The Differences Between Sativa and Indica

Whether it’s your first time going to the dispensary or you’re a seasoned veteran, deciding between the vast variety of cannabis strains can be a daunting and overwhelming experience. Typically speaking, there are three classification types that all dispensaries divide their cannabis into: Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid. But what actually makes each plant different from the next? While they may look the same to some, there are multiple differences between each classification, both in appearance and effect, that can help you decide which strains are best for you.

Effects/Medicinal Uses

Indica strains are known for their physically sedating effects and often provide full-body relaxation. They are used to counteract anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, and pain, and are perfect for when staying in and watching a movie or for sleep aid. (Easy way to remember: Indica = in the couch).

Some indica strains include: Granddaddy Purple, Bubba Kush, and Northern Lights.

Sativa strains, on the other hand, are known for their cerebrally energizing effects. They are best experienced when in the mood for physical activities, social events, or being creative, and are excellent for relieving symptoms of depression, fatigue, attention deficit disorders, and more. Cannabis users typically smoke sativa during the day since it doesn’t have the sleep-inducing effects that often come with Indica strains.

Some examples of sativa strains include: Sour Diesel, Super Silver Haze, and Lemon Haze.

Hybrids come from a result of breeders crossing multiple strains and the effects tend to fall somewhere in between indica and sativa, depending on the traits of the parent strains. With both indica and sativa strains both proving to be effective appetite stimulators, it’s a safe bet to expect the same from Hybrid strains, too.

Some of the most popular strains come from the Hybrid variety, including: Blue Dream, Girl Scout Cookies, and White Widow.


Originating in the Hindu Kush region of the Middle East from countries such as Turkey and Morocco, Indica strains have evolved to withstand strong winds and cold climate. Therefore, Indica strains often have an appearance of short, dense buds (and you can safely assume that any strain with the word “kush” in its name is likely indica or indica-dominant).

Sativa strains, however, were originally found grown near the Equator in countries like Colombia, Mexico, Thailand, and Southeast Asia. This means sativa strains often feature buds that are long, thin, and leafy.

Finding What’s Best For You

Despite the general classifications of cannabis, each strain is going to affect every person who ingests it differently. While sativa is often classified as an “energetic buzz,” some may experience similar effects in smoking a hybrid or indica strain.

Similarly, individual modes of smoking (such as joints, bubblers, or “water pipes”) are going to slightly alter the effects of each strain in the user. This means that someone who smokes from a dry piece like a bowl or chillum is going to have a different experience from someone who is vaping their cannabis, even if it’s the same strain.

With thousand of specifically named strains on the market, it’s impossible to single-handedly try every strain available. But by honing in on which effects you most desire in your cannabis smoking experience, the easier the decision is when you make your trip to the dispensary. If you still find yourself crippled by indecision, it never hurts to ask the budtender which strains they’d suggest or enjoy themselves. But if all else fails, trust your senses. Look at the strains, smell them all, and trust what you respond to most.