Indica vs Sativa – What’s the difference?

Looking to become a true cannabis connoisseur? 

Being able to tell the difference between indica and sativa strains is a great place to start.

We’ve found that while many people are aware of indica and sativa strains, there seems to be uncertainty as to what exactly sets the two apart. So if you’re looking for a practical, quick-fire guide to some of the key differences, you’ll love this infographic.

Indica vs Sativa

All cannabis is officially classified as Cannabis Sativa – even hemp. Cannabis Sativa can however be further divided into several sub-species, the main ones being: Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis ruderalis.

Although superficially similar to one another, Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa plants are as alike as cider and champagne. This isn’t to say that one is superior to the other, rather that they each have their own distinct characteristics beyond certain surface similarities.

1. Stature

Indica plants are short and bushy, often growing as wide as they are tall, with an abundance of side branches compensating for this relative lack of height. Rarely reaching upwards more than two meters they are naturally suited to both indoor and outdoor cultivation.

Sativa plants are tall and leggy, with more space between branches. They have a conical, ‘christmas tree’ type shape and, given the right outdoor growing conditions, can reach heights of anywhere between two and eight metres.

2. Buds

Indica buds are wide, heavy and tightly packed. Initially the buds of Indica plants were used in the processing of hashish. Once introduced to the West the buds started to be consumed in their own right.
Sativa plants produce long, narrow buds which are lighter and less densely packed than their indica kin.

3. Flowering

Used to shorter seasons and a greater variety of weather conditions, indicas flower more quickly than sativas – usually around six to ten weeks.
Thanks to their origins in hot climates with longer growing seasons, sativa plants have a flowering period of anything from eight to fourteen weeks.

4. Leaves

Indicas generally have short, wide leaves which can run from dark green to purple. Due to the high resin content in their leaves certain strains readily lend themselves to hashish production.

Sativa plants have long, thin leaf fingers – usually light/medium green in colour.

5. Odour

Different indica plants have been known to give off different odours. With some plants give off smells described as sweet and exotic. Whilst others have been described less favourably as skunky, stinky and pungent

Sativas buds are more likely to smell sweet, fruity and tangy.

6. Smoke

Indica strains produce a thick smoke, which is likely to induce coughing.

Sativa strains are more likely to produce a smooth smoke, sometimes deceptively so.

7. Effects

Heavy body stone which can lead to the laid-back, “couch lock” feeling. The best indicas make for a very relaxing experience however, allowing you to blissfully sense your surroundings.

Sativa strains typically produce a soaring, energetic high. The high from sativa are thought to be the more creative, psychedelic strains.

8. Origins

Indica plants were first found in Central Asia, most notably in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over time they spread to surrounding areas and could be found in all of the traditional hashish producing countries such as Morocco, Lebanon, Nepal, Persia, India and Syria.

Sativa plants originate predominately from warm equatorial zones of Asia, Africa and the Americas. While sativa strains from each area will vary they all share the same basic sativa traits.

9. Classic strains

Cheese by Big Buddha Seeds + Northern Lights by Sensi Seeds + Sweet Tooth by Barney’s Farm+ White Widow by Dutch Passion + OG Kush by Royal Queen Seeds + Neville’s Haze by Greenhouse Seeds + Original Amnesia by Dinafem Seeds + Durban Poison by Dutch Passion + Jamaican Pearl by Sensi Seeds

Indica vs sativa

Or does the true path land somewhere between the two? While this page offers a rule-of-thumb guide to the characteristics of pure indica and sativa plants, thanks to years of crossbreeding and hybridisation most strains now fall somewhere between the two. Breeding has brought many strains which combine the most desirable traits from parent plants, including the autoflowering attributes of the roadside ruderalis. The majority of strains display such a wide mix of characteristics that cannabis connoisseurs are truly spoilt for choice.

Whether its indicas or sativas you’re looking for, to find the cream of the crop go to Freedom Seeds

For more information on the fascinating subject of cannabis we recommend reading the following authors: Jorge Cervantes, Robert Connell Clarke, and Mel Thomas

The images in the infographic were provided by Sensi Seeds

The strains are Mexican Sativa and Hindu Kush.

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