What are the Main Differences Between Indica and Sativa?

As marijuana becomes more and more legal, it’s important to know the difference between indica and sativa. The two types of cannabis are very different in terms of their effects, as well as when they should be consumed.

Indica plants provide a mellow body buzz that can help with sleep or even relieve pain. Sativa plants offer an energetic high that will give you an uplifting feeling.

Before we dig deeper into the difference between indica vs sativa, let’s understand first what they are.

What is Indica?

Cannabis indica is an annual plant of the Cannabaceae family and is originally from the Hindu Kush region. Indica usually has a higher percentage of Cannabidiol (CBD) and lower Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), meaning it provides more medication than psychoactive activity.

For medicinal use, indica strains are often recommended because they provide strong relief without the mind-altering effects.

Because of its deep relaxation effects, indica is better consumed in the evening. In addition, indica strains are believed to be responsible for “couchlock” – an intense body buzz that leads to a state of physical sedation and immobility.

Some popular indica strains are Afghan Kush, Granddaddy Purple, and Hindu Kush.

What is Sativa?

Cannabis sativa is a plant that grows up to 18 feet tall and originated in equatorial regions like Asia or Africa. It typically has less CBD compared to indica strains but more THC, which creates a different high effect.

The general perception is that sativa strains provide a more energizing and cerebral high. It is also said to make you more creative and focused which makes it great for daytime use.

Some popular sativa strains are Blue Dream, Lemon Haze, and Green Crack.

Now that we know how these cannabis families work, let’s dig deeper into their differences.

cannabis side effects

Indica vs Sativa Effects

The indica vs. sativa discussion has drawn controversy across the cannabis community. When looking for information online, you’ll likely see cannabis sativa described as more energizing and cannabis indica as more sedating.

This is true for many cannabis users, but not everyone will experience a difference in these two strains. Some individuals may find that they react differently to indica vs sativa based on their body chemistry or what the individual needs at the moment (e.g., mental clarity).

The bottom line is indica and sativa strains are described to deliver certain sets of effects, but it’s important to note that the effects are based on personal experience.

Medical Efficacy

One main difference between indica vs sativa is their medical effects and how they influence energy levels and productivity. Cannabis indica tends to decrease nervous system activity which makes it better to consume at night.

Cannabis sativa strains on the other hand may stimulate the nervous system, which can lead to increased energy levels and improved cognitive function.

Most dispensaries are sensitive to the subjective efficacy of particular products for different patients and make as many indica and sativa products as possible available for targeted ailments.

Indica strains are commonly used for conditions like cancer, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, chronic pain, arthritis, and more.

For the treatment of psychological disorders like depression, PTSD, and anxiety, cannabis sativa strains are the go-to products for most patients.

How to Choose The Right Cannabis Strains

Choosing the best products for your needs can be challenging, but are usually broken down according to their primary effects.

Indica is more calming on the body while sativa strains have a stimulating effect that may be beneficial for those with depression and fatigue.

  • Mood or effect? – If you are looking for a specific experience, indica strains work well for calming down and relaxing, while sativa may be more energy-boosting or stimulating.
  • Check the strain potency – Due to advancements in developing cannabis strains, some products can be THC powerhouses. Many products on the market are quite potent and if your tolerance level is low, you may want to try strains with less THC first.
  • Understand the side effects – You might find that some strains have more of an adverse effect on your body than others and while this is normal for most patients if you are new to cannabis products, it is better to ask your local dispensaries and cannabis stores of the side effects of each product.

Here’s a list of popular indica and sativa strains with their THC and CBD levels:

Chart by Leafly

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are indica and sativa upper or downer? – Indica strains are often described as a “downer” and sativa strains as an “upper”.
  • Is there really a difference between indica and sativa? – Yes. These terms were created to help botanists classify plants based on their physical appearance.
  • How do indica and sativa make you feel? – Cannabis indica makes you feel sleepy and relaxed while sativa makes you feel energized.
  • Which indica or sativa is more potent? – Indica strains tend to be stronger than the sativa, but it’s important to note that THC content varies from plant to plant so potency can’t always be generalized on these terms.


If it’s your first time, whether you are choosing indica or sativa, always research the products, read some cannabis resource or ask around before you try it.