Myth Busting: Indica vs Sativa

By Austin Vincent

Going to a dispensary for the first time can be exciting and also extremely overwhelming. Amongst the countless rows of cannabis you will find that all these different buds are divided into three categories, indica, sativa, or a hybrid. So what is that supposed to mean?

What are Indica and Sativa?

In short, indica and sativa are types of cannabis plants. The indica plant has the ability to grow in a colder climate and doesn’t grow nearly as tall as sativa.

Indica plants are known to have broader, thicker leaves. In addition, their flowering cycle is generally shorter than a sativa’s, lasting 8-12 weeks. Sativa’s flowering cycle takes at least 10 weeks and can last as long as 16 weeks. Therefore, there is no difference in the effects of the plants, they are not highs. The only difference between indica and sativa is the height of the plant, the width of the leaves, and the flowering cycle. Also by this point, it’s safe to say that all cannabis plants are hybrids due to the vast amounts of crossbreeding that has occured since cannabis’ discovery so long ago. The old way of thinking is dead as we can find varying effects between strains within the same plant family, there is no more indica or sativa strain.  

Then What Determines My High?

Two buds can come from the same plant family and have a different genetic composition just like you and your cousin will have a different genetic makeup even though you’re from the same family. The question then becomes what creates and causes these different flavors and effects? The answer is terpenes. Terpenes are best known as the essential oils of the cannabis community. With them they bring on an entourage effect that magnifies the effect of the buds individual components. The point to be made is that using indica or sativa as an identifier is useless at this point. The reason being, terpenes are what drive your high not the plant that it comes from. The only way to truly tell what kind of high you are going to receive is to check the terpene profile of the specified strain.  

Sour Diesel for instance has a euphoric effect and can make you feel relaxed, calming, and energetic. People who experience stress, depression or pain typically use it. Blueberry Kush on the other hand, has a different effect. While it can also promote a euphoric feeling and alertness, it will give you more of a body high than Sour Diesel.

These are two very different, powerful strains of cannabis. With Sour Diesel you are going to find terpenes such as, B-Caryophyllene, myrcene,  humulene, and limonene. With Blueberry Kush you will terpenes like A-Pinene and a small amount of B-Caryophyllene, a major component in Sour Diesel. The effects are completely up to the terpene profile not what plant it comes from. As best described, if a strain is high in myrcene (a common terpene) it will have more of sedation or “couch lock,” effect than another with less myrcene.

So Does All Weed Taste the Same?

In addition to varying effects, you will also experience a completely different flavor profile amongst different types of cannabis. Blueberry Kush and Vanilla Kush are similar in effects, but very distinct in their flavor. Blueberry Kush will taste like blueberries, while Vanilla Kush will have a sweet, vanilla taste. This again, is due to the terpene composition in that specified strain.

With such a wide variety of terpenes and a seemingly endless amount of combinations you will realize that strains have their own unique flavor. This is why you can find over 1,000 strains, because each one is just a different combination of terpenes. Cannabis that has a high level of limonene for instance, will have more of a lemon flavor. If you run into a strain with a high amount of Caryophyllene you are going to experience a peppery, woody taste. Those are some more common terpenes, along with Myrcene, which has a citrus flavor, and A-Pinene, which taste like pine. Finding what flavor you are looking for, along with a desired effect, can help you narrow down your cannabis option to a few different strains.

There is an incredible amount of distress in the cannabis community because people will just grow random hybrids and slap a name on them without actually knowing the strain. Misleading someone to buy something that isn’t what it says it is, is not uncommon in this industry. That is why it is imperative to get your cannabis from a reputable brand and a trusted dispensary. Few dispensaries and brands will list the terpene content along with the potency of the THC directly on their product. So, if you are able to find a terpene profile, you will be able to distinguish what bud is right for you. For a more in depth look at the different strains and their terpene composition I recommend looking at the strain periodic table on leafly