Indica vs Sativa – Why Classification is Becoming Irrelevant

indica vs sativa

Ever wonder what the difference between an Indica vs Sativa strain is? 

In the world of weed, there was once a time when there were two main genotypes to which people would gravitate. On one end of the spectrum, you had your Indica strains, the relaxing, more subdued experience. In contrast, on the other side, you had your Sativa strains, supplying a more energizing type of high catered towards facilitating creativity.

For the longest time, people have thought to divide their experiences into these two types of categories. 

In fact, any dispensary or online cannabis store you browse will have a selection dedicated to either those interested in Indica, Sativa or something in between, otherwise known as hybrids

Still, the fact of the matter is, these classifications only go so far.

As it turns out, modern cannabis research has unveiled that the Sativa vs Indica categorization is purely physical, with little to no influence on the actual effects of the high. 

Since many of the differences are physical, there is actually more than meets the eye when determining how each strain produces its unique effects. 

Not only that, but the widespread hybridization of many modern cannabis strains have rendered these classifications moot.

To find out more about how to understand how each strain produces its effects and how the old Sativa vs Indica battle is no longer relevant, keep reading.

What is an Indica Strain?

For a significant period of time, people have made the connection that Cannabis Indica was the type of strain responsible for producing that quintessential stoner high that had you glued to your couch and going to town on a bag of chips. 

While weed is typically known to help stimulate appetite and enhance food taste, pure Indica strains were thought to have produced this effect to the max. 

Munchies, couch lock, and cottonmouth were things you would expect from a pure Indica.

The cannabinoid composition of Cannabis Indica is also mainly comprised of a higher ratio of THC to CBD when compared to Cannabis Sativa. 

Strains such as Hindu Kush, Northern Lights, and Granddaddy Purple are all considered Indica strains. Their physical profile includes a shorter, bushier cannabis plant with dense nugs and wide leaves.

What is a Sativa Strain?

While Indica strains were considered to have a shorter, more compact physical appearance, Cannabis Sativa embodies a more tall and slim look. 

Their bodies are tall, fibrous, and have long and slim leaves. Most Sativa plants thrive in warmer climates, such as Thailand, Africa and Mexico.

In terms of its effects, Sativa plants are known to produce more of an energizing high compared to Indica plants. 

In fact, the primary difference between Indica vs Sativa is the types of energy associated with the high. Sativa was typically known to produce a sense of focus, alertness, and enhanced creativity, providing a more cerebral experience. 

In contrast, Indica strains produce a potent body high that relaxes the user. 

Popular Sativa strains include Jack Diesel, Super Lemon Haze, and Green Crack.

Why are Classifications Becoming Less and Less Important?

Historically, the Indica vs Sativa species of the cannabis plant was separated by large bodies of water. 

Indica strains were primarily exclusive to Central and Northern Asia regions, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Sativa strains were mainly landlocked to areas across North America

It wasn’t until recently that hybrid strains became a thing. These inventions bridged the gap between the Indica vs Sativa genotypes and created a grey area where these hybrids would carry some of each type’s characteristics.

For example, while the Blue Dream strain might be a Sativa-forward strain, its effects share some similarities with MK Ultra, a more Indica-leaning strain. 

Both evoke euphoric cerebral effects while also serving to relax and soothe the body, relieve stress, and bring out positive, happy feelings.   

In this way, both strains from these classifications share common traits and properties, making the presumed differences between the two unfounded and illegitimate.

indica vs sativa physical difference

In fact, there is actually no scientific evidence to support the claim that Indica vs Sativa differs on a molecular level. The previous classification was based solely on the physical differences between the cannabis plants. 

We’re about to drop some historical knowledge on you, so watch out. 

In the 18th century, a French biologist named Jean Baptiste Lamark suggested a cannabis classification system based solely on what each plant sample looked like from items he had been sent from India. 

Still, these claims had no real standing, and botanists consistently challenged the system over the years. 

However, medical professionals had already caught wind of it. They used this classification system as a method of promoting the healing benefits of cannabis, utilizing Lamark’s theory to differentiate Indica vs Sativa to make it seem less intimidating to consumers who viewed cannabis as an unknown drug. 

To this day, it remains that the dichotomy between Indica vs Sativa classification is still used by industry producers and consumers while selling and purchasing cannabis products. 

In this way, some users are passionate that they only love Indica or only smoke Sativa. 

In reality, it should be more experimental and based on trial and error to find the best strains of either variation to determine which you like best and what properties are the most beneficial for your specific weed needs. 

Indica vs Sativa: The Role Of Terpenes

indica vs sativa terpenes

There are over 100 different compounds in the cannabis plant aside from the main two you mostly hear about. While Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) dominate the scene and provide some of the most noticeable effects of cannabis, it’s the terpenes that dial in the detail. 

The terpenes are the compounds operating behind the scenes to give each strain its own unique flavour and aroma, or their individual “character,” so to speak. 

However, smell and flavour are not the only things these compounds are known to influence. 

Cannabinoids and terpenes of weed strains work in tandem to create their own synergistic effects. In the world of cannabis, it’s known as the entourage effect.

Aside from THC and CBD levels, this phenomenon is what truly differentiates the effects of each species of cannabis from one another. 

Whether Indica vs Sativa or hybrid, all strains tend to carry somewhat of a different composition of terpenes, which can help to turn up certain aspects of the high and diminish others. 

After all, the very definition of entourage is “a group of people attending or surrounding an important person.” In this case, the important persons in question are THC and CBD, with the terpenes taking the role of the group of people surrounding them.

That said, terpenes are also beneficial for humans as well, offering a wide variety of therapeutic effects when cannabis is consumed as a whole rather than taking pure CBD or THC products alone. 

As a matter of fact, many of these terpenes are also found in the essential oils of plants, which in turn are also therapeutic agents that many people use for relaxation or to ward off inflammation.


Some of the most common terpenes you’ll be able to find in both sativa and indica plants include:

  • Beta-caryophyllene: A terpene commonly found in black pepper, lavender, cloves, and oregano. It has been known for its peppery aroma and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Limonene: A terpene found amongst many citrus fruits, mainly in the rinds of lemon, orange, and juniper. Limonene gives these fruits and plants their distinctive citrus accord and is believed to help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  • Pinene: One of the most common terpenes on Earth, found in Pine trees, Rosemary, and Basil, giving them their “pine” scent. Pinene is thought to be useful for treating pain, inflammation, as well as anxiety.
  • Myrcene: Also called Beta Myrcene, this terpene is a significant component of various fruits and plants such as mangoes, parsley, thyme, and cardamom. Myrcene has been noted to be great for providing sedative and relaxing effects.
  • Terpinolene: One of the more multidimensional cannabis terpenes that is also found in Lilacs, Nutmeg, and Cumin. Terpinolene is thought to have uplifting and mood-enhancing effects.

Indica vs Sativa – It’s not that Simple

Whether you’re a fan of Sativa or Indica, these classifications are no longer as useful as they once were. 

Thanks to advancements in breeding and the hybridization of most modern strains, there are more important distinguishing factors to look at than simply the appearance of the cannabis plants. 

Things like cannabinoid composition and terpene content are much more important things to consider when picking out the next strain to buy.

In this way, we would strongly encourage you to try both Indica and Sativa-leaning strains and hybrid strains to determine which you like best. 

Ultimately, one of the most fun elements of cannabis is experimentation. 

Whichever you choose, ensure that the products you are purchasing come from a reliable, licensed dispensary

As always, enjoy, stay safe and have fun!

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