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Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid: What’s the difference?

One of the more fascinating aspects of the cannabis plant is how different strains offer different psychoactive effects and medical benefits.

The fact that you can feel a boost of energy and an increase in creativity from, say, a joint of Jack Herer and an overwhelming sense of calm and relaxation from a bowl of Hindu Kush is something of a small miracle.

If you’re not already in tune with what differentiates cannabis strains from one another, this guide will help you choose different strains for different situations and make recommendations to your friends or customers if you’re a cannabis grower.

To help you do that, we’ve put together a quick guide to the sativa, indica, and hybrid marijuana strains. Check it out before your next smoke sesh, and you may start to find a bit more nuance in your cannabis of choice.

Origin of Indica & Sativa Cannabis Strains

The indica and sativa strains were first classified in the 18th century. They were originally described as two totally separate strains of cannabis: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica.

Sativa was used to describe hemp plants that were usually found in Europe and western Eurasia, where it was cultivated for the fiber and seeds found within the plant.

Cannabis indica refers to the very calming varieties found in India, where it was procured for seeds, fiber, and hashish.


Sativa is associated more with the psychological “high” and a sense of euphoric pleasure. The strain has a higher cannabinoid ratio of THC to CBD than indica, which partly explains its uniqueness.

Sativa plant appearance

The sativa plant is taller and skinnier than an Indica plant. It has fan leaves that are also long and thin, making them well-adapted for high humidity environments.

How does sativa make you feel?

The high that a sativa strain provides is referred to as a “head high,” which means that the effects are more psychological than physiological.

A head high will give you clarity of thought, increased focus, and a greater sense of creativity. Sativas are also known to be uplifting and energizing, making them more suitable for day use or socializing.

Sativa medicinal benefits

In terms of medical benefits, sativa strains offer a serotonin boost. Serotonin is your body’s mood regulator, which means that these strains can be useful in combating anxiety and depression. They’re also quite useful for pain relief.


The indica plant brings a calming experience, thanks to the higher presence of the cannabinoid chemical compound CBD than found in the Sativa strain. Yet, indica still has a strong presence of THC in the plant. CBD is associated more with pain relief and physical benefits.

Indica plant appearance

The Indica plant is known for its shorter and more shrub-like appearance, as well as its shorter, broader, and darker leaves. It also offers a distinctly different high from that of a sativa.

How does indica make you feel?

Whereas sativa strains give you a more uplifting buzz, indicas provide a “body high” characterized by a relaxing, calm sense of peace that will keep you comfortably seated for extended periods of time, an effect sometimes referred to as “in da couch.”

What are the medical benefits of indica?

Medical benefits of indica strains include pain relief, appetite stimulation, a decrease in nausea, and anxiety relief. Its calming effects also make it useful as a sleep aid.


The term “hybrid” is really speaking to the combination of the cannabis varieties found within a specific strain. A great example is the strain Chemdawg, a combination of OG Kush (indica) and Sour Diesel (sativa), which come together to create a perfectly even 50/50 hybrid.

In other words, when cannabis breeders cross a sativa with an indica, the resulting cannabis plant will retain certain characteristics of each plant, much like you might have your mother’s eye color but your father’s hair color.

How does hybrid make you feel?

Psychoactive effects and medical benefits of a hybrid strain will vary based on the percentage of sativa and Indica present. If you’re looking for certain effects from your cannabis, then it’s important to read up a bit on your particular hybrid.

Which is better? Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid

Understanding which strain is better depends on why you’re using marijuana in the first place. In general, sativa strains are used recreationally, while indica strains are used to treat physical challenges like pain or insomnia.

Oftentimes, the effect of a given cannabis bud is attributed to the type of strain alone. The main distinguishing factor between indica and sativa is the level of THC to CBD ratio found in the plant.

However, the cannabis plant has a lot more distinguishing features than just THC and CBD. Understanding these precise differences for the particular strain you’re growing or buying will help you make the right choice.


Within the plant, scientists have identified a variety of different chemical cannabinoids which produce positive and negative effects. However, researchers are still exploring different features of the plant, which means we could still make new discoveries about these compounds in the future.

List of Cannabinoids and their primary medical effects:

  • THC - Euphoric “high” state.

  • CBD - Pain and nausea relief.

  • CBN - Reduces seizures and muscle cramps.

  • THCA - Reduces inflammation and arthritis. It may help to treat Parkinson’s and ALS.

  • CBG - Likely reduces anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. (


Terpenes are compounds found in cannabis that produce its aroma or scent. Newer research suggests they also can impact the way different types of marijuana make you feel.

For more information on Terpenes, check out our upcoming blog!

Sharing Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid Benefits

When you’re talking about cannabis, it helps to describe the qualities of different strains in terms of their benefits. After all, customers want to try different types of cannabis for their unique effects, not their scientific terminology.

Offering short bullet-point lists of “feeling” words can help break down the effects into digestible, meaningful descriptions for your customers or friends.

Here are some ways to describe the strains in everyday terms:

  • Sativa: head high, euphoric, energizing, uplifting, creativity-boosting, gives you the giggles

  • Indica: body high, calming, sleepy, soothing, comforting, pain-relieving, gives you the munchies

  • Hybrid: clear-headed, mild, balanced, inspiring, relaxing, gives you a gentle boost

Hopefully, this will help you communicate how the different strains of weed you grow or smoke offer unique experiences.

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