Cannabis is the talk of the town, but quite a lot of the things we hear just confuse us. One person says this; another says that. What is the truth about the difference between sativa and indica?
Getting to know your way around strains and hybrids looks daunting. Men's Journal sums it up rather efficiently by comparing cannabis buying to wine buying. But even it gets confused in the terminology surrounding cannabis botany.
Sativa and Indica
The two most popular and also diverse species of cannabis are sativa and indica. These species originally grew in two very different places and climates, which affected the way the plants adapted. So far, so easy. Let's take a closer look at the theory and see why it doesn't really work in practice.
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The indica species grew and developed in a harsher environment with cold winters. Therefore the plant needed more protection. The thick layer of resin that coats the flowers also produces more powerful effects. The flowers are compact and tight in comparison to sativa's.
Sativa, on the other hand, grew closer to the equator, grows slower, needs less resin and produces less of a high. The sativa plant produces bigger, less compact leaves and flowers.
Sativa and indica cross-fertile
Here’s the confusing part. Indica and sativa are cross-fertile. With people having a great talent for moving domesticated plants around the world, the two gene pools inextricably intermingled.
They’ve become so mixed up, that cannabis plant breeders now refer to sativa and indica dominant strains rather than trying to distinguish them as two different species.
Some botanists have decided to dispense with indica altogether, and just call all kinds of cannabis “sativa.” Others say there should be a distinction. With even the scientific community in a state of cannabis confusion, it’s no surprise that ordinary people are confused too!
Looks are deceiving
There is an almost endless number of hybrids on the market, and the chemical composition of these hybrids is just as diverse. Growers trim and cut the products, grooming them to look their best and 'weed window dressing' is quite an art.
As author Warren Bobrow, says in his book: Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks and Buzz-Worthy Libations, weed can be packaged beautifully.
Which is for what?
Most experts would agree that indica and sativa dominant strains have different uses and effects. Bobrow says sativas are for having fun, stimulating brain activity and clarity, and people prefer it for daytime use. These strains boost creativity and brainstorming. Medically people use them for depression, anxiety, or ADD.
Many experts say its best to use indica to treat pain, or infection, or to drift off to sleep. Therefore, cannabis connoisseurs choose to use it at night.
However, those who want the benefits of cannabis without any real high will choose hemp. It’s botanically classified as Cannabis sativa L with the “L” representing the liquid chromatography mass spectrometry test that proves it is low in THC.
Choose your cannabis
Whether you use cannabis recreationally or medicinally, it comes down to what works best for you. When using cannabis recreationally, you need to decide just how high you want to get and whether you want an active or relaxed high.
When using cannabis as a medicine, you currently have little guidance from science. But you can read up on past research and decide whether you want CBD-focused cannabis that doesn’t produce a high or THC-focused cannabis that does.