The use of cannabis for recreational and medical purposes is legal in an increasing number of states. Therefore, the interest in the various effects that the different types of cannabis can produce increases. You may have heard of Indica, Sativa, Hybrid and Ruderalis. But what are they, and how do they affect the human body?
This article will look at Cannabis Sativa and focus on its strains, effects, and uses. We’ll also discuss the crucial differences between each variety.
Why & How to Categorize Cannabis Strains
To identify (categorize) different strains, botanists usually use physical characteristics, including
- Variations in height
- Branching patterns
- The shape of the leaves.
For example, Indica strains are shorter than Sativas; they have a woody stem that is not fibrous. They also grow faster than Sativas.
Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, Cannabis hybrid, and Cannabis ruderalis are four notable species of marijuana. They share many similar characteristics but have apparent differences. The Sativa species is the most common type of cannabis used as marijuana.
People use Cannabis Sativa L. for medicinal and recreational purposes. Cannabis sativa can help treat pain, spasms, insomnia, asthma, depression, and loss of appetite.
Cannabis & Marijuana
People use “cannabis” and “marijuana” interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. Generally, marijuana is smoked or taken orally for its psychoactive effects. The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is delta-9 THC or THC.
This molecular compound causes relaxation, mild euphoria, distortion of perception, and sedation. In addition to THC, marijuana contains many other cannabinoids, including CBD and CBN.
The word “marijuana” refers to products or parts of the Cannabis sativa plant that contain significant amounts of THC. Marijuana refers to the leaves and flowering parts of cannabis when used as a drug, intoxicant or medicine.
Some of the main cannabinoids that dominate (or make up a significant portion) in your strain are:
- THC: It’s the primary psychoactive compound of cannabis responsible for the high associated with marijuana. THC levels have increased since breeders have attempted to introduce hybrids with higher compound concentrations.
- CBD: It’s not euphoric or impairing – it doesn’t cause a “high.” But it can bring many physical benefits, such as preventing seizures, relieving pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea, and relieving migraines.
- CBN: Cannabinol relieves side effects and symptoms of neurological disorders, including seizures, epilepsy, and uncontrollable muscle rigidity.
- THCA: Tetrahydrocannabinol acid is similar to THC but doesn’t induce psychoactive effects. Its benefits include relieving inflammation caused by arthritis and autoimmune diseases. This cannabinoid may also help alleviate neurological conditions such as ALS and Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
- CBG: Cannabigerol can help reduce anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. For more details, see 16 Best Strains for Depression.
In addition to cannabinoids, the chemical constituents of marijuana (or cannabis) include about 120 compounds responsible for its characteristic aroma. These are primarily volatile terpenes such as
- Alpha-Humulene contributes to the distinctive scent of Sativa.
- Caryophyllene; some hashish detection dogs are trained with caryophyllene.
Terpenes represent the largest group of phytochemicals, with more than 100 molecules identified in cannabis. They are responsible for the smell and flavor of different marijuana strains. Therefore, they have likely contributed to the narcotic nature of cannabis strains that breeders have domesticated.
What’s Cannabis Sativa?
Cannabis plants have two leading species:
- Cannabis sativa
- Cannabis indica.
Cannabis sativa is a species of the plant family Cannabinaceae. Its members are tall and slender with delicate, finger-shaped leaves that give them a delicate appearance.
Sativas take more time to mature than some other cannabis strains. People have widely grown them as a source of fiber. Cannabis sativa plants are one of the oldest plants used for non-food purposes. This species is native to Persia and India; generally, the plant likes warm temperatures.
The dried buds/leaves of Cannabis sativa are known as marijuana. It can be smoked, hand-rolled, or consumed in a pipe. The resinous secretions of marijuana are known as hashish or hash.
Indicas vs. Sativas
Although few studies examine the overall effects of cannabis, Indicas and Sativas have more in common than previously thought. The following table compares these two species:
Tall & slim
Slender, light green
Stimulating/for daytime use
Boosts energy, reduces depression, & increase focus
Short & bushy
Broad, dark green
Relaxing/for nighttimes use
Sedative, relieves pain, & increases appetite
The chemical composition of Cannabis sativa contains up to 421 chemicals, the most well-known of which is delta-9 THC. This compound can affect our nervous system and have an intoxicating effect, getting you high after consuming marijuana.
However, not all cannabis compounds are psychoactive. Usually, Sativa strains have higher THC content, while Indicas have higher CBD content. Cannabis is known for its appetite-stimulating and pain-relieving effects and its impact on other disorders and ailments.
Can We Categorize Cannabis Differently?
Yes, we can! While anecdotal evidence and marijuana dispensaries claim that Indicas are more sedating and Sativas are more energizing, some experts say such statements are misleading. The effects of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes depend on many more parameters than just the strain.
Many in the marijuana industry have moved away from these naming conventions like Indica, Sativa, hybrid, etc. They’re starting to classify the different strains (chemovars) as
- Type I: High THC
- Type II: THC/CBD combined
- Type III: High CBD
In other words, the type or category of cannabis may not be the most significant indicator of the plant’s effect. Instead of just looking at the variety – Indica or Sativa – we recommend looking at the dispensary or grower’s description. Cannabis experts divide plant types into specific breeds or chemovars.
They distinguish chemovars according to their terpene and cannabinoid content. This “cannabinoid profile” or “terpene profile” can provide users with crucial information to determine which chemovar is best for them.
Relying on names doesn’t provide the user with the information needed to select the right strain. Cannabinoids and terpenes determine the overall effect of a chemovar.
Indica vs. Sativa: Effects
There are four different types of cannabis plants: Indica, Sativa, hybrid and Ruderalis. So let’s analyze the main differences between the two most popular types of cannabis: Sativa and Indica.
Sativas are known for their “head rush,” i.e. a pleasant, energizing effect that can reduce stress or anxiety and increase creativity and concentration. Indica strains are famous for their whole-body effects: inducing a feeling of deep relaxation.
Generally speaking, Sativa strains are more refreshing and stimulating, while Indicas are more calming and relaxing. However, the difference isn’t that simple. Keep in mind that cannabis can be unsafe when consumed in large doses or long-term. Smoking or vaping cannabis can trigger breathing problems.
Each cannabis plant produces different effects, even within each type of cannabis. The results depend on the chemical composition of the plant and the cultivation method used. In addition, the same plant can affect people differently.
CBD & THC: Effects
CBD and THC affect the body differently. Whether a cannabis plant belongs to Sativas or Indicas does not say much about the respective amounts of THC and CBD contained in the strain. However, some people tend to believe that it can be helpful.
THC induces the “high” effect associated with marijuana. Strains with a high THC content can be helpful for chronic pain patients. But a very high THC content can make some people anxious. In addition, THC is responsible for the addictive potential of smoked cannabis, depending on the dose. THC can interfere with the mesolimbic dopaminergic system.
On the other hand, CBD can be a stimulant in supervised and small doses. Indica plants originate from the Middle East, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tibet. It generally has a higher CBD content than Sativa. One can also distinguish different strains based on their cannabinoid and terpene content. These compounds determine the overall effect of the variety.
Legal Status of Cannabis Sativa
The legal status of Cannabis sativa changes from state to state. Each state has different regulations. By law, all products containing less than 0.3 percent THC are legal – these are usually referred to as hemp products.
Also, it is a Category I drug in some states but is accepted for medical purposes in sixteen states and the District of Columbia.
Recent legal developments at the state level in the U.S. have led to increased use and availability of cannabis for medicinal purposes. However, many countries worldwide have decriminalized the use of marijuana in recent years.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two THC-based medications prescribed in tablet form to treat nausea in cancer chemotherapy patients and stimulate appetite in individuals with wasting syndrome due to AIDS.
- Origin: Cannabis sativa is found primarily in dry, hot climates with long days of sunshine. These include Africa, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and some parts of Western Asia.
- Plant description: Cannabis sativa plants have finger-like tall and thin leaves. They can grow over 12 feet tall and take longer to mature than other strains.
- Typical CBD to THC ratio: Sativas often have lower doses of CBD and higher amounts of THC. Some Sativas tend to contain more THC than CBD.
- Common effects Sativas often produce a “mental high” or an anxiety-relieving, stimulating effect. When consuming Sativa-dominant strains, you may feel productive, creative, not relaxed or lazy.
- Daytime or nighttime use: You can consume Sativa during the day due to its stimulating effect.
- Popular strains: Popular Sativa strains are Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, and Durban Poison.
- If you want to buy some energizing strains suitable for the daytime, you may look at our Sativa products.
- Origin: Indica is native to the Middle East, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tibet and Turkey. The plants have adapted to the Hindu Kush mountains’ dry, harsh and stormy climate.
- Plant description: Indica plants are stocky and short, with bushy greenery and chunky leaves that grow wide and broad. Indicas grow faster than Sativas, and their plants produce more buds.
- Typical CBD to THC ratio: Indicas often have a higher CBD content, but the THC content isn’t necessarily lower. Nevertheless, the ratio of CBD to THC in Indica should be very close to 1:1.
- Common effects: Indicas are effective painkillers with a relaxing and flat high. People seek out these strains for their intensely relaxing effects. They can also help reduce nausea and increase appetite. Many medical marijuana strains contain a hybrid form of these strains.
- Daytime or nighttime use: It may be better to consume Indica at night because of its profound relaxing effects.
- Popular strains: Three famous Indicas are Afghan Kush, Hindu Kush and Granddaddy Purple. There are many more varieties within the Indica vs. Sativa categorization, and scientists believe that we should not generalize the psychoactive and other effects of the different strains.
Every year, cannabis breeders produce unique and new strains from different combinations of parent plants. These hybrids are usually bred to produce specific effects.
- Origin: Hybrids are usually bred from Sativa and Indica varieties in greenhouses or farms.
- Plant description: The appearance of hybrids depends on the combination of the parent plants.
- Typical CBD to THC ratio: Hybrids are usually bred to increase THC content, but each strain has a unique ratio of these two cannabinoids.
- Common effects: Growers and producers choose hybrids for their special effects: reducing stress and anxiety and relieving symptoms of chemotherapy or radiation.
- Daytime or nighttime use: This parameter depends on the predominant effects of the hybrid.
- Popular strains: Hybrid strains are usually Sativa-dominant (Sativa-dom), Indica-dominant (Indica-dom), or balanced. Popular hybrids include Trainwreck, Pineapple Express, and Blue Dream.
Both nature and cannabis breeders have created hybrid strains of Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. This breeding has occurred throughout the long history of human use of cannabis, and perhaps before. Growers bred hybrids to make plants grow faster, improve yields, and balance energizing and sedative effects.
There is also another type of cannabis, Cannabis ruderalis. However, it is not widely used because it does not usually substantially affect it.
- Origin: Ruderalis strains adapt to extreme environments, such as the Himalayan regions of India, Eastern Europe, Siberia, the border between Ukraine and Hungary, and Russia. Ruderalis grows quickly, ideal for these regions’ cold and shady environments.
- Plant description: These minor, bushy strains rarely grow taller than 12 inches. A plant can grow from seed to harvest within a month. It grows wild, and some say it is descended from escaped hemp plants.
- Typical CBD to THC ratio: Ruderalis typically has a higher CBD content and a lower THC content, but the THC content may not be high enough to affect. Ruderalis doesn’t have very high THC or CBD levels, and breeders appreciate this strain for its ability to flower without the help of a grower. Therefore, people usually use Ruderalis to create hybrids with Sativa or Indica.
- Common effects: Cannabis users are less interested in ruderalis because of its low potency.
- Daytime or nighttime use: This cannabis plant does not cause noticeable effects; it can be used.
- Popular strains: Ruderalis isn’t a popular cannabis species. Cannabis growers tend to breed Ruderalis with other cannabis species, including Sativa. The plant’s fast growth cycle is favorable for breeders who want to combine more potent strains with Ruderalis varieties to create a more desirable product.
Potential Side Effects & Risks
Although marijuana use is often associated with potential benefits, it can also cause unwanted side effects, including
- Dry mouth
- Dry eyes
- Decreased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
Note that most of these effects are due to THC, not CBD or other cannabinoids. But any cannabis product can cause some side effects. The way you consume it can also increase your risk for side effects. Young adults who smoke or vaporize cannabis, for example, can irritate their lungs and respiratory system.
Finally, the potential harms of a cannabis-based medicine (herbal cannabis, herbal or synthetic THC, etc.) for chronic neuropathic pain may outweigh its potential benefits.
Sativa usually has lower CBD content and higher THC level. Cannabis sativa has a stimulating effect and can help with headaches, depression, nausea and loss of appetite. If you want to know which strain is safest to consume, consult your doctor and check your state’s laws.