Indica or Sativa? A question old as time itself, yet one that remains a big dilemma to every cannabis user looking for the ideal marijuana strain. Patients need to be well-informed of their options when it comes to medical marijuana. This is because some cannabis strains are more effective in treating particular ailments than others. Identifying the right one is key to ensuring the patient maximizes the fantastic benefits of medical marijuana.
That said, note, cannabis is a species known to flower three subspecies; the famed Indica and Sativa, and the less known Ruderalis. Unlike the first two, Ruderalis plants are small with thick stems. They have fewer leaves to produce not only a small amount of medicine but also a lack of potency. That is why the medical cannabis community pays more attention to the other two strains, and why the strain is less popular. The only impressive thing about the Ruderalis species is that unlike the other two, it blooms based on age instead of lighting conditions. Indica and Sativa strains, on the other hand, are mainstream, and while more potent, their differences set them two worlds apart.
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Indica plants are short, stocky, and sport broad, chunky leaves. Indica strains also tend to have a calming and sedative effect on the user. On the other hand, Sativa plants are taller, skinny, and feature thin, pointed leaves. Sativa strains tend to have an uplifting effect.
If you are here because you are torn between the two strains, you’re in good company. This article discusses different marijuana strains in detail, identifies the facts from the myths, and highlights helpful pointers on how to choose the best marijuana strains for your needs.
1. What Makes the Sativa Strain Excellent?
Scientifically and legally speaking, there are no differences between the Sativa and Indica strains. However, in reality, Sativa is famed for its energizing, uplifting, and mood-boosting effects on the user. This makes it a popular choice for use in social settings. It is incredibly popular among patients struggling with emotional disorders such as depression and eating disorders. Thanks to its energizing effects, the Sativa strain is mostly recommended for day time usage.
A Little Background Information on the Sativa Strain
Here is a little background information on the Sativa strain to help you familiarize yourself with it;
- Origin: Although it is quite popular in America, it’s essential to note Sativa is not native to America. The Sativa strain thrives in hot and dry climatic regions such as Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia, and some parts of western Asia. Sativa was first discovered in 1753 and today, it’s grown all over the world. Here are some of the plant’s characteristics;
- Physical Description: As noted earlier, Sativa strains are characterized by tall and thin plants with thin, finger-like leaves. Depending on the growing conditions, Sativa plants may grow up to 12ft or more, and compared to other cannabis subspecies, it may take longer to mature. However, note, as a taller plant with thin pointed leaves, Sativa has minimal chlorophyll intake, which means it tends to have leaves with a lighter green shade.
- Flowering Time: Another primary difference between Indica and Sativa strains is their flowering durations. Usually, Sativa takes longer and may require between 60 and 90 days to bloom. This is because, as a taller plant, Sativa uses less than the amount needed for chlorophyll required for faster blooming. However, note, Sativa takes less time in the vegetative growth stage. This means the overall time the strain required for complete growth is almost the same as the Indica Strain takes. Once it blooms, you will notice that like just the plant, the buds are long and hairy.
- Aroma: An excellent way to identify the quality of a strain is through its scent. In light of that, Sativa strains are usually characterized by a pleasant, fruity aroma with spicy notes.
- Cannabinoids: The ratio of CBD to THC present in a strain is crucial. This is because cannabinoids determine just how efficient a particular strain will be. In the case of Sativa, the amount of CBD is lower than that of THC, making it a mind active and focused strain.
Experts recommend using Sativa strains during the day due to the stimulating and energizing effects.
As noted, Sativa is commonly found near the equator, as the regions mentioned above are around it. That said, they are used to growing in hot and dry climatic areas. Due to their tall size and lengthy blooming periods, Sativa plants are commonly grown outside and are therefore not the ideal choice for most people looking to grow marijuana at home.
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For healthy growth, Sativa plants are usually exposed to intense light so they can take up more chlorophyll. The plants withstand low light because they can thrive in a hot and dry climate, and will withstand temperatures of up to 85-degrees. Unlike Indica plants that require minimal humidity as possible, Sativa plants can thrive in high humidity conditions. What’s more, they do not need too much fertilizer. Overfeeding a Sativa plant with fertilizer increases the chances of it dying. They also require less light around harvesting time.
2. Why the Indica Strain is Unique
The Indica strain is popular due to its relaxation effects and is often the number one choice among patients struggling with insomnia and anxiety. While it is an excellent choice for both day and night time use, the Indica strain is often associated with night usage.
- Origin: Indica strains were first discovered in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkey, and other regions across the Hindu Kush Mountain region. They were discovered a few years after Sativa was discovered. Indica strains do pretty well in dry and harsh climates found in these regions.
- Physical Description: Indica plants can best be described as short and stocky, with broad and chunky leaves. Indica plants flourish faster and produce more buds than Sativa. Since Indica plants are short and stocky, they tend to have a higher chlorophyll intake, and as a result, will usually have a darker shade of green than Sativa.
- Flowering Time: As noted, Indica generally flowers faster than Sativa and may take between 45 and 60 days to bloom. However, as mentioned earlier, Sativa plants take less time during vegetative growth, which means that both strains may take almost the same time to flower. Just like the plant, the buds are also quite heavy and tend to grow in clusters.
- The Aroma: Indica strains are known to have a musty, earthy aroma with mildly skunky notes.
- Cannabinoids Ratio: Unlike their Sativa counterparts, Indica strains have a higher CBD to THC concentration ratio, which explains the calming and sedative effects.
Best Consumption Time
Due to the calming and relaxing effects, experts recommend using Indica at night.
Best Growth Conditions
As mentioned above, indica strains do well in dry and harsh climates. This means if one was to grow the strain, it would not be hard to recreate these conditions. Indica strains, for instance, are short and bushy, which means they can be grown indoors in a small space. However, if one is to grow Indica, it would be advisable to opt for an Indica-dominant hybrid instead of a pure strain. Why? Well, hybrids are more rot and pest resistant and hence easy to grow especially indoors. What’s more, it’s possible to light control the size of Indica strains during growth. For instance, those who grow Indica indoors only need to adjust lighting during the vegetative phase.
Once the plant grows too big, it is then moved to a different room where the grower follows a 12 by 12 lighting schedule to force them to bloom. Remember, Indica strains are native to dry and hot regions with harsh conditions such as lack of water. So, they need to be protected from the mold at all times. Indica growers achieve such conditions by ensuring proper airflow and ventilation in the growth room.
3. Popular Marijuana Strains
Even though both Indica and Sativa strains are popular, hybrid strains of the two have since taken the industry by storm. However, this is no surprise given that hybrid strains allow users to enjoy the benefits of both Sativa and Indica simultaneously. However, as you will see later in this article, there’s more to choosing a marijuana strain than just what it contains.
What Makes Hybrid Strains Outstanding?
They boast a perfect balance of cannabinoids and terpenes, and as such, the effects are more efficient in alleviating a patient’s symptoms. Note, when it comes to hybrid strains, patients generally have two options, that is;
- Sativa-dominant strains
- Indica-dominant strains
Highlighted below is a breakdown of the two categories, and the most popular strains under each.
Sativa Dominant Strains
Strains under this category are commonly consumed by patients looking to ease depression, promote overall wellbeing, or achieve a focus or creativity boost. The most popular Sativa-dominant strains are as follows;
- The Blue Dream: This Sativa dominant hybrid is usually at the top of the list for most patients because of its calming, euphoric, and relaxing effects. It’s the most popular and the most widely used Sativa dominant strain across the country. It gives a mellow high, and enhances the mood, making it the perfect strain for social interaction. It’s often recommended for patients who’ve been diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorders and other similar conditions.
- Harlequin: This hybrid contains 75% Sativa and 25% Indica. It is famous for its clear-headed and high alert effects. It has a higher CBD to THC concentration, which means it’s one of the most effective medical marijuana strains in the market. It is particularly efficient in alleviating pain and anxiety and is commonly prescribed to patients with Huntington’s disease.
- Sour Diesel: As with others under our Sativa-dominant strains category, the sour diesel strain contains higher amounts of Sativa than Indica (90% and 10% consecutively). It has a higher THC concentration and almost zero CBD concentration. It is also popular and is mostly recommended to patients with multiple sclerosis as it’s quite effective in alleviating the stiffness, and the constant muscle spasms associated with the condition. Studies suggest sour diesel may also help with sleep disorders in multiple sclerosis patients.
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Indica Dominant Strains
Indica dominant hybrids are the top choice for patients looking to promote sedation and relaxation, while at the same time easing spasms and seizures. Outlined below are some of the most commonly consumed Indica dominant hybrids as recommended by users;
- Master Kush: Master Kush contains approximately 80-90% Indica, and about 10-20% Sativa. As a result, it has a higher THC to CBD ratio and is preferred because it offers the best relief to chronic pain. It is mostly prescribed to patients with fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by intense musculoskeletal pain and symptoms such as fatigue, sleep, memory loss, and mood issues.
- Bubba Kush: Bubba Kush has about 70% Indica and 30% Sativa. As an Indica dominant hybrid, it’s also associated with pain and psychological issues, relief, and better sleep. This strain came into the limelight for its super mellow, yet mind-calming effects. It’s often prescribed to patients with Parkinson’s disease and other similar ailments.
- Purple Kush: Purple Kush is a pure Indica strain, which traces its roots to Oakland. It is a hybrid between the Hindu Kush and Purple Afghani and is mostly prescribed to people living with epilepsy, as it’s incredibly useful in easing seizures.
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4. The Medical Efficiency of Sativa and Indica Marijuana Strains
Although Sativa and Indica strains have different effects as well as physical characteristics, their main difference lies in their medicinal impacts or the way they influence the patient’s energy and productivity levels. As you may know by now, Indica strains tend to induce a mellow effect or what is known as “couch-lock,” a situation where the user becomes so relaxed, they can barely get up. Sativa strains, on the other hand, deliver a mind high. They are more uplifting rather than mellow and tend to enhance focus and creativity.
One of the key reasons to avoid illegal marijuana strains is because your options are often limited, and you may not get the chance to select your preferred strain. Patients should not consume marijuana without clearly understanding the impact of the strain or who it’s meant for, as it may cause already bad symptoms to worsen. For instance, if a patient’s symptoms require energy-giving strains, using Indica-dominant strains will only worsen the condition since Indica strains tend to induce sedation.
The only way a patient can identify the ideal strain for their symptoms and lifestyle is through purchasing legal, medical marijuana. This is primarily because medical experts at marijuana dispensaries are well-informed about the efficiency of different strains, and their impact on different patients based on specific health requirements. These dispensaries often grow and process strains that target particular diseases.
Conditions Managed by Sativa Strains
Due to its energizing and anxiety-reducing effects, Sativa strains are commonly recommended to patients diagnosed with the following medical conditions;
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS, is a neural disorder resulting from damage to the brain and spinal cord neurons. The condition mainly affects nerve cells that control voluntary movement and although the causes are not yet apparent, scientists detect genetic inheritance. While the damage occurs over a prolonged period, ALS causes immense damage and tends to affect the patient’s ability to talk or swallow and even control their muscle movements. It greatly affects movement and depending on the neurons affected, the patient may experience hand weakness, constant tripping, and falling, difficulties walking, and doing just the normal activities. In most patients, ALS starts by affecting the limbs, and then slowly spreads to other parts of the body, steadily affecting muscles, and eventually, the patient’s ability to eat, swallow and even breathe.
Sativa dominant strains are considered the best marijuana strain for patients living with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. For instance, Ringo’s gift, a popular Sativa dominant strain with a mild, mental, helps alleviate the muscle spasms and pain caused by ALS, leaving the patient feeling warm, relaxed, and with a subtle whole body calm feeling. Sativa dominant strains are particularly ideal for ALS patients because other than easing pain and muscle spasms, they also help them deal with emotional conditions such as depression, which are quite common among ALS patients.
Huntington’s disease is a rare genetic neurological disorder that results in the progressive degeneration of brain cells.
Its symptoms run a wide gamut, and depending on the affected nerves, range from movement, cognitive to psychiatric disorders. Although the condition can affect anyone, it is more common among people within the age of 30 and 40. If one is diagnosed with it before or in the early 20s, it is often referred to as juvenile Huntington’s. Unfortunately, if one is diagnosed with Huntington’s before or in the early 20s, the symptoms tend to progress much faster. Sativa dominant strains have been proven effective in easing the symptoms associated with the condition. For instance, the blue dream is incredibly relaxing and delivers a calming effect, while Harlequin helps alleviate anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychiatric disorders caused by Huntington’s disease.
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Sativa dominant strains boast neuroprotective properties. That means they prevent the deterioration of the brain and spinal cord neurons, consequently alleviating symptoms associated with Huntington’s disease such as movement disorders.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)
Post-traumatic disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a psychiatric condition that occurs when an individual undergoes or witnesses a traumatic event. This can be a terrorist act, a serious road accident, a natural disaster, rape, combat, torture, or any other violent event. Unfortunately, the condition can significantly interfere with the patient’s life. Symptoms of PTSD include severe anxiety, nightmares, uncontrollable thoughts, and constant flashbacks.
Sativa dominant strains have also been proven exceptionally efficient in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders. They prevent the patient from thinking about the event, and as a result, prevent any traumatic memories and nightmares related to it. The best Sativa strain for PTSD is Blue Dream as it has strong calming effects and induces feelings of euphoria, and relaxation, while at the same time helping the individual attain psychological wellbeing. Blue dream also boasts mood-enhancing benefits, which, as you know, are crucial for healthy social interactions.
Multiple Sclerosis or MS, as it’s commonly referred to, is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the meninges deteriorate, affecting the brain and spine functions. MS is characterized by symptoms such as urinary problems, muscle stiffness, weakness, and blurry vision.
Sativa dominant strains have been quite effective in alleviating symptoms of MS. They’re incredibly popular among Multiple Sclerosis patients because they ease stiffness and spasms as well as sleep problems. To be precise, Sour diesel has been termed as the best strain for MS patients as it reduces inflammation, conversely facilitating pain-free movements. The strain also has a dreamy effect that helps ease stress, consequently energizing and boosting the patient’s mood. No wonder it’s the top-choice for MS patients.
Sativa dominant strains are considered the most effective in offering relief to Alzheimer’s symptoms such as memory loss, difficulties in completing everyday productivity tasks, time and place confusion, talking, and writing difficulties.
The Acapulco Gold, which contains 80% Sativa and 20% Indica to be specific, has been proven incredibly useful in offering symptom relief to Alzheimer’s patients. It delivers a mental high, gives them increased energy as well as euphoria.
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Diseases Managed by Indica Strains
Thanks to its energizing and anxiety-alleviating effects, Indica strains have been proven effective in managing the following conditions;
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a common chronic disease that occurs as a result of joint inflammation. It is characterized by immense joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, and in some cases, it may even result in the complete loss of limb functions. The most common symptoms associated with the disease include tender, warm and swollen joints, as well as stiffness. These symptoms tend to worsen in the morning or after long periods of inactivity.
Indica dominant strains induce relaxation, conversely easing chronic joint pain and stiffness. Death star, in particular, is an Indica dominant strain known to produce a massive body effect that suppresses pain and other arthritis-related symptoms. The death star is considered one of the best marijuana strains for the condition.
If you have or know someone diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you are familiar with the symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease. For most patients, these symptoms include slurred speech, hand tremors, and a shuffling gait. Medical marijuana has been proven effective in treating such symptoms. This is because the CBD present in marijuana works on the same neurological pathway as Parkinson’s disease. Indica dominant strains such as Bubba Kush and Kobain Kush, for instance, neutralize symptoms that cause discomfort in patients with Parkinson’s disease. However note, these strains only alleviate pain and stress, but do not induce sleep.
If you struggle with chronic pain, you will also appreciate Indica dominant strains. They are often prescribed to patients with conditions such as fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, and symptoms such as fatigue, sleep, and memory loss problems. Using Indica dominant strains such as master kush helps ease chronic pain by promoting relaxation. Other than fibromyalgia, Indica dominant strains also help with cancer, low back, arthritis, and even headache problem.
Tourette’s syndrome is a rare, complex neurological disorder that might result in the patient making involuntary movements such as eye-rolling, touching objects, grimacing, and shoulder shrugging or jerking limbs. As noted throughout the article, Indica-dominant strains promote mind and body relaxation and euphoria and better sleep.
Therefore, they are incredibly useful in helping Tourette’s Syndrome patients manage the tics they experience due to the condition. Yeti OG, an Indica dominant strain is a favorite among patients with this disease as it not only has a great taste but also promotes relaxation, pain relief, and euphoria, consequently reducing the intensity of tics.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by recurrent, uncontrollable seizures. It occurs when there’s an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neuronal communication in the brain. Unfortunately, traditional therapies are not always the right approach as they may turn out to be not only ineffective but may also cause side effects.
Indica dominant strains, on the other hand, curb this imbalance, conversely decreasing seizure frequency. The best indica-dominant strain for epilepsy patients is Grape-Ape. It promotes relaxation, and as a result, eases anxiety, stress, depression, and other symptoms that may come about due to brain hyperactivity.
5. Sativa vs. Indica Strain; A Major Patient Dilemma
Choosing the perfect strain is a dilemma every patient faces. To put it to rest, we first need to get some doubts regarding strain properties out of the way. Usually, the marijuana species (Indica or Sativa) determines the efficiency of the strain. However, nowadays, hybrid strains enable patients to enjoy the effects of both Indica and Sativa. The only difference lies in their concentrations, which is why hybrid strains are usually different.
Also note, besides the type of strain, the mode of consumption, as well as the symptoms being addressed, are also critical if one is to select the perfect strain. Since CBD concentration directly influences the strain’s effects, cannabinoid concentration is yet another incredibly important factor to keep in mind while choosing a strain. Terpenes, the chemical molecules usually present in marijuana, are also another vital factor to take into account while selecting a strain because they’ve again been proven to enhance the effects of particular strains.
The Role of Marijuana Species
In recent years, the continuous breeding between marijuana species means it’s next to impossible to find pure Sativa and Indica strains in the market today. In that breath, patients are advised not to rely on a specific species to predict the benefits they may reap from a strain. They should instead consider the exact chemical profile of a strain. That is the CBD to THC ratio, and the number of terpenes present in it, to determine its impact.
While at it, they should keep in mind people react differently to particular strains. For instance, you may enjoy reduced stress and immense relaxation when you consume Durban Poison, but another patient may experience the exact opposite. So, conduct a comprehensive review of a strain’s chemical profile to see if it is ideal for your specific condition.
Why are Cannabinoids of the Essence?
Most patients are of the assumption that marijuana is known as THC because that is what it mainly contains. However, that is not true. Recent studies term CBD as THC‘s non-intoxicating counterpart. Also, CBD and THC are not the only compounds present in marijuana. The plant has more than 100 cannabinoids and a bunch of terpenes that work together to give each strain a unique set of holistic properties.
While THC and CBD are the most popular, we should not disregard other cannabinoids and terpenes’ potential benefits. Durban Poison, for instance, contains a high amount of a cannabinoid known as THCV. Studies suggest that the mentioned cannabinoid is not only highly stimulating but can also reduce hunger, which explains why patients rarely get the munchies when they use the strain. For beginners and patients, it is okay to familiarize yourself with these essential marijuana cannabinoids. However, instead of only Indica, Sativa, or hybrid strains, patients should first think about marijuana in terms of THC vs. CBD concentration. These two compounds determine the most effects of marijuana.
What Exactly Do Terpenes Do?
While it is a well-known fact Indica-dominant strains cause a heavy body high, and Sativa-dominant strains are more likely to offer an invigorating cerebral high, there is more than meets the eye. Why? Well, the impact of a strain comes down to the mix of cannabinoids and terpenes. Indica dominant strains are known to contain high levels of a terpene known as myrcene. Most Indica-dominant strains usually contain between 0.5 and 3% if myrcene, while Sativa dominant strains have about 0 to 0.5% of the same terpene. Experts believe that the terpene is responsible for Indica dominant strains signature sedative or couch-lock effect. Why Sativa-dominant strains cause a more uplifting effect is not apparent yet, but we believe it has something to do with other terpenes and cannabinoids present in the strain. Other common terpenes include caryophyllene, pinene, limonene, linalool, ocimene, and many others.
In a Nutshell
Sativa and Indica strains have different botanic properties. For instance, they differ in terms of plant appearance, flowers, and even the intensity of smell. Their growth periods, harvest times, and even ideal cultivation climates are also different. When selecting the right strain, you have to take into account the plant’s genetics, individual body composition, as well as personal preferences.
While Sativa and Indica strains do indeed have specific effects on the body, hybrid strains are more common than pure Indica or pure Sativa strains. This means that patients can now get the best of both worlds.
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Marijuana consumers suggest Sativa is more energizing, while Indica is more relaxing. However, scientifically, that is far from the truth. Several marijuana compounds are usually in play when it comes to creating the medical and recreational effects of a marijuana strain. While there is a bit of truth in the differences between the two strain species, you must review the chemical profile of a particular strain so you can identify the perfect fit for your needs.
While at it, keep in mind, finding the right strain for your medical condition is not a straightforward process. It may take time, so it is advisable to be patient. If your state has legalized marijuana, consult a medical marijuana doctor to get a medical marijuana card. With it, you can visit any medical marijuana dispensary near you, and the experts here may recommend specific strains and other marijuana products that are a perfect fit for your needs.
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