If you’re new to the world of cannabis, there are some common words you’ll want to get to know pretty quickly to start your journey. So let’s start with Indica vs. Sativa. The difference between the two species of cannabis is less distinct than you might think. Here’s a brief primer on Indica and Sativa to help you make more customized cannabis choices.

A tale of two species

Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa were first identified as separate species by a Swedish botanist in 1753. The physical differences were the first clues for differentiating between the two: Cannabis indica plants were short, stout, with wide, dark green leaves, while Cannabis sativa plants were described as taller with narrow, light green leaves.

Later on, botanists observed differences in the growing cycle of each species as well. Indica grows faster with higher yields and sativa needs more light. The two species also have differing ratios of THC and CBD content. Indica has more CBD vs. THC while sativa has more THC vs. CBD. Modern cannabis growers still use the terms indica and sativa to identify plants by their physical traits and growth patterns, but due to decades of cross-breeding, the two species are less distinct than they used to be.

Species as a spectrum

When browsing a dispensary’s display case, you’ll also see a third species option alongside indica and sativa: hybrids, which are purposely crossbred to deliver the best of both worlds. Technically, most cannabis cultivated today is a sort of hybrid, with distinctions based on a spectrum of indica or sativa dominance. For the most part, the effects and traits attributed to each species are a decent indicator of what you can expect.

Indica is known for:

  • Mental relaxation
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Decreased nausea
  • Decreased acute pain
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased dopamine

Sativa is known for:

  • Anti-anxiety effects
  • Anti-depressant effects
  • Alleviating chronic pain
  • Increased focus and creativity
  • Increased serotonin levels

Of course, the effects vary between different strains of indica or sativa, and the high each strain produces can even vary among users. This means you and a friend can hit the same joint and feel completely different. But in general, if you’re looking for a full-bodied relaxing high that’ll keep you on the couch, go with an indica or indica-dominant hybrid strain. If you’re looking for a cerebral, uplifting high for a run through the woods or painting session, sativa or a sativa-dominant hybrid is a better choice.

But there’s more to your high than indica vs. sativa!

While indica vs. sativa is a good starting point to customize your high, if you want to get into the fine details, you’ll want to consider the cannabinoids. THC and CBD are the primary cannabinoids present in cannabis, and most strains available at dispensaries list the specific percentages of each. Higher THC content is linked to sativa strains, while higher CBD content is linked to indica strains.

And don’t forget about the terpenes! Terpenes are the organic compounds that give cannabis strains their distinct and delightful flavors and aromas. Because terpenes are located in the gorgeously sticky crystals (trichomes) of the cannabis plant, they also have a major influence on the high each strain produces, along with the medicinal benefits.

Indicas, sativas, and hybrids oh my!

Balboa Ave. Cooperative has a wide range of indica, sativa, and hybrid strains to choose from, and our expert budtenders can help you pick the right strain for your preferred type of high. Check out our full menu and stop in soon!