Top 4 differences between an Indica and Sativa Cannabis Strain
The answer to this questions has changed several times over the last 100 years. I’m going to explain what we know for sure and then delve into some speculative assertions.
The following distinctions between the two predominant cannabis are not debatable.
Physical appearance and flowering cycle: These are the most noticeable differences between indica and sativa plants.
Indica plants tend to be short and bushy with broad fan leaves. Their flowers are dense and fat. The have a flower cycle that is between 7-10 weeks.
Sativa plants grow tall and have narrow fan leaves. Their flowers are long and usually ‘airy’. Sativa flowering times range from 10-14 weeks. The diagram will gives visual examples.
These differences seem intuitive upon learning the origin of the cannabis indica and cannabis sativa.
Indica plants genesis are traced back to the arid mountainous regions of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan; hence the names Hindu and Afghani Kush. The environment in which these plants evolved dictated their physical appearance and grow cycle. Cannabis indica comes from cool, dry regions. Their short, compact structure allows them to preserve heat and moisture. Indica plants moisture retaining ability makes them more difficult to grow in humid environments. If you try to grow Bubba Kush in Georgia or Florida, get ready to lose some of your crop to bud rot and mold. It isn’t a coincidence that the mountains in northern California produce the best kush in the world (sorry Colorado).
Also, indicas originated farther from the equator where summer light cycles are shorter. This explains why they flower faster than sativas do.
Cannabis sativa plants are from the equatorial regions of Asia, Africa and the Americas. These plants adapted to the regions’ hot and humid climates by growing tall and thin. This allows for heat to dissipate and moisture to evaporate, thus protecting the plants from mold, fungi and rot. Also, locations closer to the equator have more hours of light. This explains savita’s longer flowering cycle. They are used to having longer growing cycles than indicas do.
Not that we are have gotten done with the empirical differences of cannabis sativa and cannabis indica, we can get into the debatable difference…effects.
What are the different effects of indica and sativa?
The traditional answer is that indicas are calming and sedate and sativas are cerebral and ‘uppy’. I suppose that this is a safe generalization, but not by any means, an absolute. There are many variables that cause different effects.
1) Hybridization: With all of the crosses and crosses of crosses it is impossible to know the true genetics of a batch of flowers. A cannabis expert will have a ‘good idea’ of the dominant strain based on bud structure, smell, and taste, but that’s about it (without genome mapping).
For instance, if you have Space Queen, a cross between Cinderella 99 (sativa) and Romulan (indica), what effect will you get? It depends on the next variable…
2) Individual chemistry: Humans are like snowflakes, no two are identical. These innate differences result in cannabis affecting people differently. This explains why one person can use some Chernobyl (sativa) and say it makes them productive and efficient and someone else uses the same batch and gets anxiety. Besides differences in humans, the chemistry of the cannabis plants result in differing effects. The cannabis plant has a complex chemical profile.
3) Cannabinoid profile: The idea of indica being ‘chill’ and sativa being ‘speedy’ is archaic. A more accurate statement is cannabidiol (CBD) is ‘chill’ and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is ‘speedy’. It isn’t fair to criticize our predecessors’ mistakes because THC wasn’t discovered until 1964 and CBD was unknown until much later. We now know that the THC to CBD ratio influences cannabis effects more than plant species. Other cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, CBD and THCV may affect the effects. This segues into the next variable…
4) Terpene profile: This is the newest hypothesis of cannabis effect variation. Terpenes are what give cannabis its smell and taste. Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons produced by all plants and animals. Terpenes are why cannabis may smell ‘piney’ or ‘lemony’. If your cannabis smells ‘piney’, it has pinene. Pine resin also has pinene. Lemon haze smells lemony because it has limonene, like a lemon. Beyond smell and taste, terpenes have numerous medicinal properties and effects in humans. New research shows myrcene has an anxiolytic and sedate effect. This can result in a sativa that makes you sleepy.
What conclusions can we make from all this?
The only thing that everyone agrees on is that more research needs to be done. However, cannabis’ DEA schedule 1 status makes researching it difficult and dangerous. Also, about half of the states still have criminal penalties for cannabis possession which restricts research, as well as business opportunities.
We need to demand that our elected officials legalize access to medical cannabis.
Call your state and federal representatives to tell them that you support medical cannabis, remind them 80%+ of their constituents support medical cannabis. Then ask if they received 80% of the votes last election.
Orginally published Mar 11, 2015 @ 12:42
By: Daniel Macris, founder and ceo of Halcyon Organics.
© Halcyon Organics 2015