Indica vs. Sativa vs Hybrid: Which One Is Right for You?

Indica vs. Sativa vs Hybrid: Which One Is Right for You?

When choosing what type of marijuana to smoke a question we often get is “What is the difference between indica vs sativa vs hybrid?”

With over 1000 different strains of cannabis available on the market today, many of them found in legal recreational dispensaries all over the U.S, people all over the country are confused about the different types of cannabis. Words like Indica, Sativa, and hybrid are found all over marijuana products in dispensaries, but what do those words truly mean? If someone is looking for marijuana as pain relief is it better to use Indica vs Sativa? What if someone is just looking for an energetic high to accompany their hike? What are hybrid strains and how are they affected by different terpenes and cannabinoid combos. We’ll go into depth what each specific strains mean and how their effects vary, but in general here is what are common attributes of generic Indica, Sativa, and hybrid strains


Cannabis Indica is native to the middle east–specifically Afghanistan, India, Turkey, and Pakistan. These plants are short and wide with very bushy leaves and a dense amount of leaves. Indica plants tend to grow faster than Sativa, due to their years of cultivation on their native soil in the dry, mountainous region of the Hindu Kush. Indica strains tend to have higher levels of CBD compared to THC, and thus has a more relaxing, sedated high compared to Sativa. Indica also tends to focus the high more on the body as opposed to the head. Due to all of these, cannabis Indica is usually reserved for the night.


Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Cannabis Sativa originated in hot and dry climates all over the world, including origins in Africa, Southeast Asia, Western Asia, and Central America. These plants are tall and thin with much less dense foliage compared to their Indica counterparts and typically grow up to 12 feet or more. Sativa tends to take longer to cultivate and mature as well. Sativa is known to produce more of a head or mind high compared to Indica and is commonly known to have energizing, anxiety mitigating effects compared to Indica. While taking Indica might make you feel relaxed, sleepy, and lethargic, Sativa strains typically produce a very energetic and creative high, which is why Sativa strains are commonly used by artists for creative boosts. Due to its stimulating effects, Sativa is better reserved for daytime use, as the energizing boost may make rest and sleeping much more difficult.


picture of hybrid marijuana

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Unlike Sativa and Indica, which have historical origins and have been used for thousands of centuries, hybrid strains, as the name suggests, are cross-sections of different parent strains that create a new and unique strain that will produce its own signature effects. Hybrids are a more modern invention and are typically found in farms and greenhouses that have been commercially licensed, though some hobbyists combine strains on their own property. Very few cannabis strains are true Indica or true Sativa strains. Rather, most cannabis strains are a mixture of both. Within this subset, there can be either Indica-dominant or Sativa-dominant strains. There are also some hybrid strains that are relatively homogeneous Indica/Sativa varieties.

Due to the variety of different natures of hybrids, there is no typical CBD to THC ratio that is found in Sativa and Indica; though it is worth noting that hybrid strains are typically developed by those seeking to increase the THC found in strains. Due to this trend, it’s usually safe to assume that hybrid will have a higher ratio of THC, both compared to the CBD compounds found in the strain and as an absolute value, though this is by no means a rule. Cultivators select hybrid strains for their own unique properties and effects, so there is no general guideline for how hybrid strains affect people – some strains are grown to reduce stress while others are grown to stimulate the appetite.

While one strain may give a strong boost in creativity, another may have been selected for its ability to ease anxiety and increase drowsiness. Because of all this, daytime versus nighttime use depends on the dominant effects of the hybrid. Hybrids are often classified as Indica dominant or Sativa dominant to hint towards which effect the hybrid will resemble more, and balanced variations also exist that seek to create a balanced high that incorporates both strains.


Photo from Wikipedia Commons

The fourth type of cannabis actually exists, though this strain isn’t very well known. Ruderalis is special in that it has very low potency, and the strong psychoactive effects from Indica, Sativa, and hybrid strains are not nearly as pronounced in Ruderalis. While cannabis plants are generally known for growing in harsh climates, Ruderalis takes it one step further and originated in even more extreme environments. Found in harsh terrains like the Himalayas on the Indian subcontinent, or the frigid winters of Siberia and Russia, or on the Ural in Eastern Europe, Ruderalis plants grow extremely quickly – likely in response to the extreme cold and low sunlight found in these regions.

This strain typically has very little THC and a moderate amount of CBD, though sometimes not enough to produce any noticeable effects. Due to the low potency, Ruderalis is not commonly used for either medicinal or recreational purposes. While Ruderalis on its own is fairly unpopular as a method of consumption, growers sometimes like to crossbreed it with other more potent strains such as Sativa and Indica. The plant’s general hardiness, in addition to the rapid growth cycle, is often a characteristic that growers seek out in order to create a more efficient product.

It is important to keep in mind that while strains and plant genetics do have a strong impact on the typical effects found with marijuana, there are other factors to consider such as your personal body chemistry, the THC to CBD ratio of the specific strain that’s being used, your general mental health and mood during consumption, and even seemingly random things such as the conditions in which the plant was grown. Still, knowing the genetic makeup of these plants can only aid you in making a decision on what the proper strain is needed to achieve your goals.


Marijuana plants are covered in an oily coating called terpenes. While consumers generally pay close attention to the THC and CBD values of their product, more recent research suggests that terpenes can be just as impactful as the more well-known compounds. Strains of marijuana often are described with various notes and flavors, for example, the Mr. Clean strain often is described with a chemical flavor, while Gelato is known for its fruity aroma and taste. These flavors are due to the combination of terpenes that each profile has and while their interactions are not fully understood, these terpenes allow cultivators additional freedom and options in crafting a certain marijuana profile. On the consumer end, terpenes allow consumers to further refine their options into their personal favorites.

Medical Use

Cannabis has several medicinal uses, including but not limited to reducing inflammation, lowering anxiety, pain relief, renewing appetite, and many more. It is important you consult with your doctor or primary care physician first before experimenting with these types of drugs. Doctors can provide additional feedback about what cannabis can do for you, as well as both positive and negative effects that marijuana can have on you. While marijuana is generally considered to be a fairly safe drug, your own personal health, body chemistry, and other health-related conditions may change this. After a discussion with a medical professional, you can begin experimenting with your doctor’s guidelines in order to find the best-suited strain for you.

Indica in general tends to lower energy levels and has been subjectively described as a body high. Indicas come in a wide range of strains and no two strains are identical – but usual effects include lethargy, a sense of euphoria, sleepiness, and a lack of energy. Some have described particularly heavy Indica as sedative and experience what is known as couch-lock, where the effects of Indica are so inebriating, users find themselves unable to effectively move.

Sativas, on the other hand, are generally more energetic and uplifting than Indica strains. Users have often noted feelings of increased energy, euphoria, and generally feeling more creative. While Indica strains are known for a body high, Sativa strains have a more pronounced head high. Like Indicas, Sativas come in hundreds of different strains, so each specific strain will have different effects. Due to their energetic nature, we recommend Sativas as more of daytime use.

Marijuana use has its dangers – smoking or vaping cannabis can irritate or even damage your airway – often leading to respiratory problems such as coughing and issues breathing. Cannabis taken orally, such as through tinctures or edibles, pose almost none of the aforementioned threat (though come with their own disadvantages such as a delayed effect).

According to Carizona, Cannabis Indica is effective for treating symptoms of:

  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinsons
  • Panic attacks
  • Chronic Pain

While Sativa strains are better suited for diseases and ailments such as:

  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Low/no appetite
  • Glaucoma/Intro-ocular disorders
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Chronic pain

Dangers of Cannabis

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While Cannabis is generally regarded as a fairly safe drug with minimal withdrawal symptoms and no risk of overdose, cannabis consumption is not recommended for certain groups of people or those with certain underlying conditions. WebMD specifically notes these conditions that may be impacted by cannabis use, but ultimately it is important to talk to your doctor or other medical providers about the risks and concerns regarding cannabis. For example, smoking or shaping cannabis can irritate your lungs and airways. This can lead to coughing and breathing problems. Oral cannabis methods, such as chewing gum or biscuits, are unlikely to affect your general respiratory health. However, the effects are felt more slowly and are generally not as strong.

WebMD specifically notes that people with these ailments or under these conditions should strongly reconsider using marijuana. Again, your primary care physician knows more about you than an article on the internet, so make sure to consult them first before making any decisions regarding marijuana.


Cannabis has the potential to contribute to premature births and can slow fetal development through the placenta. The use of cannabis while pregnant has been associated with birth defects, fetal abnormality, and slow growth development; in addition, children of women who have smoked marijuana during pregnancy often develop weaker emotional control and intelligence later in life.

Heart disease

One common effect of cannabis is rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure, both factors that can contribute to a heart attack. Most times, people who experience a heart attack due to cannabis use had underlying health problems related to the heart in the first place – nonetheless you should take care if you are an at-risk group.


Using cannabis, especially on a daily basis, can often lead to depression. For those who are unfortunate enough to already be depressed, cannabis can exacerbate these symptoms or lead to the thought of suicide.


While not directly contributing to diabetes, for those with diabetes cannabis can make it difficult to control your blood sugar level while under the influence.

Quitting smoking

Research has suggested that those who use cannabis have a much tougher time quitting cigarettes than those that do not smoke or use cannabis. If kicking cigarettes is an important habit for you, then consider not using cannabis.

Stroke victims

After having a stroke once, smoking cannabis can increase your risk of a second stroke.


Cannabis directly affects a person’s central nervous system and this can have complications with the anesthesia used in surgery. It is highly recommended you avoid marijuana before your surgery and let your medical professionals know about your cannabis habit if one exists.

How Do I Decide Indica vs Sativa? Which Type of Cannabis Should I Use?

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When looking for the right cannabis product for you, keep the following points in mind:


Knowing what you’re trying to feel or treat can help narrow down your options. Talk with dispensary employees about your goals for cannabis use, such as treating insomnia, reducing anxiety, and increasing energy.


Some strains are considered entry-level. Their effects are usually milder and more tolerant. Strains with higher levels of cannabinoids may be too strong for first-time users and are suggested to be left to more experienced users. It is recommended for users to ask dispensary employees which strains are better for new users if it is their first time using that product.

Medical History 

Cannabis is a natural product, but it can have an intense effect. Before trying cannabis, you should consider any existing medical conditions or potential interactions with medications. When in doubt, ask your doctor or other health care provider about the individual benefits and potential risks.

Method of consumption

Each method of cannabis consumption has its own advantages and disadvantages. Smoking or vaping cannabis may irritate your lungs and airways, although you may feel the effects more quickly. Gummies, chewables, and foods may be easier to tolerate, but the effects take longer and are often less potent.


Cannabis only became legal recently with its watershed moment in 2012 in the great state of Colorado. Now, dozens of states have followed suit and many have allowed the use of cannabis medically, recreationally, and both. Before you use cannabis, make sure it is legal in your state. If you live outside of the U.S, then check your country’s laws before consuming cannabis. If you live in a state that has legalized recreational marijuana, you can go to your local dispensary and ask the employees for any recommendations, information, or general guidelines on marijuana. If you have specific needs, letting your dispensary know will allow them to recommend specific strains that can best help you.

New Strains of Cannabis

New cannabis varieties, many of which are hybrids from existing varieties with excellent analgesic (pain relief) or anti-inflammatory properties, are being bred regularly.

Due to the huge differences in medicinal effects and patient experience between Indica and Sativa, legal medical marijuana users should work with doctors and pharmacies to try strains that are already known to provide specific benefits to other patients, especially those with the same medical conditions. While some strains are excellent for dealing with nausea associated with chemotherapy (used to treat patients with diseases such as cancer and Crohn’s disease), most types of marijuana are excellent at this. Understanding the genetics of the plant can help you, your budtender, and your doctor to determine the right product for you. Keep in mind that this is only one of several dynamics that exist when it comes to finding the best product for you. The plant genus should not be the only factor or determinant, but part of the complete toolbox, along with your knowledge of cannabinoid content, terpene characteristics, growth techniques, and more.

In Conclusion

Patients should strive to find the strains that best respond to their specific disease symptoms, including the side effects of drugs and treatments. In fact, we encourage patients to continue to try new strains in search of greater potency and better cannabinoid profiles. Because this effectiveness is so subjective, advice from other patients is very important.

Marijuana is unfortunately shrouded in controversy due to the new legislation and politics surrounding it. If you want to cut through the rumors and see if weed is right for you, speak to your doctor or health care professional.

Only these health professionals can give you tailored advice on the exact positive and negative outcomes that you may face. Let’s face it, marijuana can come with a huge amount of positives, but there are always side effects with any medicinal product.

With more research and more funding, we won’t have to even add this disclaimer, but for now, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

In terms of legality, you should also do your due diligence before partaking in any marijuana substance. You could speak to a doctor for this information as well, or you could call up your nearest dispensary and talk to one of the employees there.

All employees at marijuana dispensaries should be able to answer any basic question on the legality of marijuana in your county.

You knew it was coming, the text in this article is informational only and not intended to be legal or medical advice or recommendations in any way. Use this information as you will with your own discretion. The bottom line is – be safe, follow the rules, and enjoy some Mary Jane while you are in the Bicentennial State for your Rocky Mountain High!