Indica, Sativa, Hybrid, High THC, Low CBD, Cake Crasher, Gelato, what the heck does it all mean?! As the weed industry in Canada continues to grow it is getting increasingly difficult to not feel overwhelmed by the options in the weed market. In this article, we will break down for beginners the differences between Indica and Sativa, talk cannabinoids and what they do, how to shop for weed online, and much more. Sit back, relax, smoke a joint (or have a gummy, whatever you prefer), and read on to start getting comfortable and gain more confidence in your future weed picks.
Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid
Before we begin to look at specific differences it can help to look at the geographical origins of the cannabis plant being referred to. Sativa referred to hemp plants that were harvested in Europe for clothing, food, and other organic purposes. Indica on the other hand was found in India and was harvested for hashish production and producing an intoxicating effect in users. Over years of experimentation, breeding, and development they have been harvested into the varieties we recognize today and now Sativa and Indica are used as a quick reference point to the desired effects sought by consuming the plant.
For beginners, the best starting point is understanding the higher-level terms before getting into specific strains and the differences in cannabinoids and terpenes within those strains. Picking the right weed begins with deciding when you’re going to be using it and what you plan to accomplish with that high. Sativa and Indica differ not only in physical appearance but also in the effects produced by the plants.
Sativa plants generally have thin pointed leaves, are taller and skinnier than their Indica counterparts, and tend to smell a little sweeter or fruitier (thanks to terpenes which we will touch on later). Sativa generally provides an energy boost, accompanied by increased alertness and a head high. A good Sativa high is also typically accompanied by an uplifting or euphoric feeling for the user. It is recommended for daytime use as it can help with productivity and creativity. This not only allows the user to get things done efficiently and productively but can also help if you have obligations or responsibilities that may be otherwise hindered if you went with an Indica variety.
Indica on the other hand can produce many of the opposite effects and is recommended for nighttime use. A user can generally recognize an Indica plant by its shorter and bushier leaves, as well as an aroma that is musty, earthy, or skunky. The high from this plant will generally decrease energy and occasionally can cause such a relaxed feeling that it makes it difficult to get off the couch. Indica tends to produce more of a body high than a mind high and is often used for pain relief, relaxation, or stimulating a user’s appetite. Indica is often a go-to for users looking to wind down after a long day, it helps with activities such as meditation, or function as a sleep-aid to help shut down your brain when you need a solid sleep! Depending on how long it takes you to fall asleep after consumption one thing is certain, when it comes to Indica make sure you have some snacks on hand before you consume!
A newer player in the market are the hybrid varieties of weed. These generally have a mix of Sativa and Indica properties (though you can have a hybrid that has Sativa and Sativa parents or vice versa) and will have mixed elements from the parents. This also means that Hybrid cannabis can often fall anywhere from Indica to Sativa in how they look, smell, and taste. Often with hybrids a buyer can see what plant genetics are more dominant in that variety and use that knowledge when selecting the weed they want to buy. If you need something that keeps you alert but provides a mild relaxed feeling a Sativa dominant hybrid may be right for you.
What the heck are Cannabinoids and Terpenes?
Now that we understand the differences in higher-level terms, we can begin to dig deeper into what can cause a particular strain of weed to fall within a Sativa or Indica or Hybrid classification. Some Sativas can cause relaxing feelings and some Indicas can cause alertness after all! But why is that, and what is the tipping point that must be reached for a strain to be classified as one or the other?
The biggest factor for the feelings produced by weed are the chemical compounds that are found within the strain. The main players in the game are the cannabinoids THC and CBD, as well as aromatic compounds called terpenes. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol causes the “high” feeling, often pairs with a feeling of hunger, and has been bred to provide pain relief and reduce nausea or dizziness. CBD or Cannabidiol does not produce a high feeling but assists with relaxation or anxiety reduction, reduced swelling, and pain relief.
For a beginner, a great starting point is selecting a Sativa or Indica, but as you get more familiar with weed and more comfortable you can dig deeper into your strains and begin selecting based on THC and CBD percentages. An experienced user looking for a strong high feeling would likely go for a high % THC strain while a newer user may prefer a lower one. A higher % THC strain also provides medical benefits such as reducing strong feelings of anxiety within the user, increasing hunger, or reducing pain and inflammation.
Some users of higher % THC strains will notice that it can cause potential side effects and therefore be more driven towards a higher % CBD strain. CBD can provide similar benefits to the user that THC does, without the same high feeling that can reduce coordination or possibly hinder everyday responsibilities. Another benefit to a higher % CBD strain is that while it does help reduce anxiety and relieve pains/migraines it generally does not create the same “hungry” feeling that THC does.
Now that we understand the major players and compounds a bit better, we can look at the compound that causes that intense (or mild!) recognizable smell. Terpenes exist within weed and other plants and fruit and provide the aromatics that help us identify the plant easier. Many types exist within weed in different amounts but the major one is Myrcene. Outside of providing the aromatic effects terpenes also play a role in how cannabinoids are absorbed on consumption, and thus finding a perfect mix and experimenting with different strains becomes important! Much like shopping for the perfect tailored suit each strain and its percentages of cannabinoids and terpenes varies. It is essential to take time to find the right one for your needs.
Thanks to the terpenes when you open your first bag if you are met with a dusky, hoppy smell then you’re very likely to feel warm, hungry, and sleepy after consuming as you have most likely got an Indica on your hands! If the bag has a citrusy aroma get ready for your increased mental energy boost as you have likely got a Sativa!
Bringing it all together we also learn that myrcenes are used for the classification of a particular strain over the CBD or THC content. If myrcene exists in a strain in a volume higher than 50% then that strain is classified as an Indica, if the myrcene is lower than 50% then the strain is Sativa.
An Indica will usually contain a larger amount of CBD while a Sativa will have a larger amount of THC which produces the “mind-high”, but this can, of course, vary per strain and thus we use the myrcene content for classification instead.
Now that you’ve got the framework down you can go out and try it for yourself! Don’t forget to ask your budtender for further advice!