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Indica, Sativa & Hybrids

Indica, Sativa & Hybrids

When entering a dispensary, most people are asked:  “Indica, sativa or hybrid?”


To new patients, this may be just as confusing as being approached by a flamingo. 

Before we start divulging into the differences, it is important to note one of the greatest Cannabis myths:

“Indica is a body high. Sativa is a mind high.” WRONG

Both indica and sativa have mood elevating and sedative effects. The ingestion of cannabis is an individual and unassuming one; a strain may be just right or too much. What’s amazing is that this is a plant, with at least a 12,000-year history, spent “evolving alongside humankind”1

Questions to consider as a consumer are: How do you want to feel? What flavours do you like? What is your medical condition?

“Everyone’s biochemistry will vary. The individual’s tolerance, the amount consumed, how it is consumed, and the items the individual consumes prior to taking cannabis (food, water, alcohol, etc.) will all alter the effect of any given strain.” 2

History & Origin of Strains 

Indica is the classical Greek and Latin word for “India”, the region of Earth where resin-heavy, psychotropic cannabis is thought to have originated from.3 Sativa simply means “cultivated”, which it has been for many years in the form of hemp.

In 1753, a biologist  Carl Linnaeus identified Cannabis sativa as a single species; in 1785, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck found a second species from India.3  Because its characteristics were unlike Cannabis sativa, he named the new species Cannabis indica. 3

Today, sativa and indica are accepted as the two major subtypes of cannabis. If we are going to technocrats, it’s far more scientifically accurate, and will improve both the ongoing conversation and long-term research, by classifying both Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa into four distinct categories 1 :alice-in-wonderland-29768_960_720

Broad-Leaf Drug Producing (BLD) (a Cannabis indica, psychoactive, broad leaves)
Narrow-Leaf Drug Producing (NLD) (a Cannabis indica, psychoactive, narrow leaves)
Broad-Leaf Hemp Producing (BLH) (a Cannabis indica, non-psychoactive, broad leaves)
Narrow-Leaf Hemp Producing (NLH) (a Cannabis sativa, non-psychoactive, narrow leaves)

The first two are classified as “drugs” (with psychoactive properties), the first three are all part of the indica family, and the last two are classified as “hemp” (for food/industrial use). What researchers suggest is that all cannabis received a portion of its genetics from the “Broad Leaf Drug/ Cannabis indica gene pool”. 1

Geographically, strains grow in distinct climates with specific sun and oxygen exposure:

Indica –  Ex. Hindu Kush region of the Middle East –  Turkey, Morocco, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan – thrives in cooler and higher altitude climates

Sativa – Ex. Grown near the equator – Colombia, Mexico, Thailand, Southeast Asia – thrives in warm climates

Lesser known and somewhat insignificant is Cannabis ruderalis, originating from central Russia. As SoCo’s founder, Marek Stupak explains, “[It’s an] Eastern European hemp strain used to mix into our local strains to create a hybrid we refer to as Auto-flower.”4 Cannabis ruderalis is often feral/wild, with a variable morphology depending on its environment.5

The Leaf Online has even suggested adopting another nomenclature for Cannabis:

 Cannabis Indica (Formerly sativa)

Cannabis Afghanica (Formerly indica)

Cannabis Sativa (Formerly ruderalis)

They claim that this approach is more “grounded in the actual genetics of the plant, and scientifically sound”. 5


Hybrids are known as the offspring of two different plants- the crossbreeds between sativa and indica.By genetically combining the plants, growers mutate the potential cannabinoid presence. The achievement is to grow a plant that offers the effects of the two “parent” plants.For example, some hybrids are 50% indica, 50% sativa, typically providing an “all over head and body high”. 3

“Hybrid strains are equally as common however, with mixes typically being 80/20, 70/30 or 50/50 in all combinations possible. The hybrid strains that dispensaries and growers are constantly experimenting with in interesting and creative ways produce a variety of effects of flavour, taste and profiles of cannabinoids and terpenes to achieve a desired “high” or treat a specific physical condition.” 2

Ergo, sativa-dominant hybrids might provide a stimulating cerebral high while still relaxing the body; an indica-dominant hybrid might provide a sedated high without actually inducing sleep. 3 Again, it is important to remember that hybrid strains vary and each user’s biochemistry determines how they will individually react.

Here are some examples of SoCo Hybrid strains:

Sativa dominant: Washing Machine, Alan Young

Indica dominant: Cornbread, King Louis

50/50: Green Crack, Sour OG

Strain Characteristics

The most accurate way to identifying whether a plant is sativa or indica is by observing its physical appearance. Hybrid strains may exhibit either characteristics of each primary strains: 3 5 6 7


  • sometimes referred to as “kush”
  • broad, fatter leaf
  • darker green colour, compared to sativa
  • typically grows 3-4 ft
  • more ideal for indoor growing / smaller grow spaces
  • dense branches with much denser buds/flowers
  • flower time ~ 8-12 weeks
  • good frost tolerance
  • high resin production
  • yield size typically 1-3 ounces per plant
  • have a more variable THC vs. CBD content. (THC is often still more predominant but some strains have 1:1, and others high CBD)
  • Soco Flower: Scotts OG, Tahoe OG

*Notes: Strains like Afghanica can be susceptible to mold due to how dense the buds and branches are.


  • sometimes refered to as “haze”
  • slender, pointy leaf
  • lighter green colour, compared to indica
  • typically can grow up to 20 ft!
  • ideal for outdoor growing
  • sparser branches with less dense buds/flowers
  • flowering time ~ 10-16 weeks
  • minimal frost tolerance
  • moderate production of resin
  • yield size typically ~3 ounces – 1lb per plant
  • higher contents of THC cannabinoid than CBD.
  • Soco Flower: Jack the Ripper

*Note: THC & CBD effect people in different ways. You can experience opposite effects than what is reported by the masses.

Psychoactive & Medicinal Use

  • Indica is known to induce sedative psychoactivity, typically leading to the “body high” many users report. After ingestion, most patients feel a sense of full body relaxation, calming of there central and peripheral nervous system, creating a “chill out” sensorium for the user. Some people remember the effects of indica by comparing it to “in da’ couch” for it provides a “couch-lock” effect. Cognitively, this strain tends to be more anti-social given that, for the majority, it enhances introspection and a sense/comfortability with “alone time”. Some people find this strain to be a great stress reliever and sleeping aid.
  • Sativa is known to induce stimulating psychoactivity, typically leading to the “head high” many users report. After ingestion, most users report feeling energized and cerebral high. This is more uplifting for the patient, allowing them to be more active and social. Some people find an enhancement in creativity and productivity as well.

Symptom Relief really depends on the individual. Both strains have been successful at relieving major aggravators like pain, nausea and loss of appetite (often experienced by those suffering from cancer and chronic illness).


What we can say is that the majority of people find indica & sativa to have the following medicinal values :

  • Indica: Insomnia, Anxiety, Chronic Pain, Sleep Apnea.
  • Sativa: Fatigue, Depression (and other Mood Disorders), known to maintain a Clear Head/ Cerebral effect.

Indicas have a higher level of THC, which gives this strain its sedative properties (ideal for the evening). 3 Most people’s nervous systems are calmed by this strain, therefore it has the potential to decrease such things as muscle spasms, headaches and nausea. Patients who prefer and benefit the most from indica strains include those suffering from fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune disorders like lupus, colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Sativas tends to have a high CBD:THC ratio. Due to the high CBD, sativas tend to stimulate, improve alertness and optimism, which can be maximized during the day. 3 As mentioned above, sativa is commonly prescribed to treat mental and behavioural issues like ADHD, but also as a stimulant can help encourage appetite in patients who suffer from certain types of cancer to anorexia. 3

Hybrids provide different symptom reliefs of their own:  6

Sativa-dominant Hybrids: Typically offered a cerebral high with a relaxing body effect. Provides physical and mental relief. (Soco Flower: Washing Machine, Alan Young)

Even Hybrids (50/50): Ideal strains for people seeking a perfect balance of effects for “head and body. (Soco Flower: Green Crack, Sour OG)

Indica-dominant Hybrids: These strains provide a full-body pain relief, with a relaxing head high. Recommended for nighttime use to go to sleep, or daytime relief from minor pain. These strains are considered ideal for patients who suffer from various autoimmune diseases as well as insomnia and depression. (Soco Flower: Cornbread, King Louis)

It is important to recognize that  in Cannabis’ evolutionary history, there are now thousands of strains, each containing various levels of the known ~400 cannabinols.4 Therefore, the possibility for hybrids and genetic combination is endless. 4

Smell & Tasteface-1370958_960_720

The creativity of growers has opened the doors to an array of flavours and smells of Cannabis.

Overall, sativa plants are thought to be extremely pungent smelling and can range quite drastically. The well known sativa, “Green Crack”,  is described as having a peppery sweet smell, something more “classic” and familiar to this strain. 6

The flavours and smells of indica also has a wide range. Most associate a sweet and sugary fruit flavour. Indica is thought carry a more “pungent skunk” smell/taste, similar to hash. 6


A study, by researchers at the University of British Columbia, is underway to indicate and paint a clear picture of the evolutionary history and genetic organization of cannabis and its strains. 7 Canadian researches believe that this is a pivotal step that could have medical and legal implications for this highly valuable plant.

“Even though hemp and marijuana are important crops, knowledge about cannabis is lacking because of its status as a controlled drug,” said Jonathan Page, a University of British Columbia botanist who co-led the first large-scale study of the genetic diversity of cannabis. 7

In his research, Page found that most strains found in dispensaries are often incorrectly labeled. There are inconsistencies between the strains reported by breeders and the ancestry inferred from the plants actual DNA. 7 An example strain, Jamaican Lambs Bread, which has been thought to be a pure sativa, genetically is identical to an indica strain from Afghanistan.

As we continue to stress- the effects of sativa and indica vary widely, and medical cannabis is not a realm one can assume. It is an individual experience which requires consistent observation and navigation via patient preference.

Here at SoCo we encourage our members to explore our different strains in a safe and informative environment. Our staff is equipped to help you determine, without feeling overwhelmed:

What symptom relief you are hoping for? What flavours do you like? How do you want to feel?


Debunking the Sativa Versus Indica Classification of Cannabis. MERRY JANE. https://www.merryjane.com/health/sativa-indica-cannabis-classification. Published September 27, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2016.
Aaron HB. Indica vs. Sativa. Summit Daily. http://www.summitdaily.com/magazines/explore-summit-magazine/indica-vs-sativa-sponsored/. Published August 11, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
N.A truthonpot. or. Indica vs. Sativa: What’s the Difference? Truth on Pot. http://www.truthonpot.com/2016/03/14/indica-vs-sativa-whats-the-difference/. Published March 14, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
Stupak M. C. Ruderalis. In: Online ; 2016.
Colbert M. Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis – Did We Get It All Wrong? The Leaf Online. http://theleafonline.com/c/science/2015/01/indica-sativa-ruderalis-get-wrong/. Published January 26, 2015. Accessed October 7, 2016.
Reichard Z. Indica vs. Sativa Medical Marijuana Strain Differences. Medical Jane. https://www.medicaljane.com/2013/06/28/cannabis-indica-vs-cannabis-sativa-differences/. Published 2014. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Botanists conduct first large-scale genetic study of marijuana, hemp. http://ubc.ca. http://news.ubc.ca/2015/08/26/botanists-conduct-first-large-scale-genetic-study-of-marijuana-hemp/. Published August 26, 2015. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Cannabis Grow Guide

Cannabis Grow Guide

The Cannabis Grow Guide is a compendium of methods for the growth of medical marijuana. Its primary audience is for consumers paying large sums of money for medical cannabis. The Grow Guide is a superior information database of how to grow cannabis (growing pot, growing cannabis, growing weed, growing marijuana plants, etc.), using indoor marijuana growing systems, or, hydroponics.

For more information, please visit cannabis.growguide.ca.