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Indica vs. Sativa - How do I choose the right strain?

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What's the difference between Indica & Sativa?

And what it means for me


Choosing the right strain for your individual needs

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to cannabis or a long-time user, there is mass confusion surrounding the words “Indica” and “Sativa.”  The confusion reaches so far, it’s led many budtenders to even ask what type you prefer, as you’re looking to purchase flower. It’s a problem because it gives users the wrong idea and is a key issue when trying to use the plant for medicinal purposes.

The common belief behind strain selection is that sativa’s are more uplifting, energetic, and cerebral - good for social gatherings and fitness activities. Much of canna-culture also believes indica’s are the go to strain for something relaxing, or to aid in sleep or appetite stimulation.

The truth, as research shows, comes across different. There is little evidence backing the belief that either cannabis type displays “a consistent pattern of chemical profiles that would make one inherently sedating and the other uplifting.” [1]

Where did these terms come from?

It was in the 18th century when Carl Linneaus termed the word “cannabis sativa,” describing hemp plants harvested primarily for fiber, seeds, and CBD. It was also then when “cannabis indica” was named by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, when discovering the plant in India, as a way to describe the psychoactive plants. Today, most of the varieties we consume come from the “cannabis indica” plant. [1]

The big takeaway is to understand that not all indicas are going to make you sleepy, and not all sativas are going to give you an energetic buzz. As confusing as this may sound, there is good news that can help you better predict your level of effects.

The effects we feel from consuming are highly individual and depend on a bunch of factors, including your genetic makeup, the plants unique chemical profile, your tolerance, dose, and way of consuming. [1]

Research has taught us that understanding cannabinoids and terpenes is a better marker when seeking the right strain to achieve our desired effects. Terpenes are the aromatic oils which vary in different strains and plants, giving cannabis its distinctive smell and taste – such as pine, lemon, or mint. Terpenes are produced by the plant to repel insects and spread pollen.

Image Source:

Image Source:

Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds secreted by the flower to protect itself, they’re similar in composition to the natural compounds our bodies make, called endocannabinoids. There are at least 113 cannabinoids identified in the plant, and each cannabinoid is different in composition causing them to interact with cannabinoid receptors located throughout our brain and body, in uniquely individual ways. This is the reason for cannabis’s amazing ability to treat a wide range of ailments.


The six most common cannabinoids are:

  1. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - the main psychoactive component, commonly used for pain, stress, appetite stimulation, and sleep.
  2. CBD (cannabidiol) - it is non-psychoactive and is commonly used for anxiety, inflammation, epilepsy, and arthritis.
  3. CBG (Cannabigerol) - non-psychoactive and is the chemical parent of both THC and CBD. Commonly used for muscular disorders, skin conditions, inflammation, and anxiety.
  4. CBN (Cannabinol)non-psychoactive and is commonly used for pain management, insomnia, inflammation, and as a mild sedative.
  5. THCa (Tetrahydrocannabinol Acid) non-psychoactive until heated where it then becomes the psychoactive form of THC. Commonly used for inflammation, neurodegenerative diseases, nausea, appetite loss, and pain.
  6. CBDa (Cannabidiolic Acid)non-psychoactive and is the precursor to CBD. Commonly used for nausea, antibacterial, and inflammation.
Cannabinoid Receptors are located throughout the brain and body! Image Source :

Cannabinoid Receptors are located throughout the brain and body! Image Source:


We prefer whole-plant options for the widest possible benefits

The combination of cannabinoids and terpenes interacting within our bodies give us an “entourage effect,” providing the user with the full spectrum of therapeutic compounds cannabis has to offer. Cannabis is a diverse plant offering a wide range of benefits, so take your time when selecting a product and never hesitate to ask questions. We also recommend writing down your experience with each strain, so you have something to reference when you are ready to make another purchase. With something as unique as cannabis it’s really important that we each take initiative to learn and understand how the plant interacts with each of us individually, that way we can make better choices when seeking a strain with our desired effect.