Indica vs. Sativa: Major Cannabis Types Explained

Indica and sativa make up the two major cannabis types, and if weed is your thing, it pays to know a little about the strains and understand indica vs. sativa. With a bit of knowledge, you can improve your high, whether you need it to calm your nerves or stimulate your mind.

Whether you’re eager to gain more knowledge about cannabis or just hoping not to look like a total noob when you walk into a dispensary, below is a cheat sheet on the different types of cannabis, their health benefits, and even the most common strains. Once you’ve mastered the types, consider pairing your weed with wine, or dabbling in oils or tinctures.

Terms to Know

You’ve probably heard about cannabidiol (CBD) and THC, but what exactly are CBD and THC? Below, we explain what the two compounds are and how they relate to cannabis.

  • THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive component that produces the high.
  • CBD: Cannabidiol is a similar component that can enhance your mood but will not make you high.


Sativa foliage in outdoors

Also known as “in da couch,” this variety of cannabis gives you more of a body buzz (as opposed to a heady “high”) and leaves you more relaxed. Oddly enough, indica strains tend to have a lighter THC concentration than sativa, even though they result in a more “stoned” sensation.

This ultra-mellow type of pot, characterized by shorter plants with broader leaves, is perfect for insomniacs and people who wake up in the middle of the night worrying about stuff. It’s also a good option for inducing appetite, easing stress and anxiety, and alleviating physical conditions like muscle pain and even seizures.

Common indica strains: Bubba Kush, Granddaddy Purp, and Northern Lights


Cannabis oil extracts in droppers beside marijuana leaves and marijuana cones in a metal container

The second most plentiful cannabinoid in the marijuana plant, CBD is the yin to THC’s yang. It produces that nice, mellow relaxation without the psychoactive effects (what your grandpa might call the “reefer madness”). If smoking pot makes you anxious, paranoid, or prone to hallucinations, a CBD-heavy strain will probably be your cup of tea. It can also be your cup of joe, as there are now CBD coffee brands on the market.

It’s also good for people who are exclusively interested in the medicinal effects of cannabis, such as pain and stress relief, mood disorders, and other chronic physical and mental issues.

Thanks to the booming interest in medical marijuana, growers have developed cannabis strains that offer an equal ratio of CBD to THC; one such strain is ACDC. However, some CBD-heavy strains can go as high as a 22:1 ratio of CBD to THC. If that’s what you’re after, look for a strain called Ringo’s Gift. There are even CBD snacks, if that’s your preferred form.

Common CBD strains: ACDC and Ringo’s Gift


Sativa leaves found in outdoors during a sunny day

Thinner leaves, taller plants, and longer flowering cycles characterize the sativa variety of cannabis. The strain of choice for the “wake and bake” crowd, the THC-heavy sativa gives you more of a heady high as opposed to a heavy stoned feeling. Some strains can even act more like an upper than a downer, providing positive energy that is particularly helpful in creative and cerebral endeavors (or, if you’re late to the spring cleaning party). If you’re trying to finally write your novel or have to put together a PowerPoint presentation, this bud’s for you. Sativa is also said to be helpful for depression, social anxiety, and even ADHD.

Common sativa strains: Jack Herer, Lemon Haze, and Sour Diesel


A hybridized strain of indica and sativa

Despite cannabis having been around and in use for thousands of years, it’s still undetermined whether indica and sativa are truly separate species of the plant. Regardless, hybridized strains of the two have become quite popular among smokers who want a little bit of everything. The first hybrids appeared in the United States in the 1970s but really came into their own during the ‘90s when hydroponic cultivation technology allowed growers to really geek out.

Today’s hybrids tend to be indica-dominant or sativa-dominant, which means it’s a good idea to decide what direction you’re leaning before buying. If you’re looking for a nearly perfect balance between the sedative effects of an indica and the euphoric energy of a sativa, keep your eyes peeled for Blue Dream, a California strain that has achieved legendary status. As always, be mindful of the ratios and contents listed on the label before you get started.

Common hybrid strains: Blue Dream and Pineapple Express

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