Indica vs Sativa: Origins, Uses and Effects
Medical and recreational cannabis users have two main choices in their selection of cannabis. They can choose sativa vs indica strains. Sativa cannabis seeds tend to produce buds with an energising, uplifting cerebral high. Indica seeds produce plants with buds that can give stronger physically sedating effects, these are perfect for resting, sleep and relaxation. Of course, there are hybrid strains which can give a blend of these effects.
Read on to find out more about indica vs sativa vs hybrid cannabis strains and which ones may best suit you. You can also read about the gathering momentum behind the controversial argument which says there are no differences at all between indica and sativa!
Sativa vs Indica vs Ruderalis vs Hybrid cannabis
Many cannabis connoisseurs classify the type of cannabis into 4 main categories. These are indica, sativa, hybrid and ruderalis. Indica, sativa and hybrid strains are well known to most cannabis growers. The genetics are widely available in autoflowering seeds and feminised cannabis seeds. Ruderalis genetics are the original foundations of modern autoflowers. They are native to some regions where they have adapted a rapid life cycle to survive short growing seasons.
When looking at sativa vs indica vs ruderalis strains, THC levels are typically much higher in sativa and indicas. When ruderalis genetics were initially used to make the first autoflower strains the THC levels were not particularly high. The best cannabis seed suppliers have worked very hard to ensure that the best autoflower seeds are now fully on a par with the best feminised cannabis seeds.
In Dutch Passion’s case, many of their autoflower seeds are now more potent than feminised strains from lesser seed companies. THC levels of above 25% have been seen in Dutch Passion Auto Cinderella Jack and verified by independent laboratories.
Sativa vs Indica cannabis origins
Cannabis has a long and interesting history. Evidence for the first use goes back to at least 3000 years BC and quite possibly much further still. It’s thought to have been indigenous (originally from) central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. An archaeological site dated from 8000 BC in the Oki Islands near Japan uncovered some cannabis seeds suggesting that the plant was already in some kind of domestic use/cultivation.
The uses of cannabis and hemp for fibre and rope making will have made it an essential crop for early man. The hemp and cannabis seeds were a highly nutritious food and the buds would have been valuable medicine and great fun. It seems impossible to imagine that early man would have ignored the blissful joy and pleasure found in the recreational use of cannabis. Here is some more information for those interested in a more in depth academic study of cannabis use by early man. Wikipedia also has some useful information on the earliest uses of cannabis by man.
Indica genetics are thought to have evolved in response to the tough conditions at cooler locations/higher altitudes. They bloom more quickly than a sativa. That’s because a sativa has warmer tropical conditions with higher average temperatures and longer autumns. Indeed, in truly equatorial regions there are no significant differences in the seasons. The light conditions are often very close to 12/12 conditions all year round with warm temperatures and little seasonal variations.
Indicas, often from more mountainous areas such as Afghanistan etc have to finish bloom before the rapidly-approaching autumn. For indoor growers, these indica genetics that have evolved in cooler climates are great choices for those that want a fast indoor crop with just 7-8 weeks flowering time.
Sativa genetics, which spread throughout Africa and the tropical regions in Asia, South & Central America have adapted with airy, open buds to be extra mold resistant in the humid moist conditions. They usually take longer to finish bloom, but sativa fans don't mind the wait!
Human trade/agriculture, which has flourished between distant communities for thousands of years, has also resulted in the spread of hemp and cannabis seeds. The earliest boat builders would have used hemp for rope making and may well have taken seeds with them on their early adventures. The seeds would have been traded between early farmers just as all useful crop seeds were bought, sold, traded and swapped.
Human slavery is also thought to have played a part in the spread of cannabis seeds. Whilst slavery has probably always existed, during the 1600’s and onwards, commercial slavery facilitated further cannabis seed movement outward from the Indian/African region around the entire globe.
Indica vs Sativa appearance
Many cannabis growers pride themselves on the fact that they could easily tell a pure indica from a pure sativa. But with relatively few pure indica vs sativa cannabis seeds available these days, that means more hybrids. It takes more skill to discern the subtle signs of a slight sativa or indica dominance to a hybrid strain.
To further complicate matters, Dutch Passion breeders have produced unique Frisian Duck and Auto Duck stealth cannabis strains with a deliberate mutant leaf shape. This makes these naturally camouflaged varieties harder to identify as cannabis, they are ideal outdoor strains for the grower seeking to tip the odds of a successful harvest in their favour.
The sativa vs indica appearance does show slight differences. These may be less apparent when the plant is young, but become a little clearer as the plant matures. When struggling how to identify sativa vs indica, sometimes simply waiting a week or two is the answer. Sativa vs indica color differences are not that pronounced, though indica genetics often produce slightly darker leaves.
Those with taller grow rooms will be able to grow indica or sativa cannabis seeds. Those with limited vertical growth space may prefer to stick with indica seeds.
Some SCROG growers prefer sativa (or sativa dominant) strains since the slim leaf fingers allow plenty of light penetration. The sativa vs indica appearance characteristics shown in the graphic (above) are true for autoflower plants as well as plants grown from feminised seeds. Note that even if you are growing indica (or indica dominant) seeds, mother nature will occasionally deliver you an unexpected sativa.
You can identify sativa dominant plants from the appearance, buds and leaves. The experienced grower will also account for the fact that their sativa-leaning plant will need perhaps a week or two longer in bloom and may try to grow to a taller height as well. Being able to spot the difference between the indica vs sativa cannabis plants gives the grower the chance to plan ahead and prepare accordingly.
Indica vs Sativa cultivation
Modern feminised seeds and autoflower seeds ensure that growing your own cannabis has never been as quick, easy or convenient. You can grow cannabis seeds indoors, outdoors or in a greenhouse. You can grow in soil, coco fibre, hydroponics or any other growing system/style. Many people don't care too deeply about the sativa vs indica difference so long as they get high and happy.
But for some people that grow their own cannabis, the specific choice of strain really is critical. It’s the difference between a great smoke and a truly memorable experience. That’s why some people strongly prefer to grow indica cannabis seeds, while others will only grow sativas.
Many weed growers will try cultivating indica, sativa and hybrid cannabis seeds and seeing which ones they enjoyed growing and smoking the most. This will sometimes shape their future cannabis seed choice. Sometimes they find that certain strains best suit their grow room or grow system. For example, a grower with a small growing closet and a limited amount of grow time may prefer to cultivate indica autoflowering seeds rather than a stretchy feminised Haze.
For many growers, their choice of genetics is determined by their experiences, or those of their real-world/online friends and influencers. It’s fair to say that many cannabis users don’t distinguish too much between the choice of sativa vs indica buds. They will enjoy the experience either way and the differences between the indica high vs sativa high are less noticeable/important to some people. These people often simply enjoy the instant relaxation delivered by the cannabis high, regardless of the type of genetics.
These days many people cultivate cannabis seeds indoors. It’s easy to grow cannabis, even if you have never grown it before. If you grow your own cannabis indoors then the following guide may help you get the best results from your grow room.
If you enjoy growing cannabis outdoors then the following specialist outdoor seed recommendations from Dutch Passion may help.
Indica vs Sativa terpenes and cannabinoids
What is indica vs sativa? One debate which often produces polarised opinions is that regarding the terpene/cannabinoid profiles of indica and sativa strains.
There is some laboratory suggestion that indica strains can produce buds richer in sedating terpenes such as Myrcene. Sativa (and some hybrid) strains often contain higher amounts of limonene and terpinolene which are thought to result in a more stimulating high.
However, some highly authoritative figures in the cannabis industry such as Dr Ethan Russo are increasingly sceptical about whether there are any proven chemical differences between indica vs sativa strains. In fact scepticism is not the right word. There is a growing belief among many senior cannabis experts that the sativa vs indica debate is pure nonsense. According to them, the indica vs sativa classification simply has no basis in science.
In the early 1800’s the French botanist and naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck was the first to use the term indica and sativa. To him, and many others, cannabis sativa vs indica look quite different. Therefore it’s logical to regard them as different.
The indica vs sativa terms have remained in use for over 200 years with many people firm believers in the clear distinctions between cannabis sativa vs indica. However, not everyone agrees with it. In recent years many have seriously questioned the validity of the indica vs sativa debate. Some scientists have very real concerns that there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the classification. There is very limited lab analysis to back up the indica vs sativa theory. Some cannabis users feel that sativa vs indica terpene profiles/production are slightly different and this could explain the different effects.
Leading cannabis guru Dr Ethan Russo is one of the more prominent cannabis scientists having authored numerous scientific papers about medical cannabis use. He completely rejects the sativa vs indica myth, regarding it as a stoner fantasy. According to his extensive studies and research, he feels that the question of ‘does indica vs sativa really matter?’ is completely irrelevant.
The following quotes from an interview with Dr Ethan Russo make sobering reading for those that are committed to the concept of indica vs sativa.
Dr. Daniele Piomelli: Some users describe the psychoactive effects of Cannabis indica and sativa as being distinctive, even opposite. But are they really? Beyond self-reports from users, is there any hard evidence for pharmacologically different species of Cannabis?
Dr. Russo: "There are biochemically distinct strains of Cannabis, but the sativa/indica distinction as commonly applied in the lay literature is total nonsense and an exercise in futility. One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given Cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology. The degree of interbreeding/hybridization is such that only a biochemical assay tells a potential consumer or scientist what is really in the plant. It is essential that future commerce allows complete and accurate cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles to be available."
Dr. Daniele Piomelli: Sativa is often described as being uplifting and energetic, whereas indica as being relaxing and calming. Can you speculate on what could be the basis for these perceived differences?
Dr. Russo: "We would all prefer simple ways to explain complex systems, but this is futile and even potentially dangerous in the context of a psychoactive drug such as Cannabis. Once again, it is necessary to quantify the biochemical components of a given Cannabis strain and correlate these with the observed effects in real patients. Beyond the increasing number of CBD predominant strains in recent years, almost all Cannabis on the market has been from high-THC strains. The differences in observed effects in Cannabis are then due to their terpenoid content, which is rarely assayed, let alone reported to potential consumers. The sedation of the so-called indica strains is falsely attributed to CBD content when, in fact, CBD is stimulating in low and moderate doses! Rather, sedation in most common Cannabis strains is attributable to their myrcene content, a monoterpene with a strongly sedative couch-lock effect that resembles a narcotic. In contrast, a high limonene content (common to citrus peels) will be uplifting on mood, while the presence of the relatively rare terpene in Cannabis, alpha-pinene, can effectively reduce or eliminate the short-term memory impairment classically induced by THC."
Dr Russo finishes his remarks with the following conclusions:
“Since the taxonomists cannot agree, I would strongly encourage the scientific community, the press, and the public to abandon the sativa/indica nomenclature and rather insist that accurate biochemical assays on cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles be available for Cannabis in both the medical and recreational markets. Scientific accuracy and the public health demand no less than this.”
The full Dr Russo interview is available here. He is not the only cannabis specialist to believe that indica vs sativa is a myth. The last few years, in particular, have seen a rapid increase in the number of people speaking out against the classical indica vs sativa cannabis classification.
It’s a debate that won't end anytime soon. Place 10 cannabis experts in a room and you can find 11 or 12 differing viewpoints. Even debates such as the importance of flushing cannabis still attract heated discussion amongst cannabis users and produce passionately contrasting viewpoints.
Indica vs Sativa effects
People use cannabis recreationally because it makes them feel good. It may remove feelings of stress and mental tension, dissolving anxiety for many users and replacing it with a sense of deep relaxation. For many people, cannabis is simply a great way to relax.
Medical cannabis users may have slightly more practical (and important) reasons why they use it. Cannabis is used for a wide range of physical medical conditions where it can have powerful effects on the body. In many countries medical cannabis use is now legal.
Note that the subtle differences in the effects of sativa vs indica strains may well be lost if you are particularly tired, or have recently consumed alcohol.
When discussing the effects of cannabis it’s important to recognise that we all have a unique endo cannabinoid system. This is responsible for the way our body absorbs and uses cannabis. Two people may experience quite different effects when they sample the same cannabis strain. Not only do their bodies respond differently to a given cannabinoid and terpene profile, but they will also likely have different cannabis tolerance levels. That’s why choosing the best cannabis strain for you is so important for your personal enjoyment.
Potency and THC levels are of key interest to many cannabis seed growers. One typical question for sativa vs indica is ‘which has highest THC levels?’. Both indica and sativa strains can have very high THC levels, therefore it’s not possible to define a strain as indica or sativa based on THC (or CBD) content. When you make cannabis concentrates, e.g. CBD oil from sativa vs indica, you won't notice any significant differences in the effects or potency due to the fact that the genetics were either indica or sativa.
Following many years of feedback from cannabis growers about their experiences consuming Dutch Passion cannabis strains, the Dutch Passion team have created a tool to help you choose the best strain for you. The seed finder tool asks you various questions about your own preferences and types of effect you want. It’s a useful way to narrow down the choice of cannabis seeds for your next grow.
If you are keen to see lots of Dutch Passion reviews from people that have grown and rated our cannabis seeds then please visit our dedicated blog website where you can see numerous grows from many of our strains. Here you will also find reports from people regarding the effects and enjoyment of each strain. You can review, compare and contrast the smoke/grow reviews of each Dutch Passion seed whether indica, sativa or hybrid.
Dutch Passion grow reviews
Sativa vs indica and what happens when you mix them
Much of this article has discussed the debate surrounding the accurate description of indica vs sativa effects, and the validity of the indica vs sativa debate. But many cannabis growers prefer to achieve a blend of these indica and sativa qualities by growing hybrid cannabis seeds. These are bred with both indica and sativa genetics, usually showing characteristics of both strains. Often hybrid strains satisfy a broader range of users than either indica or sativa alone. But we are all different and much depends on your personal preferences.
Indica vs sativa, accurate classification or complete nonsense?
The debate surrounding indica vs sativa types of cannabis will continue to rage. On one side, there are the traditionalists who fully agree with the indica vs sativa classification system. They will claim that the physical traits of sativa (tall, stretchy, long bloom times, airy buds) are perfectly described by the current indica vs sativa system. As are the properties of indicas such as their short, stocky structure with dense plump buds and fast bloom times.
On the other side of the indica vs sativa debate is the emerging argument backed passionately by senior scientists like Dr Ethan Russo. This states that there is simply no scientific, genetic or chemical foundation for indica vs sativa. This group believe that the best way to define a cannabis sample is to provide a full analysis of terpenes and cannabinoids. Anything else would be simply unscientific and based on historical opinion rather than modern science.
Where does that leave the rest of us? For now, we can follow the indica vs sativa argument as it unfolds over the coming years. Now that cannabis is a legal multi $Billion industry you can expect more science to provide definitive arguments one way or the other, though that may take time.
Indica vs sativa, a useful classification for seed buyers and growers?
For the cannabis seed suppliers, the concept of cannabis sativa vs indica may not seem quite as solid as it once did. However, for those that buy cannabis seeds it really is vital that they have an accurate idea of the physical characteristics of their future plants. How tall will they grow? How long will they take to bloom? For now, one of the easiest ways to answer these questions is to maintain the current system of indica vs sativa, even though it may be showing some signs of age. At least it gives cannabis growers the basic information they need to plan a successful grow.
But many in the cannabis world are at least preparing themselves mentally for the fact that one day in the near future it may be necessary to have to have a serious rethink about the way we describe the different types of cannabis. Perhaps a more accurate way will be found. But at least in the short term, indica vs sativa strain descriptions remain useful and relevant for those that grow cannabis seeds.
Best Indica and Sativa cannabis seeds
For now, Dutch Passion will continue with the indica vs sativa system. The main reason to do this is that it helps our customers understand and differentiate between various cannabis seeds. But the Dutch Passion team maintain an open mind on this subject and will always be guided by science in the long term. If you are looking for more inspiration and further strain details/recommendations on the best indica, sativa or hybrid cannabis seeds then the following links are essential reading.
The best hybrid cannabis seeds
The Dutch Passion website has lots of filters which allow you to refine your cannabis seed browsing. This allows you to look for seeds rich in e.g. CBD, or the most THC rich strains. You can also search for cannabis seeds based on the desired bloom time, or yield.
Some customers simply want to narrow down their seed choice to the most THC rich cannabis seeds. Whether you prefer indica vs sativa strains, be sure to do your seed research carefully and buy the best seeds for your own personal preferences!