Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid

The Cannabis plant has three subspecies that influence its characteristics. Sativa,  Indica, Ruderalis, and hybrid strains each possess specific traits.

It’s no surprise that many wonder about Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid when thinking about marijuana strains. 

Sativa and Indica first appeared around the 1700s, with hybrids appearing later. Sativas originated in temperate climates near the equator, while Indicas likely originated near the harsh Hindu Kush region in present-day Afghanistan.

These contrasting environments help explain why the protective coat of resin is thicker in Indica vs Sativa strains. Today attention has shifted from the origins of Indica and Sativa to the traits, determining the preference of marijuana growers. 

Indica vs Sativa buds
Indica vs Sativa

Sativa vs Indica Origins 

Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus classified the strain Cannabis Sativa was in the mid-1700s. Sativa literally means ‘things that are cultivated’ – a fitting description for this renowned plant.

Originating in western Eurasia, the cannabis plant eventually found its way to other regions of the world. For centuries, cultivators harvested Cannabis Sativa for its hemp fiber and seeds.  

Closer to the end of the 1700s, French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck discovered another species of Cannabis that was somewhat different from the Sativa.

He classified this species as Cannabis Indica, a reference to where he found the plant –  India. It also helped distinguish the new plant from the already established Cannabis Sativa.

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According to Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, this species, much like its predecessor, could be grown for its fiber and seeds but had an intoxicating effect that Sativa did not. It became widely regarded in Europe as a therapeutic remedy during the 1800s. 

Today, the strains are commonly known as Sativa and Indica, with much debate surrounding how much these two subspecies differ. Both strains have industrial, recreational, and medicinal use. 

Physical Differences  

The difference in origins isn’t the only thing you’ll notice. The plant also has notable differences between the two strains, especially the contrast between Sativa vs Indica leaves.

While Indica plants typically produce round, broad leaves with dark coloring, Sativa leaves are a lot more narrow and dainty, with a much lighter pigment. These characteristics go a long way in contributing to the overall appearance of each plant.  

Indica leaf
An Indica leaf

In addition to the leaves, the Indica plant is bushy and short in stature. Even at maturity, it may only reach heights of just 3.2-9.8 feet.

The Sativa plant is as tall as its leaves are long, reaching heights of up to 19.6 feet. Indica buds are a lot more dense and stout, adding to their overall solid appearance.

Most people describe them as emitting penetrating, earthy aromas. Sativa buds are less compacted, and this, coupled with the thin, long leaves and tall stature, gives it a slender appearance.

Sativa leaf
A Sativa leaf

They are said to have a gentler scent that is a smooth combination of spicy florals. 

They do share some common characteristics, though, with both having marbled colored, soft seeds. Growers and consumers have also compared their sweet scents and sour undertones.  

Sativa vs Indica Effects 

Sativa, known for its cerebral high, contains high levels of the psychoactive THC. Indica tends to contain lower THC and higher CBD levels, which is non-psychoactive. Indicas produce a body high. In general,  Indica vs. Sativa effects fall under the following spectrum. 

Indica is the stoner’s favorite, thanks to its deeply relaxing properties. It acts as a sedative, placing your entire body into a deep state of relaxation.

Indica effect - relaxing
Indica effect – relaxing

It is ideal for nighttime consumption since it impacts insomnia, body pains, muscle spasms, anxiety, and other uncomfortable situations.

It may also include CBN, which offers additional benefits. 

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Sativa, on the other hand, delivers a rush of euphoria and mental awareness. Its energizing effects make it best for morning use. Known to spur divergent, creative thinking and focus, it is popular with artistically inclined users.

A combination of stimulation, motivation and free-thinking provides an overall uplifting feeling, impacting stress, chronic fatigue, and mood problems.

Sativa effect_energizing
Sativa effect – energizing

Although CBD is used therapeutically more than THC, Ayurvedic medications commonly include Sativa. 

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Strain Name Strain Type THC CBD Helps with
Bubba Kush Indica 22% less than 1% appetite, pain, insomnia
Northern Lights Indica 18% less than 1% stress, pain, anxiety
Sour Diesel Sativa 20% less than 1% creativity, depression, anxiety
Green Crack Sativa 22% less than 1% energy, stress, euphoria
Super Lemon Haze Sativa 22% less than 1% happiness, fatigue, pain
Cannatonic hybrid 15% 12% pain, focus, stress
Blue Dream hybrid 21% 2% relaxation, euphoria, happiness
Gorilla Glue hybrid 26% less than 1% relaxation, happiness, stress
Sunset Sherbet hybrid 21% less than 1% happiness, creativity, relaxation

Growing Indicas vs Sativas 

Both Indica and Sativa plants are native to hot regions and require plenty of light and heat, along with regular photoperiods when entering the flowering stage.

A sativa plant’s airy buds are less susceptible to mold than the dense buds of the Indica. Because of this, it thrives in warm and sticky climates. Indicas need an environment with controlled humidity levels.

Outdoor growers may protect their plants from rain and excess moisture or keep them indoors.

Indicas have a built-in resilience to harsh weather conditions, thanks to their origins. This resilience, coupled with a short growing cycle, makes outdoor cultivation viable, while its short, dense bushes make it ideal for indoors.

Whichever you chose, be sure to expose the buds to plenty of light to ensure large, healthy yields. We recommend topping or low-stress training to level the Indicas triangular shape.

Growing Indicas vs Sativas
Growing Indicas vs Sativas

Sativa plants are less resilient than Indicas due to their thin leaves, which provide less chlorophyll, but need less fertilizer and fewer feedings.

Sativa plants have a much longer flowering phase and reach great heights, especially in the first two weeks. The ScrOG method is an optimal way to control this. 

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What About Hybrid Cannabis Strains? 

Hybridization combines the best characteristics of various strains to breed a unique blend of Sativa and Indica. Many also include Ruderalis. Cannabis Ruderalis is a little-known hybrid strain native to the Northern Regions of the globe.

The plant is small in stature, growing just 11.8-23.6 inches, and has thick foliage with large leaves like Indica, yet it’s lighter in color like Sativa. 

Hybrid cannabis leaf
A hybrid cannabis leaf

Because most modern marijuana strains are hybrids, growers also distinguish Landrace strains from hybrids.

Landrace strains are “pure-bred” with no genetics mixed with any other type of cannabis. Today, most Sativas and Indicas are Hybrids with varying Sativa/Indica ratios. 

Breeding Ruderalis with Sativa and Indica strains produces high-CBD strains. CBD can minimize the “high” caused by THC. Ruderalis plants came from an extremely cold climate and developed a fast flowering phase to survive.

Growers use this strain for breeding auto-flowering marijuana plants that thrive in colder climates. 

Many hybrid strains also induce a balanced high. Because there are many cannabis variations, it is hard to know what you can expect. 

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A Sativa vs Indica chart is a handy guideline for the effects you might experience, but the Hybrids lineage is better at predicting traits.  

FAQs About Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid

Is there a difference in THC and CBD levels?

Sativa is typically higher in the THC cannabinoid, with lower levels of CBD. While Indica is higher in CBD, this does not automatically equate to low levels of THC. Years of cross-breeding led to Indica-dominant hybrids with THC levels more typically associated with Sativa landraces.  

What are landrace strains?

 “Landrace” can be translated as origin, which is just what it is. A Landrace strain is the original ancestor strain of all subsequent hybrids. The term Landrace describes a strain that is either pure Indica or pure Sativa. 

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