(Last Updated On: September 8, 2016)

Now that cannabis industry is gaining mainstream popularity, a lot of people are curious about the different strains of cannabis and its potential effects. However, keep in mind that not all cannabis plants are made the same. Some plants contain non-psychoactive cannabinoids, while others can give you a certain high.

Though a lot of hybrid strains are available in the market, it is crucial to first understand the basics. You may have encountered the terms Sativa and Indica. Yes, both pertain to plants in genus Cannabis. But what makes them different from each other? For a cannabis connoisseur, a grower, or anyone who plans on maximizing the plant, it is crucial to have an idea what are the prominent and the subtle differences between the two.

1. Origins and genetics

Before anything else, it is important to first trace the origins of the plant. The cannabis plant is believed to have originated from Mongolia and Siberia. Cannabis Sativa was first discovered in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus. By 1785, Cannabis Indica was later discovered by Jean Baptiste Lamarck.

Today, both Indica and Sativa plants are used in order to create hybrids. These hybrids are more adaptive since they’ve acquired specific characteristics of these strains. So how are Sativa and Indica different from each other? Sativa and Indica differ in terms of genetics.  Sativa strains, for instance, contain high levels of THC have genes that code on enzyme THCA synthase. This enzyme turns CBG into THCA, which eventually becomes THC.

On the other hand, you have Indica plants that code for CBDA synthase which eventually turns CBG into CBDA (a precursor of CBD).

2. Location

Another difference between Indica and Sativa plants is the location where these plants thrive. Cannabis Sativa tends to grow on warmer locations. Thailand, India and Mexico are among the countries wherein Sativa plants grow. On the other hand, Indica plants grow in colder locations. Indica is believed to have originated from the Hindu Kush mountain range.

What could be the explanation to this phenomenon? You can only see Sativa plants in warmer areas because photoperiod has a direct impact in cannabis cultivation. Sativa plants require long and fruitful growing season. Indica, on the other hand, only require minimal sunlight.

3. Appearance

Another big difference between Sativa and Indica is its physical appearance. Sativas are known for their long branch. Also, this type of cannabis is known to grow tall. Thus, it is the type of plant that can’t be grown indoors. In fact, there are some strains that can reach up to 25 feet. And with more leaves, Sativa is better known for its more fruitful harvest.  Indicas have a darker shade on its leaves. Leaves are also more pronounced and larger than that of Sativa. 

4. Content and effects

The effects of Indica and Sativa differ from each other. The one responsible for this is the presence of cannabinoids and terpenes. Before we discuss the usual contents of Indica and Sativa, it is a good idea to first look at their usual effects.

Indica is the type of plant that is associated with “getting stoned”. On the other hand, Sativa is the type that gets you active. Because of these effects, it is common that Indica are usually taken at night if you want to relax. Sativa is the type of cannabis that you take if you want to get creative.

So what can be found in Indica and Sativa that gives them these effects? Indica have higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD). If you’ve been following cannabis news, this is the cannabinoid responsible for the renewed interest of individuals towards cannabis legalization. Sativa, on the other hand, have higher concentration of THC. Sativa’s effects are usually described as spacey and even hallucinogenic.

Sativas are also known to have more effects to the mind, as it helps individuals with creativity. For Indica strains, you can expect a “full-body” high which includes relaxing and a more sedative effect.

5. Cultivation practices and availability

Another important difference between Indic and Sativa is the cultivation practices that experts do. For instance, Indica are typically tall plants, which means it has to be cultivated in a vacant lot. On the other hand, for those places with no access to vast lands, it is a practice to stick with Sativa strains that can be grown even at the comfort of your own home.

Because of these constraints in cultivation practices, it is also a common scenario to encounter availability concerns especially in some areas. Though there are state laws that allow cultivation of cannabis, let’s keep in mind that cannabis prohibition is still in effect federally. There are states that don’t allow individuals growing their own cannabis. In this case, Sativa strains are most likely present due to the fact that it can be hidden even in someone’s basement.

6. Time to mature

One important aspect of growing cannabis is the time needed in order for the plant to mature. It is a concern especially for those who are living in cold places.  It is important for the plant to be harvested just in time before the colder months.

Indica strains, being grown in colder places, can be harvested within 6-8 weeks. On the other hand, Sativas take around 10 to 16 weeks.  One explanation for this particular characteristic is the amount of chlorophyll found in Sativa strains which require the plant a longer time to mature.

7. Use

Now that medical and recreational cannabis laws are becoming popular in different parts of the world, it is imperative to know the medical purpose of both Sativa and Indica plants. For instance, Indica strains are more commonly used on pain management and anxiety. On the other hand, Sativas are more commonly used to cure fatigue, ADD and mood disorders. Sativas are known for racier effects to the brain, while Indicas are known as relaxants.

Indicas are also known to treat seizures. With high concentration of CBD found in the strain, it has been used specifically to treat this condition. And unlike THC that can get someone high, CBD goes directly into the cannabinoid receptors found in the body’s digestive tract.

8. Flavors

Terpenes and Terpenoids are the ones responsible for the smell and scent of cannabis buds. Terpenes are known components of many trees as part of their essential oils. Terpenoids, on the other hand, are cannabis components related chemically to terpenes. It is usually the result of oxidized terpenes. Terpenoids provide the flavor to many flowers and household spices like cinnamon and ginger.

In terms of tastes and flavors, it is easy to determine if it is a Sativa or an Indica. For instance, Indicas are known for their sweet characteristics. It includes flavors such as strawberry and blueberry. On the other hand, you have earthy flavors for Sativas.

Is it all there is to terpenes and terpenoids? What other roles do terpenes and terpenoids play in cannabis other than providing scent and flavor? Recent research tells us that it terpenes and terpenoids don’t just give specific taste and flavor to your cannabis. Instead, it can also help enhance the effect of cannabinoids in your system. This means a small amount of cannabinoid could mean an enhanced effect with the help of terpenes and terpenoids.

9. Yield Size

Under normal circumstances, Sativa can produce more than Indica. This is only normal since the bigger the plants the bigger the expected harvest. This means that the more plant produced, the more there is to smoke or cannabinoids to use for medical purpose. Just how much does Sativa outweigh Indica? Indica would usually weight around 2-3 ounces while Sativa can reach up to a pound per plant.

Is this always a good thing? Based on the experience of experienced growers, dense buds are also more susceptible to bud rotting. This usually occurs from the inside to the outside.  Normally, you can pluck the rotten ones as a preventive measure.

10. Strain Names

There are many names for different strains today. In fact, new strains are even named after celebrities such as Bob Marley and Snoop Dogg. Though these names seemed ridiculous, names pertaining to Indica and Sativa remained the same.

Indicas are usually named Kush. It is believed that Indica strains originated from the Hindu Kush mountain regions. On the other hand, Sativa strains have been associated with the name Haze.


Indica and Sativa strains are believed to be the broad classification of cannabis. Though both are part of genus cannabis, there are a number of things that make one from the other unique.

It is crucial to understand the basic differences between Indicas and Sativas. These strains differ in so many ways that can affect not only its recreational and medical use, but even its ability to grow in certain locations.

It is a common practice today that growers to make hybrid cannabis strains. They combine the characteristics of Indicas and Sativas to make the best strains out there. There are instances when Indica strains work better for certain situations, while there are times when it’s Sativa. Knowing the difference between Indica and Sativa can help give you what you need.

Written by The Smokazon Team
Smokazon is a group of enthusiasts, advocates and connoisseurs of the digital age. We’re here to help you achieve that ultra-lifestyle with our product reviews, feature articles and anything you need to know in the vaping world. But enough about us. Let’s talk about you. We’re here to make your vaping experience a little bit better.