Sativa vs Indica – get to know your Cannabis

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Taxonomy, or classification and nomenclature of biology, is a science that might sound pedantic to most (think lenghty classification in latin) but it generates great interest when it comes to Cannabis.

Medically, each strain produces different effects and therapeutic value due to a mixed terpenoid and cannabinoid profile.

It is hence important for doctors as well as patients to be aware of the diversity.

Equally, recreational users as well as growers show an interest in the topic in order to benefit the most from the plant and find the best strategies for gardening.

Here you will find a short review of taxonomy and genetics of the plant of eternal bliss.

For a larger insight on the cannabacea family check out our article: Cannabaceae family: a comparison between Cannabis, Humulus & Vitis


  • Have originated from the Hindu Kush region near Afghanistan and spread onto India and Pakistan.

The geographical origins make it ideal to grow in Country Areas at 30 to 50 degrees of latitude


  • Phenotype is broad-leaf, small-medium sized bushy and more chlorophyl contents (dark green leafs).
  • It matures faster than sativa at similar conditions

This is an ideal plant forindoor growers, given the size and the time of maturation


  • Pharmacologically, indica landraces tend to have a higher THC content (up to 25%) than sativa and low levels of cannabidiol (CBD) content than sativa strains.

The indica high is most often described as a pleasant body buzz (body-high). Indica strains are primarily enjoyed for relaxation, stress relief, and for an overall sense of calm and serenity.


  • Body-pain relief, insomnia, muscle spasms


  • Northern lights, Kush, LA Confidential, Grape Ape




  • Cannabis sativa originally come from Colombia, Mexico, Thailand and Southeast Asia.

It is mostly suited to warmer Countries than indica, in areas of 0 to 30 degree of latitude.


  • The plant is taller than Indica showing long, thin-fingered leaves lighter in pigment
  • Maturation takes up more time than for indica strain

It requires more sunlight than indica and is well suited for outdoor gardening, as it grows faster and taller than indica.


  • Despite their nature tend to have lower levels of THC than Indica, commercially available Sativa strains have been selected for low levels of CBD.

The sativa high is often characterized as uplifting and energetic. The effects are mostly cerebral (head-high),

also described as spacey or hallucinogenic. This type gives a feeling of optimism and wellbeing, as well as

providing a good measure of pain relief for certain symptoms.


  • Depression, fatigue, mood disorders, ADD


  • Diesel, Jack Herer, Lemon Haze, Skunk, Silver Haze

Concluding remarks

Currently, the favourite choice for growers are hybrids. Breeding indicas and sativas together allows for a list of advantages, such as:

  • Unique pharmacological profile (high in CBD and THC), White Widow is a good example
  • Unique morphology (low bush with higher yield)
  • Reduced growth period (for sativa) when cross-breeding with Ruderalis species, also known as self-flowering


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  • Erkelens, J L Hazekamp, A. (2014). That which we call Indica, by any other name would smell as sweet. Cannabinoids. 9 (1), 9-15.
  • Cronquist A. An integrated system of classification of flowering plants. Cambridge University Press, New York, USA, 1981, p. 193.
  • Hillig KW, Mahlberg PG. A chemotaxonomic analysis of cannabinoid variation in Cannabis (cannabaceae). Am. J. Bot. 2004; 91: 966.


Viola Brugnatelli is a Neuroscientist specialised in Cannabinoid circuitry & GPCRs signalling. Her academy and research training let her gain extensive experience on medical cannabis and terpenes both from preclinical as well as clinical perspective. In her vision, collective human knowledge behold the power for overall improvement of life, thus, it should be accessible and shareable. Viola is Founder of the science online magazine Nature Going Smart, and works as a consultant for companies & individual patients, as a speaker at seminars and workshops and as a lecturer in a CME course on Medical Cannabis in Italy, at the University of Padua.

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