Choosing Between Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid Strains
There are at least 800 recognized strains of cannabis. If you’re looking to try one or two, it’s challenging to determine where to start.
While it’s only in the last few years that consumers have graduated to distinguishing weed by Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid, let’s face it -- there is so much more to a strain. Even if you could choose a dozen, it’s still easy to feel overwhelmed by your options.
We’ve got some news for you. Buckle up. Deciding between Indica, Sativa, and hybrid strains is only a small part of the overall strain selection process. Choosing the right strain is a complex and nuanced process, but it’s worth the work.
Once you find the strain you want to spend the rest of your nights with, you’ll be glad you took your time.
Strain Differences Are Attributed to Physical Characteristics
The shapes of the plant's leaves are different, and the plant will take on a distinctive silhouette as it grows.
Sativa plants have very narrow, pointy leaves. The five-pointed leaf image that most people use to represent CBD is based on a Sativa leaf. These plants are fragile but can grow to towering heights. Sativa plants look like a tree. Many indoor Sativa plants will grow from floor to ceiling, and indoor Sativa plants can grow even higher.
Cannabis indica plants have broad, blunted leaves. They tend to grow wider and fuller and provide a lot of shade. Indica plants look like a bush. They don’t usually grow taller than five feet, but they occupy a significant amount of square footage horizontally.
Hybrids are strains that have been bred from both Indica and Sativa parentage. They’re a little bit of each, and it can be harder to tell by looking at a plant if it's a hybrid. More often than not, hybrid plants resemble smaller Sativa plants. They may be bushier around the stalks like Indica plants.
Cannabis plants contain dozens of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. This naturally occurring components are responsible for the negative and positive effects of cannabis use. While researchers still don’t understand what all of the cannabinoids do, there are two main versions -- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Are Strains Effects Really That Different?
This is where things get tricky. The individual effects of each strain can be extremely different. You wouldn’t even believe they came from the same species of plant. There is a perceived difference in effects between Sativa and Indica, but research hasn’t yet recognized it.
Indica and Sativa plants are both cannabis plants. They simply have different physical characteristics. There should be no difference between the ways these two types of cannabis, Sativa and Indica strains, make you feel on paper.
A popular theory suggests that a strain’s terpenes play an invariably important role in producing a strain’s effects, and the science behind this theory is solid. The Entourage Effect postulates that a strain is the sum of all of its parts, and no single terpene or cannabinoid dictates the experience.
Things get trickier still. There is no significant difference between the balances of terpenes in Indica or Sativa-dominant strains. Many people will state that Indica contains a lot of an earthy terpene called myrcene, and Sativa possesses a wealth of a bright and citrusy terpene called limonene.
This is the case a lot of the time, but plenty of strains break the mold. Purple Hindu Kush is a heavy Indica strain beloved for its ability to resolve symptoms of sleep difficulty and put its users to bed for the night, but the strain most dominantly features limonene.
Despite this, many people still have their own share of preferences. The overwhelming majority of people who use cannabis regularly will tell you that there’s a drastic difference in the way that Sativa strains and Indica strains make them feel. Scientists just don’t know why.
What Indica Strains are Supposed to Do
Indica is supposed to bring you down to Earth. They’re commonly regarded as nighttime strains. These strains provide soothing and relaxing benefits, and many have solid reputations for helping people get to sleep.
Potent Indicas will make the body feel heavy. Many people report the wave as a sinking sensation, sometimes calling it “couch-lock” because they feel like they’re locked to the couch. For some, this kind of deep relaxation that keeps them stuck in one place is exactly what they need, especially if they’re feeling restless or are contending with anxious energy.
To them, it’s more like being wrapped in a comfy weighted blanket and less like feeling stuck.
What Sativa Strains are Supposed to Do
Sativa strains are supposed to bring you up to the clouds. They’re commonly regarded as daytime strains. Sativas are used by people who want uplifting or energetic effects. Depending on the strain, (and the person), you’re either completely dialed into whatever you’re doing or lost in a rabbit hole of your own thoughts.
Sativas have a reputation for being very “get up and go,” which makes them a popular choice for busy people or people dealing with feelings of restlessness who need an extra nudge to go out and tackle a big day.
If you deal with stress and tension, Sativa tends to be a hit or miss. Types of stress that make people feel low usually respond well to the uplifting effects of Sativa, which may make overwhelmed individuals feel more confident and social.
People with feelings of tension and racing thoughts often don’t respond well to Sativa strains. Their head high effects may send them into overwhelming trains of thoughts that heighten their emotional wellness.
What Hybrid Strains Are Supposed To Do
Most strains are hybrids, and it’s a big wild world out there. Hybrids can be any percentage of Sativa and Indica. The term “Hybrid” Indicates that there are identifiable amounts of both Sativa and Indica strains in the plant’s lineage. In terms of effects, hybrids need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
They don’t always act predictably. It depends on the strength of the strains they were created from and the degree to which the plant inherited them. Some perfectly balanced hybrids act like moderately heavy Indicas. It’s never a predictable process.
Most of the strains you’ll encounter in your cannabis travels are some kind of hybrid, and they’re impossible to generalize. That’s one of the most important reasons a strain should be chosen for its effects rather than its leaf type.
Choose a Strain Based on Its Effects
Plenty of people claim they have flat-out aversions to Sativas or Indicas. They’re allowed to like or dislike whatever they want. We’re not saying they’re wrong for having preferences, but we are suggesting that it may not be wise to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Having a bad experience with a particular variety of cannabis can be enough to make people swear off that variety forever. There are plenty of people who write off Tequila after a vacation that went sideways, and you have to make choices you’re comfortable with.
While effect-heavy varieties of certain strains may not work well for someone, that doesn’t mean every Sativa or Indica will flop for them. It’s the overall effect portfolio and the daytime use case that matters most. An extremely energetic Sativa at bedtime is going to make for a bad time, and a heavy, sleepy Indica at a concert is going to put a pretty big damper on the experience.
If you switched the strains and occasions, you’d have an ideal outcome. The Sativa is better when you want to move, and the Indica is better when you’re ready to count sheep.
You need to consider what you want your cannabis to do for you and discover your limits. You might be the crowned ruler of productivity when you microdose a mildly uplifting Sativa throughout the day. Getting work done might be easier for you with a tiny pinch of Indica to keep your stress levels down. It’s a very personal experience, and you’ll need to try things for yourself.
We Have a Solution
Stori has a solution, and trust us; we’re really good at this. Our Stori case is designed to hold six heavy-duty cannabis storage pods, each with different colored lids. You can write on the lids to label each strain.
Use the Stori app to research and rate strains you’ve tried and liked, or to search for strains near you with effects profiles that seem promising. Run to the dispensary, grab up a few things to try, and put them in your Stori case. Don’t forget to label them.
Try each strain when its effect profile is going to suit you most. Go back to your Stori app to record your notes. Keep trying, and keep learning.
You’re using the perfect cannabis organizational system and our cannabis app to conduct a proper investigation of your own taste in cannabis. Finding a winner is easier than you thought.
Cannabis Systematics at the Levels of Family, Genus, and Species | Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research | Liebert Pub
The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain | Frontiers in Plant Science
Purple Hindu Kush Strain Information | Leafly