There’s a lot of buzz in the cannabis community surrounding the terms Indica vs Sativa, but what do they actually mean? Though clever generalizations like “indica = in-da-couch” may roll off the tongues of bud-tenders to help sell a product in a hurry, the intricacies of a strain’s effects are much more complex than simply “indica vs sativa”. Knowing the difference can significantly help a grower choose the best cannabis seeds for their needs.
What’s the Real Difference Between Indica vs Sativa?
Scientifically speaking, Cannabis Sativa L. (or “marijuana”) is from the same genus as hemp, Cannabis L. Therefore, any cannabis that gets you high (or rather, any plant with enough psychoactive cannabinoids) can be considered a sativa. Nevertheless, the difference between indica and sativa strains is important to understand, especially for growers and breeders who want to give their plants the best environment to thrive. So what is the difference between the two, and why should you care? We’re glad you asked.
The Interagency Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) has further broken down the plant into two subspecies – indica vs sativa – but this distinction is largely based on where the plants originated and their resulting growth patterns, not their effects on the body.
Indicas originated from the Hindu Kush Mountain Range with shorter growing seasons and highly variable weather conditions. The strain adapted to the conditions by maturing quicker. They produce shorter, stockier plants and flowers and coat themselves with a thick dusting of trichomes. To recap: terpenes are where all the most important chemicals are. The abundance of trichomes makes indica varieties ideal for medical patients.
Conversely, sativa strains come from warmer areas like Colombia, Thailand, and Mexico. As such, they have adapted to the uninterrupted sunny days with longer growing times. Sativas grow taller, produce lankier buds; and have a higher tolerance to heat. Sativas also tend to boast sweet or fruity flavors lending to their uplifting qualities, which leads us to a very important distinction in determining why different strains produce different effects.
Terpenes Play an Important Role in Indica vs Sativa
Terpenes are largely what determines the ambiance of a high. They’re typically the first thing someone notices when sniffing fresh flowers or opening a bag of carefully-cured dank due to their pungent aroma and (hopefully) awesome flavor. But terpenes play a much greater role in determining the outcome of a high than many people realize.
Terpenes have long been used therapeutically to help treat things like the common cold or a restless mind, and their abundance in cannabis has the same effect on our bodies. In fact, their effects are amplified when consumed in conjunction with cannabinoids because they work on the same receptors in the body, dancing together in this sort of “entourage effect.”
Terpenes like floral linalool or citrusy limonene interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body to elicit an uplifted, pain-free effect. These qualities regularly attach to a specific strain type — in this case, sativa. Consequently, these generalizations often land themselves on one side of the indica vs sativa spectrum. For example, the musky flavor of myrcene terpenes characteristic of many indica varieties.
Using What You Learn to Find the Best Cannabis Strains
A strain’s effects are not necessarily determined by whether they are more indica-dominant or more sativa-dominant. However, the distinction is still important. Growers must consider both the strain type and terpene content to buy the best cannabis seeds. Search for strains based on their flavor profile or strain type then refine your search accordingly until you find the perfect strain(s) for your needs.
We encourage you to track your results in a notebook and share your results with our social media pages or in the comment section below. Comments help our online community thrive by letting us learn from each other.
Have you tried any of our cannabis seeds? What inspired you to choose the seeds you chose? We ship worldwide in stealthy packing.
 Fine, P. G., & Rosenfeld, M. J. (2013, October). The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820295/
76 thoughts on “Indica vs Sativa – The Real Difference”
Love it, thanks for the info!!
Favorite indica: pre98 Bubba Kush
Favorite Sativa: Super Lemon Haze
Just bought Iron Horse! Can’t wait!!
Super Lemon Haze is possibly my favourite strain of all time, smoked it in Amsterdam about a week after it won first Cannabis Cup. I am still looking for something that beats it, or even equals it 🙂
Yea I had a great pheno pop from a seed years ago and I let it go after a couple years. Didn’t know what I really had. It’s a great strain. Maybe someday I will do a little pheno hunt again
Yeah that really sucks! I had a gorilla cookies that I unfortunately lost as well! It always sucks losing an amazing pheno!
Excellent choices bubba is a top fave
Takes a lot of research to find the medical marajuana strain for Chronic Pain.
But I can’t really find out any medical conditions informing buyer so they can decide what to buy.
Honestly I think the best bet is just giving mutiple strains a shot! Bc every strain has many phenos the only way to find out is try them all!!!
Exactly they all affect everyone differently variety is key
My ending goal is to have one pheno of every one of my favorite strains and and entire vault as back up phenos it will take me a few years tho!
Sativa is good for daytime smoke.
Indica is better suited for a night time smoke.
A good mix works well too.
What is your favorite indica type Greenpoint strain?
So far my favorite is the jelly pie it is just beautiful to watch flower haven’t found anything that compares to the beautiful colors!
I popped 11 I think 1 died ended with 5 phenos!
Yes that’s my next one to grow. Heard and read too many good things about it
I experience nerve, body and joint pain from multiple fractures, (sternum and all ribs were broken, broken jaw, bilateral pelvic fractures/torn sciatic nerve) and after years of experimentation, I’m coming to lean “Indica?” But the terpenoid dynamic weighs forever on my mind.
I’ve enjoyed a sour diesel referred to simply, as #7. This was bred for effect. Our phenotype hunting endeavor tracks something like this, we look for how the plants naturally behave. From this we look at growth patterns and structure while of course appreciating all of the aromas. The plants that have a structure and potency that is considered good, are cloned and germinated with similarly structured male plants. And we continue from there. Typically the second grow of clones comes out better than the initial grow from seed.
Along the path to that juncture, a terpene bomb was discovered. Sour diesel is considered a Sativa but, smoking this flower had you wondering. Wondering where you came from and how you got to where you are. Looking at the clock, you realize 2-3 hours have passed and you’ve been doing great just focusing on whatever work you were doing. A slight introspection reaffirms that the body/mind are still in the flow..
While this is my desired outcome, it’s impractical to have just this one phenotype in the garden. Even among 10-15 other varieties, the #7 was a go to. Hard to build a tolerance towards. My point, is that if a Sativa leaning hybrid like sour diesel could be such a well rounded smoke, what does that imply? It implies that there’s a whole lot more than Indica/Sativa when selecting our medicine.
I then began researching the history of marijuana. After growing up in the U.S.A., I had experienced a plethora of varieties, personalities, and situations, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. Or so I thought!!! After going through 12 different, regularly sexed hybrids, I learned some things. Work one variety at a time. It’s going to take more than a single 10-12 pack of seeds to typically be able to find something good. You can conservatively figure that about half of your seeds will be male while half will be female. Of those hypothetical 5, or 6 female plants there’s no guarantee of a keeper. We averaged one “decent phenotype,” out of each 10-12 seed cluster. The takeaway, find stable genetics, and acquire 20-100 seeds per genetic breed.
We’re currently running a Kush. This being considered a stable breed, I purchased two twelve packs of seeds. The first pack was an equal split, 6 males, 6 females. 1-6 are all very similar in stature and growth patterns, yet each plant has distinct buds. One being purple, one being a deeper magenta-esque color. The magenta Bud is extremely tasty and a smooth/7.5 out of 10 of effect. These are plants #5 and #6. #1 and #2 are both green Bud and really tasty in their own right. The #2 Bud has bigger bud structure than the #1 Bud, both tasty and really stoney. Buds numbered 3 and 4 are more earth and incense leaning. Small popcorn buds, all are very dense!!! The second batch of 12 seeds from the breeder are going as we await a second grow of the first 12 from our reproduced seed. The genetics typically get more complex when there is a healthy variety to breed from.
Jelly Pie appears to have the diversity that appears to be a true winner. Cherry Pie x Grape Stomper = Grape Pie. Cherry Pie and Chemdawg are two sought after strains that bring to me what I enjoy. Below is my first experience with GPS genetics, at the Michigan hash bash 2019.
I had a freshly cured 1/4 pound bouquet of Gunslinger x Deadhead nuggets that were decadently easy on the eyes. This plant, I thought, was the better of the two Gunslinger S1 varieties that I was gifted, at the 2016 hash bash. The other being Gunslinger x Chemdawg.
The Deadhead cross had big ovaries/calyxes, and what were definitely bigger colas with a seeming touch in color of blue and purple hues, atop a nice Army green bud. The Deadhead cross, with its mysterious coloration and ovary stacked, arrow shaped colas packed a wonderful high. Plenty of vacant headspace to roam, with a pleasant residual of body relaxation. I cured some of these very flowers for 6 months and WOW! A cornucopia of flavor with a steely herbal taste with a slight floral nose upon exhale.
The Chemdawg cross didn’t share the large ovary, spear shaped cola plant structure, but more than made up for it in strength. The Chemdawg cross of the S1 seeds I was gifted was the main producer. Definitely leaned heavier towards the Indica side which, in a hybrid is what I seek. It’s that heavy weight behind the eyes of an Indica, that just brings about feelings of childlike euphoria to me. That intersection of bliss, where the eyelids are allowing just a narrow slice of reality, and all of the weight is felt behind the eyes. This is such a refreshing way to be able to “relax,” while allowing the imagination to continue plugging away, bringing to the consciousness a variety of different planes upon your horizon. Good stuff, and I patiently wait for Jelly Pie as I contemplate the diversity of these differing Kush plants.
My research states that all of the different Cannabis varieties started out in this area of the world. If that statement is scientifically correct, then these Kush seeds may hold more complexities than what I’ve previously experienced.
ln S.FLA we’re big indica fans. I’m turning to sativas more lately though.
I’m going to try growing both to see which I like better but it really doesn’t matter since I’m more interested in just growing good weed. I’m new at this so it’s all a learning experience for me.
Just remember sativas take a lot longer, I prefer the quicker flowering strains over something that goes for 12 weeks!
I always harvest early I’m trying not to do that bc I always sacrifice the weight!
Indica has the all around body high that’s great for relaxing. While the sativa has the let’s go effects that help you get through the day
Indict relieves anxiety and pain perfectly. Creating a relaxed, eurohoic, & sedated state of being in the user. While Sativa tends to be more of an energetic, motivating, and envigorating expeeience. Great for daytime use.
I dont think that’s always the case where sativa=energetic. I think it depends on your mood, health, placebo effect from tangy tasting weed gives me more energy too IMO.
You can actually take a indica early and get more of ceribal affect and same for sativa by letting it get over ripe u can get some couch lock!
Thank you for the information . I use indicas all day long for my chronic pain from the military. Sativas get my head racing too much and cause panic. Sucks because that’s where all the good flavors are.
Do you ever get that same feeling from an indica?
Their is amazing tastes in indica I can promise you that, just need to look around and buy strains bred for taste
Grow your Sativas longer. Definitely more racey if early/on time often. Most strains are Hybrids now, so I’m not surprised why the effects many describe as “Sativa”, may be found in your “Indica” leaning Hybrid. And vice versa..
Loon, try chewing pepper balls if your Sativa high gets too much. It takes up some of those receptors and calms you a bit. Thanks for your service!!
Was this meant as a joke or is this something you have done yourself?
that’s pretty crazy, but very interesting also
I wonder if that’s really a thing! Lol it sounds like he was joking but who knows! I’ve heard some crazy things before that were true!
Yes it really works. Will power down a buzz if you need it to. But hey who wants that
It is really cool but my thing is I wanna open or free up my receptors lol not block them!!!
Great info here! I would like to add that not only finding the correct strain for you is important but timing of how long you let the strain grow for is just as important. You will get totally different highs from chopping your plants at 50 days compared with chopping at 70 days. Take the time to find out what is good for you and what isn’t. Thanks Gu!
That’s very true early for more head high and late for more couch lock! Reguardless of strain by doing this you can tweak the high just a little bit!
Def prefer Indica or a 60/40 tops..
I prefer the sativa side of things myself.
It’s real hard to find a true indica or sativa these days. It seems more and more everything is turning into a hybrid. I am not complaining about it in any way just my opinion and observation with it on the market these days. It’s just hard when you walk into a dispensary and they ask you if you want an indica or sativa, let’s just be honest here they may be sativa or indica leaning but one that is pure on side of the spectrum or the other is very hard to find
What greenpoint strain do you recomend for getting close to a real sativa?
Gene pool has been watered down so many hybrids now
Durban Poisen is a pure sativa. They are harder to find but a few people still keep the genes going. I know of someone keeping clones from a single pheno going for 20+ years.
I would have to agree with Christopher.
Also when it comes to feeding both types require different amount.
Sativa dominant I Agree is more for the early afternoons.
Indica late afternoons Also would like to add that when I grow Indica Dominant I use the leaves and stalks of them and make an oil for my Eczema and it seems to do better then when I try Sativas. Tho this is my Body chemistry don’t know how it would effect otheres.
Much Love GPS and Everyone
Good information! Love my Indica strains
A good 50/50 strain like a WIFI O.G or a Green Crack God are perfect for me. I like the balance , not to sedating but i get excellent pain relief. But I can still get stuff done.
I agree Green crack is all around perfect
It is really a problem today to get a clean sativu or indicu.
I love indicas because of their short stature which suits my growing space. I also tend to enjoy a couch lock high because it’s usually night time when I smoke. In contrast I do really love a good sativa that will give me a giggly can’t stop laughing at stupid things feeling!
I’ve never been very big on sativa but I do enjoy good hybrids and indicas
Always a fan of a nice stoney indica
I remember reading that a genome study of Cannabis found that essentially none of the “origin stories” can be believed. For instance, a strain marked as pure Afghani C. s. indica contained no Afghani landrace genetics, and was, in fact, mostly C. s. sativa from South America. Molecular genome studies are hard to argue against.
This is not the same article, but it is really informative.
One day hopefully we will get there! Times are changing slowly but surely, just have to be patient and wait for the change to take over!
Great information. I like sativa’s for the daytime and indica’s for the night.
I like a good 50%50%split for all day, every day use!
Can anyone chime in on a good medicinal indica to grow in Vermont? Need to get her in the ground 🙂
I personally like the gorilla glue crosses! It’s a heavy hitter solid on trics and has a great taste! All around winner for me
Any of the stardawg xs do very well up in the northeast.
Is stardawg a northern plant? Bc I noticed when I cranked the a/c down towards the end of flower they really seemed to love it and the colors popped!
Great info. Appreciate all that you do at GPS!!!
thanks for that info cleared an awful lot up and put to sleep a long running argument between me and my friend hahaha
Great write up Gu !! Thanks for the info .
My favorite would be an indica, theyre just really beautiful, quick to flower, and usually leave me stuck to the couch like your child’s favorite candy. Indicas are it for me but lately I’ve been digging the sativas, definitely not for the flowering time but for added effects. Sativas make some beautiful plants too, especially when there is a top shelf fairy hidden in the seeds, absolutely gorgeous stank baseball bats of yummy yummy good good!
Great read. Very informative!
Love indica dominant strains but grow both.
Anyone want to talk WLD and NLD instead of indica and sativa?
Anyway WLD stands for Wide leaved drug type, while NLD stands for Narrow leaved drug type.
WLD is what is refered to as indica, NLD is what is refered to as sativa.
I have never heard of this before. Every day I learn something new lol thank you
Sure, I’ll share what little I know about narrow and wide leaf types of cannabis. As breeding purposes go you can produce real fire just using these two plants. Trading traits that you like into one or the other. Regular seeds work well for this purpose but you can also do it with fem seed females by making one hermie out and polinate the other female , which in turn leaves you with feminized seeds. The one thins this article didn’t bring to the table is Cannabis Ruderalis otherwise known of as hemp. Hemp lives a short life, making it possible for US farmers to get three crops out a year in some area’s. How does that help in breeding? Well a lot of hybrids of the auto flower variety have Cannabis Ruderalis introduced into the . Northern Lights Auto is a example. WLD plant that contains something like 20% Ruderalis by 80% Indica. thus creating a hybrid that is a quick grow and still in a desired cannabinoid range. I know I didn’t stick to your WLD or NLD and talked more on breeding, but really I find defining WLD and NLD as already talking about Indica and Sativa.
Well damn very nice info.
Yes some very good info I always learn more and more every time I visit the comment sections lol
Im a indica man but smoke sativa if im going in public
Indica’s have always been a favorite of mine. Both for it’s effects and shorter flowering time. I also LST (Low Stress Training) instead of topping to create plenty of uniformed branching creating an even canopy. Allowing the light to cover all parts of the plant. Therefore not wasting any light, space or energy. Last Indica I trained almost completely filled a 5’x6′ foot scrog net. Just got 3 Gorilla Glue #4 started. Buying more seeds on the 1st. Not sure which kind yet. But will be Indica dominant.
I love the effect of a sativa dominate strain. It opens up the creativity of my mind while allowing me to function around the house with daily chores. I recommend a indica dominate when your done for the day. Being a chronic insomniac it provides sleep easily and does away with my sleeping pills. Both help with my rheumatoid arthritis, although I have to say that a indica provides the best results for that. I have cirrhosis and its basically rejuvinating my liver. One of mother natures incredible health plants and they made it illegal. Its time for a change, but Big Pharma doesn’t want the change because it loses them money with trashy pills that have never alleviated my muscle spasms and chronic pain. I say get the best and the brightest from all around the world to study this plant for its cancer stopping capability. Maybe coupled with some other plants in the rain forest we could see a end of cancer. Wouldn’t that be better than letting them die? Think of it, a end to cancer worldwide.