Sativa vs. Indica: Choosing the Right Type for You

Nov 06, 2020

Sativa vs. Indica: Choosing the Right Type for You

Sativa and Indica strains have been around since the 18th century, so it’s no surprise that over a thousand different cannabis strains are being cultivated today to contain a diverse set of characteristics in order to meet growers' demands and consumers' expectations. Generally, all cannabis strains are derived from the Cannabaceae family of plants and are divided into its two main species — cannabis sativa and cannabis indica — with a third type, hybrids, steadily growing in popularity.

In this blog, we'll breakdown the key differences between sativa vs. indica, how they affect the brain and the body and whether these differences should influence your buying decisions when shopping for cannabis.

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis sativa strains are indigenous to tropical regions near the equator with warmer climates, such as countries found in Central and South America and Southeast Asia. The cannabis sativa plant has narrow, light-green leaves and can reach up to 20 feet tall when grown in the wild. They have slimmer branches that naturally spread and extend outwards. Sativa may have a longer flowering cycle compared to indica, but it produces an impressive yield.

More suited for recreational use, sativa-dominant strains have a higher THC than CBD content. They are commonly marketed for their stimulating properties that deliver what they call a "head high," which can enhance the mood, making you feel cheerful, creative and energetic. Consuming sativa-dominant cannabis is believed to be perfect for daytime use when you need something to:

  • Perk you up during social gatherings
  • Boost your productivity 
  • Get your creative juices flowing 
  • Keep you hyper-focused
  • Pump you up for a physically-charged activity or exercise

Sativa strains have a unique terpene profile and are incredibly pungent. They have distinct aromas punctuated with fruity, citrus, peppery, or earthy notes. Some popular sativa-dominant cannabis dried flowers worth checking out are listed here:

Cannabis sativa leaves

Cannabis Indica 

According to Medical News Today, the cannabis indica strain originates from the Middle East, growing wildly in countries like Tibet, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. Experts illustrate the indica plant as short and stocky with dense branches, a stark contrast to the physical characteristics of the sativa plant. The cannabis indica plant is also known for having broader and darker green leaves. Because of their shorter flowering season and ability to adapt to less warm climates, indica plant species are preferred by many cannabis growers.

Cannabis indica has a higher CBD than THC content compared to sativa strains, although research suggests its CBD to THC ratio is 1:1. Indica-dominant strains are thought to produce a "body high" and are sought after by cannabis users for their soothing and relaxing effect ideal for night time use. Plan a chill night-in after a stressful day at work by enjoying a smoke or a taste of indica-dominant edibles to get that pleasant and mellow buzz to lull you to sleep. This strain can also be consumed for boosting appetite and pain management.

Afghan Kush, Hindu Kush and Purple Kush are excellent examples of pure indica cannabis strains. In addition, here are some must-try indica-dominant strains.

Hands holding cannabis indica leaves


In reality, pure sativa and indica strains are hard to come by these days. Instead, what you will find in most local dispensaries are sativa or indica-dominant strains. Experts suggest that there are more than 700 cannabis varieties.

Every year, cannabis growers come up with new and unique strains from different combinations of parent plants. These hybrids are produced naturally or artificially by crossbreeding a cannabis sativa plant and indica plant. Typically, many cannabis growers create hybrids to create new and improved strains for particular purposes, such as speeding up the plant's growing process, improving harvest yield, and achieving varying concentrations of stimulating and calming effects.

Popular cannabis hybrid strains include the following:

Canadian researchers published a paper on PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed journal, exposing that the constant crossbreeding has resulted in immense hybridization, making it almost impossible to determine specific traits by simply observing physical plant features accurately.

Sativa vs. Indica, Which Is the Right One for You? 

Despite the mainstream acceptance of sativa vs. indica's differences and perceived benefits, experts maintain there's currently insufficient scientific evidence to back up these claims. 

So, what's the best way to select a cannabis strain for a particular purpose? A more reliable method would be to take a closer look at its cannabinoid content and the terpene composition.

Close-up shot dried cannabis flowers


  • THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) - This is the cannabinoid that is responsible for the psychoactive properties of cannabis. THC-dominant strains are very popular among recreational cannabis users. The higher the THC content present in a cannabis bud, the more potent the strain will be.
  • CBD (Cannabidiol) - This cannabinoid delivers the perceived therapeutic benefits of cannabis. CBD-dominant strains are usually recommended by budtenders to individuals using cannabis for medical purposes.

Cannabis strains with balanced THC to CBD ratio also exist and are advisable for first-time cannabis users or for anyone who may be consuming cannabis to relax but also appreciate a subtle buzz.


Terpenes are organic aromatic compounds present in plants and fruits. They are what give each cannabis strain a signature fruity, citrusy, or berry-like scent. The most common types of terpenes found in cannabis are:

  • Myrcene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Limonene
  • Terpinolene

Recent cannabis studies connect terpenes to THC, suggesting that they have a synergistic relationship that influences its euphoric effects and reduces pain, anxiety, and appetite disorders. Nevertheless, more scientific work is required to make a definitive conclusion.

Other Factors That Can Affect Your High 

Aside from the cannabinoid and terpenes present in your preferred cannabis strain, other contributing factors can influence your individual experience with cannabis. It’s important that before consuming any cannabis strain you understand what you’re trying to achieve. Some things to keep in mind while choosing the right product for you can include:

For more information about sativa vs. indica strains, don't hesitate to shoot us a message. A member of the Smokey's team will be more than willing to assist you. Get Smokey's now!