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What is the Difference Between Indica and Sativa?

The cannabis industry can sometimes seem daunting, even from a consumers perspective. Terpenes, cannabinoids, the entourage effect — the list is endless. Nevertheless, some basics can make all the difference in creating an ideal experience with cannabis. Answering the age-old questions of “sativa vs. indica” and “what really is the difference between the two?”

Understanding the difference between indica and sativa strains plays a huge role in enjoying cannabis and its potential benefits. And while more research is showing there may not be as big of a difference as once thought, user testimony of the strains’ different effects remains valuable, especially for those new to cannabis. 

The difference between indica and sativa 


Typical Effects

CBD Level

THC Level

Best For

Example Strains


  • Decreases body aches and pains.
  • Provides mental and physical relaxation.
  • Great for nighttime use / sleep.
  • Typically higher levels of CBD.
  • Typically lower levels of THC.
  • Sleeping 
  • Pain treatment 
  • Relaxation


  • Increases focus and creativity. 
  • Inhibits anxiety and feelings of unease.  
  • Great for daytime use (no drowsiness).
  • Typically lower levels of CBD.
  • Typically higher levels of THC.
  • Creativity 
  • Productivity / focus
  • Anxiety reduction

What is cannabis sativa?

Cannabis sativa grows tall and is probably a bit thinner than how most would envision it. The plant’s leaves are long and finger-like, sprouting from a core that can grow up to nearly 12 feet. Cannabis sativa strains grow in mostly hot, dry areas that have frequent and lengthy sunny days — western parts of Asia, Africa, Central America and Southeast Asia. 

Sativa strains are known for their more cerebral effects, energizing and uplifting users. Many consider sativa strains more suited for daytime usage as they bring about a creative, interested focus, rather than extremely restful or relaxed. Unlike cannabis indica, cannabis sativa can take a fair bit of time to mature. This may contribute to why many sativa strains sport slightly higher THC levels and lower CBD levels compared to their counterparts. 

What is cannabis indica?

Cannabis indica appears shorter and fuller than cannabis sativa. Its wide and full leaves are what people typically think of when picturing marijuana and make for bushy greenery. Indica strains are natively grown in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Turkey, adapting to extreme climates like that of the Hindu Kush mountains. Cannabis indica acts as if it wants to grow, maturing at a faster rate than its counterpart and producing more buds per plant. 

Indica strains are appreciated primarily for their comforting and hypnotic effects. Users tend to agree indica strains are best used in the evening after a long day or prior to bed for deep relaxation. Where cannabis sativa may provide energy, cannabis indica mellows the body and mind and allows the user to sink deeply into whatever they like. Many enjoy indica strains for pain relief, allowing users to unwind and maybe indulge in a snack or two, as an increased appetite is also cited. Cannabis indica’s effectiveness in treating pain and bringing forth physical relief may be thanks to its typically higher levels of CBD and slightly lower levels of THC. 

The main difference between indica and sativa

  • Indica plants are short and bushy.
  • Sativa plants are tall with narrow leaves.
  • Indica’s effects bring on more physical relaxation.
  • Sativa’s effects encourage more focus and creativity.
  • Indica strains can encourage sleep and / or deep relaxation.
  • Sativas are better suited for daytime use (not for sleep).
  • Indicas typically have higher levels of CBD and lower THC.
  • Sativas typically have lower levels of CBD and higher THC.

Popular indica strains

  • Northern Lights 
  • Granddaddy Purple 
  • Afghan Kush
  • Bubba Kush 
  • Purple Punch
  • Hindu Kush
  • GMO Cookies 
  • Blueberry (DJ Short Blueberry) 
  • Blue Cheese 
  • Forbidden Fruit

Popular sativa strains

  • Sour Diesel
  • Green Crack 
  • Durban Poison
  • Acapulco Gold  
  • Lemon Haze 
  • Panama Red
  • Candyland 
  • Jack Herer 
  • Ghost Train Haze 
  • Maui Wowie




Is there really a difference between indica and sativa?

  • Technically speaking, no, not to the extent typically assumed. The plants themselves are a bit different in build — indica’s are shorter and fuller, sativa’s are taller and more sparse — though this difference is mostly superficial. However, many users cite differences in indica and sativas effects. It’s considered common for indica strains to bring on more tranquil effects, while sativa strains encourage more energy and focus. Users typically experience more of a physical high from indica strains and more of a cerebral high from sativa strains as well. With that being said, these differences are discussed at more length in the above chart and paragraphs. Although, it should be noted, these “differences” are very much ingrained in mainstream canna-culture and should be taken with a grain of salt. What is the difference between indica and sativa: they’re more similar than one would think.

How does indica make you feel?

  • Indica strains are most predominantly known for their deeply relaxing effects. Those seeking comfort from pain, or a solution to their insomnia, may enjoy indica’s effects over sativas. Many users cite experiences of mental ease, decreased nausea / pain and appetite boosts. Indica strains with high levels of both THC and CBD can pack a serious punch though, and may make users feel “couched” — too high and too relaxed to move. Understanding one’s limits is key to working with indica strains of this caliber. 

What is the difference between indica, sativa, and hybrid?

  • The key differences between indica and sativa strains lie in their effects. Indicas are usually physically sedating to some degree and are ideal for relaxation and unwinding after a long day. Sativas are typically more uplifting and energetic, bringing forth more cerebral effects than physical. Considering “sativa vs. indica vs hybrid”, hybrid strains present themselves as a means to providing a balance of indica and sativa effects. For example, someone interested in treating their pain in the morning may not want to experience the heavier sedating effects of a true indica; that’s when a indica-dominant hybrid may be ideal.

To sum it up

While dispensaries often organize their products into distinct groups — usually illustrating the idea of sativa vs. indica vs. hybrid — it's not quite that simple. As updated research continues to reveal more scientific information on the differences between indica and sativa, users are able to make more educated choices about what usage / type is best for them. Understanding the basics can never be underestimated though, and surely provides more confidence for one’s next dispensary visit.