Have you ever walked into a cannabis dispensary and felt a little overwhelmed by all the strains classified as Indica versus Sativa versus Hybrid? Have you ever wondered why cannabis is classified as Indica, Sativa, or a hybrid of the two?
In this article, we will answer “what is Indica,” “what is Sativa,” and explain where the concept of Indica vs. Sativa originates.
What is Indica?
Indica-type marijuana plants are recognized by their short stature and wide leaves. The term “Indica” is associated with a type of cannabis plant that is believed to have originated in the Indian subcontinent. They are believed to produce a type of marijuana that is often described as having a sedative and relaxing effect, sometimes referred to as “couch-lock.”
What is Sativa?
Sativa strains are thought to produce a stimulating and cerebral psychoactive effect and are typically tall with narrow leaves.
However, it’s worth noting that strains of cannabis are often labeled as Sativa or Indica somewhat arbitrarily, and the effects of different strains can vary widely depending on a variety of factors. For example, the hybrid strain “AK-47” won both “Best Sativa” and “Best Indica” awards at the Cannabis Cup, despite not being purely Sativa or Indica.
How are Indicas different from Sativas?
Nowadays, the term “Indica” describes plants that subjectively produce a sedating effect, whereas “Sativa” describes plants that subjectively produce a stimulating, cerebral high.
Essentially, Sativa is a term used to describe a cannabis strain that has been subjectively classified by the grower to produce a more energetic and stimulating effect. On the other hand, Indica strains are considered by the grower to produce a sedative and relaxing effect. But where does this classification come from?
Cannabis sativa vs. Sativa-type cannabis
The origin of this concept (Indica Vs. Sativa) goes way back to the Greek physician Dioscorides in 70 C.E. In his encyclopedia De Materia Medica, he described the cannabis plant and categorized it based on its psychoactive effects. Fast forward to the 1400s, when a Venetian scholar named Ermolao Barbaro realized the translation of De Materia Medica was off. He worked to recreate the original text and came up with the term “Cannabis sativa,” adding the Latin word for “cultivated.” So that’s where Cannabis sativa comes from.
Then, in the late 1700s, biologist Jean Baptiste Lamarck received a sample of cannabis from India and noticed it was different from the European variety. He classified them as two separate species: Cannabis sativa from Europe and Cannabis indica from India. Lamarck even noted eight distinct morphological characteristics and one chemotaxonomic difference between the two species. For a deep dive on this topic, check out Why Jointly Is Better Than A Strain Finder.
But by the 1800s, British botanists had rejected the idea that there were two separate species of cannabis. However, the term “Cannabis indica” was brought into the world of medicine, and built a close link between “Cannabis indica” and the concepts of pain relief, sleepiness, and other “Indica-type” effects.
Over time, the terms Indica and Sativa became a way to classify the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Today, you’ll find all weed products classified as Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid. So, the concept of Indica vs. Sativa started out as a botanical classification, but then evolved into a way of classifying the subjective effects of different cannabis strains. But are Sativa and Indica strains genetically distinct?
Why Indica vs. Sativa doesn’t matter
The concept of Indica vs. Sativa as a classification system for cannabis strains has been challenged by the growing body of research that shows the genetics of a plant do not accurately predict its effects.
Over the past fifty years, cannabis growers have engaged in extensive cross breeding projects, hybridizing Central Asian and South Asian cannabis landraces and blurring the phenotypic differences between Sativa and Indica. This process has only accelerated in recent years, resulting in thousands of breeder-reported strain names without any scientific naming convention.
The genetic differences between cannabis landraces have largely been eliminated due to extensive crossbreeding, making it difficult to genetically differentiate between Sativa and Indica strains.
The use of “strain” names for Indica-Sativa hybrids began in the 1970s with David Watson, the leader of the Sacred Seeds collective of cannabis growers. However, the term “strain” is actually a misnomer. A strain is a term used for bacteria and viruses, while the proper term for plants would be cultivars.
Unfortunately, few cannabis strains have met the requirements for cultivar recognition. Most strains are created by breeding a male and female cannabis plant, but in the unregulated cannabis industry, many so-called strains are actually clones, making them genetically identical. Research has shown that labeling errors and relabeling along the chain of production can lead to inconsistencies and inaccuracies in strain names. As a result, the genetic identity of a marijuana strain cannot be reliably inferred by its name or reported ancestry.
Despite these limitations, the Indica vs. Sativa classification remains popular among growers and consumers alike.
Why do we classify cannabis as Indica or Sativa?
According to Jeff Chen, the Director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, the Indica vs. Sativa classification system is “the worst system invented, but the best we have.” This classification system is not accurate and can create confusion among consumers. For example, why does your friend’s favorite Sativa strain make you sleepy, but an Indica strain with a 50:50 ratio of CBD:THC uplifts and energizes your mind?
A more accurate way to determine the effects of a particular strain is to look at its chemical composition rather than its Indica vs. Sativa classification. The Jointly app can help users understand the composition and effects of a particular cannabis product rather than relying on the inaccurate Sativa/Indica classification system. Jointly takes it a step further by aggregating the ratings of thousands of real people like you and using a proprietary algorithm to match you to the best cannabis and CBD products for your goals.
What are the best Sativa strains?
It’s not uncommon to have a favorite Sativa strain like Blue Dream or Lemon Haze. But if you have ever tried a Blue Dream in Oregon and compared it to a Blue Dream grown in Massachusetts, you might have noticed the same strain has totally different effects.
That’s why Jointly allows users to track their use of specific strains, but they have to specify which brand produced the strain. The reason for this specificity is to provide meaningful data, as growing conditions and other environmental factors can affect the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Five Blue Dream samples are likely to have different cannabinoid and terpene content as the growing conditions can significantly affect the end product.
But what does it mean if you know you love an Indica or Sativa strain? Well, it turns out that you may love a specific blend of terpenes.
Does Indica vs. Sativa actually make a difference?
When it comes to cannabis, you may have heard that different strains can have different effects. But did you know that the traditional strain classification system (Sativa, Indica, Hybrid) doesn’t always accurately convey the chemical composition of a product? In fact, a recent study showed that almost 93% of cannabis samples fell into one cluster in terms of their cannabinoid content, and that most of the observed differences in effects were due to the terpene content.
Growing conditions and other environmental factors have a significant impact on the psychoactive effects of cannabis, making it impossible to predict the effects of a particular strain based on its Indica vs. Sativa classification.
Dr. Ethan Russo, a well-known cannabis researcher and neurologist, says that the effects of cannabis come from the chemicals called terpenoids. However, the terpenoid content is rarely tested or reported to users. People often think that CBD in cannabis makes them feel relaxed, but this is not true. Instead, it’s the chemical called myrcene that causes sedation in most common cannabis strains. On the other hand, strains with high levels of limonene (found in citrus peels) can make people feel happy and uplifted.
Basically, the Indica vs. Sativa classification and the names of different cannabis strains don’t tell us much about their effects. It would be better to classify cannabis products based on their chemical makeup. So, terms like Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid are not very helpful to consumers because they oversimplify things.
So, if strains and Indica vs. Sativa aren’t reliable classification methods, how do you know which cannabis product is right for you? That’s where Jointly comes in! Jointly Matches is designed to match you to the right cannabis products for your goals. Instead of relying on subjective strain names, Jointly classifies products based on their chemical composition.
Indica vs Sativa: Where is it headed?
The future of the cannabis industry may involve a shift away from the Indica vs. Sativa classification system and towards a more data-driven approach that takes into account the specific growing conditions and chemical composition of each strain. This would allow consumers to make more informed decisions about the products they purchase and provide valuable insights into the complex relationship between genetics and the effects of cannabis.
In conclusion, the Indica vs. Sativa classification system for cannabis strains is based on a folk taxonomy and is not an accurate predictor of the effects of a particular strain. Growing conditions and other environmental factors play a significant role in determining the psychoactive effects of cannabis, making it important for consumers to specify the brand that produced their favorite strains in order to gain meaningful information.
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With Jointly, you can shop your top-rated products, and save lists of your favorites to share and bring to your local dispensary to help guide your shopping experience.
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So if you’re ready to find your best products and enjoy your perfect cannabis experience, download the Jointly app today on the App Store or Google Play, or shop your matches on the Jointly website. Discovery awaits.