What’s the Difference Between Sativa and Indica?

Difference between Sativa and Indica
Image by leafly.com

Sativa and Indica are annual plant species in the family Cannabaceae and the genus Cannabis.

Despite their classification in the same family and genus, there is a marked difference between sativa and indica.

Their binomial name is Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis indica, respectively, and they are considered the two main types of cannabis.

Cannabis is a plant with different compounds, including THC and CBD. This THC and CBD compound can be found in both sativa and indica, although in varying ratios (as we progress in this article, we will examine what THC and CBD entail).

While THC is the compound that gets you high, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound with many potential health benefits. 

Both sativa and indica are used for several medicinal and recreational purposes. Please, keep your eyes glued to these pages as we look at the difference between Indica and Sativa. 

1. Difference in Origin

A difference between Sativa and Indica is their place of origin. Cannabis sativa grows best in the world’s warmer regions and does well with high humidity levels.

Hence they can be found primarily in hot, dry climates with long sunny days.

Some locations this plant can be found include; Africa, Central America, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Cannabis indica, on the other hand, is adapted to the harsh dry, and turbulent mountainous conditions of the middle-east. Indica is native to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Turkey. 

2. Difference in Growth Pattern

Sativa grows a bit more slowly and has a flowering time ranging from 10 to 14 weeks. The Branches here are spaced out, and the flowers are less dense.

While indicas grow faster and have a shorter flowering time of six to nine weeks, their flower is denser.

3. Difference in Physical Appearance

Physical appearance is also another difference between sativa and indica. Based on physical appearance, the difference will be examined from two angles.

They are in terms of height and terms of shape of leaves. 

  • Height: in terms of height, Indica plants are short and stocky with a bushy appearance. They usually grow up to two – four feet, while cannabis sativa, on the other hand, grows tall and willowy with an average of 15-20 feet.
  • The Shape of The Leaves: Indica has chunky leaves that grow wide and broad. The leaves are green, too, grow in a bundle-like shape, and are compactly branched, while the stout nature gives the buds a denser look. The leaves of sativa, on the other hand, are thinner with a finger-like appearance. They appear to spread out like an open hand with fewer branches. The leaves are also lighter in color (generally light green).

4. Ratio of THC to CBD

Another difference between Sativa and Indica is their THC and CBD content. THC and CBD are cannabinoid compounds found in sativa and indica plants, although in different ratios.

THC is an acronym for (tetrahydrocannabinol) while CBD stands for (cannabidiol).

The difference between THC and CBD is that THC is psychotropic, i.e., it causes a strong reaction inside the central nervous system, hence stimulating feelings of mental euphoria, while CBD is non-psychoactive. I.e., it is more relaxing and is not prone to strong psychotropic reactions. It produces fewer psychological effects. 

Examining the difference between Sativa and Indica from that perspective unveils that indica has a lower ratio of THC to CBD, i.e., it has higher CBD content. This accounts for why indica is associated with a more relaxing feel,

But sativa, on the other hand, produces a high THC to CBD ratio. I.e., it has higher amounts of THC. Hence, sativa has a stimulating effect that gives users a buzz.

5. Difference in Smell

The smell is also a basis for examining the difference between Sativa and Indica. The smell produced by indica is best described as skunky.

It emits a musty, earthy odor. Sativa smells skunky too, but in a sweet, fruity, or spicy manner, like freshly cut grass—this difference in the aroma results from terpenes.

Terpenes are the molecules within the plant that are brothers to cannabinoids like THC and CBD.

6. Difference in When They Are Used

Cannabis sativa is best suited for daytime use because of its stimulating impact. To some people, smoking sativa makes them feel more energized and better focused.

It is ideal not to use sativa at bedtime because its energizing effects can cause insomnia. 

Cannabis indica is best suited for nighttime because of its deep relaxation effects. Some people even use it as a natural sleep aid.

Using indica strains in day time can cause drowsiness at inappropriate times. Hence, why it’s best consumed at night or, better still, when you have cleared your schedule.

Certain strains of Sativa and Indica are more prevalent than others. The popular sativa strains include; Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, and Durban Poison, while the popular Indica strains are; the Hindu Kush, Afghan Kush, and Granddaddy Purple.

8. Difference in Body Effects and Medical Use

One other key difference between Sativa and Indica is in the effect that they produce and how they influence energy levels and productivity.

Note that the genetic makeup of the individual plant determines its eventual potential effect.

Factors like; temperature, humidity, altitude, amount of light received, and the point the plant was harvested in its flowering cycle go a long way in determining its genetic makeup and the subsequent overall effect it will have.

Nevertheless, each of these cannabinoids is known for producing a certain dominant effect.  

Cannabis indica is known for its relaxing and soothing effect. They produce a full-body effect that promotes a level of sedation known as “couch lock,” which decreases energy and leaves the user feeling relaxed, warm, sleepy, and unmotivated. Hence, it is better for consumption in the evening or at night. 

In medicine, indica is used as a sleep aid to fight insomnia. It also relieves physical aches, pains, and inflammation, reduces nausea, improves appetite, fights seizures, and relaxes muscles.

Indica is also favored as an alternative remedy for schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. More so, it is favored by those undergoing chemotherapy.

Cannabis sativa, on the other hand, is known for producing a stimulating “head high” that makes one feel on top of the world.

It is often associated with banishing depression and boosting focus and creativity. In a nutshell, sativa effects make one productive and creative.

In medicine, sativa has been used to ease headaches. It has a boost in serotonin, which makes it handy as an antidepressant.

It is also used for relaxation and sedation. Sativa has also been used to combat appetite loss and as an anti-nausea aid.


Both indica and sativa are the two main types of cannabis. This article successfully examined the difference between Sativa and Indica based on origin, physical appearance, growth pattern, and the ratio of CBD and THC. We also explored their difference based on effects and medical use. 

The most distinctive difference between these plants lies in their CBD and THC content, which greatly determines their effect on the body.

As seen so far, indica, which tends to be more potent with higher THC levels, is known for being more relaxing and producing a “body high.”

At the same time, Sativa has lower THC content and is known for being more energizing and providing a “head high.” 

Notwithstanding the difference outlined, we also stated that the genetic makeup of the individual plant could also influence its eventual effects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like