Classifying Cannabis: Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrids

By Lacey Macri
Published: March 21, 2018 | Last updated: April 23, 2021 01:09:46
Key Takeaways

​Which strain is best for your highs, your lows, and your everything in between? Whether you are new to the world of cannabis or just looking to expand your horizons, it helps to understand the differences between indica- and sativa-dominant strains. While they do share a lot of similarities, there are a few key areas from seed to medicine that set them apart.

For those considering to join the grow revolution, deciding between sativa and indica is an important choice. The obvious, physical differences between cannabis sativa and cannabis indica are debatably most relevant in the grow sphere, where spatial limitations, legalities, and timing often become issues.


Sativa plants are known for their large stature, some stretching to a whopping 25-feet tall if given the headroom. Heavy sativa-dominant strains are best suited for outdoor growing, which is illegal in some counties. So, if you are looking to grow some of these, check with your county’s laws before beginning. Also, before growing outside, take into consideration privacy concerns from nosey or unsupportive neighbors, and other uninvited visitors like pests, which can present an increased threat in rural areas.

If any of the above are deal-breakers, cannabis indica could be better for you as it can be grown indoors more easily. Indica plants are usually smaller and stouter with a slightly shorter growing cycle. Many hobby gardeners also find this makes the plants somewhat less of a commitment over their towering sativa counterparts. Another difference between the two strains is that leaves of cannabis indica plants generally appear a lot darker green in color, and the blades are much shorter and wider than the long, skinny leaves of sativa plants.


Using Cannabis To Heal

The medicinal value of cannabis seems to have more to do with the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) content of different strains and the effect these chemicals have on users than it does the indica vs. sativa classification. However, some trends do seem to exist between the two.

Traditionally, cannabis sativa plants were known for having higher concentrations of THC, the psychoactive element in cannabis. As a result, cannabis sativa has been described as producing a more energized, uplifting head high. Patients suffering from depression, lack of energy, and some forms of anxiety look for strains that are more dominant in THC content than CBD to help counteract their symptoms.

On the other side, cannabis indica plants were known for having higher concentrations of CBD, which produces a more calming, body-high effect. People suffering from pain, restlessness, lack of appetite, or stress look for strains more dominant in CBD content to help balance their symptoms.


Conflicting theories about the THC and CBD content of sativa vs. indica strains are common. Many researchers have reported very little difference in the genetics of sativa and indica strains, and that, combined with the emergence of a plethora of new hybrids, the variance continues to grow.

Enjoying Cannabis

With the legalization of recreational cannabis starting to pop up in some states, many users have identified additional benefits beyond just its medicinal value. For both professional and hobby artists, cannabis has been found to stimulate the creative workings of the mind. This experience is most likely due to high levels of THC in the marijuana consumed by its users. In other words, finding a nice, purebred cannabis sativa strain may help those wishing to crush their writer’s block.


Users who experiment with recreational sativa strains while enjoying physical activity also report a mild boost in energy and motivation.

It should be noted, however, that users who suffer from certain diagnosed mental illnesses or conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, may experience a sensory overload with some cannabis sativa strains. It is generally suggested that these users stick to indica-dominant or hybrid strains if they are looking to play it safe.

Remember, it is important to use any form of cannabis safely. Practice designating a safe driver, keeping usage light while in public, and increasing dosages gradually as your body becomes accustomed to the medicine.


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Written by Lacey Macri

Profile Picture of Lacey Macri
Lacey Macri works as head of sales at CleanGrow Ltd., focusing her time on business development within the company. She received a bachelor’s degree in communications and psychology from the University of California, Davis in 2011, where she worked at the California Aggie student newspaper on campus.


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