Did you know that there are more than 700 different strains of cannabis? If you are new to the world of medical marijuana, having this many options can be downright overwhelming.

There are three species of cannabis, which are Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis (high in CBD). Nearly all of the strains you encounter at your local dispensary will be either sativa, indica, or a hybrid of the two.

indica vs sativa vs hybrid

Understanding the difference between indica vs sativa vs hybrid can help you find the right starting point in your search for the perfect strain. At the same time, it’s also worth learning a little bit about how cannabinoid and terpene content can impact the effects of different strains.

Let’s take a look at what you need to know about these different types of cannabis.

Indica Vs Sativa Vs Hybrid: An Overview

The two primary types of cannabis are known as sativa and indica. However, there is also a third kind that results from breeding sativa and indica strains together to create what are known as hybrids.

Indica, sativa, and hybrid strains of cannabis are used for a variety of medicinal and recreational purposes.

Indica strains are usually associated with relaxing full-body effects. Sativas, on the other hand, are more known to produce a “head high,” with more cerebral effects.

Hybrids typically fall somewhere in between depending on which strains they are bred from. It’s worth understanding that these general concepts are not necessarily always going to be spot on, as there is a lot of diversity within strains when it comes to their cannabinoid, flavonoid, and terpene content. More and more, the cannabis industry has been moving away from these terms and instead divides types of cannabis into high THC, THC/CBD combined, and high CBD options.

What Is Indica?

Cannabis indica is native to Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Turkey. These are plants that are very adapted to the climate of the Hindu Kush mountains, which can be dry, harsh, and turbulent.

The leaves of indica strains grow broad and wide, and the plants are short and stocky. Compared to sativa strains, indica plants tend to produce more buds and grow faster.

Indica users typically seek the intensely relaxing effects of this strain. Medical patients use indica for a wide variety of reasons, including increasing appetite as well as reducing pain and nausea.

Many people feel that indica is preferable as a nighttime strain because of its deeply relaxing effects.

woman enjoying pain relief

Indica strains are often considered to be preferable for treating inflammation and pain. For this reason, patients with fibromyalgia, arthritis, and cancer might prefer indica strains. However, your personal experience may vary.

If you suffer from chronic pain, you can learn more about the best strains for your condition here.

What Is Sativa?

Cannabis sativa is indigenous to Eastern Asia. However, it can be additionally be found in Southeast Asia, Western Asia, Central America, and Africa. This plant thrives in dry, hot climates that have many hours of sun during the day.

The leaves of sativa plants are finger-like and the plants are tall and thin. These plants typically take longer to mature than cannabis indica and can grow to be taller than 12 feet in height.

Sativa is known for producing a “head high” or a “mind high.” This is an anxiety-reducing, energizing effect. Many users find that sativa strains help them to feel creative and productive rather than lethargic and relaxed.

Since sativa is thought of as a more stimulating strain, it is often enjoyed as a daytime strain.

Sativa strains are often considered to be better for psychological disorders such as anxiety, PTSD, and depression. However, your personal experience may differ.

What Is Hybrid Cannabis?

There are new and unique strains of cannabis being produced every year by cannabis growers. By creating different combinations of parent plants, it is common for growers to create strains with the goal of targeting specific effects.

Hybrid cannabis strains are usually grown in greenhouses or on farms. There is no standard appearance for hybrid plants, as it depends on which parent plants are used to create the hybrid strain.

Producers and farmers select hybrids for their specific and unique effects. This means that the commonly associated effects can range greatly depending on the particular parent strains.

Hybrids can be a great choice for beginners as well as long time medical marijuana patients. For beginners, hybrids can offer a good introduction to the plant. For seasoned patients, hybrids can be a good choice because they can sometimes offer a “balanced” effect that can be used throughout the day and in the evening.

Some of the most common hybrid varieties that you can find today are kush strains. OG Kush is a legendary indica-dominant hybrid strain that came out of Southern California in the mid-1990s. Some other popular hybrids include Cookies, Blue Dream, and GG4.

(Are you interested in learning more about the history of medical marijuana? If so, check out Medical Marijuana History And How It Can Help People Today.)

What Other Factors Are Important When Considering Cannabis Effects?

Understanding the difference between sativa, indica, and hybrid can be a good starting point when you are trying to find the right strain for you. However, there are additional factors that can influence the effects of each strain. For example, two different sativa strains might have remarkably different effects depending on their chemical composition as well as the growing technique that was used.

Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring chemical compounds in the cannabis plants. These are the components that are responsible for producing many of the associated effects of cannabis.

guide to cannabinoids

There is still a lot more for researchers to learn about all of the cannabinoids in cannabis. The two primary cannabinoids, though, are THC and CBD.

(You can learn more about the medical benefits of CBD and THC here.)

THC is the cannabinoid that is largely responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. The state of euphoria that is associated with marijuana use can be attributed to THC. Over the decades, levels of THC have been increasing as growers have focused on creating strains with higher concentrations of this compound.

CBD doesn’t cause a high, but it is thought to produce a number of physical benefits. For this reason, CBD has become increasingly popular among patients who are interested in benefiting from cannabis without the mind-altering side effects.

Other cannabinoids include CBN, THCA, and CBG. We can expect to learn more about these and the many other cannabinoids as researchers dive deeper into the world of cannabis in the coming years and decades. At this point, though, there is already research that suggests many other cannabinoids also have potential therapeutic effects.

Terpenes

Terpenes are often overshadowed by cannabinoids when looking at individual strains of cannabis. However, more recent research has found that terpenes might be nearly as impactful as cannabinoids when it comes to the effects of cannabis.

Occurring naturally in cannabis, terpenes affect the smell of the plant directly. It is also thought that the effects of specific strains is also influenced by the terpene makeup of the plant.

Some of the common types of terpenes include:

  • Limonene: Adds bright citrus notes and is said to reduce stress and improve mood
  • Linalool: Adds flora notes and is said to boost mood and help improve relaxation
  • Bisabolol: Adds tea tree oil and chamomile notes and is said to reduce irritation and inflammation
  • Terpinolene: Adds cumin, apple, and conifer notes and might have antibacterial, antifungal, and sedative properties
  • Ocimene: Adds mango, basil, and parsley notes and is thought to ward off viruses and bacteria as well as ease congestion
  • Caryophyllene: Adds spicy, peppery notes and might help reduce anxiety and depression
  • Myrcene: Adds earthy notes and might help reduce insomnia and anxiety
  • Pinene: Adds pine notes and might help reduce pain, boost memory, and reduce negative effects of THC
  • Humulene: Adds woody and earthy notes and is thought to help reduce inflammation
  • Eucalyptol: Adds tea tree oil and eucalyptus notes and might help fight bacteria and reduce inflammation
terpenes and benefits

As you can see, terpenes don’t just flavor cannabis strains with distinctive smells and tastes. They are also thought to have therapeutic benefits of their own. For this reason, it can be worth taking the terpene content into account when you are choosing a marijuana strain.

How Do You Pick the Right Strain For You?

The effects of cannabis can vary greatly between different people. This means that you might find that a strain that is highly recommended for your intended purposes doesn’t really work for you. At the same time, you might find that a strain that, on paper, shouldn’t be right for you, fits the bill exactly.

When you are choosing which type of strain you want to try, there are a number of considerations you’ll want to take into account.

First of all, you’ll want to think about what it is exactly that you are trying to achieve. It can be overwhelming to be presented with countless different strain options. First thinking about what you’re trying to treat or how you’re trying to feel can help to narrow down your choices.

It might be helpful to talk with employees at your local dispensary about the goals that you have. Whether you are hoping to treat insomnia, increase energy, or reduce anxiety, they will help point you in the right direction and give you guidance.

Secondly, you’ll also want to understand your own tolerance. There are certain strains that are thought to be better for beginners, such as Pineapple Express. This type of “entry level” strain typically has tolerable and mild effects.

On the other hand, other strains might be way too potent for someone who is using cannabis for the first time. When you are just starting out, seek out less extreme strains before moving on to heavier hitters.

You’ll also want to be considerate of your medical history. It’s important to be aware that cannabis could potentially interact with medications you are taking or medical conditions you have. If you have any doubts, it’s always a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional about both the potential risks and benefits of using cannabis.

Lastly, you’ll want to think about how you want to consume cannabis. Some patients and users might choose to vape cannabis, while others might prefer tinctures.

Edibles can create more potent effects and might be easier to tolerate, but it takes longer to feel the effects and the effects are more prolonged. Vaping effects don’t last as long but come on quicker. This method can also cause irritation to your airways and lungs.

Is It Time For You to Get Your ID Card?

As you can see, the indica vs sativa vs hybrid question isn’t as straightforward as you might assume at first glance.

medical marijuana specialists team at PA event

In general, though, indica strains are thought to be more relaxing and tend to create more body-focused effects. Sativa strains are thought to be more energizing and create more cerebral effects. Hybrids can lie anywhere on the spectrum between the two depending on which parent plants have been utilized.

At Medical Marijuana Specialists, it is our mission to help medical patients alleviate their symptoms. We are here to help you obtain a medical marijuana card, learn more about medical marijuana, and answer any questions you might have about your qualifying condition. We can also assist you in registering with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.Is it time for you to get your ID card in Pennsylvania? If so, contact us today!

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