Indica vs Sativa: An Introduction to the Major Cannabis Types

indica vs sativa weed cannabis marijuana types of getty images
JDawnInk/Getty Images

I was never the type of person who got offered marijuana. Something about me — my habit of taking the front row seat in class, perhaps, or maybe my rapt attention during D.A.R.E. presentations — must have signaled to people that I was very, very eager to just say no. Consequently, I never got the chance to say it.

Flash forward 20 years and I’m living in Seattle down the road from Uncle Ike’s, a big, beautifully branded dispensary. By this time, I’d finally had the chance to try marijuana once or twice — a half-burned roach during a college party, some skunky shake smoked out of an apple at a beachside bonfire — but somehow I’d never had any success getting a buzz. I figured I needed something stronger, but I was afraid to go too strong. I had some vague idea that different strains offered different benefits, but I didn’t even know enough to type in a Google search. Every day, I passed Uncle Ike’s wishing I had the knowledge to go in and ask for what I wanted, but feeling too embarrassed to admit how little I knew.

Maybe you’re like me, a former straight-edge coming late to the party. Maybe you’re a person of high moral and ethical standards, for whom the recent legalization finally made it okay to partake. Or maybe you’ve been lackadaisical when it comes to pot, smoking whatever your friend/older brother/roommate happened to bring home.

Whether you’re eager to improve your knowledge or just hoping not to look like a total noob when you walk into a dispensary, consider this article your cheat sheet to the different types of cannabis on the market today. Though as I discovered, most dispensary workers love to educate people about the difference between strains. What they don’t love having to explain is that your inability to get high isn’t because your weed variety isn’t strong enough — it’s because you’ve been smoking it wrong. No matter which variety of cannabis you choose, just make sure you’re actually inhaling, OK?


indica vs sativa weed cannabis marijuana types of v2 getty images
JDawnInk/Getty Images

Also known as “in da couch,” this variety of cannabis gives you more of a body buzz (as opposed to a heady “high”) and leaves you more relaxed. Oddly enough, indica strains tend to have a lighter THC concentration than sativa (more on that in a moment), even though they result in a more “stoned” sensation. This ultra-mellow type of pot, characterized by shorter plants with fat leaves, is perfect for insomniacs and the type who wake up in the middle of the night worrying about stuff. It’s also a good option for alleviating physical conditions like muscle pain and even seizures.

Popular indica strains: Kush and Northern Lights


indica vs sativa weed cannabis marijuana types of getty images
JDawnInk/Getty Images

Thinner leaves, taller plants, and longer flowering cycles characterize the sativa variety of cannabis. The strain of choice for the “wake and bake” crowd, the THC-heavy sativa gives you more of a heady high as opposed to a heavy stoned feeling. Some strains can even act more like an upper than a downer, providing positive energy that is particularly helpful in creative and cerebral endeavors. If you’re trying to finally write your novel or have to put together a PowerPoint presentation, this bud’s for you. Sativa is also said to be helpful for depression, social anxiety, and even ADHD.

Popular sativa strains: Sour Diesel and Lemon Haze


indica vs sativa weed cannabis marijuana types of hybrid getty images

Despite cannabis having been around and in use for thousands of years, it’s still undetermined whether indica and sativa are truly separate species of the plant. Regardless, hybridized strains of the two have become quite popular among smokers who want a little bit of everything. The first hybrids appeared in the United States in the 1970s but really came into their own during the ‘90s when hydroponic cultivation technology allowed growers to really geek out.

Today’s hybrids tend to be indica-dominant or sativa-dominant, which means it’s a good idea to decide what direction you’re leaning toward before buying. If you’re looking for a nearly perfect balance between the sedative effects of an indica and the euphoric energy of a sativa, keep your eyes peeled for Blue Dream, a California strain that has achieved legend status.

Popular hybrid strains: Blue Dream


indica vs sativa weed cannabis marijuana types of cbd getty images
Bortonia/Getty Images

The second most plentiful cannabinoid in the marijuana plant, CBD is the yin to THC’s yang. It produces that nice, mellow relaxation without the psychoactive effects (what your grandpa might call the “reefer madness”). If smoking pot makes you anxious, paranoid, or prone to hallucinations, a CBD-heavy strain will probably be your cup of tea. It’s also good for people who are exclusively interested in the medicinal effects of cannabis, such as pain and stress relief, mood disorders, and other chronic physical and mental issues.

Thanks to the booming interest in medical marijuana, growers have developed cannabis strains that offer an equal ratio of CBD to THC; one such strain is ACDC. However, some CBD-heavy strains can go as high as a 22:1 ratio of CBD to THC. If that’s what you’re after, look for a strain called Ringo’s Gift.

Popular CBD strains: ACDC and Ringo’s Gift

Fashion & Style

Shark Tank Style: The Winning Clothes You’ll Actually Want to Wear

These are the few fashion brands that have swum with the sharks and lived to tell the tale.

How to Build an Apocalypse-Worthy Bug-Out Bag

Outrunning the zombies is only part of the equation. You still need the right gear to survive.

The Best Memorial Day Mattress Sales for 2019

Mattresses are at the lowest prices you'll find all year.
Food & Drink

Flip Your Flavor Profiles and Enjoy Some of the Best Infused Beers Out Now

Need a craft beer that's just a little different? Check out this list of some of the best infused beers that are currently available.

How to Netflix and Chill: Mastering the Invite, Finding the Best Shows, and More

Jean-Luc Godard famously said, “I always feel that a man and a woman who do not like the same films, will eventually divorce.” Applying his principle, Netflix and Chill becomes a logical means of getting to know someone.

Calling All Game of Thrones Fans: This Print is the Ultimate GoT Artwork for Your Walls

No matter where you hang this piece of art, it's sure to be a conversation starter. 

What is Biohacking? An Interview with Biohacker and Podcaster Luke Storey

If you’re into technology toys, biohacking offers a plethora of gadgets to geek out about.

Ghosting, Orbiting, Breadcrumbing, and Other Modern Relationship Terms Explained

This glossary of modern relationship terms may will help define certain behaviors, such as why a romantic interest leaves you on "read" or an ex keeps liking your photos.

6 Natural Topical Pain Relief Products to Treat Your Aching Muscles

What’s the point in getting rid of the pain if you’re damaging your vital organs in the process?

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Everyday Carry Essentials for Cannabis

Unless you’re trying to make a lifestyle shift (and we’re guessing you’re not), you shouldn’t spend more on your smoking accessories than you do on the stuff you smoke.
Food & Drink

Pre-Workout Meals that Make the Most of Your Hard Work

While specific meals aren't critical for moderate exercise, if you're going for a long run, hitting the weights hard, doing intense interval training, or you're about to play a competitive sport, then pre-exercise foods matter a lot.

15 Coffee Table Books Every Man Should Consider for His Home

Don't have any coffee table books on your current coffee table? Let us help fix that lack of literature.

7 Fantastic Beach Reads for Your Next Vacation

From a harrowing tale of survival at sea to a classic by Steinbeck, we've got all the best beach reads in one place.

Build and Tone Your Muscles with the 10 Best Arm Workouts for Men

Start handing out your own tickets to the gun show with the best arm exercises for men