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  • Professor Sprout

What is the Difference Between Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid Marijuana Strains?

Cannabis is typically broken down into three distinct varieties; Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid.  There are, in actual fact, a few other types such as ruderalis, auto-flowering, and landrace/heirloom but for simplicity sake, we’ll leave those out for now.

The following description will give you a general idea of the characteristics of these three types of Cannabis, what their unique traits consist of, and how each type can help you as a medical marijuana patient.

Cannabis Indica

Indica varieties are among the most common that you’ll encounter in a medical marijuana dispensary.  These plants have a much faster life cycle than their sativa counterparts, completing their blooming cycle in around 8 weeks.  Indica plants have very fat, wide fingered leaves that grow profusely from the main and side-stems, often overlapping each other and creating a very stout bush.

Skystone: A Pure Indica Selection From Lucky 13 Seeds

These plants are adapted to a cooler, more arid climate such as the dry mountainous regions of Afghanistan.  The buds tend to be very dense and large, and sometimes quite colourful, all which lend to something called ‘bag appeal’ or how good the buds look in a plastic baggie.  In addition to speedy flowering time, this enhanced bag appeal is another reason why indica and indica-dominant cannabis strains line dispensary shelves.

With regard to effect, indica varieties tend to have much higher ratio of CBD to THC, making them a better choice for patients who are sensitive to the psychoactive effects of marijuana and prone to anxiety.  CBD has a very calming and sedating effect, and when present in high enough levels will help mediate the more stimulating and heady aspects of THC.  CBD is not psychoactive and does not make you high.

Indicas tend to provide excellent appetite stimulation, nausea suppression, and muscle relaxation.  The term ‘couch-lock’ describes the feeling one can get with indicas that makes your muscles so relaxed you can feel as if you are glued or locked to your seat.  Indica marijuana strains are also some of the most sedative; even in small doses.  They are also my first recommendation if you are looking for something to help you sleep.

The downside with indica cannabis strains is that sometimes they can be too sedating.  While a great option for dealing with symptoms in the evening once your day is done, imbibing too much during a work day can make it difficult to get things done.  Indicas are also very prone to mold and mildew, so if humidity levels aren’t kept in check in your garden or grow room, you could end up losing an entire harvest to pathogens.  Not a problem if you aren’t growing your own, but something to be aware of when shopping around for the best quality cannabis.  Always make sure it is tested by a reputable lab to be mold and pathogen free.

Cannabis Sativa

The popular strains of the 60’s and 70’s were almost all pure sativa varieties.  Panama Red, Purple Haze, Thai, Columbian Gold; these classic cannabis legends have all but disappeared with the advent of indoor cannabis cultivation and the much faster turnaround time that indica crops provide.

African Sativa: A Super-Long Flowering Pure Sativa Strain

Sativa strains grow long, slow, and huge.  Many will take more than 21 weeks to complete their flowering cycle.  They can become mammoth in size, with long spindly branches growing out in every direction.  They also need intense sunlight to reach their full potential and lots of root space.  Commercial growers want something that grows fast, flowers in less than 9 weeks, and doesn’t grow too large and unwieldy and require excess power to properly ripen.  Sativas just don’t make the cut when you’re trying to run a profitable medical marijuana garden, so for these reasons, you’re unlikely to encounter pure sativa varieties on your next trip to the dispensary.

However, if you are lucky enough to live in the tropical areas of the world with the long growing seasons and bright sunlight, you may be able to get your hands on some good ol’ outdoor sativa.  If you manage to find one of the rare specimens of outdoor sativa that is also sensimilla (seedless) and grown organically, do NOT pass it up, and please send me some!

Sativas produce different ratios of the various active compounds found in cannabis plants.  Their exposure to intense ultraviolet light stimulates production of some of the more exotic cannabinoids like THCa and THCv which may explain some of the unique effects of Sativas.

Whereas indicas are typically sedating and depressant in effect, sativas are often stimulating and mood-elevating.  You are more likely to experience changes in sensory perception with a strong sativa; such as enhanced sense of touch, taste, sound, and even vision.  Food tastes amazing, music sounds fantastic, and that big fluffy robe never felt so comfy.  A pure sativa tends to be very motivating and can make you want to get outside and enjoy nature, exercise, or even just clean the house.  However, because of the stimulating effect, people that are prone to anxiety and panic attacks should use caution when medicating with a pure sativa.

While a strong sativa doesn’t have the same muscle relaxing effect as an indica, many people report that sativas are very effective at helping the mind tune-out pain and allowing you to focus on pleasant thoughts and activities.  They also seem to have very potent anti-inflammatory properties which makes them great candidates for pain control when that pain is due to inflammation.

So in a nutshell, try a sativa if you want pain control and mood elevation while still remaining active and functional.  And if you’re looking for something to relax your body and mind after a long day, and need some help with sleep, appetite, or muscle pain;  you may be better served by trying an indica.  But what if you want the best of both worlds?

Cannabis Hybrids

Chocolate Girl Guide Cookies #2 From Lucky 13 Contains Both Indica and Sativa Genetics

Hybrids are a cross between an indica and sativa, resulting in a plant that is neither too sedating, nor too stimulating.  Good at everything, but masters of nothing; hybrids are a great option if you find the extremes of the other two varieties to be undesirable for your personal situation.  Hybrids tend to grow more rapidly due to something called ‘hybrid vigor’ and are an excellent choice for growers who aren’t lucky enough to possess a green thumb.

Find What Best Suits You

It is also very important to remember that these are just guidelines offered from collecting anecdotal feedback from other medical marijuana patients like myself.  Everyone has a unique biochemistry that will react in a slightly different way to the active compounds found in the cannabis plant.  I have seen the exact same weed make one person want to sleep, and the other person want to dance.  Therefore it is always best to sample multiple strains from a trusted source to find a variety that works best for your personal situation.

-Professor Sprout

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