With Cannabis being legal for medicinal and recreational purposes in many countries, the users have taken an interest in the different types of strains available for consumption. Over 1000 strains of cannabis have been introduced to our world, and it just seems to make people more confused and divided. As it affects the user's body and mind, it is only fair to make an informed decision. Let's see what the noise about Indica vs Sativa is!


When browsing cannabis strains or purchasing cannabis at a shop, you may notice strains are commonly broken up into three distinct groups: Indica, Sativa, and hybrid. Ongoing debate and discussion have been prevalent in this field regarding the accurate distinction between Indica and Sativa.

There is a growing interest in the different effects that these two can produce. The idea that Sativa, Indica, and hybrid breeds deliver distinct effects is so deeply rooted in the cannabis aficionados that bud tenders often initiate their sale by asking you which of these three types you prefer.

Prolonging the Indica vs Sativa debate, is it really true that when you prefer a Sativa, you’re picking a more uplifting experience whereas when you opt for an Indica, a calmer, more soothing one?

Researchers have been divided on the fact that a "type" of strain can decide the effect it carries. In simple words, the category, or type, of cannabis may not be the greatest indicator of the effects you’ll experience.

Apart from their physical difference, their chemical ingredients- terpenes and cannabinoids. The term "Indica" and "Sativa" was initially used by the cultivators to distinguish between them.

On that note, adding more information to the Indica vs Sativa talk, let's have a look at their physical properties. 

Indica vs Sativa: How to tell the difference between Indica and Sativa Leaves?

The name "Indica" and "Sativa" comes from Botanists who use physical differences such as height, the shape of the leaves, branching patterns, and yielding periods to identify the different strains of the cannabis plant.

Indica is known to be a short, bushy green plant, with wide and broad chunky leaves. Their origin can be tracked down to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Turkey. The plants have adapted to the often harsh, dry, and turbulent climate of the Hindu Kush Mountains. Their distinction also stems from the fact that they grow faster than their counterpart and produce a higher yield. 


As for Sativa, they are found primarily in hot, dry climates with long sunny days which include Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia, and western portions of Asia. They are identified as tall, thin plants with narrow finger-like leaves having light green shade. They can grow taller than 12 feet and typically take longer to grow and mature. They also require more sunlight for accurate growth. 

Now that we know the physical difference, let's look at the Indica vs Sativa difference from a different angle. 

Indica vs Sativa - Popularly believed chemical difference between them

Though experts have been divided on whether the kind of high can be distinguished by the names of the strains, however, we need to understand the common notion that surrounds both the cannabis plant.  


The main argument regarding the Indica vs Sativa is that the "high" cannot be associated with just the difference in the names. There are many other factors involved which lead to the overall experience of consuming the plant. And these factors are altered when the cultivator grows the same plant differently! 

Let's have a look at which chemical compounds affect your strain. 

Indica vs Sativa - Chemical properties affecting your strains

So what does the effect of a cannabis strain depend on?

For starters, there is no one-word answer for this. It depends on several factors which include the chemical compounds like terpenes and cannabinoids, your individual biology and tolerance, dose consumed, and least to say, consumption method. It is important to have a better understanding of these factors to make an informed decision while purchasing the perfect strain for you. 

When we focus on Indica vs Sativa, we have to talk about the most primary factors that decide the "high" of your strains. 



The cannabis plant is a product of hundreds of chemical compounds that create a harmony of effects, which is essentially led by cannabinoids. They are responsible for all kinds of effects, whether positive or negative. Researchers have recognized 144 different cannabinoids, with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the two most studied and discussed compounds. 

The general public tends to distinguish Indica vs Sativa based on their THC and CBD level, which may not always be the case, as they can have various effects on the user. 

Here are some of the recognized Cannabinoids:

  • THC
  • CBD 
  • CBN
  • THCA
  • CBG

Also Read: THCA vs THC - What is the Difference?



For centuries people thought terpenes did not have any effect on the strains. But recent studies have told us that they are pretty impactful. Terpenes are the organic compound responsible for a plant's flavours and aromas, thereby influencing the effect produced by the strains and their potential benefits. So the Indica vs Sativa discussion is not just limited to CBD and THC. 

Let's have a look at the different types of Terpenes.

  • Caryophyllene: This is known to be a spicy, peppery molecule.
  • Linalool: With its floral notes. 
  • Bisabolol: Enriched with hints of chamomile and tea tree oil.
  • Myrcene: Identified as the most common terpene with its earthy and herbal notes.
  • Terpinolene: With its aroma of apples, cumin, and nutmeg.
  • Limonene: This cannabis compound has enhancing citrus notes.
  • Humulene: This terpene is deeply earthy and woody, like hops or cloves.
  • Eucalyptol: Enriched with refreshing and soothing notes of eucalyptus and tea tree oil.
  • Ocimene: Enriched with notes of basil, mango, and parsley.

Indica vs Sativa - FAQs

Is Indica an upper or downer?

An upper or downer depends on the Cannabinoids and Terpenes content. But if you're looking at the conventional research, it is known to give a "body high".

What is the difference between Indica and Sativa leaves?

Indica is known to be a short, bushy green plant, with wide and broad chunky leaves whereas Sativa is identified as tall, thin plants with narrow finger-like leaves having light green shade.

Does Indica make you paranoid?

If you're sensitive to the cannabis effect, you might experience some "slow" responses to any of the strains.


Is Indica or Sativa better?

It is important to understand the difference between Indica and Sativa does not just stem from their physical change, but also due to the changes in Cannabinoids and Terpenes. If you're beginning out, start paying attention to the content of Cannabinoids and Terpenes in your strains. The aroma says a lot- let your nose take the decision. 

It is difficult to plainly categorise the difference between the two as everyone's body reacts differently. 

Now that you know what Indica vs Sativa is all about, you must understand that it takes experience and a lot of information to know what works best for you. In the end, you have to determine what strains give you the desired effect.