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Indica Vs. Sativa - How To Decide Which One To Use

Sometimes bringing it back to the basics can be the most beneficial in determining which cannabis experience is ideal for you. Rather than reading through detailed terpene and cannabinoid profiles, considering more simply the idea of sativa vs. indica can help to narrow your preferences without being too limiting. 

Having an understanding — or even basic comprehension of — indica vs. sativa, and what the differences between these strain types are, may play a major part in enjoying marijuana and all the potential benefits you may be seeking. With this being said, it’s of the utmost importance to recognize everyone’s unique relationship and individual reactions to cannabis and its many forms and variants. Research continues to provide more answers on indica vs sativa, but it would be more than fair to call this a general overview rather than absolute rule. For cannabis novices though, user testimony and basic guidelines can be extremely valuable. 


Indica vs. sativa chart

Type

Best For

Ideal Time of Day for Use

Type of high

Strain Examples

Indica

  • Late afternoon
  • Just prior to bed

Very physically impactful / felt in the body

Typically higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC

  • Granddaddy Purple 
  • Northern Lights 
  • Hindu Kush
  • Forbidden Fruit

Sativa

  • Anxiety reduction
  • Productivity / focus
  • Creativity 
  • Early morning
  • Midday pick-me-up

Very cerebrally impactful / felt in the head

Typically lower levels of CBD and higher levels of THC

  • Sour Diesel
  • Durban Poison
  • Jack Herer 
  • Green Crack 

Indica vs sativa

Understanding the difference between indica vs sativa can help to amplify the smoking experience by helping to determine the most fitting strain for the situation at hand. Quite simply, sativa and indica can produce very different highs. Sativa strains are generally energizing, with the potential to both increase productivity and spur-on creativity. Indicas produce more relaxing effects, better for potentially treating pain and insomnia. 

What is indica cannabis like?

Strains classified under the indica family are usually used because of their potential to relieve pain, relax mental and physical tension, and help with appetite stimulation. More generally speaking, indica strains are enjoyed for their almost sedative qualities that relax some to the point of being “couched” or unable to get up from their seat. Some point to cannabis indica’s high levels of CBD, and balanced THC content, as the reason why the family’s strains are able to provide such relaxation and physical relief. 


What is sativa cannabis like?

Stains classified under the sativa family are typically used because of their potential to boost creativity, encourage productivity and energize. Overall, sativa strains are loved for their uplifting and refreshing effects that keep you going throughout the day, avoiding that midday slump. Due to their lengthy growth cycle / maturation, sativa’s can maintain a higher THC content and lower levels of CBD than that of hybrids or indicas. This may be connected to the family’s strong cerebral effects. 

Who should use indica?

Those looking to:

  • Increase their appetite 
  • Improve their sleep at night
  • Help treat their pain
  • Relax after a long day of work
  • Calm their nerves
  • Disconnect from racing thoughts

Who should use sativa?

Those looking to:

  • Wake and bake
  • Tackle their chores 
  • Get organized
  • Tap into their creativity
  • More innovative thinking/working 
  • Act more social

Best activities for a sativa high:

  • Cleaning / organizing
  • Creative brainstorming
  • To-do list tackling
  • Hobbies / personal outlets
  • Safe outdoor adventuring
  • Mild exercise 
  • Arts / journaling 

Best activities for an indica high:

  • Yoga
  • Sleeping 
  • Meditation
  • Physical therapy / pain management
  • Relaxing
  • Snacking
  • Watching television / entertainment

Differences between indica and sativa - The plant

Just as sativa vs indica plants produce different effects, they also look quite a bit different from each other. 

Sativa plants typically grow over 12 feet tall and produce flowers with long leaves and slender blades. The sativa plant produces nugs that are typically vaguely sausage or banana-shaped. These plants take longer to mature and bloom compared with indica plants. 

Unlike the tall slender sativa, indica plants are shorter and wider. The produced flowers are bushier with broader leaves. Indica plants characteristically produce a higher volume of bud compared with sativa plants.  

How to choose between indica and sativa?

It’s difficult to provide a definitive way to choose which family of strains is best for you. Although user testimony can give wonderful, informative insight, it cannot tell you how you will uniquely feel under the influence of indica vs. sativa strains. It’s been said: indica strains tend to bring forth tranquil effects, while sativa strains bring about more energy and creativity. More to that point, many experience a more cerebral high with sativas compared to that of indicas and their body highs. These very rudimentary distinctions may be a newbies best means of choosing between indica vs. sativa, but the importance of exploring beyond this threshold cannot be understated. 

Indica vs. sativa for pain 

Though sativa vs indica have differing effects, they both have potential medical benefits.. Though studies are still ongoing, both types of cannabis can be helpful in managing or relieving pain.

According to one study, the differences in sativa vs indica help to relieve different types of pain. Sativa can help reduce inflammation, which may relieve pain related to swollen muscles. In some cases, it has been used to combat difficulties related to multiple sclerosis or arthritis. Indica also has pain-relieving effects, though they are mostly sedating. These sedating effects can combat painful symptoms related to insomnia, and have the potential to help with migraines. 

Indica vs sativa vs hybrid

Hybrid strains are produced by crossbreeding indica strains with sativas. Hybrids are generally produced in greenhouses or on farms, genetically designed to produce specific flavors or effects. 

As such, hybrids can produce an endless variety of effects. These strains are not always a clean half-and-half. Most hybrid strains are either indica-dominant or sativa-dominant. Depending on what plants are crossbred—and the resulting percentage of indica vs sativa—hybrids can produce energizing or calming effects (or a mixture of the two). Similarly, the appearance of hybrid plants can vary depending on what plants go into their genetics. 


To sum it up

While diving into the world of cannabis and all its unique intricacies can be enlightening and informative, there’s still so much to learn from a scientific standpoint. And though dispensaries can more simply organize their products, this categorization of sativa vs. indica is probably much less cut and dry than once assumed. Fortunately, with such increased interest in cannabis and its laundry list of potential benefits, constantly updated research continues to propel us toward a more educated understanding of these major strain classifications. From there, novices and cannabis connoisseurs alike can continue to make more informed choices on what strain or terpene / cannabinoid profile is best for them. 


FAQs

Is there really a difference between indica and sativa?

The short answer is: yes and no. While historically cannabis users have separated indica vs sativa as very different things, continued research on marijuana has shown there’s a bit more to what really differentiates the plants’ effect on the human body. Even though many in the cannabis world agree indica has more prominent physical effects, while sativas possess stronger cerebral effects, these user impacts are more so connected to the individual strain’s profile. Because every cannabis consumer reacts differently to different strains, it’s also hard to say definitively how indica vs. sativa strains affect people. 

Does sativa make you sleepy or hyper?

Sativa strains are known for their more lively effects, compared to that of indica strains. Said to provide a buzzing energy and uplifting mood, sativa strains are more commonly used in the AM hours. Indica strains, on the other hand, are used more regularly at night. Because many believe indica strains tend to provide more relaxing and physically sedative effects, they can be helpful to those also seeking assistance in the sleep department. These effects can still be very different from user to user in their individual intricacies. 

Is sativa more harsh than indica?

Not necessarily. As far as growing environments go, indica plants do grow up in much harsher areas compared to that of sativa. Adapting to more turbulent conditions — extreme temperatures, elevations, etc. — makes indica plants typically shorter and stubbier than longer, thinner, taller sativa plants. With concerns to indica vs. sativa in the realm of smoking / effects, users may find sativa’s mental effects too dizzying, or find indica’s slumping body effects too pacifying, it’s really different for everyone and for every individual strain. 

Is it indica or sativa that helps you sleep?

While both types of strains can have unique effects on each and every user, people tend to prefer and enjoy indica strains for sleeping. Sativa strains are usually used for increased focus, creativity, mood-boosting, etc. — quite the opposite of sleeping or chilling out. Considering sativa vs. indica, the latter is usually enjoyed for its higher CBD content and physically relieving qualities. Those suffering from chronic pain issues, or general restlessness, may benefit from incorporating indica strains into their bedtime routine. 

What is stronger, sativa or indica? 

Sativa vs indica does not generally affect the strength of the strain. With similar levels of THC, sativa vs indica can simply produce different effects, leading to much different experiences. 

How can I tell the difference between sativa and indica?

To tell the difference between sativa vs indica before smoking, look at the leaves of the plant: sativa has thin, sharp blades while indica has shorter, broader leaves. Otherwise, pay attention to the side effects. Sativas tend to produce an energized, creative high while indicas can produce a calmer, more relaxed high. 


Ready to learn more? Explore Sativa vs. Hybrid vs. Indica Myths.

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