The cannabis plant is a unique, complicated beauty that’s been utilized for centuries. The plant can be broken down into multiple subspecies, each varying in height, life cycle, and structural design. Psychological effects vary between species and even more so between strains.So, which one is right for you?
Understanding each strain is essential to decide the best fit for what you're looking for.
Let’s take a look at the history, plant anatomy and details, and effects of each species!
Cannabis Sativa was discovered in 1753 by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. It was the first cannabis species ever to be discovered and thought to be the only one for about 30 years. Sativa is Latin for “cultivated” or “useful”, referring to plants that promote good health.
It's native to equatorial countries (regions with warmer climates and longer sunny days) - like Mexico, Columbia, Thailand and Southeast Asia, and Africa.
Certain strains of C. Sativa were some of the first plants to be spun into usable fibre 10,000 years ago. This fibre, which we call hemp, is utilized for textiles, alternative plastics, and insulation, among a vast array of other uses.
Indica:Cannabis Indica was the second cannabis species to be found. It was discovered in 1785 by French scientist Jean-Baptiste LaMarck, from specimens he collected in India. The name “Indica” actually translates to “of India” in Latin, although the plant originates in other regions as well- like Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
SativaSativa plants look much different than their cousins, Cannabis Indica. They have long, thin, and narrow leaves, and are coloured light green. The plant itself grows up to 20 feet tall and takes roughly 10-16 weeks (around 6 months) to flower.
IndicaIndica plants are much shorter than Sativa, growing only about 6 feet tall. They are a darker green and have dense, plump buds and wide, broad leaves. They thrive in cold climates, and flower in as little as 6-8 weeks.
Each strain (or breed) of cannabis differs in its terpene and cannabinoid content.
CannabinoidsCannabinoids are chemical compounds that can be found in cannabis plants. They affect the body's endocannabinoid system, which regulates appetite, mood, concentration, and motor coordination. Cannabinoids are responsible for the mental and/or physical effects felt by cannabis.
The two main cannabinoids are THC and CBD.
THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, or the “high” users experience.
CBD affects the endocannabinoid system in a different way, meaning it’s
non-psychoactive and doesn’t produce a “high”. Instead of mentally impairing, it produces other effects in the body.
Each strain has a different ratio of the CBD and THC, creating unique effects.
TerpenesIn the land of cannabis, the focus is usually on cannabinoid content. However, new studies suggest terpenes may be just as important.
Terpenes affect the plant's smell and are thought to aid in its survival: attract pollinators and put off predators.
It's thought that they may alter the plant's effects, but more studies need to be conducted.
There are lots of terpenes, but the most common in cannabis plants is Myrcene. It’s described as musky, earthy and herbal, and has antimutagenic and antibiotic properties.
But First, a Note…Before we dive into the effects of each cannabis species, it's important to note: sativa and indica have been crossbred for generations; so much so that it's debatable whether "pure" strains of either still exist. The line between the two species has become quite blurred. Because of this, it's key to take their varying effects with a grain of salt, as each strain will differ in its experience.
Sativa:Sativa is tied to energy, creativity, and spark. This cannabis subspecies is associated with a “head high” rather than a “body high”.
Sativa’s generally contains more THC and less CBD. This means that Sativa:
- Relaxes the mind and body
- Encourages focus and productivity
- Is related to:
- Increased social interaction
Sativa actually promotes the release of serotonin, a chemical compound responsible for the regulation of mood, sleep, learning abilities and appetite.
It’s perfect for use during daylight hours, as users don’t become lethargic or tired.
Indica:Indica, on the other hand, is known to be a relaxing, chill-inducing "body high". It has higher levels of CBD and less THC.
To help you remember, think of this:
In-di-ca sounds just like “in-da-couch”. Coincidence? We think not.
Some of the major effects of Cannabis Indica include:
- Relaxation (both mentally and physically)
- Carefree attitude
- Increased appetite
- Decreased nausea
Cannabis Indica actually promotes the distribution of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain's pleasure and reward centre.
If you’re looking to chill-out and melt into bed, Indica is your guy.
Hybrid:Because it takes longer for Sativa to grow (sometimes up to 6 months), it’s often crossbred with Indica to curate a shorter growth cycle and lesser height.
Parent plants are crossbred not only to make it easier on growers but to create new strains of cannabis.
As we mentioned before, many species have been crossbred for hundreds of years, so it’s doubtful there are a lot of completely pure strains out there. That being said, each strain will stand somewhere on the spectrum between indica and sativa.
Ratios of CBD and THC differ depending on the parent species and the same goes for the effects. Hybrids are often created to have a specific effect- whether it be relaxation, sleep, pain management, etc. They can be sativa-dominant,
indica-dominant, or balanced, depending on the breeding.