Posted July 17, 2018 by Jana Hepbun

Categorizing Cannabis Strains

Entering the world of medical cannabis can be incredibly overwhelming for any patient who is unfamiliar with the plant. Who knew there was so much to learn about something seemingly so simple? For example, you have most likely noticed that licensed producers separate their cannabis strains and oils into one of a few different categories, including indica, sativa and hybrid. This separation was originally created in the 18th century to differentiate between two species within the cannabis genus (indica and sativa) as a way to classify them based on structure and resin. Later, as strains were cross bred, the term hybrid was added as a third way to classify cannabis.

Sativa, as we know it now, is thought to be generally higher in THC and lower in CBD (which makes it more psychoactive). It is known for its narrow leaflets, light green color and is more suitable for outdoor growing. Sativa plants grow tall and thin, reaching around 20 feet high with a longer growing time of nine to 12 weeks. Although the effects of each type are in constant debate, sativa-dominant strains are frequently thought to act as an energizing stimulate, may help increase focus and creativity, and may potentially aid depression, fatigue and mood disorders. It is also thought that sativa strains are more ideal for day time use.

On the other hand, the current form of indica is thought to be generally higher in CBD and lower in THC (for a reduced psychoactive effect). It has broad and bushy broad leaflets that are darker green in colour. And indica strains are more suitable for growing indoors, with a shorter growing time of six to eight weeks. Indica strains may provide relief for insomnia, anxiety, pain, nausea and seizures. Due to their perceived sedative effects, it is thought that indicas make a better nighttime strain. Hybrids are simply a varying combination of both sativa and indica strains, and are thought to create a balance of the effects of each. They can be used day or night, and reflect the distinct characteristics of their parental strains.

Today, the difference between sativa and indica is under intense debate by scientists and cannabis connoisseurs, especially as so much cross breeding has severely altered the gene pool. In addition, other characteristics such as terpenes are becoming more strongly associated with the cannabis strains’ effects. As cannabis is legalized and more scientists study this complex plant, it is becoming apparent that the current classifications of indica, sativa and hybrid based on their perceived effects are incredibly oversimplified. Even within one specific strain, the types and amounts of compounds can differ based on environment and other growing conditions. We also now know that there are many reasons why cannabis affects the human body, including cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN, etc.), terpenes and flavonoids. Together they create the entourage effect to forge a plethora of effects within the body. Plus, each person’s specific biochemistry, genetics, mood and physiology might respond differently to strains, further complicating the overall experience.

We suggest using the categories of indica, sativa and hybrid as just one of the multiple ways you choose your cannabis, also looking at a strain’s cannabinoid profile and major terpenes. The more you experience a variety of strains, the more you will discover which work on your own unique symptoms and for your personal needs. If you ever have any questions when it comes to selecting a dried flower strain or cannabis oil, we are always happy to help. Please contact us at or calling our toll-free patient hotline at 1-844-456-1515.

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