Cannabis is an iconic plant that’s instantly recognizable and almost commonplace in today’s world. Even if you’ve never taken a toke of the plant in your life, you’re no doubt familiar with the dark green color and the seven (or sometimes nine) sharply tipped leaves. But did you know that the shape, color, and number of these leaves can help you distinguish between indica and sativa strains? In this article, we’ll be explaining some of the nuances between the two most popular strains, as well as how both got their names. But before we dive into that, it’s important that you understand what cannabis is and how it’s not just another name for weed. Grab your magnifying glass and sleuthing cap, and get ready to become the world’s greatest cannabis detective!
Knowing the Difference Between Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana
The terminology surrounding cannabis is unfortunately a bit muddled and can get quickly overwhelming. Many of the terms are used interchangeably amongst consumers and window shoppers alike, which is often where the confusion begins. You’ve probably thought that cannabis was simply another word for weed, and if you have, you’re partially correct! Cannabis is the mother plant to both marijuana and hemp.The key difference lies in the total THC content. If cannabis contains 0.3% or less THC, it is classified as hemp. Cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC is classified as marijuana. While the 2018 Farm Bill enforces the THC limit, the true origins of this odd number can be read about in our article entitled The Mystery Behind Why 0.3% Exists As The Federally Legal Limit.
What’s In A Strain? The Difference Between Sativa & Indica CBD
Hemp’s most popular cannabinoid is one you’re probably already familiar with: cannabidiol (or CBD for short). The non-psychoactive compound has a variety of known uses: mood balancer, energy booster, sleep aid, seizure reduction, and countless others. CBD is praised for its inability to get the user high while still delivering a multitude of mental and physical benefits.
Cannabis, specifically marijuana, is known for its three strains: sativa, indica, and hybrid. These three strains are also found in CBD flowers, allowing you to pick and choose the general effects you’re looking to experience. Cannabis enthusiasts will generally describe indica as having sedating effects that make you feel relaxed and drowsy, sativa as delivering energetic and more creative/uplifted effects, and hybrid as a combination of both. The truth is that the actual effects are dependent on the strain’s genetic makeup. The cannabinoid consumed and the terpene/flavonoid profile will have a profound impact on the effects you’ll experience.
Origins of Each Strain’s Name
It’s always fascinating to understand the origins of a name so we can use that knowledge in future learning. Which leads to the question…where did we get the names “sativa” and “indica”? You might be surprised to learn that these terms were coined over 200 years ago, way back in the 18th century, when both hemp and marijuana were first discovered.
- Sativa plants had already been discovered in Europe and Western Eurasia, but it was a welcome surprise to learn that these plants were also thriving in the “New World.” Roughly translated as meaning “cultivated,” sativa was used to refer specifically to hemp plants grown for their fiber and seeds.
- Indica plants were more popular in both the south and eastern regions of Asia, but eventually made their way into Europe. As a direct transport item from India, the plants were dubbed “indica.” While mainly used for their seeds and fiber, indica plants were also used to produce hashish or “hash.” We’ll be taking a closer look at what hash is and potential uses for it, but for this article, hash was where the world first learned about both the intoxicating and therapeutic effects of consuming indica plants.
Understanding The Terminology of Today’s Strains
Now that the brief history lesson is over, it makes sense why the scientific names “sativa” and “indica” exist in regards to cannabis. Languages are constantly evolving, meaning that what used to mean one thing originally may not be accurate or appropriate in today’s world. This holds true for both indica and sativa strains. For example, Cannabis Sativa was originally used to refer to non-intoxicating cannabis while Cannabis Indica would refer to the intoxicating cannabis varieties. In today’s world, both indica and sativa are used in regards to cannabis strains and are used to differentiate the effects you’re likely to experience while high. Let’s take a look at both indica and sativa strains and see the differences between the leaves, the definitions, and their primary uses.
Sativa (Both Hemp & Marijuana)
Sativa hemp plants will have some distinguishing physical features, such as thin leaves and will grow tall (think of a gangly teenager). As such, these features have earned Hemp Sativa the name Narrow-Leaf Hemp (NLH for short) while Cannabis Sativa is referred to as Narrow-Leaf Drug (NLD for short). The effects of consuming sativa strains are generally ideal for creativity, energy, and focus. You might consider consuming sativa strains during the day to help with motivation, solving a difficult problem, or even socializing! These effects are what leads to the phrase “best suited for daytime use,” as you may not want a burst of energy and creativity while preparing for bed. If you prefer smoking sativa, the nugs of sativa plants much resemble the plant: long and thin. You may notice a wispy/fluffy appearance and the overall weight is generally lighter than indica buds.
Indica (Both Hemp & Marijuana)
Indica hemp plants, in comparison, tend to have much wider leaves and are short and stocky in appearance (think of a burly weightlifter). Hemp Indica plants are categorized as Broad-Leaf Hemp (BLH for short) while Cannabis Indica is called Broad-Leaf Drug (BLD for short). Many cannabis enthusiasts refer to indica as having “in-da-couch” effects that make them feel drowsy, relaxed, and comfortable with no movement (i.e., couch-lock). As such, most consumers prefer to use indica strains at nighttime to help feel ready for sleep and to unwind after a long day. For those who prefer to grind and smoke indica nugs, you’ll likely notice they’re quite dense and bulbous, usually tightly wound but short in stature. While it may look smaller than sativa nugs, the dense formation causes them to weigh slightly more.
Hybrid (Both Hemp & Marijuana)
As the name suggests, hybrid strains are a combination of both sativa and indica plant strains. Hybrid strains have been cross-bred to bring out the desired characteristics of both and can even be dominant to either indica or hybrid. You’ll need to check which strain is more dominant on the product packaging or by consulting the brand directly. Indica-dominant hybrids will lean more towards relaxation and sedation, while sativa-dominant strains may be more likely to deliver uplifting, energetic, and creative emotions. These strains are best used by those looking to help quell emotional or mental anguish and physical discomfort.
The choice of which strain to select can be somewhat confusing, but don’t base your decision strictly on the words “sativa,” “indica,” or “hybrid.” Rather, try to steer towards what the strain can give you and don’t limit yourself to the phrase “daytime” or “nighttime” use. Your schedule may vary wildly than the traditional 9-5, particularly for late risers and those who work overnight shifts. If you’re starting at a plant or nug and aren’t quite sure which is which, pay close attention to the physical aspects of the plant. Thin and tall? Probably a sativa. Short and stocky? Might just be an indica! If you’re lucky enough to live in a state that has walk-in dispensaries or if you’re limited to the description of an online retailer, try to find the predicted effects to see if those are what you’re looking for. Better yet, look up the CoA’s (Certificate of Analysis) to help you better understand the composition of the plant used in a specific product.
Here at ERTH Wellness, we embrace all strains in our exquisite collection of pre-rolls. Our Blue Dream and Clementine options are both Hybrids, our Granddaddy Purple and Watermelon options are both Indica, and our Pineapple Express is a Sativa. Check out our latest Cherry Blossom option, an Award Winning “Best CBD Flower” pre-roll flavor that we’re excited to present to you for the first time ever! Smokeables not your thing? Check out our collection of gummies, CBD vape juice, softgels, topicals, and tinctures. If you’re still a bit skeptical, we encourage you to check out our Try Before You Buy program to see if what you see on the page is what you’re looking for in your everyday life. We’re confident you’ll find something that satisfies your every CBD need in just about every flavor imaginable! All of our products have undergone rigorous testing by third-party independent labs, the results of which are listed directly in the product description as well as on the product packaging. If you’re not sure which product is right for you, feel free to reach out to us directly! Our team of dedicated cannabis experts look forward to helping you navigate through the wild and wonderful world of hemp. Check back soon for our next article, where we’ll be discussing what hashish (also called “hash”) is and how it’s used today. We look forward to seeing you there!