If you have ever been in a cannabis dispensary, you have likely been asked, “Do you prefer an indica or sativa?” This question is often asked by budtenders, likely because consumers and patients are taught that these two groups of cannabis cultivars produce particular effects.
While this specification is accurate in many ways, “indica” vs. “sativa” aren’t always utilized to describe the effects a strain would produce but rather the characteristics it possessed during cultivation. Indica is a term used in cultivation to note that a variety of cannabis grows stouter and short with leaves that have chunky, short fingers. Sativa varieties offer opposite effects. Sativas tend to produce plants that grow taller, are not as bushy, and have large leaves with long slender fingers.
With that being noted, the visual characteristics of indica vs. sativa are much more obvious than the underlying factors that influence these two varieties of cannabis cultivars’ ability to produce specific effects. These factors are terpenes and cannabinoids.
Before we dive into how cannabinoids and terpenes influence the effects of indicas and sativas, let’s look at the effects commonly produced by each. In general, indica cannabis strains are thought to offer more relaxing body effects. Sativa varieties, however, are commonly thought to provide a more uplifting effect that is felt cerebrally rather than throughout the body.
Now that you are more familiar with the common differences between indica and sativa strains of cannabis let’s take a look at how cannabinoids and terpenes contribute to the resulting effects.
Terpenes are compounds produced within the trichomes of cannabis flowers. They attribute to the unique aroma and flavor profile of individual strains and act as natural deterrents for pests as well as attractants for pollinators. Terpenes also offer unique beneficial properties, which influence the overall therapeutic aspects of cannabis strains.
One study found that strains characterized as primarily indica tend to have the dominant terpenes myrcene, limonene, and a-pinene. Strains characterized as sativa had prevalent terpenes such as terpinolene, myrcene, and ocimene.
While most terpenes are in sativa, indica, hybrid strains, there tends to be a dominance of relaxing terpenes within indica strains and more uplifting terpenes within sativa strains. This influences the predominant effects that each of these categories of cultivars produces upon consumption.
Like terpenes, cannabinoids also offer unique therapeutic properties that are attributed to the overall effects felt when various cannabis strains are consumed. While you may think that indica strains would have a higher THC content due to their relaxing nature, this isn’t always the case. There are many indica strains that produce lower THC concentrations than that of sativa and vice versa.
In general, though sativa strains tend to have a higher THC content, they also tend to have a higher THC:CBD ratio which would explain why they don’t produce as sedating of an effect. Higher CBD levels within sativa strains help level out THC’s relaxing effects. However, the higher ratio of the two can also lead to stronger psychoactive effects resulting in adverse reactions such as extreme anxiety and paranoia for some. These are not the only two cannabinoids that affect the overall therapeutic value of cannabis strains.
Unfortunately, cannabis medicine isn’t a one strain fits all type of medicine. It is a natural plant that works collaboratively with our body’s endogenous cannabinoid system. The ECS helps create a state of homeostasis within our body.
What one person’s body may need to find pain relief can drastically differ from the needs of others. Similarly, what works to relieve one person’s anxiety may cause an increase in symptoms for others. This is why it is essential that we understand our bodies and how they uniquely react to various cannabis strains and products.
Utilizing the indica or sativa guidelines could be a great way to narrow down strains that may be best for the results you desire to achieve. However, the real magic happens when you find cannabinoid ratios and terpenes that work best for you.
To determine the perfect cannabinoid and terpene ratios for you, try journaling your consumption experiences. There are many benefits to doing so. Among them is having the ability to pinpoint what works best for your needs in various situations. When journaling, it is important to note aspects such as the following.
A cannabis journal can be as simple as a notebook with lined paper. There are also cannabis-specific journals available for purchase that have designated journaling prompts. There are also digital app-based cannabis journal options. That means there is something for everyone depending on what works best for you. For some, keeping a written journal is great at home. But, when on the go, they like to rely on technology to be sure they don’t miss an important journal entry!
When it comes to choosing the right cannabis strain for your needs, it’s not just about indica or sativa, nor is it just about cannabinoids. There is a plethora of things that ultimately determine how specific cannabis strains affect different individuals. Keep track of your consumption and the many aspects surrounding it to get the best understanding of what strains are right for you. In the meantime, having guidelines such as indica and sativa can be helpful to better narrow down strains that will ultimately fit your specific therapeutic needs when consuming cannabis.