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The Difference Between Indica and Sativa

The difference between indica and sativa: Ken's Grand Daddy Purp and Headband | Cannabis Now Magazine


The Difference Between Indica and Sativa

Ken’s Grand Daddy Purp (indica)  |  Headband (sativa) 
photos courtesy of Harborside Health Center

Walking into a dispensary can be pretty intimidating for a new patient or someone unfamiliar with all the endless varieties of cannabis. Cannabis strain names rarely are accurate descriptors of the effect a strain will have once consumed. How are you supposed to know which strain will be the best choice for you with names like Alaskan Thunderfuck, Cat Piss and Green Crack?

If you know the difference between indicas and sativas, you can make a slightly more informed decision. However, keep in mind that using the labels indica and sativa alone is not the only way to determine what type of high the strain will produce, and definitely not dosage. Other factors, such as terpene profiles, breeding, method of ingestion and growing conditions will alter the effects of the finished product as well.

Another important factor to remember, almost every strain you will come across is probably a hybrid of some sort. Dispensaries and books will classify a strain based on the ratio of the two types or, if they have a near-equal share of indica and sativa genetics they are usually referred to simply as a “hybrid”.


Growing conditions: These plants originated around the equator and love the sun. They can grow very tall (up to 25 feet!) and have long thin blades. The buds grow in long sausage-like colas. They are usually lighter in color with pale greens and orange tones.

Effects: Sativas are known for their mental effect. They often induce feelings of euphoria, enthusiasm, creativity and sometimes paranoia. These strains will put a big dopey smile on your face and enhance outdoor activities like hiking and walking. Sativas can possibly be blamed for the giggles as well.

Medicinal Applications: Strains that are majority sativa are great for mental disorders such as depression and PTSD and sometimes anxiety. When using marijuana to treat anxiety, however, one should always start small so as not to induce paranoia and create further discomfort. These strains are also good to pair with others for the treatment of potentially fatal diseases, such as cancer, because they help treat the mind, not just the body.


Growing Conditions: These plants originated at higher elevations and grow to only about six feet, maximum. They are bushy with short, fat blades. The buds grow much denser and are often darker colors such as purple or forest green.

Effects: Indicas are known for their physical effect. These are the strains that will relieve pain, nausea and insomnia. They usually slow a person down and are best consumed during activities such as sleeping or watching a movie. They also are munchie-inducing. Indicas also create an effect referred to as “couch lock”, the inability (or more accurately, lack of desire) to get off the couch.

Medicinal Applications: Strains that are majority indica are great for patients who have trouble sleeping, anxiety and extreme pain or are undergoing chemotherapy. They relieve nausea, allowing relief for patients suffering the effects of cancer treatments. Many people prefer indica strains for pain relief over prescription drugs because they can still feel the source of the pain without being burdened by it, preventing them from further injuring themselves. Indica strains are also great for people suffering from AIDS (wasting syndrome) and eating disorders because they encourage sick people to eat, which gives them energy to fight the disease.

Tell us in the comments below what variety you prefer. A blend of both?



  1. Shadowsmom42

    May 11, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I’m an Indica person, all the way. I have chronic pain and insomnia (both of which are treated with OxyContin and Restoril), and when I can, I LOVE a good Indica that will give me ‘couch-lock’, LOL. I might still feel a bit of the pain, but I don’t give a shit! LOL. However, medicinal cannabis is soooo expensive when compared with the fact that I can get 90 of the 40 mg OxyContin for only $15.00 for a month supply. I can’t afford cannabis for everyday use, not at $12-$15.00 a gram here in southern California. Wish it were still the good ol’ days of a 5-finger lid for $10! Hmm…just gave away my age, LOL.

    • Emo

      May 12, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      HA!! We all dream of the Good Old Days.

  2. Rucko

    February 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    I’ve seen indicas grow way more than 6′ tall .

  3. Jeff

    February 21, 2014 at 6:01 am

    I have a doctor that says if I want a medical card,he will not treat me anymore. I have several conditions that will get me a card,and other conditions. Siezures,spine and neck injuries,anxiety,and artheritis,and more problems. The social security administration retired me and told me to do nothing for the rest of my life. I’d like to live a little longer by not killing organs from pharmaceuticals.who do I talk to about this idiot doctor.

    • Rucko

      February 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      who says he has to know ? are you taking opiates for pain ? It has to be one or the other .

    • 909calicoastdannie

      June 27, 2014 at 10:38 pm

      Find a differently doctor..

  4. Delysid

    February 7, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Funny you use Headband for the sativa picture when it’s a strain with a particularly large debate as to whether it’s Indica or sativa dominant hybrid. Prob there are different phenotypes of Headband with differing Indica vs sativa dominance. In any event, the picture does show well the difference between sativa & Indica. Musta been a very sativa-ish Headband.

    To the person who commented above about the difficulty of finding pure 100% sativa. Try high-sativa hybrids like Kali Mist (90%), Love Potion, Sour Diesel (both ~80%), etc. Maybe easier to find than 100% sativas & very different than sativa hybrids below 75%.

  5. Ray in WA.

    January 12, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Looking back to the daze of 5 finger lids for $10 in the late 60’s, I always knew there was a difference, but until recent years never really knew just exactly what that difference was. In hindsight, as kids we would smoke pot because it was the “cool” thing to do, but I also realized that smoking pot has always helped me cope with the stress of having to deal with everyday society. You see, I’m a first generation immigrant/refugee to the US, and I’ve always felt somewhat inferior growing up to those around me. Pot helped me with my doubts. These days as an adult of 55+, I smoke to help keep me focused and on track. I’ve been diagnosed with having Hep-C (thanks US Army), so I treat myself as a medical patient. My only issue is why it’s so damn difficult to find a strain of 100% Sativa??? I know what my body/head craves, and it’s the Sativa – as I said, it keeps me energized, focused, and on track… I don’t need an Indica strain as I’m already laid back enough.
    I’m told that the reason I can’t find 100% Sativa is due to it being difficult to grow. If that’s the case then how do they get the various strains/variety’s? I don’t buy it. Could you possibly shed some more light on the reason why? Thank you, Ray

  6. josiah

    December 11, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    I’ve been smoking for a long time and never new a lot of what you have written. But I suffer from a back injury and anxiety . If marijuana was legal in Texas I would stop talking pills. Cause I know they are bad for your liver.

  7. Lisa McLaughlin

    December 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Do you have a magazine that is FREE?? Would love to Try it out, Please post something, Thank You!!

    • Tim

      December 12, 2013 at 7:25 am

      And Dallas we always keep dat LOAD!! KUSH….HANDS DOWN

      • TRU

        June 13, 2014 at 7:18 am

        FOH homo with that Dallas kush. Haze over your new n*gga kush ish. Sativa > indica

      • Debbie Stonestreet

        June 21, 2017 at 8:21 pm

        Most Definately
        Depression, Anxiety
        Purple Kush

  8. Roderick "Rocky" Reed

    December 9, 2013 at 4:48 am


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