Cannabis Science

Indica vs Sativa

indica vs sativa differences

Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are two species of cannabis. They have similarities and distinct differences. Experts have not been able to agree on the classification of these two plants. On the other hand, stoners use both plants and say they’ve experienced different effects. Let’s get into what both sides are saying in the Indica vs Sativa debate.

Photo: Unsplash/Unsplash (mashup)

Differences Between Indica and Sativa

There are some differences between Indica and Sativa including where they originate from, the physical appearance of the plant, and much more.

Indica vs Sativa Origin and Climate

According to Medical News Today, Cannabis indica originated from the Middle East (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tibet.) Healthline also noted that Indica is also native to Turkey and India. Healthline says, “The plants have adapted to the often harsh, dry, and turbulent climate of the Hindu Kush mountains.”

On the other hand, Cannabis sativa is from Southeast Asia as well as Central and South America. Healthline also mentioned that it grows the best in hot dry places with a lot of sunlight such as “Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia, and portions of Western Asia.”

Sativa vs Indica Leaves


sativa vs indica leaves

Sativa vs Indica Plant (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Cannabis indica is typically a short and stocky plant often described as bushy. The leaves are broad, dark green, and chunky. Indica plants tend to produce more buds than Sativa and grow faster as well.

Cannabis sativa, on the other hand, is typically tall and can grow up to 12 feet. Sativa plants are skinny and have light green leaves that resemble fingers. According to Healthline, Sativa strains typically take longer to mature in comparison to other cannabis plants.

Indica vs Sativa Cannabinoids

Healthline says that “Indica strains often have higher levels of CBD, but the THC content isn’t necessarily less.” Medical News Today says the CBD to THC ratio for Indica strains is 1:1.

On the other hand, Sativa strains tend to have lower amounts of CBD and higher amounts of THC.

Indica vs Sativa Effects and High

Stoners believe Indica and Sativa give their users different effects. For example, if you are looking for an energizing feeling without anxiety, Sativa is recommended. Sativa gives its users a “mind high” which results in a creative or productive feeling according to Healthline. Sativa is also said to help with depression, headaches, nausea, and appetite loss.

On the other hand, Indica is recommended for relaxation and to treat nausea, pain, and lack of appetite. Medical News Today describes the high as relaxing and flat.

The Problem With The Classification

Many experts believe that the effects ascribed to Indica and Sativa are simply not true. As a matter of fact, one study says that Indica and Sativa shouldn’t even be seen as different species.

According to an interview done with Ethan Russo in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, you can’t predict the effects of the plants. Dr. Russo says, “One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given Cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology.”

Dr. Russo even says that the calming effects of Indica strains aren’t due to their CBD content. He says, “The sedation of the so-called Indica strains is falsely attributed to CBD content when, in fact, CBD is stimulating in low and moderate doses!”

Dr. Russo is not the only one who raises a problem with this classification. Amos Elberg, head of data science at Confident Cannabis was quoted in Healthline saying the Indica and Sativa labels are meaningless. He said, “We see samples of all cannabis products tested through our partner labs, and when we look at all the data, particularly of the chemical makeup of flower, we see no identifiable characteristics that are consistent with Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid,”

In other words, some plants classified as Sativa may give you a more mellow feeling while an Indica plant may make you feel energized. It’s best to just look at the cannabinoid profile if you’re looking for particular effects instead of the species name.


While many stoners have claimed to experience different feelings with Indica vs Sativa, some experts aren’t convinced. Some of the claims are that you can’t know the cannabinoid profile by just looking at a plant. In addition to that, people are experiencing effects not typically expected of the particular strain. It’s probably a good idea to check out the cannabinoid profile if you are looking for a certain effect.

Sativa vs Indica Chart Infographic

Sativa vs Indica chart
Photo: Stoners Rotation

About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].