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Why do we talk about Indica, Sativa and Hybrid Cannabis?

It is standard practice to categorize cannabis strains into one of three categories: indica, sativa, or hybrid. This may be seen while searching through cannabis strains or buying cannabis at a dispensary. The vast majority of customers and budtenders rely on these sorts of marijuana to forecast the effects of cannabis, but are they accurate?

Cannabinoids and terpenes are the components that make up a specific strain’s chemical makeup. Science is pointing to a better means of assessing the impacts that a cannabis strain will have on you, and that method is cannabinoids and terpenes.

If this is the case, then why do users and budtenders alike continue to adopt the indica, sativa, and hybrid paradigm rather than the cannabinoid and terpene model?

Because it is not founded on data or science—the terms are botanical names that refer to a plant’s structure, not the effects it produces—there is a significant push within the cannabis industry to disavow the indica/sativa/hybrid classification system. This push has gained significant traction in recent years.

However, the vast majority of the cannabis business, including most stores where you can purchase pot, is still mired in the practice of categorizing strains as indicas, sativas, or hybrids for one primary reason: It’s simple. If you give a customer three alternatives to choose from—up, down, or in between—it will be much simpler for you to describe how a certain strain will make them feel and sell a product. Whether people agree with it or not, the indica, sativa, and hybrid categorization system for cannabis is still widely used.

Both models provide something useful, and customers on any level may benefit from using either one. Using the indica/sativa/hybrid paradigm might provide you with a simpler and more broad approach to selecting a marijuana strain and understanding its effects. After you have gained some familiarity with cannabis, you may decide that you want to understand more about the complexities of marijuana, such as its chemical profiles, cannabinoids, and terpenes, which is the approach that we favor.

Let’s take a look at the distinctions between sativas and indicas, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each categorization scheme.

Understanding the differences between Indica and Sativa strains of cannabis

The common understanding of indicas and sativas is that indica strains are physically sedating, perfect for relaxing with a movie or as a nightcap before bed, and sativa strains are energizing with uplifting cerebral effects that pair well with physical activity, social gatherings, and creative projects. Hybrid strains are thought to have a mix of indica and sativa effects.

But indica doesn’t always mean “in da couch” and sativas don’t necessarily energize all consumers. The origins of the two terms are actually rooted in botany, not effects, and describe the physical structure of a plant. On top of that, every person has a different body chemistry, so a strain can affect each person differently.

However, even today, the belief that indicas, sativas, and hybrids deliver distinct effects is still deeply rooted in mainstream cannabis culture. If you’ve ever been to a dispensary, you’ve likely heard a budtender begin a strain recommendation by asking which of those three types you prefer, but the science doesn’t support that.

Where Indica and Sativa got their start

Carl Linnaeus published Species Plantarum in 1753, in which he classified all cannabis plants as belonging to the same group. This group was referred to as “Cannabis sativa L.,” where “Cannabis” referred to the genus, “sativa” referred to the species, and “L.” indicated Linnaeus’ classification system. The word “sativa” originates from the Latin word “sativum,” which translates to “cultivated.”

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French biologist, revised the naming of the plant in 1785 to include two distinct species: “Cannabis sativa,” a plant that is taller, lankier, and more fibrous; and “Cannabis indica,” a plant that is shorter, stockier, and more psychoactive; its name means “from India,” which is where it was thought to have originated.

These descriptions continue to be used today, and they mostly apply to the physical structure of the many types of weeds.


Sativa, which are often regarded to be stimulating, originated in settings that were warm and humid. They became tall and lanky so that they could dry out and not absorb as much humidity in their environment. Because the temperature won’t get cold and wet toward the end of the growth season, it may take them a long time to develop and blossom, or create buds. This is because the weather won’t get cold and wet throughout the growing season.


Indica strains, which are often seen as being soothing, were traditionally cultivated in colder, more northern regions. They have a shorter growing life cycle than other plants, which allows them to be harvested before the cool and rainy weather of autumn and winter sets in. Because of their habitat, they have a short and dense growth pattern.


As a side note, the industrial, non-psychoactive kinds of cannabis that are grown for industrial purposes and harvested largely for fiber, seeds, CBD, and new cannabinoids such as delta-8 are referred to as “hemp.” CBD and other new cannabinoids may be extracted from hemp, as can the plant’s fiber for use in the production of materials and textiles, as can the plant’s seeds for consumption. According to current legislation, hemp refers to any cannabis plant that has less than 0.3% THC.

Cannabinoids and terpenes vs Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid Strains of Cannabis

Cannabis has a wide range of nuances. Because every strain of cannabis has its own unique chemical profile, the way it reacts with the chemistry of each individual’s body is also unique; smoking the same strain as a friend might have an entirely different effect on each of you.

Here at Ganja Goats, we like to think of ourselves as cannabis geeks, therefore we favor the more sophisticated and specialized methodology of assessing the effects of a strain by looking at the mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes that it contains (more below). The indica/sativa/hybrid approach, on the other hand, is a simple, fast, and straightforward method to obtain a rough feel of how a strain may affect you. Be aware, though, that it is not a perfect match.

The cannabinoid and terpene model is used in Ganja Goats’ own strain database. This model is used to compile the chemical profiles of hundreds of strains utilizing data from cannabis testing laboratories located all across the world.

This approach is a little bit more complicated, but you shouldn’t let the data intimidate you. Once you discover a strain that you like, you can dial in your cannabis experience and find a strain that is perfect for you.

The indica, sativa, and hybrid technique broken down and explained

Have you had a rough day and are you ready to relax? Do you have some spring cleaning or a project that needs to be completed? When you talk to the budtender at your neighborhood establishment, they will inform you:

Indica strains are known to induce feelings of peace and relaxation, making them ideal for winding down at the end of the day, unwinding with a movie or some music, having a sleep, or just looking at the wall.

Sativas will give you more energy and will help you get more done. They are ideal for anything that demands concentration, such as working out, going on a trek, finishing a project, or even just cleaning the house.

The effects of hybrid strains are a combination of those of indica and sativa.

In a general sense, you’ll find a lot of consistency to the concept that indicas are soothing and sativas are lively in Leafly’s own Top 100 cannabis strains: Indicas tend to be more sedating, while sativas tend to be more energizing. The majority of the strains that are classified as “sleepy” and “relaxed” are indicas, while the majority of the strains that are classified as “energetic” are sativas.

Is that not the case? Let’s fine-tune that method now, shall we?

Cannabinoids, as well as Terpenes

If indica and sativa are not the greatest predictors of effects, then what are the best forecasters?

It is easier to identify the effects of various strains of cannabis if one discusses the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes that it contains, as well as any other chemical components that it may include. The interaction of these substances produces what is known as the entourage effect, which is responsible for the sensation of being high.

Cannabinoids: what exactly are they?

Cannabinoids are the key active ingredients in cannabis, which is made of hundreds of different chemical compounds that each have their own distinct effects. THC and CBD are the two cannabinoids that are found the most often and are responsible for the majority of cannabis’ medicinal and recreational effects.

THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the molecule that most people think of when they hear the word “weed.” THC is responsible for producing the high that marijuana is known for, as well as relieving symptoms such as pain and nausea.

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is a chemical found in cannabis that does not produce intoxication but is recognized to treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including anxiety, pain, and inflammation.

What are terpenes, then?

Terpenes are fragrant molecules that are often generated by plants and fruit. If you have ever utilized aromatherapy to calm or energise your mind and body, you already have an understanding of the fundamentals of terpenes. They are present in cannabis, oranges, hops, pepper, and lavender flowers, among other things. Cannabis is the most common source. Terpenes are the compounds that give cannabis its distinctive aroma, which may be described as having notes of berries, citrus, pine, gasoline, and so on. Terpenes are secreted by the same glands that produce THC and CBD.

There are a wide variety of terpenes that may be discovered in cannabis, however the following four are the most prevalent:

  • Terpinolene
  • Myrcene
  • Limonene
  • Caryophyllene

How the effects of various cannabis strains are influenced by terpenes and the many permutations and combinations of terpenes is a research subject that has not yet been satisfactorily solved. Consequently, although cannabinoids are the key factor in deciding how a strain will make you feel, for example, whether you want THC or CBD in a strain, or both, terpenes also contribute a significant amount to the overall effects.

The cannabinoid and terpene technique for Sativa and Indica - how to apply it

Cannabinoids and terpenes, often known as a strain’s chemical profile (another word for this is “chemovars”), are a better way to think about marijuana than indicas and sativas when it comes to picking a cannabis strain. Chemovars are another name for chemical profiles. Chemovars are a subset of indicas.

There are three primary categories of chemical profiles, or chemovars, that may be used to classify cannabis strains:

  • Type I: a high proportion of THC to CBD.
  • Type II: well-balanced, with almost the same amounts of THC and CBD (like 1:1 cannabis strains).
  • Type III: high CBD content and low THC content

You probably won’t hear a budtender using these terms, and the majority of customers who go into a marijuana dispensary won’t ask for a “type II” strain; rather, they will ask for a “balanced” or “1:1” strain. These terms are used in the industry, but they aren’t commonly used by customers or budtenders.

Cannabinoid selection is the first step

When selecting a strain with the use of the cannabinoid and terpene model, the first step is to decide how much THC and CBD you want to be present in your strain.

People who are looking for a potently euphoric experience will find that THC-dominant strains, also known as Type I, have high levels of THC and low levels of CBD. Patients seeking relief from pain, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and other symptoms use these strains as their medication of choice.

Strains with a balanced ratio of THC to CBD, also known as 1:1 strains (Type II), have about the same amount of each compound, and they provide modest euphoria in addition to relieving symptoms. These strains are often recommended to first-time users who are looking for an easy way to get into the classic high associated with cannabis use.

CBD-dominant strains (Type III) have high quantities of CBD but low levels of THC. As a result of the low levels of THC, these strains are popular among those who are very sensitive to THC or patients who need clear-headed symptom alleviation. Try a strain that is strong in CBD if you are someone who is prone to feeling nervous while using THC-dominant strains or if you don’t enjoy the additional negative effects that are connected with THC.

Choose your terpenes

Note the terpenes that are present in some of your favorite strains of cannabis. The terpene profile of a strain may be found anywhere online.

For instance, caryophyllene makes up the bulk of GSC, with myrcene and limonene accounting for just a portion of its overall makeup. If you like GSC, you may also enjoy other strains that include a mixture of terpenes that is similar to GSC, such as GMO Cookies or OG Kush. On the other hand, if you discover a strain that you do not like, it is quite probable that you will not like other strains that have a terpene profile that is similar to the one you dislike.

Finally, take your time hunting through available strains

Before marijuana can be sold at a dispensary like ours here at Ganja Goats, it must first be tested, purportedly for the presence of pesticides and pollutants but also, in certain cases, for the quantities of cannabinoids and terpenes it contains. When a customer finds a strain that they enjoy, Ganja Goats utilizes that information to fuel our strain database as well as our strain search engine. This provides customers with a wide selection of similar strains from which to pick and more avenues to investigate.

Additional factors to take into account while deciding between Sativa and Indica

There are other components that go into determining how a strain will impact you. When searching for a cannabis strain or product, take the following into consideration.

Sativa and Indica Tolerance

Regular users of cannabis will develop a considerably greater tolerance than infrequent users, and as a result, they will be able to take much more cannabis or cannabis with a higher THC content without experiencing any adverse effects. Remember the old adage, “start low, go gradually,” especially if you don’t smoke very often.


The strength of a strain and the amount you ingest, often known as the dose, will have a significant impact on the experience of using cannabis.

It’s possible that a strain with 25% THC content won’t be as pleasurable as one with 16% THC, which is one reason why clinics have so many different kinds of popular strains. There is no guilt in selecting a product with a low THC %; you just need to discover the correct amount for you and the experience you want to have.

In addition, the effects produced by taking a handful of puffs vs smoking a full joint will be quite different from one another, as will the degree of the effects produced. Consider using a low-THC strain and taking it in modest doses if your tolerance is poor.

Chemistry of the body

Because the chemistry of each person’s body is unique, it may be difficult to predict how a certain strain will impact a given person. Even if you ingest cannabis at the same rate as another person, your body may nevertheless have quite diverse responses to the substance. It’s possible that a buddy can go through a whole joint in no time, while you may just need one or two hits to be satisfied.

Try a strain that is strong in CBD if you are prone to anxiety or any of the other unpleasant side effects that THC may cause.

Time and Place

The state of mind you are in and the atmosphere around you when you consume cannabis are referred to as your “set” and “setting,” respectively. These factors are just as important as tolerance, dose, and the way your body chemistry works. Consuming marijuana might have adverse affects on you if you are having a terrible day or if you are anxious about trying it for the first time. In addition, if you’re not the most outgoing person in the world, smoking in a crowded public place could make you feel uncomfortable.

Both the stage and the environment are fully determined by the actor. Some individuals flourish in the company of others, while others struggle to do so. Some people choose doing their consumption in the privacy of their own homes, while others want to do it outside among the trees.

Manner of intake or consumption

The manner in which you ingest cannabis will also play a role in determining how a particular strain will effect you. In general, one puff on a vape is regarded to be less potent and to offer fewer effects than one puff on a joint. Dosing yourself with dabs will cause powerful effects very quickly and is not recommended for first-timers.

If you want the benefits to linger for a longer period of time, you could explore edibles; however, remember to start low and progress gently.

Account for your medical history

Be aware of any preexisting medical issues you may have, as well as any medications or supplements you may be taking, and how cannabis may interact with them. When in doubt, discuss the possibility of using cannabis with your primary care physician or another qualified medical expert. They could have some ideas or suggestions for you that would compliment the medical or health regimen you are already following.

Result, disposition, or experience that is desired

Ask your local budtender for advice on what you’re looking for, whether you’re expecting for a certain experience, such as relaxing or watching a movie, or if you’re wanting to cure an issue, such as insomnia or nausea.

Keep in mind that not all indicas will leave you feeling tired or heavy, and not all sativas will leave you feeling energized or uplifted.

Take note of your preferred and least preferred Sativa and Indica strains

Keep a record of which marijuana strains you prefer and which ones you don’t like so that you may explore (or avoid) strains that are similar. If you appreciate a strain that has a certain cannabinoid level and terpene profile, it is probable that you will also enjoy another strain that has levels that are comparable.

Additionally, strains that come from the same family or have the same lineage tend to have chemical profiles that are very similar to one another. For example, GSC is descended from OG Kush, which is the parent strain of GMO Cookies, Sherbert, and many more, so all of these strains will have terpenes that are very similar to one another.

An overview of sativa, indica, and hybrid cannabis strains

What is a Sativa?

Even while not all sativa strains of marijuana will make you feel energized, most users find that sativas have a propensity to induce a “head high,” which is an effect that is uplifting and stimulating. They also often remark that sativas are useful in reducing tension or anxiety, and many consumers prefer sativas because they allow them to sharpen their attention, stimulate their creativity, and increase their motivation.

Effects of Sativa

The majority of people who use cannabis report experiencing feelings of happiness, elevation, euphoria, and increased energy after consuming sativa strains. Sativas are frequently viewed of as “daytime” strains, utilized for feeling productive, creative, and focused, and for getting tasks done.

What is Indica?

Even while not all indica strains will put you “on the couch,” many customers still identify indicas with effects that are felt in the body, such as heavy limbs or a tingling face. According to their findings, indica strains are beneficial for promoting relaxation and preventing sleeplessness.

Effects of Indica

The sensation of being calm, euphoric, cheerful, and drowsy are all characteristics that are often linked with indica strains. Indicas are usually regarded as midnight strains since they are typically used around the end of the night in order to relax and unwind.

What exactly are hybrid strains of cannabis?

In order to create hybrid strains, both indica and sativa-descended parent plants are used in the breeding process. Because cannabis has a long history of being crossbred, it is difficult to find strains that are descended from pure indica or pure sativa plants. In reality, the vast majority of cannabis strains that are referred to as “indica” or “sativa” are hybrids that contain genetics inherited from both types.

Effects of Hybrid strains

The effects of hybrid marijuana strains are a combination of those of both indica and sativa strains, since hybrid strains receive their genetics from both types of cannabis. It all depends on whatever hybrid you take and what affects its parent strains generate; common results include feeling joyful, euphoric, elevating, active, or relaxed.

If you examine the hybrid’s history, often known as its parent strains, you may be able to get a clearer idea of the impacts that the hybrid will create. For instance, if it contains a higher percentage of indica in its ancestry, it may exhibit effects that are more typical of strains that include more indica, although this is not always the case.

Sativa vs Indica FAQ

The following are some responses to frequently asked questions about sativa and indica varieties of marijuana.

Both “indica” and “sativa” are botanical terminology that relate to the structure of a plant’s leaves and flowers. In terms of its effects, indica strains are supposed to be calming and soothing, whilst sativa strains are believed to be energizing and uplifting.

Sativas have a reputation for being uplifting and euphoric, despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

Although the body chemistry of each user is unique, it is usually believed that sativas give a high that affects both the mind and the body.

It really depends on the chemistry of your body whether or not sativa strains will give you the munchies and assist enhance your appetite.

It is possible that sativas, which are regarded to be energetic, can keep you up at night, but this is dependent on the chemical makeup of your body.

Indica strains are often believed to be soothing, which may cause users to feel drowsy as a side effect.

There are several indica strains that are renowned for producing powerful body highs.

It is possible that indica or sativa strains will have a detrimental impact on you if, when you are sober, you are prone to feelings of anxiety or paranoia; however, this will depend on the unique chemistry of your body.

Depending on the makeup of your body, indicas or sativas could cause your eyes to become red.

Need more knowledge on Indica and Sativa? Check this out.


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