Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid Strains

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
December 6, 2020
Meme Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid
Meme Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid

Did You know there were different types of strains of Cannabis?

Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid Strains. What is the difference and how will they affect my experience? How do I choose?

Remember “reading about” those kids in high school who used weed to get high and ended up chilling on the couch and getting the munchies? No one asked if it was a sativa or indica strain, or if it was a hybrid strain.

Weed’s changed, or rather, our understanding and awareness of it have, and there’s just so much more to pot than zoning out. In fact, you can chill, zone out, and get motivated. Cannabis can be an upper or a downer, a motivator, or a relaxer.

It’s best to know that and to know what you want before you partake blindly.

Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid Strains

Sativa Strains

The sativa plants grow tall, often taller than 12 feet, and have thin leaves. Since they tend to mature slower, partly due to their size, they are typically from hot, dry climates; the sativa strain plants are often grown in climates closer to the equator, in Central and northern South America, Africa, Southeast, and Western Asia.

While it often varies, especially with more commercially available seeds and cross-breedings, the Sativa strains are usually higher in THC than CBD, which produces the energizing “mind high” often associated with the lowering of anxiety and stress.

Sativa is an energizing and motivating strain that enhances creativity and productivity, and because it can be stimulating isn’t recommended before bedtime.

Indica Strains

Indica plants are shorter, denser, and thicker than their Sativa counterparts, and they tend to grow faster and are more prolific in their bud production. They are originally and typically from the middle east, specifically India, Pakistan, Turkey, and Afghanistan, where Indica strains often highlight using the Kush Mountains in the strain names.

The Indica strains often have a higher CBD to THC ratio, making it a solid choice for those looking for relaxation and calming effects, more of the body high typically associated with cannabis use. It has also been reported that it can reduce nausea and pain while increasing appetite. The Indica strains are the ones that have been used for cancer patients in managing the side effects of chemotherapy.

Depending on your needs for the day, Indica strains can be used when you have time to set aside to relax, but otherwise, it’s best used at bedtime.

Hybrid Strains

So generally Sativa and Indica are opposites, with differing effects, energizing vs relaxing, with opposite THC:CBD ratios. But we often want a combination of the effects and experiences, so it’s no surprise most strains grown now are hybrids, taking the best of both options.

Since the plants have different natural growing climates and environments, growers, and breeders have taken to growing them indoors or on farms that offer more consistent climates, or environments where the very nature of the changes enhances each strain variant to produce unique combinations.

The main purpose of hybrids is to work to balance the natural combinations of their effects, and to develop strains that using that combination, can then take advantage of the varying THC: CBD ratios. This allows the output strains to hyper-focus on the effect combinations, whether it’s for recreational or therapeutic uses, and target the desired uses.

Side Effects & Risks

These days everything has side effects and risks, but we wouldn’t be responsible if we didn’t note that of course, cannabis use of any type has side effects. In some cases, those side effects are actual benefits and features (energizing or relaxing, sleepiness or motivating), so it’s important to always check the full effects of the strains, whether indica, sativa, or hybrid, to ensure you’re getting what you want, and not what you don’t.

As with all cannabis products, there are the standard side effects of dry mouth and dry eyes, both of which can and should be managed with proper hydration (always have your water bottle with you!). But otherwise what might be considered a side effect is actually a perk: anxiety, lethargy, or dizziness.

In some cases, the side effects are due to the sensitivities of the users, or the expectations, as some strains are fast-acting, which can take new users off guard and cause added dizziness, anxiety, or paranoia. It is also a good reminder that these side effects are typically related to the THC, less so to the CBD content, so you can monitor the potential side effects by paying close attention to the THC content levels.

The same goes for the use of methods. You’re less likely to get a scratchy throat or cough from consuming gummies than from smoking or vaping.

Choosing the Right Strain Type

So how do you select which strain type s right for you? Well, that all depends on what you want and how you react. And remember, this may change based on your interest, just as deciding between cocktails or dinner options.

Start with a plan:

  1. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to chill or boost your energy or focus?
  2. Are you new to this or do you have an established tolerance level? Are you open to a stronger or a lighter, slower effect?
  3. What is your medical history? Are there drug or condition interactions you need to be aware of?
  4. How will you consume this? Are you looking for edibles or pre-rolls, and how will that determine the speed and duration of the effect, as well as the strength?

You’re not in this alone, and you don’t have to choose between the two options from Alice in Wonderland. There are great combinations and hybrids that allow you to get almost exactly the effect you’re looking for, and if you live in a state that has legalized cannabis, even for medical use only, stop by a dispensary and speak with some of the experts there. They will be able to guide you.

In closing

Choosing cannabis, whether for recreational or medical purposes, isn’t just a one size fits all approach, even when it comes to treating specific conditions or symptoms. You have options for choosing the products and strains that are best for you, and that begins with the type of strain, whether it’s a Sativa (head high, invigorating) or Indica (body high, relaxing), or a combination that allows you to enjoy the effects without being controlled by them.