In most dispensaries, cannabis strains are categorized into three subgroups: indica, sativa, or hybrid. And although there are certain nuances in these classifications, they can serve as helpful guidelines for new and seasoned cannabis consumers alike.
Strains within the same subgroup often share similar characteristics, including effects, aroma, and flavor. So, understanding the basics of each strain group can help determine what you can generally expect from different strains you may be considering.
This guide will explain the key differences between indica, sativa, and hybrid strains, starting with their origins, growth, and chemical composition and working our way through their effects, cannabinoids, and terpenes. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be ready to navigate your favorite dispensary easily.
What’s the Difference Between Indica, Sativa, & Hybrid Cannabis Strains?
Every cannabis strain is unique, but putting them into basic categories based on their primary characteristics makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for. There are different schools of thought when categorizing cannabis strains; however, indicas, sativas, and hybrids are generally the most widely-used method to classify cannabis strains.
Indica cannabis strains are often described as relaxing, which consumers might reach for when they want to wind down after a busy day.
Sativa cannabis strains are often associated with a pleasant boost of energy, usually preferred for social gatherings, creative pursuits, and active lifestyles.
Hybrid cannabis strains aren’t classified into one group or another because of their combined genetics and characteristics, but rather they’re categorized by whether they predominantly exhibit indica or sativa genetics. Some hybrid strains may have a balanced combination of traits.
You can see how these three strain “labels” can be a handy starting point for someone shopping at a dispensary. Now, let’s take a closer look at the differences between sativa, indica, and hybrid strains.
Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid: Origin of Cannabis Strains
Landraces are the naturally-occurring cannabis strains native to a specific region that has successfully adapted to various microclimates to flourish. The original landraces are the basis for the modern-day framework of indica and sativa strains.
Indica strains originated in Central Asia, thriving throughout regions in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Morocco. Well-known indica landraces include the Hindu Kush, Afghani Kush, and Mazar I Sharif strains.
Sativa strains are generally agreed to have originated in tropical regions near the equator, including areas in Mexico, Thailand, Colombia, and Southeast Asia. These sativa landraces, such as Durban Poison and Acapulco Gold, can still grow wild in these parts of the world.
Hybrid strains were first created by crossbreeding various landrace strains, then crossbreeding the products of those genetic combinations, and so on. As a result of generations of crossbred strains, we now have a wide variety of hybrid (and new sativa and indica) strains to choose from.
Technically speaking, aside from native landrace strains, all cannabis strains are hybrids (because they were created through the combination of parent strain genetics).
Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid: Morphology & Growth
In many cases, you can tell the difference between indica and sativa strains simply by looking at the plants themselves.
Indica strains often have a short, bushy growth structure, usually under 6 feet tall. On the other hand, sativa strains can grow upwards of 20 feet tall (outdoors), with branches that grow up and out. The leaves of an indica plant are thick and broad compared to the long, narrow leaves of a sativa plant.
Since they are smaller, indica plants are usually ideal for indoor cultivation. They also have a shorter growing cycle but tend to produce a smaller yield. In contrast, the larger sativa plants have much longer growing periods (anywhere between 10 and 16 weeks to reach maturity) but generate larger yields at harvest time.
Hybrids can fall anywhere on the spectrum regarding size, maturation, and other growth characteristics, differing based on whether their genetic profile is indica- or sativa-dominant.
Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid: Chemical Composition (Cannabinoids & Terpenes)
When you analyze the chemical composition of sativas vs. indica vs. hybrid, you’ll also notice some significant differences.
On a chemical level, there will be variances in the cannabinoids and terpenes contained in a given strain. Why does this matter? Cannabinoid and terpene content significantly impact the effects of a cannabis strain, which is why your personal experience can vary so much from one strain to the next.
Landrace sativa strains are often higher in THC and lower in CBD, whereas indica strains typically have lower THC and higher CBD content. But because of crossbreeding, the cannabinoid content of sativas vs. indicas varies widely. Now, you can find indica, sativa, and hybrid strains with a wide range of THC-to-CBD ratios.
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are often thought of as the “active ingredients” in cannabis. They are a specific group of substances unique to the cannabis plant, made up of more than 100 cannabinoids (and counting).
The most well-known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), though many cannabis consumers are becoming increasingly aware of other cannabinoids.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are a large group of natural compounds produced by plants and are primarily responsible for how different plants smell and taste. There is an abundance of terpenes in cannabis, but you can also find them in many other plants, herbs, and fruits. Terpenes are essential to a plant’s survival because they can attract pollinators while repelling predators.
In cannabis, terpenes are located in the trichomes (sticky glands) covering the buds, leaves, and stems of female cannabis plants. Recently, cannabis researchers are discovering how terpenes affect the body and the specific benefits that may be available in cannabis terpenes. As we learn more about terpenes in cannabis, we can better understand how terpenes can contribute to the overall experience of consuming a specific strain.
Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid: Effects
Each cannabis strain has distinct effects on the body and mind, and the experience a particular strain provides can vary from person to person. Specifying the results caused by indicas, sativas, and hybrids can help you identify how a strain might affect you.
As you would expect, the outcomes of hybrid strains occur on a vast spectrum. Hybrid strain results can vary considerably depending on their exact profiles and whether they are more indica- or sativa-dominant.
Indica strain effects are often described as predominantly physical, affecting the body more than the mind. The results of indica strains can vary in intensity but are typically said to be:
The results of sativa strains are usually associated with the mind, producing a “cerebral” high rather than a physical one. Sativa outcomes are typically described as follows:
- Inspiring (creatively)
More Considerations for Choosing Between Indicas, Sativas, & Hybrids
Selecting the best weed strains is entirely personal, mainly because every person wants and needs something different from their cannabis experience. Moreover, your desired experience can vary based on your mood, the occasion, and even the time of day.
This means that to make an informed choice, you’ll need to take some time to research the different strain types you’re considering. Learn more about their cannabinoid concentration and ratio, terpenes, and other key characteristics, so you can get an idea of what to expect. Then, be open to a certain level of trial and error – the first strain you try might not be a perfect fit.
When you’re at the dispensary, keep these ideas in mind:
- Potency: Depending on your goals, a higher or lower concentration of a specific cannabinoid might be better. Don’t just look at the cannabinoid ratio; check the potency level of a strain before buying. A high-THC cannabis strain will influence you much differently than lower-THC strains, especially if you have a lower tolerance level.
- Flavor and aroma: We touched on how terpenes influence the flavor and aroma of cannabis strains, and keeping that in mind can help you set yourself up for an enjoyable experience. For example, if you can’t stand the taste or smell of lemon, you might not want a strain high in limonene.
- Effects: A strain’s cannabinoid and terpene content will impact how it affects your system. Although nobody can guarantee that a specific strain will deliver an exact series of results – because all our bodies are unique – you can at least use this information as a guide.
- Tolerance: Everyday cannabis consumers will have a much higher tolerance level than brand-new or occasional consumers. “Start low and go slow” is one of the golden rules of cannabis consumption.
- Body chemistry and past experiences: Since everyone’s body chemistry is unique – it can be tricky to know precisely how a strain might affect you. Even if you are an experienced consumer, your body might react to specific strains much differently than someone else’s. For example, an individual susceptible to anxiety might find that high-CBD strains are preferable to high-THC strains.
Beyond these basic characteristics, also think about the “big picture” of your ideal cannabis experience.
- When will you be consuming the specific strain?
- How do you want to feel after consuming the specific strain?
- Do you have a specific activity planned after consuming the strain (like going on a hike, watching a movie, sleeping, etc.)?
For example, if you want the best cannabis strains for relaxing after a stressful day at work, you might hone in on indica strains. On the other hand, if you’re looking for the right strain to kickstart your weekend cleaning routine, a sativa might be a better option.
And above all, don’t hesitate to ask the dispensary budtenders for help. They can be an outstanding resource for information and are generally all too happy to point you in the right direction.
Popular Indica Strains in Arizona
If you’re looking for the best indica strains in Arizona, you can always start with some of the most popular options. Here in Arizona, these indica weed strains are among the top-selling in our dispensary:
Ideal for daytime or nighttime use, this cross between Sensi Star and Sour Diesel strain known as Death Star brings a sweet, pungent skunky, jet fuel aroma with tones of skunky and sweet.
Featuring purple crystal-coated buds, Northern Lights is a cross between Afghani and Thai strains. Its smooth, pungently spicy, and sweet flavor leaves the body and mind relaxed while experiencing some euphoric feelings. This strain is believed to ease melancholy, tension, discomfort, and sleeplessness.
Popular Sativa Strains in Arizona
If sativa is more your style, you won’t have any problem finding many strains to choose from. At our Phoenix cannabis dispensary, these sativa weed strains are some of the most popular:
In memory of cannabis activist Jenny Monson, this strain was created as a reminder of everything she has achieved for the cannabis community. Its earthy and sweet aroma is accompanied by zesty citrus and sweet lemon flavorings. Leaving you relaxed and uplifted simultaneously, this strain is perfect for any time of day.
The Cinderella 99 strain is known for its fruity sweet flavors and surprising advantages, and users experience an uplifting, dreamy, euphoric feeling. Consumers report alleviation of certain issues such as exhaustion and tension.
Popular Hybrid Strains in Arizona
Hybrid strains comprise a massive category with unbeatable diversity, and new ones are constantly emerging. Here are some of the most iconic and popular hybrid weed strains at our dispensary:
Born from a cross between Kosher Kush and Lemon Skunk strains, Golden Lemons brings forth an intense yet herbal citrus aroma that leaves consumers feeling bright fiery euphoric feelings in their minds.
White Dream was designed by crossing Blue Dream and White Widow strains. Complete with over 24% THC levels, this whimsical strain brings exhilaration and creativity, leaving the consumer feeling a buzz.
Find the Best Cannabis Strains & Products in Arizona
Now that you have a solid understanding of indicas, sativas, and hybrids, you’re ready to start shopping for the right strains for you.
At Giving Tree Dispensary in Phoenix, we offer a diverse selection of strains and products for both recreational consumers and medical marijuana patients. Whether searching for a well-known strain or something rarer, we can help you find what you’re looking for.
Not sure which cannabis strains are best for your needs? Our experienced and knowledgeable Phoenix dispensary team is always here to help.
Find top-quality cannabis for sale in Phoenix when you visit Giving Tree Dispensary today!