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What’s the difference between indica and sativa?

As marijuana use for both medical and recreational purposes becomes legal in more and more states, there is a growing interest in the different effects that various types, including indica and sativa, can produce.

Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are two species of cannabis. This means that they share many similar features but have specific and distinct differences.

Although anecdotal evidence and some marijuana dispensaries claim that indica is more calming and sativa is more energizing, some experts say that such statements are misleading. Many more factors are involved in creating the recreational and medical effects of marijuana than strain alone.

In this article, learn more about the differences between each strain, as well as the effects that indica and sativa can produce.

Botanists use physical differences — such as variations in height, branching patterns, and the shape of the leaves — to identify different strains of plants. This is where the names “indica” and “sativa” come from.

Indica plants are shorter than sativa plants, and they have a woody stalk, not a fibrous one. Indica plants also grow more quickly than sativa plants.

There is some disagreement regarding what caused these physical differences between strains. Some researchers say that these differences are due to humans breeding different varieties, while others say that a mixture of evolving adaptations and geographic isolation is responsible.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two of the most studied and discussed elements, or cannabinoids, present in different strains of marijuana. However, researchers have identified at least 144 different cannabinoids so far.

THC and CBD have very different effects on the human body. Knowing whether a cannabis plant is from the indica or sativa strain does not always provide much information about the relative amounts of THC or CBD it may contain, as people tend to believe, but it can be helpful.

It is also important to note that THC and CBD are only two of the hundreds of chemicals that create the varying effects of different strains of marijuana. The sections below provide more information on these two chemicals.

Medical experts say that THC has psychoactive properties. In other words, THC is what produces the “high” effect that people tend to associate with using cannabis.

Strains of marijuana with a high THC content may be helpful for people with pain, difficulty sleeping, and depression, though they can make some people anxious.

CBD does not create a “high,” but it can affect mood and be helpful in addressing anxiety and psychoses. However, despite its reputation for inducing calm, CBD can be a stimulant in small and monitored doses.

Anecdotal evidence posits that indica is more calming, while sativa is more energizing. Some experts say that such statements are misleading. Learn more here.