Indica, Sativa & Hybrid – What’s The Difference

There are three primary strains of cannabis that seem to have caused a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. Those strains are Indica, sativa, and hybrid. For cannabis plants, however, there are only two primary strains, which are Indica and sativa.

Both of these strains have been showing up around the world for medical use as more and more areas fight to legalize them for their benefits and positive health effects.

Difference #1 – The Smell

One of the first things you’ll notice that might help you identify whether it’s of the Indica or sativa strain is the smell. Sativa plants can be overwhelming in smell and some of them can smell fruity while some of them might smell like diesel. Regardless of the smell, most sativa brands provide the same effects, it’s just the smell that’ll catch you off guard.

Then, there’s Indica. Indica has a more welcoming smell to most of the strains. The smell can be described as a sweet aroma or kind of an Earthly smell.

Sativa – Kind of sweet, some people say they smell fruity and some people say that there’s an odd diesel smell to some of these strains.

Indica – A wide variety of smells that can range from pinecone to skunk or even fruity. It really depends on the production of the strain but Indica has a far broader range of smells and scents they can be produced at.

Difference #2 – Appearance

The appearance of Indica and sativa plants might help set them apart. Indica plants are usually on the shorter side but they do tend to have leaves that are larger than sativa plants. When you examine the buds from an Indica plant, you’ll notice that they’re great in density than sativa plant buds.

Sativa plants, on the other hand, are taller than Indica plants. The leaves of sativa plants are also relatively long. The leaves look rather thin and the buds that come from these plants are smaller. The appearance of sativa plant buds can be described as feathery.

What is a Hybrid?

A hybrid strain is simply a strain that’s cross-mixed between sativa and Indica. This is actually quite common as most strains are mixed in some fashion. It’s kind of rare that you would ever come across a strain that’s purely Indica or sativa. Most strains share characteristics from each other and aren’t completely dominant. There are a lot of strains out there where people try to go for 50/50 sativa and Indica split.

One of the most troubling things about purchasing hybrid strains is that people who sell these products are not legally required to tell you exactly what the strain consists of. It’s at their own free will if they want to tell you exactly how they made the strain and even then, they could just lie to you.

They do this because they know some people are after a certain compound of strains and it’s far easier to simply not list the mix.

hybrid cannabis plant

Difference #3 – Mental Effects & Benefits

Both strains have different mental effects and finding out which one works best for you might take a little experimenting. However, depending on what you’re looking for, there are certain strains that work better for you.

For people who want to go to sleep or feel more relaxed at night time, it’s recommended that you go with an Indica strain. Indica completely relaxes the body and makes it a lot easier to sleep at night for the insomniacs and people who have trouble sleeping due to anxiety.

Sativa, on the other hand, is more recommended for daytime use. People who take sativa usually do so to get a more euphoric feeling and once they take sativa, they feel like their spirit has been uplifted. Both strains can relax you and make some people feel sleepy but sativa is less likely to put you to sleep.

The Benefits of Sativa

  • Sativa is known to work great as an anti-anxiety treatment and will help people reduce the severity of their panic attacks.

What’s a panic attack?

If you’ve never had an anxiety attack or a panic attack as they’re called, they can be incredibly scary. They’re generally not harmful but at the time of having one, most people don’t know that it’s just a panic attack.

Most people will start to feel their heart rate increase, they might get jittery, their anxiety will shoot through the roof, their legs and arms might feel weak, some people experience chest pain, some people get shortness of breath and so on. They’re different for everyone but medical marijuana has shown great promise to help reduce or eliminate these intense and terrifying phenomena.

  • For people who are depressed, sativa has been shown to help reduce the levels of depression in people who have suffered a recent loss, people who are going through PTSD and even in people with suicidal thoughts.
  • If you suffer from chronic pain, such as back pain or neck pain, then you may want to look into a high concentration sativa strain. People who work stressful jobs put a lot of stress into their backs, their legs, their arms, their neck, and their joints. Sativa can help eliminate some of the pain.
  • Your serotonin production will be increased as well. Serotonin is a powerful chemical from the brain that helps you sleep better, helps you work up an appetite, improves your mood and helps you learn as well.

The Benefits of Indica

  • One thing Indica does that Sativa doesn’t do is it helps increase the production of dopamine. Dopamine helps regulate the brain’s central nervous system and helps you feel more pleasure out of things.
  • Your appetite will be increased if you’re someone who doesn’t feel like they want to eat at all.
  • For people who experience a lot of nausea or vomiting due to numerous reasons, Indica strains can help reduce this feeling.
  • Indica also puts you in a state of relaxation, so you’ll find it much easier to focus on a single task or just relax in general.
  • The tension in your muscles will go down and you’ll be able to focus on things much easier, whether it’s due to muscle aches or stress which has caused your muscles to tense up.


THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol and is the main ingredient responsible for getting people that high feeling. When medical use of marijuana was first approved, a lot of people thought that the THC in strains is what was giving people the numerous health benefits, which is what leads a lot of people to start growing plants that were high in THC count.

THC is the most prominent ingredient of marijuana but there are numerous things that make up the compounds that make us feel good.

One of those things that you might have seen come up recently, is CBD. CBD stands for cannabidiol. CBD is the second most active ingredient in marijuana, right behind THC. Studies are underway to fully understand the effects of CBD but it’s believed that CBD can do the following:

  • Act as an anti-inflammatory and help certain ailments or joints when they become inflamed.
  • Can help prevent or reduce the severity of seizures for numerous different applications, whether they’re drug-induced or from an unknown cause.
  • CBD is very effective for pain management.
  • It can help treat or completely get rid of someone’s anxiety, without the effects of THC taking hold. This means, that someone could potentially treat their anxiety without getting high.

Even more interesting, some studies are suggesting that a high concentration of CBD might actually countereffect the effects of THC and reduce the number of psychological effects that marijuana has on the brain. If THC makes up 20% of the strain or less, then it’s generally considered normal or low.

However, if THC makes up over 20% of the strain, then this is considered a high THC strain. CBD, however, is much lower than that, only needing around 4% of the strain to be considered high.

Other studies are underway to try and determine whether or not THC and CBD have any effect on certain diseases such as Crohn’s disease, dravet’s syndrome, MS, psychological trauma such as PTSD and more.

The reason that dispensaries put a small trace of THC into CBD strains is that it’s been shown that the effects of the CBD can be greatly enhanced when there’s a small strain of THC mixed into the strain.

So, while the two strains are pretty similar to each other, there’s a lot of things they do differently and they’re used to treat different things. There are still a lot of on-going studies to fully determine how effective cannabis is in treating some ailments.

While a lot of people swear by the effects, whether Indica, Sativa or a strong hybrid is for you is still being determined through rigorous testing, clinical trials, and laboratory studies.

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