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Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid: What’s the Difference in Cannabis Strains?

February 29, 2020

With the cannabis industry booming, there is growing interest in the cannabis strains available for medical and recreational use around the country. If you’re a prospective cannabusiness owner or a medical marijuana patient, you’ve likely heard of some of the different strains of cannabis that are available. 

While there are tons of cannabis strains out there, there are three general categories under which each fall under:

  1. Cannabis Indica
  2. Cannabis Sativa
  3. Hybrid

Related Article: What is a Cannabusiness and how can I start one?

Both patients and new MMJ business owners often find they don’t know much about what these terms mean or have misconceptions about them. Some of the perceived differences are anecdotal, meaning they vary by user experience, while others are based on the physical features of the plant.

If you are interested in starting your own Florida cannabusiness, contact our marijuana attorneys at The Aguilera Law Center in Miami or call (305) 255-FIRM. Let’s get your business started right!

Table of Contents:

  1. What is a cannabis strain?
  2. Indica Strains
  3. Sativa Strains
  4. Hybrid Strains
  5. Cannabis Strain Effects

What is a cannabis strain?

Beyond the cannabis categories, there are plenty of different strains of cannabis, which are essentially different breeds of the plant. These plants are crossbred to have specific THC content or user effects. Each strain is categorized under one of the categories, depending on the physical characteristics of the plant and the effects it has.

Indica Strains

Cannabis Indica plants, originally from the Hindu Kush mountains of India, are typically shorter and bushier than Sativa plants, and have wider leaves. Flower buds are typically denser and wider and have a higher concentration level of THC compared to CBD.

Flowering Cannabis Indica Plant

Users of Indica cannabis strains tend to report deep physical and mental sensations and a relaxed or “stoned” feeling. Many refer to this mellow feeling as a “body high”. 

Though every patient is different and reacts to Indica strains differently, strains in this category are often recommended for nighttime use. For medicinal purposes, Indica strains are largely used by patients experiencing anxiety, stress or chronic pain.

Sativa Strains

Cannabis Sativa plants, known for their height and long, thin leaves, are native to eastern Asia. These plants have less dense, feather-like flower buds, which are seemingly longer than those of Indica strains. Despite their differences, Sativa and Indica strains have a similar THC to CBD ratio on average.

Cannabis Sativa Hemp Leaves

Patients typically report a euphoric, cerebral feeling, or “head high” when using a Sativa strain. Strains in this category usually provide users with an uplifting experience, coupled with bursts of energy, creativity, and alertness.

Related Article: How Medical Marijuana Benefits Patients

Sativa strains are usually suggested for patients to use in the day time if they struggle with mental clarity, a lack of energy, or inability to focus.

Hybrid Strains

Hybrid cannabis strains are crossbreeds of both Indica and Sativa plants. Most cannabis strains are hybrids, descending from so many different types of strains that they are not purely Indica or Sativa. Although hybrids are a mix of both, strains can be classified as Indica-dominant or Sativa-dominant, depending on the effect of the plant.

Having been bred to find a particular mix of effects between the two original kinds of strains, hybrids often bring the best of both worlds to patients. Patients who seek out hybrid strains tend to prefer the balanced effects, feeling too weighed-down by Indicas and too stimulated by Sativas.

Hybrid strains have been found to have a slightly higher concentration of THC and CBD than Indica and Sativa strains, but have a similar ratio of THC to CBD. This means that, while hybrids are bred to mix the effects of Indica and Sativa strains together, those effects may not entirely be due to the levels of THC and CBD, and may not alter effects much or at all.

Cannabis Strain Effects

Though there are effects generally associated with both Indica and Sativa, not all people react to each strain the same way, and the same person can react differently to various strains within either category. This is likely due to the variation of terpenes in cannabis strains, not to levels of cannabinoids, as previously thought.

According to Leafly, recent research shows that both Indica and Sativa strains have similar concentration levels of THC and CBD on average. That same research shows that while hybrid strains often contain slightly higher levels of both THC and CBD on average, the ratio of THC and CBD is similar to those of purely Indica and Sativa strains.

While research is still preliminary, scientists that specialize in cannabis agree that it may be differences in the terpenes that strains contain that cause different effects in patients. Terpenes are fragrant organic compounds that give each cannabis strain its distinct aroma. They can also be found in the essential oils of other plants, such as lilacs, citrus fruits, hops, lavender, and pine trees.

Citrus Fruits, like Lemon, contain the terpene Limonene.

Like cannabinoids, terpenes bind to receptors in the brain when ingested and are believed to give patients various therapeutic effects. This includes the relaxing feeling associated with Indica strains and the euphoric, alert feeling of Sativa strains.

To learn more about terpenes and the effects it provides through different cannabis strains, check out this article on Leafly.

If you’d like to learn more about starting your Florida cannabusiness, contact our marijuana attorneys at The Aguilera Law Center in Miami or call (305) 255-FIRM.

 – Alejandra Aguilera, Esq.

The Aguilera Law Center provides hemp and marijuana consultations weekdays, evenings, and Saturdays.

Call to schedule an appointment:



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