The Difference Between Indica, Sativa and Hybrid Strains

Cannabis nuggets and joint rolled in RAW paper on printed guide for cannabis users

Depending on who’s doing the classifying there are either 5 or 6 major types of corn. There are also 33 different types of tomatoes and more than 200 varieties of potato. So it should come as no surprise that there is more than 1 type of cannabis.

If you’re new to the world of cannabis and you’re wondering what you should put in your new custom glass pipes, know that cannabis plants are divided into 2 main species, “sativa” and “indica”, and within those 2 groups there are a multitude of further subspecies. Hybrid strains are produced by crossbreeding members of the two major strains.

In this primer, we’re going to take a close look at the differences between the main types of weed in order to help you make a more informed decision about which one or which ones may be right for you.

Cannabis Basics: Cannabinoids and Terpenes

The different psychoactive and physical effects produced by different strains of cannabis are the result of the cannabinoids and terpenes that each strain possesses, which begs the question: “what are cannabinoids and terpenes?”


Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that produce the psychoactive effects most people are after when they load up their glass pipes. That is, the high. The cannabis plant is known to contain nearly 500 chemical compounds of which more than 80 are known cannabinoids. As far as researchers can tell, however, only 2 of these cannabinoids are responsible for most of the effects associated with weed. They are tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, and cannabidiol or CBD.

  • THC produces most of the psychoactive effects associated with weed. When you get high it’s because of the THC in the weed. And how high you get has to do with the amount of THC in the weed, its potency. In recent decades selective breeding of cannabis plants has resulted in a general rise in the potency of most cannabis strains.
  • CBD on the other hand, does not produce a high. Instead, its effects have more to do with things like pain reduction and general relaxation. Many people today use CBD oil to address a plethora of health issues including arthritis, pain associated with injury and relief from anxiety. For this reason, some states have legalized CBD-specific products for medical applications while continuing to outlaw head shops and marijuana use.


Terpenes are perhaps the most misunderstood component of weed. They are important because they are responsible for the color, taste and aroma of marijuana. But we say they are misunderstood because there is a mountain of misinformation out there attributing psychoactive effects to terpenes. In reality, there is currently no credible scientific evidence linking terpenes to the type or intensity of the high a person experiences.

The Difference Between Indica, Sativa and Hybrid Strains

Now that we’ve sketched in the broad outline of the different cannabis strains let’s take a closer look at each.

  • Sativa – Cannabis sativa is often credited with boosting creativity and opening the mind to different ways of looking at the world. For that reason, it’s considered to produce a “head high”. In the most general sense, sativa strains of weed typically contain more THC and less CBD. So if you are recovering from a football injury and you’re looking for pain relief, sativa is not your ideal choice. On the other hand, if you’re a musician looking to create new material you might want to take your lead from Bob Dylan or Bob Marley and roll a fat spliff of cannabis sativa.
  • Indica – Whereas sativa is more of a warm climate weed, cannabis indica is the product of drier, colder climates like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indica weed is prized for its ability to create a calm, laid back high and this can be attributed to higher concentrations of CBD and lower concentrations of THC. Depending on the exact substrain you’re dealing with, the sense of relaxation will be either more or less intense.
  • Hybrid – Hybrid strains of cannabis result from crossbreeding sativa and indica strains. Because there are hundreds of different sativa and indica strains the number of hybrid strains is mind-numbing and is currently thought to be more than 3,000. In fact, most new cannabis strains are hybrid strains, with crossbreeding being the driving force behind the surge in potency apparent in many new cannabis products.

If you meet someone at the head shop who’s going on about sativa-dominant and indica-dominant strains they’re talking about hybrids that possess either more sativa or more indica genes, which would make the weed either more mind-expanding or more relaxing respectively. The bottom line is that today it is actually pretty rare to find pure cannabis sativa or cannabis indica because so much crossbreeding has been going at the grassroots level.

Some of the most popular hybrid strains at the moment are:

  • OG Kush
  • Blue Dream
  • Trainwreck
  • White Widow
  • Pineapple Express

These and other popular strains of the day will not be available everywhere, so to get a good idea of what’s floating about your area talk to the experts at your local head shop in Denver. If they don’t know they’ll know someone who does.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a way to take your artwork to the next level you’ll probably want to investigate sativa strains and sativa-dominant hybrids. If you’re looking to relieve anxiety and so forth indica may be what you want to load into your glass pipes.

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