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A Guide To Indica Vs Sativa: Which Is Better?

When it comes to cannabis, there are two main types: Indica and Sativa. Both are different in origin, appearance, smell, and even effects on the user. These differences have made people wonder which strains are better for them. Do you prefer the uplifting sensation that Sativas give you, or do you like the calming feeling that Indicas provide you? Let's find out which one is right for you and your body.


Are you looking at applying for medical cannabis? Choosing which type of cannabis strain to use in Australia can be overwhelming; many choices and products are available. Because of the approval process, it can take a reasonable amount of time to get approved for medical cannabis, and it's essential to know the difference between cannabis strains when your time comes to make a choice. There are over 1000 cannabis strains available worldwide, and these come in different shapes and sizes, each with other effects for the patient. Because of this, it's essential to understand which strain and type of cannabis plant you are being prescribed. Check our guide on accessing cannabis in Australia here.


The History of Cannabis Strains 


Technically speaking, there are three subspecies of the cannabis plant - Indica, Sativa and Ruderalis. Indica and Sativa species used in medical cannabis and cannabis lifestyle products will only be found. The Ruderalis subspecies are not the growers' favourite due to poor flowering and yields the plant produces. The popularity of Indica and Sativa plants can be traced back to before the 1960s when cannabis was used as a medicinal herb. Cultivated in different parts of the world, these two varieties had very distinct characteristics. The high induced by Indica plants is very relaxing. It is best suited for medicinal users who are looking for pain relief or help to fall asleep. On the other hand, Sativa plants have an uplifting and energetic high that is best suited for recreational users.


Hybrid Meaning?


You may have heard of the term hybrid. When purchasing a CBD oil product from an Australian company, you may be offered what's called a "hybrid". Hybrids are both Indica and Sativa plants that have been bred together. These combinations of strains generally are reproduced in a way that takes the best parts of each plant into one final master plant. This is what the large grows and then bred from. Mother plants are precisely, as described, the mother of all plants!

Not sure about the differences in cannabinoids? Read more about the difference between CBD & THC here.


So, What’s the Difference Between Indica and Sativa? 




What Is An Indica Strain?


An Indica strain is a type of cannabis plant that is known for producing a more soothing and relaxing high. There are two main subtypes of Indica: Afghan and Indian. The three most common species from which Indica plants are bred are Hindu Kush, Nepalese Temple, and Afghan. The Hindu Kush variety is native to the Hindu Kush mountain range, which spans India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.


The name "Hindu Kush" means "Hindu killer," and it refers to the fact that many invaders and conquerors have been killed while trying to cross this mountain range. Indica strains are typically used as "night time" strains as the effects are sedative and can be used for inducing sleep due to the full-body relaxation effect. These relaxation effects are due to the higher concentrations of CBD found in Indica strains. 


Indica plants are known for growing short and wide and are generally cultivated indoors. They have dark green leaves and a thick, dense stem compared to Sativa plants. Indica plants tend to be hearty and can handle colder temperatures than Sativas. Indica plants are generally ready to harvest 8 to 10 weeks after flowering. Regarding the usability of an Indica strain, terpenes have a large role to play in the end result, and Myrcene (which is in our gin) has known sedative effects.


Some patients would not suit an Indica strain as they may need to visit a workplace, operate machinery or spend time with family. All of which demand a level of concentration and energy. Indica would, therefore, be best consumed after these activities have finished. 


What Is A Sativa Strain?


A Sativa strain is a type of cannabis plant that is known for producing an uplifting and energetic high. Sativa plants are native to the equatorial regions in the Southern Hemisphere. They are known to be taller than Indica plants. The most common species from which Sativa plants are bred are Haze, Landscape, Brazilian, and Thai. Haze is an ancient cannabis strain that originates from Brazil. The landscape is a subtype of Sativa that is commonly bred in Thailand and Malaysia. Brazilian Sativa is a tropical plant that is also native to the equatorial region. 


Sativa plants tend to have long, narrow leaves and grow taller than Indica plants. They are generally cultivated outdoors. These plants are known for their fast growth and can handle higher temperatures than Indica plants. Sativa plants are usually ready to harvest 10 to 12 weeks after flowering.


Sativa strains are considered to be day-time strain due to the cerebral effects it induces, which can be uplifting, creative and more alert. Sativa strains are a firm favourite among many medical cannabis patients worldwide. Therapeutically, Sativa helps with anxiety, depression and chronic pain as a starting point. Limonene (also in one of our gins ), another terpene found in Sativa strains, has shown promise in reducing breast cancer in a clinical trial


What's the Difference Between Indica and Sativa? 


Indica and Sativa plants differ first and foremost in their appearance. Indica plants are short and bulky, have chunky leaves and usually have shorter flowering cycles. Sativa plants are taller and slimmer and feature thin leaves with long flowering periods. 


The cannabis market in Australia usually classifies these strains because Sativas have a cerebral and uplifting high. At the same time, Indicas provide a sedated and relaxed high. Hybrid strains offer a balance of the two effects and largely depend on the original plant material used to create the mother plant. It's vital to find the right strain as a lot of people carefully will not be suited to the exact strain they are given first. We know many people who have had dozens of different strains until they found one that suited their individual needs. 


To determine which strain is suitable for your situation and symptom management, educating yourself on the chemical makeup and, therefore, the effects of each subspecies is good.


How Sativa & Indica Effect You


Medical cannabis and CBD products can provide vastly different outcomes. These effects are led by molecules found inside the plants called terpenes and cannabinoids. Your body's unique biology, consumption method and dosing determine how you feel after taking a medical cannabis product. The most prevalent cannabinoids, THC and CBD, have the most scientifically researched effects. 


  • THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol) has psychoactive effects and makes us feel "high". It can provide relief for pain and nausea and induce appetite.
  • CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid. It can reduce tumours, help with anxiety and mental issues, and alleviate inflammation and other medical problems.  


Learn more about the ECS system and how it affects your body here.


The Science Behind Indica and Sativa Effects


Cannabinoids: The Core Components

At the heart of the cannabis plant lie cannabinoids, the chemical compounds responsible for the myriad effects users experience. Two primary cannabinoids dominate the discourse: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). While THC is renowned for its psychoactive properties, CBD is non-intoxicating and offers a plethora of therapeutic benefits.


Terpenes: The Unsung Heroes

Beyond cannabinoids, terpenes play a pivotal role in shaping the cannabis experience. These aromatic compounds influence the scent, flavour, and effects of cannabis strains. For instance, Myrcene, predominantly found in Indicas, is known for its sedative properties. Conversely, Limonene, abundant in Sativas, offers uplifting effects.


The Indica-Sativa Spectrum

Indicas, with their higher CBD concentrations, are often associated with relaxation and pain relief. Sativas, on the other hand, with their elevated THC levels, promise cerebral, uplifting highs. However, it's essential to note that modern cultivation practices have blurred these distinctions, leading to strains that offer a balanced CBD-THC profile.


Indica vs Sativa: Which one is better for your body?


Indica plants are best for People who have insomnia or other sleep disorders; Indica plants can help put you to sleep. For people who have pain then, Indica plants are primarily known for their ability to relieve pain. 


Sativa plants are best for People who have energy issues; Sativa plants can give you a boost of energy and increase motivation. For people who want to improve their appetite, Sativa plants can help boost your appetite and make food taste delicious.


Indica vs Sativa: Which one is better for your mind?


Indica plants are best for people suffering from anxiety; Indica plants can calm your nerves and help you feel less anxious. 


Sativa plants are best for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - Sativa plants can help reduce your ADHD symptoms. For people who have mood disorders then, Sativa plants can help lift your mood and make you feel happy. Sativa plants can help you focus and clear your mind for people with foggy minds. 


Did you know these effects are compounded in animals? Cannabis is also a safe and effective treatment for them, head over to our in-depth guide for more info.


Indica Plant


What about Hybrid Strains?


Hybrid strains form the basis of many popular cannabis strains. Hybrids can have various combinations of terpenes and effects and are usually classed as a "Sativa dominant" or "Indica dominant" strain. These terms are more widely used to describe the growing conditions and yield as opposed to the effect and result in the patient ends up with. A combination strain like a Hybrid can have excellent results for medical cannabis patients. Suppose the desired result is a more balanced feeling between an Indica and Sativa. In that case, a Hybrid strain could be a perfect choice.


How to Choose The Right Strain? 


It's important to note that cannabis plants have many variables, and the terpene and cannabinoid content that make up the plant will differ from each crop. In general, CBD oil and cannabis products should constantly be tested by a third party. The best way to choose a strain for your needs is to understand the result you would like to achieve. Do you want medical cannabis to relieve specific ailments, or is reducing the number of side effects your main goal? Are you better suited to consuming at night, or do you require consistent dosing throughout the day? 


Once prescribed a CBD oil or medical cannabis product, be sure you understand the type of strain you have been prescribed. Australian cannabis companies grow a broad spectrum of strains to target specific illnesses and ensure the right plant-based medicine is available to deliver the best effect. For this reason, buying cannabis from the black market is not recommended. There is no way to tell the potency or strain type and ensure it is free from chemicals. Learn more about different strains in our free eBook Top 10 Strains in Australia & NZ


The Future of Cannabis: What's Next for Indica and Sativa?


Genetic Engineering and Strain Development


With advancements in genetic engineering, the future holds the promise of customised cannabis strains tailored to individual needs. This could revolutionise the medical cannabis sector, offering targeted treatments for specific ailments.


Sustainability and Eco-friendly Cultivation


As the global demand for cannabis surges, sustainable cultivation practices will take centre stage. From water conservation to organic farming, the future of cannabis cultivation looks green.


Legalisation and Global Markets


With more countries warming up to the idea of cannabis legalisation, the global cannabis market is poised for exponential growth. This will lead to increased research, product development, and a broader understanding of the Indica-Sativa spectrum.


The Final Word: Which strain is better for you?

Top 10 Strains Free eBook Download


As you can see, both Indica and Sativa plants have their benefits. Indica plants are known for their relaxing and calming effects. In contrast, Sativa plants are known for their energy-boosting and mood-lifting effects. If you're new to cannabis and don't know which strain is best for you, it's best to try both Indica and Sativa plants to see which one works best for your body and mind.


Check out our buying guide for CBD oil here


Do you need quick relief now and don't have medical cannabis approval? Head over to our terpene range which has helped dozens of our customers get relief without worrying about the hassle of cannabis. Remember, terpenes are what enhance and support medical marijuana achieves its effects on our bodies - and this can be done without consuming a cannabis product. 


Need more info? Read more on how CBD works here


Your doctor or medical team can help you choose the right product. If you have not spoken with someone, please call our friendly team on 1300 402 420. We have helped hundreds of patients find the right products.