Sativa or Indica? Here’s How Each One Can Benefit You

So, you’ve finally gotten your medical recommendation for cannabis.

Now it’s time to pick up your medication from the dispensary and you’re not sure what you’re looking for just yet.

Sativa strain or Indica strain? What about a hybrid? What do the different levels of THC and CBD mean?

If you’re not quite sure which variety of medical cannabis is going to help with your condition then you’re in the right place. Read on and we’ll break down the difference for you, making your medication selection process a snap.

What’s the Difference?

There are many different strains of cannabis which are important medicinally.

Sativa and Indica varieties are quite similar superficially. Both are easily identifiable due to the leaves and overall structure of the plant.

The taxonomy of bud is a bit more complex than most people would have you believe, however. All varieties of psychoactive cannabis are actually Cannabis indica, with Sativa strains being held under the Cannabis indica ssp. indica label and Indica strains being Cannabis indica ssp. afghanica.

Technically, Cannabis sativa refers to the hemp plant which is low in cannabinoids and used industrially rather than medicinally.

Confused yet? So were we, but there are also helpful labels to guide us along the path to making sure we have the right medicinal strain.

The physical differences are relatively minor. Sativa plants tend to be taller with longer, more airy buds while Indica plants are squat and wide with denser buds.

The real difference between them is in their cannabinoid profiles. Even there it’s not as clear as we’d hope, so let’s hop to it!

Benefits of Cannabis Sativa

Sativa strains are most often thought of as energizing and mood-lifting.

For the most part, plants which fall under the Sativa label will be high in THC and low in CBD. That makes them ideal for those who are looking for a mood lift but without the balancing effects of CBD there are often mental side effects as well.

If you’re prone to anxiety, for instance, you’ll want to be careful about going with a strain which is high THC and low CBD.

As a general rule, Sativa strains are considered to be THC-dominant. The actual breakdown of the primary cannabinoids varies from strain to strain, however.

Benefits of Cannabis Indica

Indica strains, on the other hand, are usually associated with closer ratio of THC to CBD levels.

CBD is often considered the primary cannabinoid of interest to those studying the medicinal qualities of cannabis. A full list of all of the conditions it’s used to treat could stretch for days, but in general, you can expect the following from a CBD dominant strain:

  • Relief of pain
  • Lowered anxiety levels
  • Seizure prevention for epileptics
  • Better sleep

So, an Indica strain which is balanced in THC/CBD produces some serious medicinal effects. If the THC level is lower as well, you’ll find that the strain has fewer side effects like dry mouth and becoming intoxicated.

So, Sativa or Indica?

There is a further issue complicating matters.

Most people who use cannabis grew up in a world without the cannabinoid concentrations measured. For much of cannabis’ history, the general rule was that Sativa strains were energetic and Indica were sedating.

We’ve since found out that the THC/CBD concentration of different varieties of cannabis can’t be determined with such a simple label. While there’s a tendency towards higher CBD in Indica strains and higher THC in those which are labeled Sativa… it’s not indicative of the strain’s potential as a whole.

Indeed, the difference is small enough that it can be considered mostly insignificant.

What does this mean for the patient?

It means that Indica and Sativa are labels which aren’t quite as helpful as we’d like to think.

For growers, these labels still a big consideration due to the physical differences in the plant.

For the rest of us the labels we grew up with barely mean anything at all. Don’t worry though, there’s still an easy way to figure it out.

The Secret to Getting the Right Medication

There’s still an easy way to find the right medical marijuana strain for your symptoms. You’ll just have to dig a bit deeper.

The key is to understand the balancing of THC and CBD levels. Both are useful medicinally but relieve different symptoms.

CBD is used medicinally more than THC. It lacks any psychoactivity on it’s own and relieves a much wider variety of symptoms.

High THC levels, on the other hand, can cause more side effects and the compound is intoxicating on its own.

As a medical patient, you’re most likely looking for a strain which will alleviate your symptoms while minimizing intoxication and other side effects. For most people, a CBD-dominant strain is the right way to go medicinally but if you’re dealing primarily with nausea or depression a THC-dominant strain is a good choice.

Some other conditions, like glaucoma, also indicate that a THC-dominant strain of bud is going to be your new best friend.

Terpene content also plays an important role in the final effects of the strain in question. Indeed, they seem to be responsible for the strong divide between energetic strains and sedating ones.

Unfortunately, terpenes aren’t quite as well studied as THC and CBD. While there are strides being made in that area, science simply hasn’t been able to pigeonhole all of them yet.

To make it simple: use a strain which is dominant in the cannabinoid you need medicinally.

To really get great relief you may need to go through a few strains which have a close CBD: THC ratio to discover which is subjectively the most effective for you.

Ready to Get Started?

Sativa or Indica? In the end, these designations are mainly for growers. Modern understanding of cannabis has changed as more and more studies are done in place of the anecdotal evidence of the last century.

The important thing is the compounds contained within. Most people won’t have too much trouble finding the right strain either once they know which CBD:THC ratio they’re shooting for.

If you’re ready to get started with medical cannabis and live in the Reno/Sparks/Carson City area then you’re in luck. You can take a look at our online cannabis menu and start getting your medication today.


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