When we do research into cannabis, we find that the topic of Sativa vs. Indica to either be misunderstood or the information we find to be very vague. In this post, we will get a better understanding by looking at the detailed differences between the two species of cannabis. We cover all you need to know about the medical benefits, places of origin and why each plant looks so different.
So, get out your favorite cannabis vaporizer, sit back and enjoy.
There is an ongoing scientific debate about cannabis. Researchers are trying to decide if the differences in cannabis are a result of 3 separate species, or if cannabis has one species with different varieties. For the purpose of this blog, let us not worry about that debate and discuss the 3 species we have the most info on.
The main cannabis species we are aware of are:
Besides these 3, Cannabis Sativa can be divided into 2 subspecies:
- Cannabis Sativa.
- Cannabis Sativa L.
This small detail about Cannabis Sativa doesn’t seem like it but is actually very important.
Cannabis Sativa is well-known and is very much loved by weed smokers and medical users. This species has a very high concentration of THC and other psychoactive compounds. Cannabis Sativa is used to produce weed that we smoke, vaporize and eat.
On the other hand, Cannabis Sativa L. has very low levels of THC and other psychoactive compounds. This species is great for producing textiles, rope, and cloth. We commonly know this plant as “hemp” and we will refer to it as hemp from this point on.
The next species of cannabis we will look at is Cannabis Indica. Indica should be very well-known to both recreational and medical cannabis users. Like Sativa, Cannabis Indica is also used to produce weed that has very high psychoactive effects. The fruit from this plant is enjoyed through vaping, smoking and eating as well.
The 3rd and last species of cannabis we will discuss is Ruderalis. Very little is known when we compare this plant to its two sisters. We will cover this species in more detail further in this post and share all the info we do have.
Now that we are introduced to the 3 types of cannabis, we can take a more detailed look at each species.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SATIVA AND INDICA
To make things easier we will divide this discussion into 3 sub-topics:
- Plant Appearance & Growth.
- Effects & Medical Benefits.
Research has shown that cannabis plants not only look and grow differently from each other but may also originate from different locations on the planet. Indica was first noted and studied by a French botanist named Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, he collected cannabis plants for his studies in India during 1785.
Sativa was first noted a couple of decades earlier by a Swedish botanist. In 1753, Carl Linnaeus stated that the plants he was studying were also from India. However, we now know that these plants were actually hemp plants (Sativa L.) that were being grown in Europe at the time.
The evidence found by these botanists shows that using cannabis for its psychoactive effects originated in India. When we consider this along with the fact that Indica plants prefer cooler temperatures and higher altitudes, it suggests that Indica does have roots in India. The exact origin of Sativa plants is slightly cloudier. This species prefers warmer climates such as Thailand and close to home in Swaziland where these plants have a long history. It is quite possible that Cannabis Sativa originated in these areas.
PLANT APPEARANCE AND GROWTH
The first and easiest way to tell the difference between cannabis plants is by the way they look.
Sativa plants will grow very tall and can reach heights of up to 6m. They are best suited to outdoor growing and will be loosely branched. Sativa leaves are narrow and light green in colour. The buds that Sativa produces will be larger and will grow along the branches. These buds will be larger but will weigh less than Indica buds.
On the other hand, Indica plants tend to grow bushy and very short. Indica is preferred over Sativa for indoor growing as these plants are very dense and grow to a maximum height of 1.5m. Their leaves are wider and have a very dark, rich green colour. Buds from Cannabis Indica are usually very dense, thick and grow around the nodes of the plants’ stem.
One of the biggest differences between Indica and Sativa is their growth cycles. Sativa plants have a longer flowering time of roughly 2-3 months whereas Indica plants flower much quicker (1.5 – 2 months).
Remember that marijuana plants can be trained to grow in certain ways. Growers are always experimenting to make their plants grow taller or shorter, produce more bud, or grow faster.
EFFECTS AND MEDICAL BENEFITS
We have all smoked different strains of weed that produce a variety of effects on our bodies and minds. Medical and recreational users can choose different strains according to these effects and make use of the unique qualities of each one.
Sativa Dominant – are loved by medical patients for giving a lighter, more “head-high” with these qualities:
- You are more alert when small doses are taken but sedation happens if larger amounts are taken.
- You have much clearer and more motivated thoughts.
Sativa strains are preferred in the morning or as a “daytime smoke” and can be used to treat:
- Appetite loss.
Indica Dominant – Is known for giving a very strong “body-high” with these traits:
- Your body “tingles” and we get “couch-lock”.
- A very strong sedative even with smaller doses.
- Cloudier and less determined thoughts.
These different qualities definitely influence when patients will medicate and what strains to use. Indica plants can be used to treat the following conditions:
- Chronic pain.
The Rudelaris species is rarely under the spotlight and not as much is known about this plant when compared to its two sisters. Cannabis Rudelaris was first discovered in Russia during 1942 and is believed to originate in Southern Siberia.
Rudelaris matures in 7 weeks and grows to a maximum height of only 75cm. This species contains very low amounts of THC but has very high levels of CBD that contribute to its strong medical value.
Unfortunately, Rudelaris is not nearly as popular as Sativa and Indica plants. However, certain qualities this plant has can benefit growers and medical users. High levels of CBD and a very short flowering time make this plant perfect for hybrid strains and certain medical treatments.
CANNABINOIDS AND TERPENES
We now know that the different species of cannabis influence how our bodies and minds are affected. This is handy information for recreational users and most importantly medical patients. However, it is important to know that this isn’t everything we should consider.
The different cannabinoids and terpenes are also a big factor when choosing strains. These compounds in the cannabis plant play a big role in the effects we feel. It is a general rule that THC is higher and CBD is lower in Sativa strains and the opposite is true in Indica strains.
There are over 80 different Cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and we are still a long way from understanding them all. Effects are also influenced by the Terpenes in the plant and these encourage something called the “entourage effect”. Cannabinoids and Terpenes combine to produce a cascading effect on us. On top of this, effects will be different between users because of our unique chemical make-up.
Hybrids are just a cross between Sativa and Indica cannabis plants. These crosses will give us qualities of both species and will be either Sativa-dominant, Indica-Dominant, or 50-50.
Picking the right cannabis strain comes down to each person’s preference and desired effects. The strain you choose will have certain qualities based on whether the plant is Sativa, Indica or a hybrid. From this blog, I hope you have a clearer understanding of each species and how they can make a difference to your grow or your medication.
Written by MJ and Overgrow Team, April 2018