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Marijuana Strains: Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid

Aug 2, 2022 10:00:00 AM

If you’re new to medical marijuana – or even long-time users – you may be a little confused when you go to a dispensary and see all the different kinds of marijuana. Kush, Haze, Diesel, Skunk, and even odd names like GG4, GSC, and Sour Willie. Which ones are the best? Which ones will work best for you and the unique benefit you are looking for? First, the best place to start is to chat with your friendly medical marijuana budtender. They can point you in the right direction.

cartoon of sativa and indica marijuana buds in bags

But what if you want a little knowledge before you go to the dispensary? In a nutshell, these different types of marijuana are called strains. The plethora of marijuana strains originates primarily from two types of marijuana: Sativa and Indica. There are a few other types of MJ out there, but these are the two that are used for medicinal purposes and the ones that you will find in dispensaries.

Take a step back and learn about cannabis, hemp, marijuana, and what it all means.

What exactly is a strain?

Taking a deeper dive, strains are the result of cross-pollination of different marijuana plants that produce different effects, chemical profiles, appearances, and even botanical history. Just like humans and animals, there are female and male marijuana plants with the male plants pollinating the female plants. Male plants do not grow buds or product seeds – this is the job of the female plant.

There is a bit more to creating new strains, but the gist of it is that the male plant of a certain strain to put together with the female plant of another strain and together they create buds and seeds of a new strain. We’ll leave the ins and outs of the whole cross-pollination and new strain creation to the expected growers and marijuana strain geeks, but this is what a strain is for the layman.

closeup of several marijuana leaves in the sunlight

Two most dominant categories:

When you read the label of your marijuana medicine (including edibles, concentrates, and other marijuana products) you will notice it says whether it is ‘Sativa-dominant’, ‘Indica-dominant’, or a ‘hybrid’. This refers to the two primary categories of marijuana plants, with a hybrid being just that: a hybrid of both Sativa and Indica.

Traditionally it’s been generally established that Sativa-dominant strains would give you a more energized feeling and Indica-dominant strains were more relaxing (you can remember this easily: Indica is like being ‘in da couch’!), and a hybrid of being somewhere in between.

man falling asleep on a sofa

But with medical marijuana gaining acceptance and hence more scientific research happening, we are learning that marijuana is far more nuanced than just these categories giving one effect or the other. But again, this is generally speaking.

  • Sativa – The most obvious difference between the two is their appearances. Sativa plants tend to have more elongated leaves and thinner buds after having been clipped and dried out. Inside the plant itself, Sativa strains have a higher THC content than its counterpart.

As mentioned before, Sativa strains tend to give a more uplifting feeling and tend to give a feeling of being ‘high’. My personal experiences are that Sativa-dominant strains can get me going physically and I feel great but if I need to sit down and concentrate (like when writing blog posts!), I tend to go for a more Indica-dominant strain.

  • Indica – Leaves from an Indica plant are shorter and more cone-shaped and produce more compact round buds after clipping and drying. The plant has a higher concentration of CBD than THC, which could be the reason for the more relaxing feeling this category of MJ plant produces.

The feeling associated with most Indica-dominant strains can be described as feeling ‘stoned’ more than feeling ‘high’.

But don’t mistake this to mean that you will actually become a couch potato, rather you will likely feel more creative and introspective when using Indica-dominant strains. For me, when I need to concentrate and write (which is my profession) I tend to go for Indica-dominant strains.

female hands rolling marijuana joint

What does hybrid mean?

When you mix a Sativa-dominant strain with an Indica-dominant one you get – of course – a hybrid of the two. Traditionally it’s been thought that these two categories and the combining of the two were the primary reasons for the effects that marijuana can give. But as more and more research is going into marijuana we are finding that components like trichomes, terpenes, flavonoids, and other components all work together synergistically to produce the effects of marijuana.

Which is best for me?

So, while we tend to look for strains that are either one or the other or a hybrid, we encourage you to think beyond just Sativa and Indica and try different strains with different ratios of the two to find the strain that works best for you. And as always, marijuana affects each person differently. Our bodies are unique and the effects of any marijuana strain, product, and consumption method will give each person a unique effect.

We say this a lot, but your friendly and knowledgeable budtender will be the best place to start when finding the right strain for you. Most (all?) are extremely passionate about what they do and can make suggestions on strains and intake methods to help you find the right one for you.

medical marijuana budtender weighing marijuana buds

Final thoughts

There is a lot to talk about with marijuana products and individual strains, and at times it can seem like a lot at times. A lot of new strains coming out have such subtle and slight differences in their effects that you may not have to get too wrapped up in their differences. Just try a small number of different strains to see which one you like the best. You may even want to write down the different feelings each strain gives you, as well.

And as always (broken record time here!), start low and go slow. Enjoy and always partake responsibly!


Joy San Diego
Written by Joy San Diego

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