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The Difference Between Indica, Sativa And Hybrid

The Difference Between Indica, Sativa And Hybrid

Not all marijuana strains are alike. You have probably already heard of sativa and indica, and even the hybrid strains, but do you know what the differences between them are? They are three distinct categories of specific traits that even the most experienced growers don’t know about.

Sativa and Indica have been on the books since the 1700s, but the hybrid didn’t come until some time later. Sativas come from a temperate climate near the equator, while the Indica likely originated around present-day Afghanistan, specifically near the Hindu Kush area. The climate and weather conditions there are harsh -- this is likely why they have a thicker protective coat of resin than the Sativa strains.

Nowadays, less is thought about the origins of the Indica and Sativa, and rather what those strains are well known for. This is why many marijuana growers prefer to grow one or the other.

Science and historical origins

Science and historical origins of cannabis sativa and indicaThere is actually no official scientific evidence that explains the differences between Indica and Sativa strains of marijuana or even confirms that these differences exist. Nonetheless, they are widely accepted facts among the marijuana growing and using crowd.

There are some historical explanations for the beginnings of the Indica strain, also known as Cannabis Indica. It was first classified by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French biologist, in the late 1700s. He also identified the fact that the plants were intoxicating. It was different from the regular hemp crops grown in Europe at the time, as they did not intoxicate the consumer.

Because of the differences between the European hemp crops (then actually known as Cannabis Sativa), Lamarck named his Indian discovery Cannabis Indica to establish its uniqueness from the European hemp. It was considered a therapeutic remedy of sorts in Europe during the 1800s and commonly used in Western medicine.

Indica traits

Cannabis indica

Cannabis Indica is a more solid strain in comparison to Sativa, but it does not have the height Sativa achieves. Indica strains generally grow between 3.2-9.8 feet tall. It is a bushy plant with round healthy leaves, unlike Sativa. However, they both have marbled colored, soft seeds. Being that Indica is a short plant, this one is perfect for indoor growing.

While Sativa takes some time to flower, Indica flowers much faster and can be influenced a lot easier by adjusting the light cycle to promote this phase.

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The buds and flowers on an Indica plant will usually grow very close to each other and are stickier to the touch than Sativa plants. When you want to make hashish, Indica is the plant you would choose due to the amount of resin it contains. This weed is a stoner’s favorite since it is more like a sedative and puts your entire body into a deep state of relaxation. It has so much CBN in it that this will surely take you there when you want to go far and beyond just a regular high.

This strain can have either a sour or sweet smell to it. It has lovely healing qualities, and helps with:

- Insomnia
- Alleviating pain
- Inducing relaxation of muscles
- Muscle spasms
- Calming anxiety
- Headache, and migraine relief

Considering these facts, Indica is ideal for nighttime consumption.

Sativa traits

Cannabis sativa

Sativa is the marijuana strain that people seem to like smoking the most. This plant grows quite large, reaching up to 19.6 feet in some cases. While it is not a really thick plant, many growers like it due to how tall it can grow.

Their leaves are long, dainty, narrow, and considering their height potential, these are perfect for outdoor growing.  The seeds are soft to the touch, with no spots or markings on them. Do not expect this plant to flower quickly because Sativa takes its precious time, and even shifting the light cycles could have little effect on this.

Sativa is often dried, cooked and consumed. While many people either vaporize or smoke this strain, it is the norm for users to use this to get high. You are not going to get stoned from using this strain, but it does have an invigorating, pick me up kind of effect that leads to feeling happier, unlike its more sedating counterpart, Indica.

It also can enhance your creativity, depending on the person. This is the strain you use when you want to be up and active during the day since it raises your energy and opens you up to fresh, new ideas. If you are an artist of some sort, you may love this one.

Sativa dominant strains are higher in the THC cannabinoid. This makes it less likely to be used for medicinal purposes, but it is still common in Ayurvedic medicine. They work well to combat the symptoms of depressionADD, fatigue, and mood disorders.

Ruderalis and hybrid strains

Cannabis hybrid

You will rarely hear anyone talking about Cannabis Ruderalis, which is a hybrid strain and has a pretty short stature growing between 11.8-23.6 inches in height. Similar to Indica, this plant has very thick foliage. This plant is usually found growing in northern regions of the world

Ruderalis has a very fast flowering phase due to growing in the north, and needing to develop faster before the climate turns cold. This strain is what growers use when they want to encourage auto flowering. One of the reasons you hear little about this strain is because it is not known to be highly psychotropic. Most growers just use this to breed hybrids that flower quickly, to grow in cooler climates.

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Growers generally want to hybridize to mix the good characteristics of various strains into one. Hybrids are usually a balanced combination of Sativas and Indicas. You can make your hybrids have more Indica qualities or more Sativa ones. By combining the two, you end up with a unique blend that brings out properties from both strains for medicinal purposes.

In reality, Sativas and Indicas are usually some sort of hybrid with varying levels of each strain. Separating ‘pure’ from ‘hybrid’ is not a realistic way of distinguishing the two. To understand the effects you can expect from a hybrid plant or seed, it is much more important to know the background of your strain of plant rather than just the ratio between Indica and Sativa.


THC in cannabis

The differences in the effects of Indica and Sativa strains come from slightly varying levels of THC and CBD. Sativas naturally produce higher levels of THC, while Indicas instead produce higher levels of CBD. The ratios of THC and CBD are what make the differences come out, but this can vary even within the strains. Sometimes you will find a Sativa high in THC or an Indica high in CBD, due to all the cross-hybridization that has gone on over the generations; therefore, the expected effects do not always appear.

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Comment Section

32 thoughts on “The Difference Between Indica, Sativa And Hybrid

By karen on 9 October 2015

I had asked about three-leafed cannabis before, but the answer given was that when it gets bigger, it will start to grow five leaves. Well, it never got 5 leaves. This was a flowering, small-budded no matter how much light it was given, just over a foot tall, all deep dark green three-leaved plant. I believed it to be a ruderalis, when I looked at some pictures, but even those had five leaves, although there were two very small leaves on the bottom of each leaf. The plant to which I refer, only had three leaves all the way, from top to bottom. Any thoughts on what type this would be?

By Patrick on 9 October 2015

Yess that's definitely the weak type if cannabis, ruderalis. Had the same experience it neva got big lol

By Kim on 10 October 2015

Over cloned maybe... where did you get the plant from? I know plants without perfect conditions show stress by growing only three leaves.

By fallen angel on 6 October 2016

Ruderalis has 3 or 5 lives, bigger one has 5, smoler 3. It start growing on the end of may, buds is ready in half may. Ruderalis have a little bit of thc maybe 0,2-0,5. You can't smoke this, but you make a cookies with this. It growing everywhere in Poland, when I live, also in Russia. We have also another wild plant, this is Sativa use as a product for clothes and more.

By William bell on 9 October 2015

Love your company and the way your hands on everything from the seeds to the knowage. You rock
Keep up the awesome work

By Ray on 10 October 2015

I'm looking for some sour diesel who has it? Email me

By jessica on 10 October 2015

If I harvest an indica strand early will it give me more of a up high compared to the couchlock high?

By Tom on 22 November 2015

Yes it will make it a bit more heady as I call it. I would harvest when just a few trichomes are getting milky looking. That should help some, but you will lose your higher THC count.

By Dan on 11 October 2015

From my knowledge I was of the understanding that indicas were naturally high in cbd and sativas were high in thc yet this article says it's the other way round, this is the first I have seen saying this anyone else have any thoughts on this?

By Jennifer ILGM on 12 October 2015

Dan and Jane you guys are so right, will be fixed right away, thanks for paying attention and noticing.

By Jane on 13 October 2015

I think a correction has been made. It now says, "Sativas naturally produce high levels of THC, while Indicas instead produce high levels of CBD." And that's how I understand it to be.

By latewoodl on 15 October 2015

That is correct. Keep in mind that most genetics offered today are hybrid strains, and can have the characteristics of both. It is getting harder and harder to find Pure Sativa & Indica strains.

Sorry for being so late to the conversation. Thanks Jennifer

By junie on 6 November 2015

what is the story about auto flowering seeds. how are they different from the others?

By latewood.ILGM on 9 November 2015


Auto flowers are genetics that have been bred to have characterisitics of the "Ruderalis" pheno type. It does not require a dark period in order to flower. Once roots are strong enough in an Auto Flower plant; It will start budding. You can grow these type genetics under 24/0 photo period.

By Jeff fasig on 10 November 2015

I live in the Tampa,fla area I am an outside grower.what is the best time of the year to germinate White widow, and how long will the seeds remain viable. Thanks?

By latewood.ILGM on 11 November 2015

Hello in Tampa,

I would advise that you find out when produce farms start their Tomatoes. I would work around that time to get my seeds going.

If your seeds are stored in a cool dry place, (I like the fridge inside an envelope, and recipe card box, or other plastic container to keep moisture out), it is possible to store them for months.

If they have been stored in the open and exposed to humidity, and or dry air that could dry them out, then you need to plant them within a month or so. As long as the seed is not cracked, and will not crush easily between your thumb and forefinger; It should be OK.

By Bob on 21 November 2015

What is the best seed for cancer patients for RSO. Suggestions ,indoor and outdoor.


By latewood.ILGM on 21 November 2015


I recommend Robert's Gold Leaf. It is very high in CBD. High in CBD is what you would be looking for in any plant that you wished to use in order to make RSO

By Sharon on 24 December 2015

To make better oils..when possible mix "several strains" of indica or indica dominant cannabis with a THC content of 20 to 25%++( the higher the better ), and a nice low cbd content of around 1% ( 1 to 3% is fine - the lower the better ) - the mixed oil will be great for many conditions,
This is a copy from Ricks fbook page, what type would you recommend now ???
Also I haven't had a good daytime one in years,what would you recommend for me there??
Cheers and

By mark allen on 2 February 2016

Ur bible has gave me the learning that I've been know how to grow easily in closet w lots of good bud w just plain ole shop light...... Fully disabilied n need my smoke n too damn high in cost.

By Tweber on 15 September 2016

Im a beginner, and i was hoping some one can tell me what stain i have growing. I got some seeds from some smoke i had gotten. So just goffing around and they popped. So i reall don't know what they are,and don't really know how to take care of them, there in the flowering stage now,12 on 12 off. For about 3 weeks now.

By Roy ILGM on 15 September 2016

Hi Tweber, nice experiment you've got going there! You can't really tell the strain from the plant other than if it's indica or sativa dominant. You can read up on the flowering stage here or you could hop onto our grow support forum where our experts and fellow growers can help you out.

By Panda on 18 November 2016

Is this sentence correct or is this a typo? Sativas naturally produce high levels of THC, while Indicas instead produce high levels of CBD. This is from the article above..

By Roy ILGM on 18 November 2016

Thanks Panda, I nuanced it a little

By sam stewart on 2 December 2016

where can I buy Maui wowie femal seeds and , is it a sativa or indica?

By lilchange on 22 September 2017

Thanks so much for your site every question I can think of asking you have a answer for . For the most part growing is something new and exciting for me. And to have your site to pull information from has helped a lot. Thanks

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