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Ever wondered what cannabis indica and sativa means? Dispensaries often segregate cannabis into two main strains, indica and sativa.  

 More than the difference in looks, consumers have this ready-made perception of each strain’s effect. For example, indica sedates while sativa energises. Surprisingly, this strain-stereotyping is mainly “beliefs’ of the mainstream cannabis culture. 

What is a “cannabis strain”? 

 Cannabis originated from Central Asia. Through time, cannabis would be grown and selectively cross-bred to various continents [1]. Therefore, not all cannabis is the same. Cannabis has different “strains” or varieties.  

 The long history of cannabis hybridisation resulted in three main cannabis strains: indica, sativa, and hybrid [3]. The labels indica and sativa primarily refer to the physical features of each plant type. Contrary to popular belief, indica and sativa don’t have signature predictive effects. A research previously debunked this belief [2]. 

 What are the origins of indica and sativa? 

 In the 18th century, farmers started differentiating cannabis with terms indica and sativa [3]. For cultivators, cannabis sativa came from Europe and western Eurasia, where it was mainly cultivated for its fibre and seeds. Cannabis indica, on the other hand, is largely cultivated in India, where its seeds, fibre, and hashish features are the main commodity [4].  

Now, indica and sativa mostly refer to the physical features of the plant, being:  

1.Indica: A stout, broad-leaf type of cannabis plant that has a short flowering cycle. Great for growing in places with a cold season.

2.Sativa: A tall, narrow-leaf cannabis plant with a longer flowering cycle than indica and is great for cultivation in warm places. [5] 

What’s the difference between cannabis indica and sativa? 

 Indica and sativa’s main difference would mostly stem from their physical differences and not necessarily their therapeutic effects. In fact, the labels “indica” and “sativa” would be more useful for farmers than consumers. This allows farmers to distinguish which ones to use for a certain climate and which ones are best for fibre harvest.  

 There is a slight variation when it comes to the components of the strains, but that doesn’t really yield any significant difference in effects. In an interview with Leafly, Ethan Russo, a neurologist, said, “The way that sativa and indica labels are utilized in commerce is nonsense.” He added that “the clinical effects of the cannabis chemovar have nothing to do with whether the plant is tall and sparse vs. short and bushy, or whether the leaflets are narrow or broad.” [6] 


Common questions regarding indica and sativa 

 Some of the common questions around indica and sativa answered: 

1.  Is there a difference between indica and sativa regarding effects? 

 No [3]. 

2. What is believed to be the therapeutic effects of sativa?  

It’s believed to treat depression, anxiety, and chronic pain [7].

3. What is believed to be the therapeutic effects of indica?  

It’s believed to treat sleeping problems, anxiety, and inflammation [3]. 

4. Will sativa make me high? 

There is no conclusive answer on whether sativa gives the body highs, but it is believed to provide cerebral and body high [8]. 

Indica In Bed, Sativa Sunrise 

A good way to distinguish and remember which strain does what, a term frequently used is ‘Indica in Bed, Sativa Sunrise’.  

 Indica dominant strains tend to lower energy and are better consumed at night due to its relaxing and sedating effects. This is different compared to sativa-based strains as sativa strains are recommended to be taken throughout the day and in the morning. This is due to sativa being more cerebral and uplifting. 

 It’s important to discuss with a medical cannabis health professional whether cannabis is right for you and what type of strain would be beneficial. For more information please click below. 


CanView does not endorse the use of Medicinal Cannabis without lawful prescription. Just like any Medicine, Medicinal Cannabis may have both positive and negative side effects on the user and should only be prescribed to patients by a Health Professional with the authority and expertise to do so. The information provided by CanView is for informational and educational purposes and is of a general nature. If you are interested in accessing Medicinal Cannabis please talk to your doctor and request a referral to a Medicinal Cannabis clinic.  


  1. Bennett, P. 2018. What is cannabis and what is a cannabis strain? Available at: 
  2. Naftulin, J. 2020. There is no difference between the effects of indica and sativa marijuana strains, scientists say. Available at: 
  3. Rahn, B. 2018. Indica vs. Sativa: What’s the Difference Between Cannabis Types? Available at: 
  4. Morgan, M. 2019. Sativa VS. Indica: What’s the difference? Available at: 
  5. Weedmaps. 2020. How to identify indica and sativa plants. Available at: 
  6. Schmader, D. 2017. 6 Takeaways From Dr. Ethan Russo’s ‘Cannabis: An Unconventional Solution to the Opioid Crisis’. Available at: 
  7. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, et al. 2017. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Available at: 
  8. Fiorillo, S. 2019. What’s the Difference Between Indica vs. Sativa? Available at:,physical%20activity%20or%20creative%20endeavor.