Sativa vs indica cannabis strains

May 23, 2024The nama Team
A guide to sativa and indica cannabis strains-namaCBD

Want an energetic, uplifting buzz or something more sedating and relaxing? The effects you achieve depend on the cannabis strain you choose. 

Cannabis has two subspecies, indica and sativa, and each of these has many variants, or strains. Humans have also intermixed indica and sativa genetics to create hybrid strains.

For example, our collection of THC edibles is sourced from select hybrid strains to offer a blended experience that combines the best of indica and sativa cannabis.

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What are sativa and indica?

Sativa and indica are subspecies of the cannabis plant. They differ in physical appearance, origin, and pharmacological effects. 

The physical appearance of sativa

Sativa plants originate from warm, equatorial regions such as Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, and Southeast Asia. They grow tall and slender, capable of reaching heights up to 20 feet. They have long, narrow, light-green leaves with serrated edges. Sativas have a longer flowering time, often taking up to 6 months to fully mature. 

Because of their substantial height, they are frequently grown outdoors where they have ample room and direct sunlight to support their lanky structure. 

The physical appearance of indica

Indica plants originate from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Morocco. They are short and densely branched, rarely exceeding 3--6 feet in height. Indicas have broader leaves that are a deep green shade with wider serrated edges.

The nodes of this plant are tightly spaced together, allowing the plants to grow thick and bushy. Compared to sativas, indica strains have a much shorter flowering time of 2–4 months from planting to harvest. This quicker lifecycle makes indicas a good choice for indoor cultivation.

Even though indicas are smaller than sativas, their buds are potent. Indicas contain distinct earthy, hash-like aromas driven by their terpene profiles.

What are the effects of sativa?

Sativa strains produce uplifting, energetic effects that stimulate the mind more than the body. These invigorating, cerebral highs make sativas a popular daytime choice, especially for:

  • Increased energy and focus. Sativas provide a motivating buzz that can enhance mental focus and clarity. These uplifting effects can provide a motivational kick, making sativas a great choice when you need to power through tasks or activities that require mental stamina. For many, sativa's energizing influence facilitates concentration and productivity, especially in those struggling with chronic fatigue and ADHD.
  • Euphoria and creativity. Sativa induces powerful feelings of euphoria, optimism, and overall happiness. Its stimulating effects can unlock creative thinking, philosophical mindsets, and bursts of inspiration perfect for artistic or intellectual pursuits. This elevated mood could potentially provide relief for those struggling with depression or lack of motivation.
  • Chattiness and sociability. With their uplifting, giggly effects, sativas can be excellent social lubricants. They encourage chattiness, free-flowing conversation, and bonding experiences in social settings. The talkative, convivial effects of sativas may help alleviate symptoms of social anxiety or shyness.
  • Confidence and empathy. Sativa highs can imbue users with a self-assured confidence that quiets insecurities and self-doubt. At the same time, the cerebral effects may heighten feelings of empathy and emotional connectivity with others.
  • Physical motivation. The energizing, uplifting buzz of sativas can make workouts more enjoyable and dynamic while boosting motivation for hobbies, activities, and adventures.
  • Appetite stimulation. Sativa strains can trigger increases in appetite by stimulating hunger hormones. They may make users appreciate the tastes and flavors of foods more intently, providing benefits for those struggling with low appetite or eating disorders.

Sativa's lively, head-focused sensations make it a go-to choice for those who seek an upbeat, stimulating experience during the day. If you're after something more relaxing to unwind in the evenings, indica strains are a better fit.

What are the effects of indica?

Indica strains have relaxing, sedating effects that provide full-body relief. These mellow, calming highs help you unwind in the evenings. Here are some key effects associated with indica cannabis strains:

  • Sleep aid and insomnia relief. Indica strains are a go-to for anyone struggling with insomnia and other sleep issues. Their potent effects make it much easier to fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. The soothing body high relaxes the mind and muscles, priming you for high-quality restorative rest.
  • Pain relief. Indica has natural analgesic properties. The deep, numbing body sensations provide relief from acute pains such as headaches or muscle cramps. Indica strains also offer longer-lasting comfort for those with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, or neuropathic pain
  • Appetite stimulation. Similar to their sativa counterparts, indicas stimulate hunger hormones and produce “the munchies.” Some people find the relaxing, blissed-out effects of indicas make them better at boosting appetite and the enjoyment of food flavors and textures. 
  • Anxiety and stress relief. If you're looking to relax and melt away your stresses, indicas are your friend. Their calming physical and mental effects can ease anxiety, worry, and restlessness while imparting a refreshing sense of balanced bliss. 
  • Muscle relaxation. Indica highs are characterized by a "body melting" sensation of total muscular relaxation. Users often describe indicas as relieving all tension and tightness, leaving you feeling loose and relaxed from head to toe. With indica strains, you can unwind after physical activities or soothe muscle spasms or cramps.

While not as energizing as sativas, indica's deeply relaxing qualities offer relief from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis spasms, or chemotherapy side effects

The difference between sativa and indica highs

Sativas provide an energizing, cerebrally-focused head high, while indicas deliver a deeply relaxing, sedating body high.

Sativa and indica highs also differ in:

  1. Onset time of effects: sativa highs hit faster with more immediate cerebral effects. Indica highs take a bit longer to feel the full sedating body sensations.
  2. Duration of effects: indica highs last longer, while sativa highs are relatively shorter-lived.
  3. Potency: many find indica highs subjectively more potent and “stoning” because of the intense body effects. While sativa highs don't necessarily feel as overwhelming, their uplifting cerebral intensity can pack potent psychoactive effects, especially when taken in higher doses.
  4. Functionality: sativa effects are more conducive to remaining active, functional, and productive. Indicas can have heavy couch-lock sensations if you take a large dose.
  5. Terpene profiles: terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis and many other plants. They are responsible for the unique aromas and flavors of different cannabis strains. Sativas have more energizing limonene, while indicas contain sedating myrcene.

What is stronger, sativa or indica?

Indica and sativa are each "stronger" than the other but in different ways. Indica is a stronger sedative, while sativa provides stronger energizing effects. Personal biochemistry, cannabis tolerance, and other factors also play a role in how "strong" one experiences a given strain to be. 

Other factors influencing the perceived “strength” of a cannabis strain:

  • Dosage (how much you take)
  • Consumption method (smoking, edibles, etc)
  • The absolute level of Delta 9 THC a strain contains
  • The ratio of THC to cannabidiol (CBD) in the strain
  • Terpene types and concentrations

THC and CBD levels affect the potency of sativa and indica

Sativa plants often have higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content and lower CBD than indica, but the reality is that there is no definitive rule that sativas contain high THC while indicas have high CBD.

Cannabis strains from both the sativa and indica families can exhibit different THC-to-CBD ratios based on their genetics and breeding. This means that: 

  • You can find certain indica strains testing high in CBD percentages.
  • Some sativa cultivars are bred to express elevated CBD levels.
  • There are sativa strains with THC levels under 10%.
  • Some indica strains have been genetically tuned for very high THC over 25%.

This interplay between THC and CBD is what impacts the perceived potency and effects of a strain (whether sativa, indica, or hybrid). Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cannabinoid ratios shape the intensity, duration, and specific qualities of a strain's effects.
  • Indicas with high THC and high CBD content deliver more subdued, relaxing experiences.
  • Sativas with lower CBD levels may allow the THC effects to feel more pronounced.
  • CBD-rich sativas tend to provide more clear-headed, functional sensations.

Terpene profiles influence the potency

Sativas are abundant in limonene, a zesty terpene that complements their uplifting, mood-elevating highs. Indicas contain higher amounts of the sedating myrcene terpene, which intensify their relaxing, couch-locking sensations. This molecular synergy between cannabinoids and terpene levels results in certain strains hitting harder than others, boosting the effects and potency of sativa and indica.

Dose and consumption method

Dose and consumption methods significantly impact the perceived potency of sativa and indica strains. Higher doses of sativas, while initially energizing, can eventually lead to paradoxically sedating “couch-lock” effects more akin to indicas. On the other hand, even modest indica doses can be overpowering when smoked or vaped. These inhalation methods deliver an instantaneous, hard-hitting dose of cannabinoids.

THC and CBD edibles provide a more gentle, long-lasting experience than smoking, because the cannabinoids are metabolized over several hours. A microdose of 2–10mg of THC in a gummy is better if you’re a beginner so you can avoid any negative effects of either sativa or indica. Experienced consumers may prefer higher edible doses of over 10mg if they’re chasing a high, but even if you’re a seasoned user, microdosing cannabis offers more benefits than larger doses.

To avoid the strong, overpowering effects of either sativa or indica, stick to smaller amounts and avoid consumption methods that deliver quick, short-lived effects. Our THC gummies and cannabis-infused beverages last much longer and have subtler yet more effective results. 

Experience the best of sativa and indica with our perfectly dosed Buzz Drops™. Only 2.5mg of THC and 2.5mg of CBD achieve the perfect mild, manageable high with light body effects.

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Hybrid strain effects

Hybrid cannabis strains combine sativa and indica genetics and deliver a balanced experience without being too strong. The synergy tempers each strain's extreme characteristics, making you feel invigorating, uplifting, and grounded at the same time.

Rather than the intense cerebral energy of sativas or the heavily sedating body effects of indicas, hybrids provide an elevated yet functional middle ground. Hybrids hit the sweet spot for therapeutic effects alongside an enjoyable, well-rounded experience.

Read all about the therapeutic benefits of hybrid strains.

Popular sativa strains

Some of the most iconic and widespread sativa strains include the following:

  1. Sour Diesel is a blend of Sour Lemon and Diesel strains. This energetic strain delivers a huge cerebral buzz that boosts creativity and productivity.
  2. Durban Poison is a classic South African landrace sativa. It delivers a potent, clearing head high that enhances mood and concentration.
  3. Super Lemon Haze produces a zesty, lemon-scented uplifting buzz perfect for artistic endeavors.
  4. Jack Herer provides an even-keeled cerebral effect great for conversation and introspection.
  5. Green Crack is a classic that delivers motivated, focused energy.

Popular indica strains

Some of the most renowned indica varieties include the following:

  1. OG Kush is an iconic West Coast strain that produces a stoning body high from its earthy, pine-laced terpenes.
  2. Afghan Kush is the parental landrace of a wide range of popular indicas. It induces deep relaxation perfect for sleep.
  3. Granddaddy Purple yields candy-like grape and berry aromas alongside soothing full-body effects.
  4. Northern Lights is one of the most ubiquitous indicas. This pungent, sweet strain provides deep mind and muscle relaxation.
  5. Hindu Kush is a calming pure indica that alleviates pain and stress.
  6. Bubba Kush is the child of the iconic OG Kush strain. It induces heavy tranquility and couch-locking sensations from its high THC content.

Pure sativa and indica strains may have their merits, but hybrid cannabis varietals are becoming more popular because they give you a “best of both worlds” experience. By combining cannabis sativa and indica genetics, hybrids deliver an enjoyable, well-rounded experience without excessive cerebral racing or sedation. 

We’d choose that over pure indica or sativa strains any day of the year. And we have—our low-dose THC edibles balance sativa and indica effects for a mild, manageable high topped with elevated calm and clarity. 

For that extra oomph in flavor and functional focus, try our Energy gummies. They pack 2.5mg THC and 5mg CBD in every delicious, blood-orange-infused gummy to enhance productivity and creative thinking while grounding you.

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We formulate our gummies and THC-infused beverages with hybrid cultivars to achieve a perfect balance of sativa's energizing cerebral buzz and indica's relaxing body calm. We extract the perfect CBD and THC ratio from hybrid cultivars to create uplifting, balanced experiences in every bite and sip. 

Don't settle for harsh, one-note highs from subpar products. With nama™, you'll discover the cleanest, expertly crafted hybrid edibles that deliver all the versatility and moderated potency this unique plant offers true cannabis connoisseurs. Don’t worry, all our edibles are federally legal in the U.S.

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Sativa vs indica FAQ

Sativa strains provide an energizing, uplifting "upper" high with strong cerebral stimulation and euphoric effects. Their energizing, invigorating qualities make sativas popular for recreational purposes if you seek an active, productive experience. Indica's deeply sedating full-body relaxation and couchlock firmly establish it as more of a physically calming "downer" strain.

Indica strains are more effective than sativas for chronic pain relief. Their stronger analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties—combined with deeply relaxing physical effects—make indicas better at muscle relaxation and managing chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis spasms. 

That doesn’t mean sativas don’t possess any analgesic properties. Their uplifting cerebral stimulation can exacerbate pain perception, but sativa strains can also provide a distracting, mood-boosting effect that helps take the mind off physical discomfort and pain.

Hybrid strains that blend sativa and indica genetics may provide the most well-rounded analgesic effects. They combine sativa's mood-elevating distraction with indica's potent physical pain relief. These balanced cultivars allow patients to experience uplifting cerebral benefits alongside deeply relaxing body sensations ideal for comprehensive chronic pain management.

If you're looking for a natural sleep aid to treat insomnia, indica may be the superior choice over sativa for night-time consumption. Indica strains promote restorative, high-quality rest through heavy body sensations that instill sedation and sleepiness. Sativa's stimulating, energizing effects can disrupt sleep cycles when used too close to bedtime. Indicas prime both the mind and muscles for restful slumber.

Some people prefer hybrid strains which combine lower levels of THC and higher CBD for an even more effective sleep aid. Try our Sleep Plus gummies with only 2mg of THC and a balanced 25mg of CBD to experience the real meaning of heavenly sleep.

While scientific evidence is limited, research indicates that both sativa and indica strains of cannabis increase dopamine release in the brain's reward system. This is a result of the effects of THC, the main psychoactive chemical compound from the cannabis plant. This psychoactive cannabinoid binds to cannabinoid receptors that regulate dopamine production. 

Some studies suggest that the calming effects of indica strains may allow dopamine to linger longer in the synaptic spaces. The dopamine-releasing properties seem more closely tied to the overall potency and an individual's biochemical makeup rather than being specific to indica or sativa strain types.

There is no definitive scientific evidence directly linking indica cannabis to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction or other sexual health issues. While chronic, problematic use of cannabis may potentially impact sexual function for some individual users, these negative side effects are typically dose-dependent rather than associated strictly with indica cultivars. 

An individual's unique physiology, tolerance levels built up from cannabis exposure history, and consumption methods tend to play a much larger role in determining adverse effects.

Recreational cannabis users are drawn to sativa strains for their stimulating effects, euphoric sensations, and energizing properties. Sativa's invigorating, uplifting buzz is prized for promoting creativity, elevating mood, and providing physical motivation ideal for active hobbies, social interactions, and physical intimacy. 

Many appreciate sativa's ability to enhance mental focus and productivity without harsh side effects like those from caffeine. The overall clearheaded yet lively sativa experience simply aligns with the desired recreational effects for many users.

For physical exercise, athletic activities, and working out at the gym, most cannabis enthusiasts recommend sativa strains over indica varieties. Sativa's energizing effects provide a motivating "body buzz" coupled with a laser-sharp mental focus that can boost stamina and endurance for grueling exercise routines and active outdoor pursuits. Indica's deeply sedative effects and stoning physical relaxation qualities tend to work against rather than complement strenuous physical exertion.

Both indica and sativa cannabis strains offer profound experiences of euphoria, but the specific nature of these euphoric sensations differs between the two primary types. Sativa euphoria manifests as an energizing cerebral stimulation with heightened mood, philosophical mindsets, and potential psychedelic enhancements of perception. Indica euphoria presents as a deeply relaxing "body euphoria," inducing physical contentment, relief from stress and muscle tension, and an overriding sense of tranquil bliss.

A harmonious hybrid cannabis strain masterfully blends sativa and indica genetics may provide the most balanced, multi-dimensional euphoria. Our Euphoria gummies infuse 10mg THC with 10mg CBD from hybrid plants, delivering an uplifting yet grounding experience of blissful physical and mental exhilaration. 

There's no consensus on whether sativa or indica gets you more blitzed. It really comes down to your own individual makeup and tolerance level. Many people find sativa highs feel more intense with that cerebral, trippy psychoactivity that can almost feel overwhelming at times. Indica highs are usually described as more physically sedating and immobilizing, but still super relaxing overall.

Factors such as the dose, the strain's terpene content, your biochemistry, and even your unique physiology all shape whether you'll feel sativa or indica effects as more potent. There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to what varietal slaps harder.

For those new to cannabis and exploring it for the first time, the general recommendation from most medical professionals is to start with an indica strain rather than a sativa cultivar. The deeply relaxing yet clear-headed effects of indica varieties are less likely to induce negative side effects such as anxiety, paranoia, or dysphoric sensations. These are the issues that can potentially arise from sativa's uplifting yet intense cerebral stimulation, especially when consumed in higher doses by inexperienced users. Indica's sedating body stone provides a gentler, more manageable introduction while avoiding overly racy or overwhelming highs.

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Resources 

P Bloomfield, M. A., Ashok, A. H., Volkow, N. D., & Howes, O. D. (2016). The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the dopamine system. Nature, 539(7629), 369. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature20153

Best Weed for Anxiety in 2024: Top Medical Cannabis Strains To Relieve Stress & Anxiety. (n.d.). https://mentalhealth.networkofcare.org/allegany-md/CommunityResources/News/Article?articleId=150588

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