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Difference Between Indica and Sativa

Looking at applying for medical cannabis? Choosing which type of cannabis strain to use in Australia can be overwhelming; there are many choices and products 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 all different shapes and sizes and each with different effects for the patient. Because of this, it's important to understand which strain and type of cannabis plant you are being prescribed.


Three Types of Species 

Technically speaking, there are three subspecies of the cannabis plant - Indica, Sativa and Ruderalis. You will only find Indica and Sativa species used in medical cannabis and cannabis lifestyle products. The Ruderalis subspecies are not the growers' favourite due to poor flowering and yields the plant produces. 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. 


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


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


What Difference Does it Make to You? 

The way the cannabis market in Australia usually classifies these strains are that Sativas have a cerebral and uplifting high while 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 determine which strain is suitable for your situation and symptom management, it’s good to educate yourself on the chemical makeup and therefore, the effects of each subspecies. 


The Chemicals & Effects 

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

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

Indica Plant


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. 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 demands a level of concentration and energy. Indica would, therefore, be best consumed after these activities have finished. 


Sativa Strain


Sativa strains are considered to be a day-time strain due to the cerebral effects it induces. Uplifting, creative and more alert. Sativa strains are a firm favourite among many medical cannabis patients worldwide. Therapeutically, Sativa's help 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

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 the patient ends up with. A combination strain like a Hybrid can have amazing results for medical cannabis patients. If the desired result is a more balanced feeling between an Indica and Sativa, then a Hybrid strain could be a perfect choice.


How to Choose? 

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. CBD oil and cannabis products, in general, should always 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 during the night-time, or do you require consistent dosing throughout the day? 

Once prescribed a CBD oil or medical cannabis product, be sure that you understand the type of strain you have been prescribed. Australian cannabis companies grow a wide spectrum of strains to target specific illnesses and ensure the right plant-based medicine is available to deliver the best effect. For this reason, it is not recommended to buy cannabis from the black market. 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.

Top 10 Strains Free eBook Download


Your doctor or medical team can help choose the right product for you. 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. 


Do you need quick relief now and don't have a 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 enhances and helps medical marijuana achieve the effects on our bodies - and this can be done without consuming a cannabis product.