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Cannabis Indica vs. Cannabis Sativa: The Common Myth of Consumption Effects

cannabis indica vs. sativa


Most people fall somewhere in between two types of cannabis consumers: the “I’ll smoke/vape anything” crowd or the “I only want top-shelf next-gen hybrids with THC levels above 20%” connoisseurs.

So Team Indica or Team Sativa? It’s not that cut and dry… For the less discerning consumers or dispensary-shopping newbies, the age-old “in da couch” association for indica and “energizing high” often touted for sativa continues to be the standard – though often highly flawed and unreliable – way of describing consumption effects.

Physical characteristics

From a botany perspective, Sativa Science Club explains that the classification scheme the entire cannabis industry is based upon is wholly inaccurate. Although Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica may be popular types of cannabis plants, categorizing them as their own species of cannabis is quite misleading.

Cannabis sativa typically grows outdoors in equatorial regions that receive a consistent 12 hours of daylight, according to Sativa Science Club. As a result, plants are tall and thin, with narrow, elongated leaves. Conversely, Cannabis indica grows best in colder regions and is typically is dense and bushy, an adaptive protective mechanism against chilly mountain nights.

Indica plants have also usually been known to have more psychoactive qualities than sativa, leading the name indica to become commonly used to describe any variety of cannabis cultivated for its drug content.

Nevertheless, physical characteristics indicate almost nothing about the chemical composition of a cannabis plant, and therefore little to nothing regarding the effects of consumption.

Composition and consumption effects

The cannabis species actually contains several subspecies and varieties of cannabis, each with their own unique traits. What really defines categorization are primary and secondary compounds, and cannabis plants express cannabinoid and terpenoid secondary compounds.

These can vary greatly by the individual plant's genetics and cultivation environment. Moreover, how these compounds will be metabolized in the body’s own endocannabinoid system varies greatly from individual to individual, further dispelling the myth that indica and sativa produce consistent effects.

In conclusion

Perhaps in the early days of cannabis cultivation, the previously tried-and-true classification of simply “indica” and “sativa” was fairly accurate. However, with such prolific cultivation today as well as countless accounts of undocumented breeding, it is nearly impossible to surely determine what the chemical composition of a particular cultivar “should” be.

When selecting which to consume, research the particular strain (Leafly is a solid resource) to help best determine desired effects. An experienced budtender can further assist with the ideal form and delivery method based on each individual’s needs.

Lit By Leaf is proud to be a Sativa Science Club 2019 Elevated Advocate – "education that takes you higher.”