With more than 1,000 strains of cannabis having been bred during the past several decades, it is important that consumers are aware of the different types and strains available to them in terms of cannabis. Cannabis also known as marijuana, pot or weed is a species of flowering herb that is split into three subspecies: Indica, sativa, and ruderalis. Ruderalis plants are small and yield relatively little benefits; what they do provide lacks potency and is generally not appealing to consumers. Because of this, ruderalis strains are typically avoided by breeders and cultivators; the focus of the cannabis community is mainly on indica and sativa strains.
Indica and sativa plants differ not only in their physiological effects, but also in their appearance. Indica plants are short and stocky, featuring leaves that are broad and “chunky.” Sativa plants tend to be taller and skinnier and may even be lanky in appearance, with leaves that are thin and pointed.
What are the differences?
The most important difference between these two subspecies of cannabis, however, is in their effects and how they influence energy levels and productivity. Indicas can tend to decrease energy and some people feel they are better for consumption in the evening or at night, after the conclusion of the day’s work and activities. Potent indica strains may give some consumers what is called “couchlock,” a condition in which they become so relaxed that they can barely get up from the sofa.
Sativas, on the other hand, are usually referred to as uplifting and cerebral, enhancing creativity and productivity. Indicas provide what has been called a “body high,” while sativas deliver more of a “mind high.” Unfortunately, sativa plants require longer to grow and usually yield less flowers than indica varieties. Therefore, indica strains have traditionally dominated those available on the black market, where the sole focus is profit.
The fact that consumers are given little choice of subspecies or strain when purchasing from the black market is a major reason it should be avoided. It is advisable that consumers should never trust or consume cannabis products without knowing its exact strain and that it was properly grown, dried, cured, and laboratory tested for purity and potential contamination. All cannabis products purchased at legal cannabis dispensaries has been approved in Alberta by AGLC and will have the proper Health Canada label to certify that it is approved.
Modern cultivators of cannabis purposefully breed and grow a wide spectrum of strains within both the indica and sativa categories for the purpose of making available the right fit for a consumer’s combination of preference, and lifestyle. Often, consumers must maintain jobs or family responsibilities that demand a higher energy level and do not prefer the sedative properties of many indicas.
Because cultivators and recreational cannabis dispensaries are sensitive to the subjective efficacy of particular strains for different consumers, they grow and make available as many strains as possible.
In the end, each consumer will favor multiple strains that will likely fall within the categories of sativa, hybrid, and indica.
When it comes to aroma, indica strains tend to emit musty, earthy, and skunky odors, while sativas smell sweet, fruity, or spicy. This difference in aroma is the result of terpenes, the molecules within the plant that are cousins to cannabinoids like THC and CBD. These chemicals provide sometimes stunningly pungent odors.
Hybrids are simply new and unique strains that are bred from parents of different types. A hybrid theoretically possesses many or most of the beneficial properties of both its parents. Breeders can “cross” any two strains they desire in an effort to create a new strain that delivers the best possible effects.
It should be noted that any two strains can be mixed to create a hybrid. While indica/sativa mixes are common and often noted for their “alert mellowness” and productivity, cannabis breeders and growers can also mix indicas with other indicas or use two sativas as parents.
Hybrid strains that display more indica than sativa traits are labeled “indica-dom,” while those that lean toward sativa are similarly dubbed “sativa-dom.” Often, strains are labeled with a sativa/indica ratio, like a 60/40 sativa/indica. Other times a strain will indicate only a percentage, such as “70 percent indica” or “80 percent sativa”.
Landrace Strains & Heirlooms
Landrace strains are those that evolved naturally within their native environments. Because they were not bred and aren’t hybrids, landrace strains offer a very pure example of sativa or indica, with no interference from humans. In fact, landrace strains are typically 100 percent indica or sativa, the result of tens of thousands of years of inbreeding in a particular weather climate and geography.
Heirlooms are landrace strains that have been grown outside of their native environment, such as plants or seeds professionally grown in Canada that originated on the other side of the world. While sought for their pure indica or sativa characteristics, such strains lose some of their unique characteristics when grown outside the climate in which they evolved.
Examples of landrace strains include Durban Poison, a sativa from South Africa; Afghan Indica, from Afghanistan; Malawi Gold, a sativa from Southeastern Africa; and Panama Red, a sativa from the country that bears its name.
Landrace sativas appear in Asia, Anatolia, and Northern Africa. These climates provide the long summers and intense sun in which such strains have evolved and adapted to thrive. Indicas are located in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Such strains will not reach their potential if grown within indoor or outdoor conditions that don’t match those of their native environment.
Eastern Europe, the Himalayan region of India, and Siberia are home to ruderalis landrace strains and are among the least desired of these naturally evolved plants. Often, as in the Himalayas, such plants are used to create traditional hand-rolled hash, with impoverished villagers in such regions subsisting on black market sales of the concentrate that eventually appears in smoking cafes throughout Europe.
What Determines Sativa or Indica?
You may have already learned that the sometimes pungent aromas produced by many strains of cannabis are the result of terpenes, the special molecules in the herb that are similar in many respects to cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
While many might guess that a particular strain of cannabis is categorized as indica, sativa, or hybrid based on the presence or absence of a particular cannabinoid, or a cannabinoid in a particular volume, it is actually a terpene that determines this important status of a strain.
Myrcene, the most common terpene in cannabis, has been perceived to help patients sleep according to some consumers. If present in a specific strain in a volume greater than 0.5 percent, the strain is considered an indica. If the amount of myrcene is under one half of one percent, then the strain is deemed a sativa.
This dynamic is a good example of the entourage effect, a theory that cannabinoids and terpenes work together in harmony to deliver optimum effects for cannabis users. Many terpenes buffer or enhance the effects of major cannabinoids like THC.
New Strains Constantly Being Created
With such dramatic differences between indicas and sativas in terms of effectiveness and the experience of the consumer, those using cannabis should work with their physician and recreational cannabis dispensary to experiment with various strains that are already known to deliver exceptional benefits and find what works best for them. At Merry Jane’s Cannabis we offer Prerolls as well as other smaller amounts like 1 gram you can purchase to test out what works best for you and what you are looking for.
Cannabis consumers must strive to find the strains that best deal with their lifestyle or preferences. This is typically not an overnight project. In fact, consumers are encouraged to continually experiment with new strains in search of greater potency or a superior cannabinoid profile that delivers improved results.
You can find Indica and Sativa available in Flower, PreRolls, Edibles, Capsules, Sprays to name a few.
No matter what you try from flower to edibles and everything in between, we always advise to Go Low and Go Slow until you know how the product will affect you and then adjust from there.