grow extremely tall. Once flowering begins, Sativas will grow rapidly in height and continue to grow taller during the entire flowering stage until harvested. Sativas can gain up to 200-300% of their growth in height during flower.

The lifecycle of a cannabis plant can range from 14-32 weeks (approximately 4-8 months). The largest variable in how long a plant takes to grow is how long it’s kept in the vegetation period. Indoor growers can manipulate how long a plant is in veg and flower by adjusting the light cycle, while outdoor growers depend on nature to do its thing.

Indica Vs. Sativa Vegetation Period

indica vs sativa strains

When considering the Indica vs. Sativa vegetation period, it all comes down to how much light they receive, while grown outdoors, both types will stay in veg longer the closer you happen to live to the equator.

The vegetative stage of both Indica and Sativa strains can be anywhere from 3-16 weeks depending on how much light they receive. To keep plants in veg, they should be kept under at least 18 hours of light per day and switched to 12 hours of light when you’re ready to begin moving into the flowering stage.

Indica Vs. Sativa Flowering Period

growing indica vs sativa

When it comes to flowering periods, Sativa strains tend to take much longer than Indica strains. The flowering period for Indica strains is approximately 6-9 weeks, while Sativa strains can remain in the flowering stage for 11-12 weeks. Some exceptional Sativa strains, however, can take up to 20 weeks to finish flowering!

Interested In The Most Popular Indica And Sativa Strains?

The modern world of cannabis breeding has resulted in countless different strains. Although pure landrace Indica or Sativa strains can be hard to come by, breeding efforts have resulted in strains that carry dominant characteristics and effects of both Indicas and Sativas. The following are some of the most popular Indica and Sativa strains you can find:

Popular Indica Strains

Popular Sativa Strains

So What Are Hybrid Cannabis Strains?

Sativa Indica hybrid

Most cannabis strains are typically a mix of both Sativa and Indica and are known as hybrid cannabis strains. What’s the difference between Indica vs. Sativa vs. hybrid marijuana strains? It all comes down to their effects and the dominance of Indica vs. Sativa genetics.

Hybrid cannabis strains are a combination of both Indica and Sativa. Indica-dominant hybrids are strains with prevailing Indica genetics. While Indica-dominant hybrids do offer a bit of a cerebral effect due to the Sativa profile they contain, they carry more of the effects that pure Indica strains are associated with.

Sativa-dominant hybrids are strains with prevailing Sativa genetics. They typically offer a more uplifting and energetic high that’s counterbalanced by some of the relaxing and calming effects associated with pure Indica strains.

A balanced hybrid contains a perfectly balanced ratio of both Indica and Sativa genetics. These hybrids are the strains that offer the best of both worlds, perfectly combining the soothing and relaxing effects of an Indica strain with the uplifting and energetic effects of a Sativa.

Popular Hybrid Strains

Hybrid strains aren’t just popular with most cannabis users but are also extremely common worldwide. Many of the strains that have been crossbred over the years have created a mixture of an Indica/Sativa high. While some contain more Indica-like effects, others will contain more Sativa-like effects depending on what strains have been used to breed them. The following are some of the most popular hybrid strains on the market:

Indica, Sativa Or Hybrid: Which Strain Is Right For You?

Knowing the differences between Indica, Sativa and hybrid strains can make it easier to choose the best strain to fit your individual needs, whether you’re growing cannabis or simply enjoying the effects it offers.

The more time you spend experimenting with each, the easier it is to determine exactly what strain to choose depending on your needs. Knowledge is power, and whether it comes to your grow space or the desired effects, being able to distinguish the difference between Indica vs. Sativa strains is some of the best weed wisdom you can have.

High THC Cannabis Strains View fastest strains
I think the 'haze' strains are the best sativas. They are up, speedy and psychedelic. Neville's Haze is a classic. There was a strain going around a few years ago called Vision Haze which was suppose to be unbelievable trippy weed.
In that case "Super Silver Haze" is what i hear some people love. I love my Cheese' atm
I am not really into super strong weed - but Arjans Ultra Haze no.1 is one of those strains that starts to hit you with a sledgehammer after a few drags - yield is very good also https://herbiesheadshop.com/cannabis-seeds/arjans-ultra-haze-1
Why choose - sativa early, hybrids late afternoon and early evening, indica at night.
Sativa lover here. Love that energetic buzzy high. Don't like sitting still and wasting my day... Which is what i tend to do witn indica. I like it before bed.
First time with sativa i laughed uncontrollably (had no tolerance too) for like 2hours, and my mates first time also with me ,he had twitchy hands during the high, and I pretty much had to feed him Pringles lol. Anyway indica is more relaxing body high, munchies and more how the media portrays typical stoners, also sleepy. Sativa is energetic more euphoric and mind high. Hybrid is slight munchies, body high and head high, and more common. I personally prefer indica because you feel more high, idk more symptoms of being high imo
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