This is an issue that has been bugging me for a while now. The terms sativa or indica are outdated, misleading, and unscientific. With the rise in popularity in cannabis usage throughout North America, it’s time to let go of these antiquated terms in favor of something more scientific. 

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Sativa Vs. Indica: What’s the Difference?

If you Google “strains of marijuana,” you will find websites where people describe the effects of various strains. Some claim to have a “more stimulant effect.” Others say they are more “sedating.”

Enter sativa and indica. Sativa is supposed to be a stimulating strain, whereas indica is a sedating one. The words denote how the plant grows, not how it makes you feel. It’s entirely possible to find both sativa and indica strains that cause opposite effects.

Scientists agree that there are three species of cannabis: C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis. Ruderalis is a hardy species that has been used in hybridization for its auto-flowering quality. In other words, when grown from seed, it automatically flowers without changing the light cycle to induce flowering. 

 

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This brings up an important point: Not all cannabis is the same. There are differences in the blend of compounds in each strain, which breeders prefer to call cultivars. The sheer number of cultivars and their potential effects make this a bit too much to get into here.

But basically, there is no such thing as sativa or indica anymore. 90% of all strains are hybrids, a combination of sativa and indica. The drug that people seek when using cannabis is Δ9-THC, which can be produced by both species.

Why are Sativa And Indica Outdated Terms?

Here’s the kicker: In the past couple of decades, we have discovered that there are over 100 other cannabinoids besides Δ9-THC. Also, the plant contains more than 500 compounds in total, with at least 200 terpenes. These terpenes produce the various aromas that give different strains their signature scents, such as Blueberry Haze’s strong berry fragrance. We are only beginning to understand how these compounds work together to produce various effects when consumed.

 

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This is where the terms sativa and indica become too vague for doctors’ or researchers’ usage. How can we tell users which strain will provide an effect they want if we don’t understand how it works?

Not only that, but because of the vague terms and their misleading qualities, people infer false information. What you might call a stimulating strain could actually make you tired. A sedating strain might actually make your mind race. Also, stale bud weakens and can lead to drowsiness no matter what the label shows.

This makes it difficult to explain how certain strains affect people, especially medical users who need to know what they’re doing. If you’re wondering what to do with old weed, keep it around for nighttime use.

Why Do the Terms Persist?

The term sativa persists because it has a certain allure and has become a marketing term. However, I still feel that there are valid uses for sativa and indica for generic descriptions or as a starting point. But consumers need more.

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Because there is such a variety of effects that the hundreds of chemical compounds can create in the plant, we need to develop a way to categorize and describe the various impacts that strain causes. Plus, if your flower’s dry, you may experience a different body response. To learn what to do with dry weed, check out this article here.

The Best Way To Categorize Cannabis Strains

It’s simple. Review the cannabinoid and terpene profile. If the strain has a high level of CBD and low levels of THC, it is likely to be more calming. When you find a strain with mostly THC and little to no CBD, it’s going to provide a strong psychoactive experience. Similarly, flowers with a ton of pinene and limonene offer a dazzling and energizing experience.

Sativa and indica are outdated terms that have been replaced with far more descriptive words. New or old weed, the crucial difference between the two is usually just the level of THC, though some strains will be a mix of both types. Be sure to research your desired effects before you buy a product so it can meet your needs!