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Sativa vs. Indica - What's the Difference?

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

Whether you are a seasoned pot smoker or new to the world of marijuana, you probably know that cannabis comes in Sativa and Indica strains. But what does this mean? Ahead, we will take a journey into the differences between Sativa vs. Indica, the effects you can expect from either one, and how to choose marijuana strains that will effectively treat medical conditions.

Why is Indica vs. Sativa Important to Know?

The popularity of marijuana has grown substantially around the world in recent years. This is due in part to legalization in many American states. In fact, marijuana dispensaries across the country report record setting sales for cannabis products.

To answer the demand, cannabis cultivators have made incredible progress producing potent Indica and Sativa marijuana strains for medical and recreational use. Our general understanding about marijuana and its effects has also changed and evolved through scientific studies that show us a plethora of uses, some side-effects, as well as health related benefits.

By design, we have cross-bred cannabis into Indica specific, or Sativa specific, which greatly enhances its ability to produce consistent effects. Understanding this better will change the way you use cannabis, which can greatly increase the benefits you receive.

The Difference Between Indica and Sativa

There are many meaningful differences between Sativa and Indica marijuana strains that will have an impact on your experience while using them. The physical differences in the plants themselves are profound, too. Indica plants typically are short and bushy, with large, pronounced fan leaves. Sativa plants are generally tall with thinner foliage. The Sativa leaf is long, and skinnier than an Indica leaf.

Sativa Effects vs. Indica Effects

The consensus is that Sativa marijuana provides energetic and uplifting euphoric effects.

While there is some truth to this, it is not always correct.

The same goes for Indica strains which people simply think offer sedative-like effects that are great for anxiety issues or for sleeping well. Again, this is true for many Indica strains, however, not all Indica strains produce this effect. The reality is that over cross-breeding has made most marijuana available today Hybrid strains, a combination of the Sativa and Indica strains.

Indica-Dominant Effects

There are Indica dominant strains, like Velvet Glove, which do produce the typical effects you expect. Feeling relaxed and content, with no anxiety, are the benefits that people look for most in high-quality Indica leaning strains. Some are even known for relieving pain and reducing swelling. Be careful, though, because some Indica strains may have you comatose on the couch after just a few puffs.

Sativa-Dominant Effects

Well-known Sativa leaning strains, like White Buffalo, produce uplifting euphoric effects that can be utilized by people suffering from conditions such as ADD and depression. They are great for people who want to start their day with a positive, energetic buzz. You can think about Sativa as getting stoned while drinking a cup of coffee. Some people may have anxiety from Sativa strains, so it is important to understand what your intentions are before choosing a Sativa vs. Indica.

How to Choose a Strain

Nowadays it’s difficult to know exactly what percentage of Indica vs. Sativa any particular strain of cannabis contains. Familiarize yourself using online strain guides and real-life experience, which will help you decide the best strain for your needs.

How Do Terpenes Play a Role?

Whether you have a Sativa or Indica strain, the amounts and types of terpenes the cannabis contains, will have a drastic effect on the way it makes you feel. There are dozens of different terpenes found in marijuana that contribute to the look, taste, feel, and effects of any given batch.

Depending on the terpenes, a Sativa strain may have more Indica-like characteristics. In the same spirit, an Indica strain can have you full of energy like a Sativa typically would; again, depending on the terpenes.

Most people are not aware of the vital role played by terpenes in marijuana genetics. The cannabis you ingest will have certain terpenes and cannabinoids that ultimately determine how it will make you feel.

Still, most of the time, an Indica strain will have relaxing characteristics because growers and dispensaries count on those effects, since that is what the consumer expects when they order an Indica stain for personal consumption.


One of the biggest misconceptions about strains is that the higher the THC or CBD content, the more powerful and potent it will be. Truth be told, the THC and CBD content is important, and the higher the better, in most cases. However, you might have an amazing batch of MAC 1 Hybrid strain that comes in at 16% THC.

Depending on the type and levels of terpenes, they can make that 16% seem like 30% THC, because of the powerful effects you receive.

Now you can get Sativa dominant strains of marijuana with THC or CBD that will produce an uplifting euphoric effect which is full of energy and positive vibes.

Or you can get an Indica dominant strain of cannabis with THC or CBD, which are great for reducing anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms.

Same for Sativa strains!

Wrapping it Up Completely

With such a big difference between Sativa vs. Indica strains, it has never been more important to understand what those differences are, and how you can utilize them to best serve your needs.

Strain mastery is especially useful for medical marijuana doctors and the patients they serve. When certain strains are chosen because of their specific effects, it’s amazing how well cannabis can treat conditions such as pain and anxiety.

Dispensary staff is typically educated about the marijuana strains they sell. They can help guide you to ensure you find what is best for you. Nothing beats experience, and finding the Sativa or Indica strains you like the best can be a fun journey that results in finding that perfect “go to strain” for you.


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