Robert Bergman

September 6, 2020

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 indica

There 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.

Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link and learn to grow your own marijuana 

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.

Download my free marijuana grow guide at this link and learn to grow your own marijuana strain

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.

Enjoyed the article? Would you want to start growing yourself?  Download my free marijuana grow bible and order some marijuana seeds. All top quality marijuana seeds are available in my marijuana seed shop. We ship seeds to the US, CA and many other countries. For any grow related question please visit the marijuana support page.


The founder of I Love Growing Marijuana, Robert Bergman, is a marijuana growing expert that enjoys sharing his knowledge with the world. He combines years of experience, ranging from small-scale grows to massive operations, with a passion for growing. His articles include tutorials on growing... [read more]


Please Post Your Comments & Reviews

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. By karen ,09 Oct 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 […]Read More
    1. By Patrick ,09 Oct 2015
      Yess that's definitely the weak type if cannabis, ruderalis. Had the same experience it neva got big lol
    2. By Kim ,10 Oct 2015
      Over cloned maybe... where did you get the plant from? I know plants without perfect conditions show stress by growing only three leaves.
    3. By fallen angel ,06 Oct 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 […]Read More
  2. By William bell ,09 Oct 2015
    Love your company and the way your hands on everything from the seeds to the knowage. You rock Keep up the awesome work
  3. By Ray ,10 Oct 2015
    I'm looking for some sour diesel who has it? Email me
  4. By jessica ,10 Oct 2015
    If I harvest an indica strand early will it give me more of a up high compared to the couchlock high?
    1. By Tom ,22 Nov 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.
  5. By Dan ,11 Oct 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 […]Read More
    1. By Jennifer ILGM ,12 Oct 2015
      Dan and Jane you guys are so right, will be fixed right away, thanks for paying attention and noticing.
  6. By Jane ,11 Oct 2015
    Dan...I was under the same impression as you, but read the article at this link...it says the same thing (wording is a little different) this article does.... http://www.leafscience.com/2014/06/19/indica-vs-sativa-understanding-differences/ Looks to me like the Hybrids would be best the get the […]Read More
  7. By Jane ,13 Oct 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.
  8. By latewoodl ,15 Oct 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 […]Read More
  9. By The Difference Between Indica, Sativa And Hybrid ,17 Oct 2015
    […] By Robert Bergman, ILoveGrowingMarijuana.com […]
  10. By junie ,06 Nov 2015
    what is the story about auto flowering seeds. how are they different from the others?
  11. By latewood.ILGM ,09 Nov 2015
    junie 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 […]Read More
  12. By Jeff fasig ,10 Nov 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?
  13. By latewood.ILGM ,11 Nov 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 […]Read More
  14. By Bob ,21 Nov 2015
    What is the best seed for cancer patients for RSO. Suggestions ,indoor and outdoor. Thanks
  15. By latewood.ILGM ,21 Nov 2015
    Bob, 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
  16. By Sharon ,24 Dec 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% […]Read More
  17. By mark allen ,02 Feb 2016
    Ur bible has gave me the learning that I've been missing....now 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 […]Read More
  18. By Types Of Marijuana – Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis ,23 Feb 2016
    […] This means it has a more energizing and stimulating effect, as opposed to the ‘couch-lock’ found more frequently in Indica strains. Sativa is known for a high ratio of THC to CBN the two primary active ingredients in cannabis. […]Read More
  19. By Tweber ,15 Sep 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 […]Read More
    1. By Roy ILGM ,15 Sep 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 […]Read More
  20. By Landrace and Heirloom Marijuana Strains – I Love Growing Marijuana ,04 Oct 2016
    […] plant is highly similar to each other. Generally speaking, a landrace will either be completely indica or completely sativa. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, landraces were the only available product on the […]
  21. By New Marijuana Strains that Will Have You Feeling Good – I Love Growing Marijuana ,28 Oct 2016
    […] Sativa dominant head rush will have you thinking clearly and feeling good. Earning its name because of its […]
  22. By Panda ,18 Nov 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..
    1. By Roy ILGM ,18 Nov 2016
      Thanks Panda, I nuanced it a little
  23. By sam stewart ,02 Dec 2016
    where can I buy Maui wowie femal seeds and , is it a sativa or indica?
  24. By lilchange ,22 Sep 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 […]Read More

World Icon

200 grow guides

500 Helpful Articles

Group Icon

35,000+ Daily Visitors

500,000+ Grow Bible readers

Plant Icon

1500 Strain Reviews

100 Strains For Sale