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Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid: Get to Know Your Strains

Body and Mind
Body and Mind October 17, 2022

It’s your first time at a dispensary. Or maybe you’re shopping online for delivery. You scan the menu and wonder what kind of cannabis to buy. So many choices. It’s confusing. Almost overwhelming. Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid? You have questions. A lot of them. Where to start? What do those words even mean? 

The truth is that those words don’t mean what they used to. In fact, if you’re asking about Indica or Sativa, you might be asking the wrong questions. More confused than ever? Relax. We’ve been there. We know how you feel. So just sit back in that comfy chair, pick up what we’re putting down, and let us unravel this Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid thing.

How Have Indica, Sativa and Hybrids Evolved? 

Cannabis is evolving at light speed. Indica and Sativa were once landrace cultivars indigenous to their own geographical regions. While they existed unchanged for millennia, cannabis breeders have taken the reins of evolution to create designer weed.

What is Designer Weed? 

In the ongoing quest for that one perfect strain, cannabis landraces have been crossbred with thousands of other strains by thousands of breeders countless times to create the next Apple Fritter, OG Kush, ChemDog, or Jack Herer. 

In the modern era of designer weed, genetically pure Sativas or Indicas are like White Rhinos — an endangered species close to extinction. As a result, almost every cultivar on the dispensary menu is a Hybrid by design. Some lean Indica, some lean Sativa, and some are balanced Hybrids.

Then why does everyone still use the words Indica and Sativa?

Because they’re ingrained in the culture. But more importantly, those classifications are a shorthand that describes what effects a cultivar may have and what effects someone is looking for. They are a kind of slang that enables us to communicate about cannabis. So don’t give up on them just yet!

What are Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Chemovars?

Cannabis is an extraordinarily complex plant. What actually creates the effects of cannabis are the different cannabinoid and terpene profiles in a given cultivar. There are over 100 different cannabinoids and 400 different terpenes.

While most agree that these cannabinoids and cannabis terpenes influence each other in the “entourage effect,” most experienced cannabis users can name only a handful of cannabinoids or terpenes. Moreover, no one knows precisely how they work together and interact with the human endocannabinoid system. Many of them have not even been researched yet. As a practical matter, that makes it a real challenge to choose a cannabis strain based on its cannabinoid and terpene profile.

Nevertheless, there’s a growing movement in the cannabis industry to transition to “chemovar” to distinguish cannabis cultivars by their individual cannabinoid and terpene content. It’s absolutely the right idea, and we will get there eventually. But not today. Today is about learning how to find the right cannabis strains for you right now.

Why do Indica, Sativa, And Hybrid Still Matter?

The words “Sativa,” “Indica,” and “Hybrid” still matter because they are the most commonly used terms to describe the effects of different cannabis strains. So until we have a more sophisticated way to discuss cannabis cultivars, those are the words we must work with.

Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid are like the three primary colors. They can be mixed in different ratios to create an infinite number of effects. You may have noticed that Indica and Sativa are often used to describe the physical appearance of a cannabis plant. That’s because Indica plants are short and bushy, while Sativa plants are tall and thin. Indica leaves are also wider than Sativa leaves.

But the effects of a cannabis strain are not determined by its physical appearance. Instead, the effects of a cannabis strain are determined by its chemical profile — specifically, the ratio of THC to CBD and the presence or absence of other cannabinoids and terpenes.

It’s also important to understand that the effects of a cannabis strain can vary depending on the individual. So while one person may find a particular Indica strain relaxing, another may find that same Indica strain to be energizing. The only way to know for sure is to try it for yourself! So to give you more context, we’ll dive deeper into Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid.

What is Sativa?

Sativa is one of the two major classifications of cannabis strains, Indica being the other. “Sativa” comes from the Latin word for “cultivated.” Sativa plants are tall, thin plants with long, narrow leaves and usually have more THC, and less CBD. Cannabis Sativa was originally native to South and Central America, Africa, and Southeast Asia’s equatorial regions. Because they include marijuana and hemp cultivars, cannabis Sativas have traditionally been utilized in industry, medicine, and nutrition.

Sativa Effects

The effects of Sativa are mostly cerebral, meaning they affect your head or mind. They are known for being uplifting, energizing, and promoting creativity. If you’re looking for a strain to help you focus on a project or get through your day without feeling bogged down, then a Sativa is probably the right choice.

Characteristics of Popular Sativa Strains

Designer weed is never one size fits all. The Sativa Hybrids that make it to the big dance on the dispensary shelf are the blue-ribbon champions of selective cannabis breeding. They are prized because they are different: distinct in appearance, structure, flavor, and aroma. For this reason, the best way to characterize Sativa Hybrids is by breaking down a few of the most popular Sativa Hybrids.

Jack Herer

Jack Herer is a true old-school Sativa Hybrid and one of a handful of cultivars enshrined in cannabis legend. Known simply as “Jack,” it is almost as legendary as the man they named it after, Jack Herer, renowned cannabis activist and author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes.

Origins

Sensi Seeds created Jack by crossing a Haze Hybrid with a Northern Lights #5 and Shiva Skunk cross. While renowned as a Sativa, Jack is actually a 55% Sativa “leaning” Hybrid.

Effects

Cerebral and elevated, Jack Herer is described as a clear-headed high, leaving users feeling creative and blissful.

Cannabinoid Profile

THC-dominant (18% THC – Trace CBD – 1%CGB)

Primary Terpenes

Terpinolene, caryophyllene, and pinene.

Flavor

Woody and piney with spicy herbs.

Super Silver Haze

Super Silver Haze (“SSH”) is a Sativa-dominant Hybrid from Amsterdam’s Green House Seed Company and the breeders Shantibaba, Mr. Nice, and Neville Schoenmaker. It was a first-prize winner at the High Times Cannabis Cup in 1997, 1998, and 1999. 

Origins

Super Silver Haze combines Skunk#1 (25%), Northern Lights #5 (25%), and Haze (50%).

Effects

Described as an energetic and long-lasting high, it’s a fantastic morning smoke. The long-lasting body high and uplifting effects make you glide through high-stress levels. 

Cannabinoid Profile

THC-dominant (20% THC – Trace CBD – 1% CBG)

Primary Terpenes

Myrcene and beta-caryophyllene

Flavor:

Spicy and herbal with citrus and skunk. 

Sour Diesel

East Coast in the house! Legend has it that Sour Diesel originated with a breeder called “Weasel” in Staten Island, NY.

Origins

Sour D is a cross of Chemdawg and Super Skunk and is about as close to true Sativa as you can get at 90%.

Effects

Sour Diesel is known to be fast-acting and energizing. Cerebral and dreamy users report feeling social.

Cannabinoid Profile

THC-dominant (19% THC – Trace CBD)

Primary Terpenes

Limonene, beta-myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, and pinene.

Flavor

Diesel, pungent, and skunky.

What is Indica?

Cannabis Sativa was the only recognized cannabis strain for a long stretch of human history. Then, in the 18th century, the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck discovered cannabis plants in India that were short, squat, and bushy, with broad leaves. He recognized the stark differences and named this plant Cannabis Indica. The cannabis Indica landrace is indigenous to India, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tibet. From there, Indica plants found their way to Europe and eventually to America.

Cannabis Indica plants are shorter, denser, and have wider leaves than their Sativa counterparts. They also have a shorter flowering cycle, which makes them better suited for indoor cultivation. In addition, Indica strains tend to have higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC.

The effects of Indica are primarily physical, meaning they are relaxing and tend to produce a “body high.” Indica strains often treat pain, muscle spasms, anxiety, and insomnia.

Characteristics of Popular Indica Strains

Just as with Sativa strains, the same goes for Indica Hybrid strains — they are never one size fits all. Only the best cultivars make it to your dispensary because they offer something unique. Let’s look closely at some Indica strains and see what differentiates them.

Northern Lights #5

Despite its status as one of the most prominent cultivars in cannabis history, its story remains shrouded in secrecy as it was originally bred in the prohibition’s dark ages when breeders kept their illegal craft a secret.

Of course, there’s always a legend, and this legend has it that Northern Lights began with 11 Indica sprouts on an island near Seattle, Washington. The genetics crossed to create Northern lights came from indigenous Afghani landrace strains prized for their resilience, resin, and fast flowering time. All 11 sprouts were given a number, and #5 won out as the prized phenotype. 

From there, Northern Lights migrated to Holland, where Neville Schoenmaker strikes again to spread it far and wide with one of the first cannabis seed distribution companies — The Seed Bank of Holland. This is how Northern Lights became one of the most crossed strains in history. As a result, its genetics can be found in many top strains on the top shelf today.

Origins

The story is that Northern Lights is an Afghani landrace crossed with a Thai Sativa. However, Northern Lights is 95% Indica and 5% Sativa, about as close to pure Indica as it gets today. So the Sativa parent genetic played a very minor role in the #5 phenotype. 

Effects

Northern Lights may help relieve stress, depression, insomnia, and pain. It’s a relaxing high, but watch out for those munchies. Northern Lights can give you an appetite!

Cannabinoid Profile

THC-dominant (18%THC – Trace CBD – 1% CBG)

Primary Terpenes

Myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, and pinene.

Flavor

Herbal, peppery, and citrusy.

Girl Scout Cookies

Girl Scout Cookies (“GSC”) is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. This Cannabis Cup winner was created by the grower Jai and the famous entrepreneur/rapper Berner. The strain became so legendary that they named their whole company after it: Cookies.

Effects

Euphoria, stress release, relaxation, and elevated mood. It may help with sleep as the effect starts to taper.

Cannabinoid Profile

THC-dominant (20%THC – 1%CBD – 1% CBG)

Primary Terpenes

Caryophyllene, limonene, and linalool. 

Flavor

Earthy, with a spicy blend of floral and citrus flavors and a subtle mint aftertaste.

Grand Daddy Purple

The daddy of Granddaddy Purple (“GDP”) is Ken Estes. Paralyzed and wheelchair-bound after a serious motorcycle accident in the 70s, Estes became a master grower, breeder, and medical marijuana patient and advocate. On a quest to find an alternative to narcotic pain pills, Estes created GDP.

Origins

According to Estes, he was gifted the original purple cannabis from Native Americans in Northern California. This purp was the progeny of a Skunk #1 backcross (crossing a strain with itself or one of its parents). But according to online strain databases like Weedmaps and Leafly, the GDB we blaze today is a cross of Purple Urkle and Big Bud. 

As with Northern Lights #5, the origins of strains that go back to the dark ages of prohibition were such guarded secrets that no one but the breeder knows for sure.

Effects

Euphoric, relaxed, couch-locked, and sleepy. It may help with pain, stress, and muscle spasms.

Cannabinoid Profile

THC-dominant (17%)

Primary Terpenes

Myrcene, caryophyllene, and pinene.

Flavor

Grape, berries, and violet.

What are Hybrid Cannabis Strains?

Trick question. Did we get you, or have you been paying attention? The answer is that just about every cannabis strain, on every shelf, in every store, and from every farm is a Hybrid strain. Some lean Indica, some lean Sativa, and some are balanced, but in the end, they’re Hybrids.

Scientifically speaking, a Hybrid is the offspring of two genetically different cannabis flower parents. In cannabis, that can be Indica and sativa, Indica and ruderalis (the non-psychoactive cannabis species used to create autoflowering strains), or even Sativa and ruderalis. And within each parent plant category are endless subtypes that can be mixed and matched to create an infinite variety of Hybrid strains.

Characteristics of Popular Hybrid Strains

The characteristics are virtually endless. The only limitation is the collective imagination of breeders, all striving to write the next chapter in cannabis legend. However, some of the most popular Hybrid strains have become legendary in their own right and have been around for long enough to develop a cult following, such as one of the greatest cannabis strains of all: OG Kush. 

OG Kush

This legend is hard to crack. There are different stories, speculation, and theories. 

It’s widely claimed that a Florida grower named Bubba bred a famous strain called “Kushberries” for one of his pals. The term stuck and was subsequently abbreviated to “Kush.” Ironically, he had no clue that Kushberries shared lineage with cannabis grown in the Hindu Kush.

The legend grows when Bubba moves to Cali and meets Josh D, another grower. Then they link with Chris, a mutual friend, and start growing in Hollywood. The collective uses strains created by Bubba in Florida and eventually creates “OG Kush.”

But it’s not quite that simple…

Alternate theories about OG Kush

  • OG Kush is a cross between Hindu Kush and Chemdawg.
  • In Norcal legend, OG Kush came from Kush seeds from Afghanistan.
  • In Socal, OG Kush is a Hybrid of Chemdawg, Lemon Thai and Hindu Kush.

The stories go on and on. OG stands for Original Gangster. OG stands for Ocean Grown. Regardless of where it came from, OG Kush spread like California wildfire in Santa Ana winds, spawning Larry OG, Raskal OG, Tahoe OG, San Fernando Valley OG, Hells Angel OG, and countless others. The legend of OG Kush is forever enshrined as one of the most influential strains in history.

Origins

You get the gist — no one truly knows.

Effects

Euphoric, stress relief, relaxation, sleep, social, and you get the munchies. Yum.

Cannabinoid Profile

THC-dominant (23%)

Primary Terpenes

Beta-myrcene and beta-caryophyllene 

Flavor

Lemon. Pine.

Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid: How Do I Pick?

Just think of Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid as slang for the effects you’re looking for. Budtenders everywhere are trained to think in these terms. Brands market cannabis using these terms. We communicate about cannabis with this common language, regardless of whether it’s scientifically correct. Nonetheless, we have a few tips.

  • If you’re a first-time cannabis user, stick with Indica or Indica dominant strains. They tend to be more gentle and relaxing.
  • To stay active and productive, go for Sativa or Sativa dominant strains.
  • And if you can’t decide, Hybrid is the way to go.
  • Pro tip: The nose knows. Always give the flower a whiff before you buy. If your nose likes it, there’s a good chance the rest of you will. 

However, in the end, finding the right strain is almost always a journey of trial and error with different strains. But it’s a beautiful journey. Take your time. Enjoy every step. And don’t forget to ask your budtender for help. They love talking about cannabis as much as you do.

Choose Your Strain with Help from Body and Mind Dispensary

At Body and Mind, our knowledgeable staff is passionate about cannabis and committed to helping you find the perfect strain for your needs. Stop by today to learn more about Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid strains, or browse our online menu before your next visit!

Body and Mind
Body and Mind October 17, 2022

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