For coffee lovers, it’s between Arabica and Robusta beans; for red wine lovers, it’s between Shiraz, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon. But what’s the great debate that (sometimes literally) lights the fire for cannabisseurs? The answer lies in which sub-species of the cannabis plant they prefer: Cannabis indica, otherwise just known as “Indica,” or Cannabis sativa, “Sativa” for short.
What’s the difference between these two variants of the herb, and to what extent do plant genetics matter in your cannabis consumption? Whether you prefer pre-rolled joints, dried buds, or cartridges such as Dank vapes, this feature should help you choose the right cannabis variant or blend. Here are 6 things you absolutely need to know.
- Cannabis indica is known for its relaxing bodily effects. Grown most frequently in areas with cooler climates, the indica plant sports broad leaves and thick, dense buds. Its flowering cycles are shorter compared to its counterpart, sativa. Indica is known to yield relaxing bodily sensations, which makes it ideal for night use. An Indica-based blend is perfect for winding down right before you go to sleep.
- Cannabis sativa is responsible for stimulating, cerebral highs. Sativa, on the other hand, thrives in warmer climates closer to the equator. It has a longer flowering cycle than indica, and the plant has a distinctive narrow-leafed appearance. The buds also have a more feathery texture. This strain is responsible for the “magnified thoughts” one gets when consuming marijuana. It’s considered ideal for daytime use because it increases alertness, energy levels, and creativity. You may want to try a hit in the afternoon when you get sleepy, or when you want to have stimulating conversations with your friends.
- Most cannabis products are formulated as indica-dominant or sativa-dominant blends, or even hybrids of the two. Products with pure indica or sativa formulation are actually quite rare in the market. Most contain a mix with greater indica concentration, a greater sativa concentration, or a split-even blend of the two. Some variants may even be hybrids of the two species. An individual dispensary may advertise particular blends as being good for anxiety, pain relief, stress management, or other experience for the toker.
- Effects of a cannabis product aren’t limited to the plant strain—they also depend on the concentration of cannabinoids. In other words, plant strain alone won’t determine the key effect or the potency of your cannabis product. Another factor to consider is the product’s concentration of cannabinoids, or the active chemical compounds found in cannabis. The two cannabinoids that are most commonly incorporated into products are: (1) tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound; and (2) cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound with pain and anxiety-relieving properties. Whether you expect a deep and strong high versus a mild and relaxing one will also depend on the product’s concentration of THC, CBD, or both.
- Terpenes, or aromatic compounds, may also vary from strain to strain. An additional factor that may affect your enjoyment of the cannabis species or strain is its terpene profile, or how rich and pleasant the blend smells. If you have the opportunity to do so, visit a dispensary and try to smell the difference between indica and sativa products for yourself. You might be able to decide your preference based on which one smells the most appealing to you, which will make either the relaxation or energy-boosting properties even more rewarding.
- The overall quality of your experience hinges on the source and treatment of the plant. One last caveat to cannabis buyers: the distinction between indica, sativa, hybrids, or blends may not count for much if you don’t receive a quality item from a supplier. Bad weed of either plant variety, grown in less than stellar conditions, will likely leave you with a low-grade experience. A top supplier will source only fresh, hardy, vibrant, and tasty weed that’s perfect for a “natural holiday.” Look for one who certifies their source of indica and sativa products, who has garnered great customer reviews, and who’ll be happy to curate your high for you.
Just like a wine or coffee aficionado would, you’ll eventually develop your own preferences—and get better at choosing the products you like. Here’s to achieving the perfect high with indica, sativa, or the best of both worlds!