Indica and Sativa: Understand Their Differences, Pros, and Cons

The terms “indica” and “sativa” are common among cannabis lovers. These words originated in the 18th century and described different hemp species. Then, hemp was an abundant and sought-after crop without “connections with the devil.” These two cannabis types are beneficial for various medical and recreational uses.

Recent cannabis legalization has created a framework for using these two cannabis forms for recreational and medicinal purposes. Essentially, the sativa type is popular for its uplifting effect, while its indica counterpart is known for its relaxing power. However, some experts say that the differences between these cannabis types depend on many other factors.

So, how does indica differ from sativa? What are the pros and cons of choosing one over the other? Our discussion answers all these questions to give you accurate information for better decision-making. Keep reading to learn more.

Indica and Sativa: Understand Their Differences, Pros, and Cons
Indica and Sativa: Understand Their Differences, Pros, and Cons

What Determines the Differences?

Before delving into the differences between these strains, let’s examine the factors determining the dissimilarities between indica seeds and their sativa counterparts.

We start with sativa, which describes a marijuana category with a lighter color and a lighter, more spatial experience. The cannabis products from this category are associated with a stimulating effect that gives users a buzzing feeling. Sativas grow in dry, hot climatic regions like Central America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and some parts of Western Asia.

On the other hand, the indica strain is famous for its healing and relaxing effects. Products from this category benefit users with sleep problems and disorders. Additionally, indicas promote appetite and reduce nausea.

What Determines the Differences?
What Determines the Differences?

However, some studies indicate that the two varieties aren’t essentially different. Experts with this view say that people shouldn’t use the terms “indica” or “sativa” to group cannabis effects on users. They suggest the weed industry needs a new classification system to promote cannabis product utility for patients. This move will enable patients to communicate with physicians and healthcare providers and choose the optimal weed variety easily.

The current classification depends on asking and answering some essential questions to help people choose the correct cannabis strain. Below are some of the prompts for your guidance:

  • Why am I interested in using cannabis?
  • Do I want to use marijuana for medical reasons, and if so, what condition do I need to treat?
  • Is my interest in marijuana recreational?
  • What is my experience level with marijuana?
  • How long do I want my cannabis buzz to last?

Below are the main differences between these two cannabis categories.

Key Differences Explained


Cannabis sativa comes from warmer climatic regions like Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America. Indica, in its turn, originated from Afghanistan and was used to manufacture hashish.

Medicinal Use

The two sub-species also differ in their medicinal use. Specifically, indica helps address sleeping problems, inflammation, and seizures. It relaxes muscles and inhibits migraines. Moreover, it’s a favored alternative remedy for schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. On the other hand, sativa is an appetite stimulant, antidepressant, and muscle relaxer aiding people with anxiety, stress, and depressive episodes.

Calming vs. “High” Effects

We can also differentiate the two sub-species based on their calming versus “high” effects.

Medical experts say that sativa’s high THC levels have psychoactive properties. This THC produces the “high” people associate with using cannabis. The stimulating effect informs the strain’s stress-reducing and creativity/focus-boosting abilities. At the same time, indicas are good at boosting relaxation and reducing insomnia.

Physical Appearance 

The two strains also differ in their physical appearance. Those who know the two categories well can differentiate them using this quality. Indicas are usually shorter, with broader leaves. They grow between 2 and 4 feet. Their compact branches give them a bushy look. Sativas are taller and have thinner leaves than their indica cousins. Sativa leaves appear to spread out like open hands. Cannabis lovers usually use sativa leaves as the official marijuana symbol in popular culture. These plants can grow between 5 and 18 feet. They also have fewer branches than indica plants.


Chemical composition is another front on which the two categories differ. These two contain THC and CBD, the primary components giving cannabis its effects. Both subdivisions contain these cannabinoids that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Our bodies’ ECS maintains homeostasis—the body’s ability to remain balanced in internal processes, such as temperature, immune responses, and mood.

However, each sub-species contains different THC and CBD levels. Sativas produce and contain more THC than their indica cousins. Inversely, indicas typically have more CBD levels than sativas.


The two subdivisions also differ in their smell. Indicas give a distinctive skunk-like smell. Its sativa cousin also smells a bit skunky, but it also contains the shades of freshness in the aroma, reminding of freshly cut grass.


Lastly, sativa seeds differ from their indica relatives in their cultivation. The indica category is preferred by many because it grows easily and faster than sativa. An indica plant can mature in as short as eight weeks. This way, you can harvest it more often and quicker than sativa. Moreover, cultivating indicas gives you more yields.

Conversely, sativas can take up to three months to mature for harvest. That means they produce lesser yields than indicas, but at the same time, they are simpler in terms of care and plant management.

Pros and Cons: Indica

Let’s proceed and discuss the pros and cons of planting indica and using its related products.


  • Indica strains are usually associated with a closer and balanced ratio of THC to CBD levels. That means you can benefit from the two cannabinoids without exposing yourself to adverse extremes. This benefit is realized when using indicas for medicinal purposes because CBD-rich products don’t have that many negative side effects present in THC-loaded remedies like dry mouth and becoming intoxicated.
  • Indica plants offer higher yields than their sativa counterparts.
  • Planting indicas gives you more yields per plant than sativas.
  • Indicas mature faster and allow you to harvest more times during a growing season.
  • Due to its higher CBD levels, can use indica products to treat and manage various health conditions like muscle and joint pain, epileptic seizures, insomnia, anxiety, and many others.
  • Indica plants are short and stout. Thus, they don’t occupy much vertical space like their sativa cousins.
  • Indica-dominant strains often capitalize on some dimensions of their sativa genetics to make them even better than pure indicas. An excellent example is Northern Lights, an Afghani indica crossed with Thai sativa.


While indica products and plants have commendable pros, they also have a few cons worth noting. Below are the possible side effects of using indica cannabis excessively.

  • Reduced inhibitions and the possibility of engaging in more risk-taking behaviors.
  • Delayed reaction times to oncoming dangers.
  • Memory challenges.
  • Balance and coordination issues.
  • Distorted perception and sense of time.
  • Nausea.

Pros and Cons: Sativa

Growing sativa and using its products come with many advantages, but it’s also not a one-size-fits-all remedy.


  • Sativa strains are often famed for their energizing and mood-lifting power. All products with sativa labels contain higher THC and lower CBD levels. Thus, they suit users seeking to elevate their moods without CBD’s balancing effect.
  • If you are vulnerable to anxiety and want a cannabis strain to boost you, sativa is your best bet.
  • You can also enhance your creative genius and boost your focus levels by consuming sativa-dominant weed. These remedies increase your energy levels, thus promoting your productivity and increasing your creativity.
  • Do you want to increase your confidence levels and face people boldly? Then you can do it using a sativa cannabis strain. This confidence boost can boost your communication and interaction with people, making the entire process elating and easier.


Sativa products have a few adverse effects when taken for a long time or excessively. Below are some of these products’ notable side effects, plus the cons of planting sativas.

  • Dizziness.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Sedation.
  • Sluggishness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Tremors.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Excessive appetite.
  • Increased sociability.
  • Sativa plants offer lower yields than indicas.
  • Sativas take longer to mature than indicas.

Closing Remarks

While the two cannabis sub-species look similar from afar and are essentially related, they have notable physical and chemical differences. Our post delved into these dissimilarities to help you make informed decisions regarding the weed type’s choice and cultivation.

Denys Svirepchuk, a blog writer and analyst at AskGrowers, composed this article to educate the cannabis user community about the ins and outs of strain selection. Denys takes an active interest in cannabis research and is always on the lookout for interesting weed market picks.


Marie Foster
Marie Foster
Marie Foster covers Business News at OSN.