If you have ever stepped foot into a marijuana dispensary, you most likely have been asked by a budtender whether you are looking for a sativa or indica. These are two cannabis types often used as a touchstone for predicting effects upon marijuana consumption.

Sativa is widely known to provide invigorating and uplifting cerebral effects paired best with physical activities, social gatherings or creative projects. On the other end of the spectrum are indicas. This strain is believed to be physically sedating, ideal for evenings.

While both sativa and indica varieties are psychoactive, they exhibit very distinguishing properties. This allows cannabis connoisseurs to classify cannabis into two species when making recommendations to consumers.

But exactly how prescriptive is this categorization and most importantly, how credible are these deeply rooted notions in today’s mainstream cannabis culture?

With thousands of different cannabis strains having been bred during the past several decades, it is critical to understand the efficacy that various strains have when consumed.


Plant Appearance

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Sativa and indica strains differ not only in their physiological effects (which we will get to later on), but also in appearance as plants.

Sativa plants tend to be tall and skinny. They also have thinner, pencil-like leaves that collect together at the tip, giving them that classic marijuana leaf look seen often in media.

In contrast, indica plants are typically known to be short and stocky, featuring darker leaves that are broad in shape. These leaves can double, if not triple the usual sativa width!


Sativa plants can tower anywhere between one to three meters, and sometimes even up to five meters when cultivated outdoors. Due to its longer flowering period, sativas are well suited for outdoor gardening.

Indica plants grow to only half the height of sativa plants. Yet, their shortness is compensated for a larger crop yield. This places them at the forefront of cannabis cultivation as their dense growing pattern is generally favoured. Indicas also have a shorter flowering period, hence why they are often preferred for indoor cultivation.


Medical Efficacy

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A disparity between strain types makes all the difference in the wonderful world of weed when it comes to its medical efficiencies. Energy and productivity levels are heavily influenced by whether you are consuming a sativa or an indica.

As mentioned earlier, sativas produce a stimulant effect, typically referred to as a “mind high”. Inducing an uplifting response, it enhances both creativity and productivity. Sativas are also said to provide a variety of medical benefits to patients suffering from psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Contrarily, indicas are physically sedating and thus, produce a “body high”. They decrease energy and create feelings of sereness making it perfect for consumption before bedtime. Indicas are medically beneficial to patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and cancer.



Although classifying marijuana by strain type is helpful, it is not completely predictive. Current research lacks evidence to suggest that indicas and sativas exhibit consistent patterns of chemical profiles to make one kind inherently sedating or uplifting. Perfectly predictive patterns for each strain is merely an assumption widely adopted by cannabis culture.

To complicate matters a bit further, physical appearances of plants are not correlated to its efficacies. Clinical effects cannot be judged solely on the tallness or shortness of a sativa or indica plant. This leaves many wondering if any classification is valid for predictive purposes.

Thankfully, there is! Consumers should view the amount or ratio of cannabinoids, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), within strains as a measure of impact. Sativas, in its purest form, often have a higher concentration of THC than CBD whereas indicas contain more CBD than THC.

Some examples of popular sativa strains include Sour Diesel, Durban Poison and Pineapple Express. Indica strains such as Pink kush, Purple Kush and Bubba Kush are also consumer favourites. For those that enjoy both strains, hybrids are commonly bred to contain genetics from both cannabis types. A well favoured is the White Widow.

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