Everything You Need to Know About Sativa Vs Indica


A miracle of nature, marijuana has been an integral part of society for centuries. Despite a blip in the mid-1900s, the plant’s popularity continues to soar. Yet, even having achieved “household name” status, many people are still clueless about the intricacies of the leafy giant, i.e. when we think we’re talking about cannabis in general, we’re often referring to one of the plant’s two distinct subspecies: indica vs sativa.

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Indica vs Sativa — What’s in a Name?

“Marijuana,” “cannabis,” and colloquial terms like pot and weed are used as catchalls to describe the three subspecies of cannabis: indica vs sativa, and also ruderalis.

(Aside: cannabis ruderalis, thought to originate in Russia, is a short plant that offers little yield and lacks potency regarding its cannabinoid content. It’s not without benefit, however. Cannabis breeders cross-pollinate ruderalis with indica or sativa to imbue the resulting hybrid with “auto-flowering” capabilities.)

There are more differences between cannabis indica and cannabis sativa than commonalities, from effect and structure to cultivation best practices.


The Effects of Indica vs Sativa

Everyone knows that cannabis can make you a little spacy. Still, that ubiquitous euphoria is just the tip of the iceberg. Recent research suggests that humans have always known that, from stalk to leaf, marijuana plants have multiple applications. In terms of consumption, the unique properties of indica and sativa cover a range of conditions and uses, adding to their universal appeal for both recreational and medicinal consumption


Indica is best kept for afternoon and evening when you want to wind down, with sedative properties that may render you happily lazy. Because of this, many consumers will choose indica to relieve physical discomforts like chronic pain, inflammation, stiffness and tension, and those struggling with conditions like insomnia.


Sativa marijuana provides more of a cerebral experience, helping to bring about positive and happy thoughts, energy and focus. In addition to adding a few extra layers of fun to any social situation, sativa strains can help supplement the use for psychological disorders like anxiety.

Indica vs Sativa — Physicality

Indica and sativa plants share the infamous five-fingered leaf, but their physical similarities start to depart here. Cannabis indica originated in the Middle East in countries like Afghanistan and Tibet. The climate encourages these plants to grow short and stocky, with thick stems, dark leaves and dense, chunky buds, most prized for their thick resin coating (perfect for making hash). Sativa plants originate in East Asia near the equator. They are known to be tall and thin, reaching heights upwards of 10 feet, with a sparse structure and thin, delicate leaves.

Indica vs Sativa — Farming

Anyone can grow marijuana, but modern cannabis cultivators have developed several methods to maximize the growth, yield, aromatic profile, and cannabinoid content of indica vs sativa.

Indica in the garden

Originating in the highlands of Asia, indica cannabis strains have adapted to grow in a harsh environment, where they face a harsh climate and sudden weather changes. Subject to shorter periods of daylight, indica tends to have a shorter flowering period. Still, their sturdy structure makes them ideal for indoor and small space growing or when you want to maximize yield without sacrificing space.

Expert tip: To increase your indica yield, opt to fill out your space with plants, shorten the vegetative stage by artificially altering their photoperiod, avoid pruning or trimming, and choose the sea of green or screen of green method. Though relatively resilient, indica strains can be susceptible to mold and rot, particularly during flowering when they are at their bushiest. Therefore, some trimming during the late flowering phase will encourage proper ventilation and air circulation.

Sativa in the garden

Where indica strains thrive in mountainous regions, sativas grow wild near the equator, where the humidity is high, and they have access to lots of light. Sativas grow tall and spindly, with thin-fingered fan leaves in deep green hues. Indoor gardeners can manage the height of their sativa plants by topping and trimming their plants. You can initiate early flowering by switching to a 12/12 light schedule once the plant has reached a third of its desired size. Sativas can triple their height or more once the flowering phase has begun. Sativa strains tend to be sensitive to temperature changes and do not like the cold. You’ll also want to be careful not to over-fertilize.

A new way of thinking

Since the 60s and 70s, cannabis cultivation has advanced by leaps and bounds. Innovative breeding and growing techniques allow gardeners to isolate their favorite characteristics from existing strains to create hybrids to suit every purpose.

In this respect, discussing cannabis in terms of indica vs sativa is somewhat outdated. However, hybrids like Northern Lights, White Widow, and Girl Scout Cookies prove that combining the best of both indica and sativa results in therapeutic solutions that cover a broader range of physical and mental health concerns.

When researching marijuana strains, ask yourself, “what symptoms am I dealing with?” It will help narrow your search for your perfect match, indica vs sativa, or a combination of the two.

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