Cannabis 101: Understanding Sativa vs. Indica

Photos By: Mike Rosati

 

Not all strains are created equal.

 

Most seasoned cannabis smokers are aware of the subtle differences in psychoactive effects of each flower. You’ve heard the names — Maui Waui, Girl Scout Cookies, Agent Orange. What do they even mean? Mostly, they refer to the genetic lineage but some have become synonymous with certain desired effects. Physically, each strain has its own unique characteristics — some are bushy, some are purple, some have a sour smell, and so on.

 

Our current cannabis culture has widely accepted the notion that some strains bring you up, and others will bring you down. This differentiation is commonly referred to as Sativa and Indica, respectively.

 

It can also be described as a “head high vs. body high” or “daytime vs. nighttime.” Each batch of flowers is intensely unique. Dedicated cannaiseurs take great pride in studying the psychoactive effects of each strain. It helps to paint a picture of what to expect when recommending buds to patients who experience different ailments or wish to feel a certain type of way. You can essentially plan your daily activities based off this information.

For example, those looking to cure insomnia, relieve anxiety and soothe pain can look to an “Indica” strain. Maybe you prefer to use cannabis before embarking on a creative project, going on a hike or attending a concert? You probably want to use a “Sativa” strain for those types of activities. And when in doubt, ask your local budtender. Chances are, they’ve had direct experience with the strains offered in their dispensary and can give you a more accurate description.

 

However, while much of these classifications are widely accepted, they’re not exactly rooted in science. Many times, different people will have different experiences with each strain. Varying growing conditions can alter the traits of each strain as well, meaning that OG Kush may have vastly different psychoactive effects depending on who grew it and where. According to Krymon deCesare, chief research director at Steep Hill Labs in Oakland, CA, the indica/sativa classification isn’t really the best indicator of how you will feel — it’s actually the terpene content that informs whether your high will feel more energetic, or more couch-locked.

 

Krymon deCesare spoke to Alternet about debunking the myths behind Indica/Sativa, explaining that they “found consistently elevated levels of the terpenoid myrcene in C. indica, as compared to C. sativa. Myrcene is the major ingredient responsible for ‘flipping’ the normal energetic effect of THC into a couch lock effect.” Otherwise known as the “entourage effect,” deCesare theorizes that a combination of “different cannabinoids and terpenes work together to create the distinctive highs of various strains.” High Times Magazine explored this issue as well, noting that “Myrcene is also present in hops and has often been credited with producing that warm, sedating feeling we get when we drink really hoppy beer such as IPAs.”

In the future, terpene content will actually matter more to those interested in the nuanced effects and characteristics of each strain based off this information. This is why continued research is crucial to understanding the effects of cannabis on humans. But it doesn’t have to stop with the lab technicians.

 

If you’re still a cannabis newbie and all of this information seems like a lot to take in, you can start by conducting your own at-home experiments. Next time you’re at your local dispensary, pick up a gram or less of a few different strains and take your own notes. What did it smell like? What did it taste like? Did it give you energy? Did it make you tired? How strong was it? What kind of activities would this strain be best for? Developing awareness is key when you’re altering your consciousness. Informing yourself and understanding how each strain affects YOU is what is important.

 

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Disclaimer: Does this mean that your Bloom Farms pen will be different depending on where or when you buy it? No. Consistency is important to us and we work with growers, farmers and lab technicians, testing the product throughout the process, to ensure that your experience is the same every time.

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Author: Evan Thompson

Evan ThompsonWith a proclivity for risk-taking and an intimate knowledge of San Francisco’s landscape, Evan goes the extra mile, shooting images that capture the mystique and majesty of the Bay Area.

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