What is The Difference Between Indica & Sativa When Using Marijuana

February 24, 2023 Erick

Medical Marijuana Doctor

Medical marijuana, or the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, has potential therapeutic benefits for various health conditions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it can effectively treat chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis.
Medline Plus highlights that medical marijuana can treat chronic health conditions like cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, seizures, epilepsy, severe nausea, and wasting syndrome (severe weakness due to excessive weight loss). In addition, Psychiatric Times shows that patients use medical cannabis to reduce symptoms of:


• Anxiety and depression
• Bipolar disorder
• Opiate dependence
• Insomnia
• Schizophrenia


Indica and sativa are two primary cannabis strains. Most people ask: “which marijuana strain should I use?” Bear in mind that both strains have different physical characteristics, effects, and potential medical uses. Today’s article will differentiate between indica and sativa to help you make an informed decision.


Indica Vs. Sativa: Side-by-Side Comparison

Understanding the difference between Indica and Sativa strains is crucial because it can help medical marijuana users choose the most appropriate strain for their needs. Different strains have different effects, and choosing the right strain can help to achieve optimal therapeutic benefits and avoid potential adverse effects.


Indica and Sativa strains differ primarily in their physical characteristics and the effects they produce. Indica strains are typically shorter and bushier, while Sativa strains are taller and more slender. Research has shown that Indica strains have more sedative effects, while Sativa strains are more energizing and uplifting.


Physical Characteristics
A 2019 study on Frontiers highlights that indica plants are shorter and bushier with broader leaves and denser buds, while Sativa plants are taller and more slender with thinner leaves and long buds. Environmental conditions in which they were traditionally grown influenced these differences.
According to the American Botanical Council, indica strains originated in the mountainous regions of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, where they evolved to withstand harsh conditions. On the other hand, Sativa strains originated in the tropical areas of Mexico, Colombia, and Southeast Asia, where they grew taller to compete for sunlight.


Chemical Composition
According to a study published by Science Direct, indica and sativa strains have different chemical compositions. Indica strains typically have higher cannabidiol (CBD) and lower tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels. In comparison, Sativa strains usually have higher levels of THC and lower levels of CBD.


The chemical composition of cannabis can vary depending on several factors, including the strain, growing conditions, and extraction method. The cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system to produce various physiological effects.


The ratio of THC to CBD plays a significant role in determining the effects of cannabis, and the different proportions in Indica and Sativa strains can contribute to their distinct effects.
However, the chemical composition of cannabis is highly complex and can also include other compounds, such as terpenes and flavonoids, that may also play a role in its effects. Common terpenes and flavonoids found in indica and sativa strains are:


Compound Type Indica Sativa
Myrcene Terpene Calming, Sedative Energizing, Uplifting
Limonene Terpene Anti-anxiety, Mood-boosting Anti-inflammatory, Digestive aid
Beta-Caryophyllene Terpene Pain-relieving, Anti-inflammatory Stress-reducing, Anti-anxiety
Alpha-Pinene Terpene Memory-enhancing, Anti-inflammatory Energy-boosting, Anti-anxiety
Beta-Pinene Terpene Alertness, Focus Anti-inflammatory, Pain-relieving
Cannflavin A Flavonoid Anti-inflammatory, Pain-relieving Neuroprotective, Anti-anxiety
Apigenin Flavonoid Anti-anxiety, Anti-inflammatory Anti-cancer, Anti-depressant
Kaempferol Flavonoid Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant Anti-cancer, Cardiovascular benefits
Orientin Flavonoid Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory Neuroprotective, Anti-anxiety.


Interactions with Receptors
So, how do indica and sativa strains interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body? Your body’s endocannabinoid system facilitates the effects of both strains. The system includes two primary receptors: CB1 and CB2.


According to PubMed Central (PMC), CB1 receptors are primarily in the brain and nervous system, while CB2 receptors are in the immune system and other peripheral tissues. THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, interacts with CB1 receptors in the brain and nervous system, producing its characteristic psychoactive effects.


Conversely, CBD has a low affinity for CB1 receptors but can interact with other receptors in the endocannabinoid system, such as CB2 and the vanilloid receptor. The different ratios of THC to CBD in Indica and Sativa strains can impact how they interact with these receptors, affecting their potential therapeutic effects.


The endocannabinoid system is complex, and researchers still study the potential therapeutic effects of cannabis. More research is needed to fully understand how different strains of cannabis interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body and how this impacts their healing mechanisms at the cellular level.


Health Benefits and Side Effects
A study published by the British Journal of Pharmacology states that indica strains have properties for relaxing, soothing, and sedative effects and tend to have higher levels of the cannabinoid CBD.
So this makes them a popular choice for individuals seeking pain relief, relaxation, and help with insomnia. In a study of medical cannabis users, 78% reported using indica strains for pain relief, while 77% reported using them for sleep.


Another study shows that indica strains benefit individuals with anxiety, as they can reduce anxiety-related behaviors in mice. However, indica strains can also have side effects like lethargy and lack of motivation. So, indica is not ideal for daytime use.


On the other hand, Sativa strains are known for their energizing, uplifting effects and tend to have higher levels of the cannabinoid THC. According to All Natural MD, Florida, sativa is popular for individuals seeking to enhance mood, creativity, and focus.


Most people use sativa strains to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It also helps reduce fatigue and burnout. However, sativa strains can also have some side effects. For instance, they may cause overstimulation or racing thoughts in some individuals, making them unsuitable for those with anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


These effects can vary widely depending on the individual and the specific strain of cannabis used. We recommend consulting with our qualified healthcare professional before using cannabis for medical purposes. The following table summarizes the popular strains of cannabis indica and sativa.


Strain Type
Blue Dream Sativa
Northern Lights Indica
Sour Diesel Sativa
OG Kush Indica
Green Crack Sativa
Purple Kush Indica
Jack Herer Sativa
Granddaddy Purple Indica
Durban Poison Sativa
Bubba Kush Indica
Maui Wowie Sativa


How to Use Indica Vs. Sativa Strains?
When using indica and sativa strains, you can choose from various methods depending on your individual preferences and medical needs. If you prefer indica strains, you can smoke the dried flowers in a pipe, bong, or joint.


You can try a healthier alternative by vaporizing it to release the active compounds in a vapor form. Another option is to consume indica strains as edibles, such as gummies, chocolates, or baked goods.

On the other hand, if you prefer sativa strains, you can smoke or vaporize them using the same methods as indica strains. You can also try sativa strains in the form of tinctures, which are liquid extracts that you take sublingually, or as topicals, such as creams or balms that you apply directly to the skin.


Medical marijuana, also known as medical cannabis, has gained popularity in recent years as an alternative treatment for various medical conditions. Marijuana contains over a hundred chemical compounds known as cannabinoids, with two of the most well-known being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).


Indica and sativa are the primary strains of medical marijuana. However, most people find it challenging to choose between the two based on their health needs. If you are considering using medical marijuana for a health condition, visit a medical marijuana doctor today to discuss the potential benefits and risks.