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Sativa vs Indica vs Hybrid Strains: Is It All B.S.?


Cannabis being legalized in Canada has led to the creation of many cannabis dispensaries in Canada. There are different strains to keep in mind, though. Remember these when deciding what effect you’re going for. Cannabis strains and infused products are categorized as either indica, sativa, or hybrid products. For many consumers, each type of cannabis provides a distinct experience (relaxing, energizing, or balanced), but is this a reliable indicator of its effects? Let’s break down the myths and misconceptions surrounding the traditional indica, sativa, and hybrid classification.


Behind the Confusion

It’s common knowledge among cannabis users that indica and sativa strains have distinct, and often, complementary effects. Indica strains are prized for being physically sedating, perfect for nighttime. Sativa strains are known for their stimulating, cerebral effects that can make users feel more sociable, creative, and focused.

Hybrid strains are the result of breeding indica and sativa strains together. In theory, hybrid strains produce balanced effects; equal parts relaxation and energy.  But, this modern classification of indica and sativa strains is not entirely true.

Current research indicates that these classifications are essentially useless for determining effects. More importantly, a strain’s chemical composition is responsible for the intoxicating and therapeutic effects of the cannabis plant.

Over time, these categories of weed have stuck around for the worse. In order to understand why they are not great factors to consider when determining a cannabis strain’s effect, we must go back to the origins of these labels.


How It All Started

In the 18th century, botanists and biologists identified certain physical characteristics of  cannabis plants and created a system of classification that has extended to modern-day marketing and commercial sale of cannabis strains.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
  • 1753: Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus identifies the Cannabis sativa plant based on its light green colour and narrow leaves.
  • 1785: French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck identifies the Cannabis indica species based on its dark green colour and broad leaves.
  • 1930: Russian botanist Dimitrij Janicechewsky identifies the Cannabis ruderalis plant based on its automatic flowering cycle. 
  • 1970s: American biologists Richard E. Schultz and Loran Anderson argue for a new  classification of cannabis based on its cannabinoid ratio:
  • Cannabis sativa: High THC, Low CBD
  • Cannabis indica: High THC, High CBD
  • Cannabis ruderalis: Low THC, High CBD
  • 1976: Arthur Cronquist and Ernest Small contend that there is only one main species, Cannabis sativa, and that human intervention created the difference in the ratio of cannabinoids.
Arthur Cronquist

Today, researchers believe that the taxonomic differences between sativas and indicas were there well before humans could intervene. In addition, we’re learning more about the minor compounds such as terpenes which have an enormous influence on a person’s experience. These new findings are at odds with the outdated classification system.

Indica and sativa categories continue to hold strong among cultivators, mainly to identify their appearance and growing characteristics. Sativa plants tend to grow taller, while indica strains grow short and bushy. Beyond their physical appearance, these labels are not of much use in determining the different effects of cannabis strains. 


Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid Effects & Strains

So, are indica and sativa strains all the same? Far from it. Most users find that sativas are energizing while indicas are relaxing. Hybrid strains fall somewhere in the middle. The reality is that there are many exceptions to the rule.


Indica Strains & Effects

Indica strains are known for their couch-locking and full-body effects. They’re popular strains for those looking to unwind and treat insomnia.

  • Indica effects: Relaxed, sleepy, happy, euphoric

Popular Indica strains include:

  • Granddaddy Purple
  • Hindu Kush 
  • Northern Lights
  • Bubba Kush
  • Blueberry
  • G-13


Sativa Strains & Effects

Sativas are known for their head high, boost in mood, and energizing effects. Users report sativas can relieve anxiety and stress and increase focus and creativity.

  • Sativa effects:  Happy, euphoric, focused, energetic

Popular sativa strains include:

  • Jack Herer
  • Sour Diesel
  • Durban Poison
  • Amnesia Haze
  • Green crack
  • Strawberry Cough

Hybrid Strains & Effects

Hybrids are cross between sativa and indica strains. Over time, cannabis breeding has created a market of mainly hybrids without any pure indicas and sativas. Most indica and sativa plants are hybrids and are classified as either indica-dominant or sativa-dominant strains.

  • Hybrid effects: Relaxed, euphoric, happy, energetic

Popular hybrid strains include:

  • Girl Scout Cookies
  • Wedding Cake
  • Blue Dream
  • Gorilla Glue #4 (GG4/Original Glue)
  • OG Kush
  • White Widow 


Finding Your Strain

If you can’t trust these modern strain categories, how does one go about choosing a strain based on its effects? A cannabis strain’s effects depend on a variety of factors, including the concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, the frequency of use, amount consumed, and the consumption method.



Cannabis plants contain over 120 different cannabinoids, mainly THC and CBD.

  • THC: Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol produces intoxicating effects that can relieve pain, nausea, and induce appetite.
  • CBD: Cannabidiol is non-intoxicating and provides considerable pain, inflammatory, and anxiety relief.

While cannabis contains hundreds of minor cannabinoids, they are found in lower concentrations than THC and CBD. If you want to find the best strain for you, consider these common cannabinoid ratios:

  • THC-dominant: Strains with higher THC content elicit a robust euphoric experience, although they can also induce paranoia and anxiety in low-tolerance users.
  • CBD-dominant: Strains with higher CBD content provide therapeutic benefits with clear-headed effects.
  • Balanced: Strains with a balanced THC and CBD ratio can provide milder effects of euphoria without the intense high.

Cannabinoid ratios vary based on the cannabis product and cannabis strain. Experiment with different strains and ratios to find one that produces the most benefits and least amount of side effects.



Terpenes, the plant’s aromatic compounds, give each strain its signature and complex aroma. There are many different types of terpenes, each thought to produce a beneficial and synergistic effect along with cannabinoids. Although they are found in lower concentrations than cannabinoids, they can provide a more nuanced cannabis experience.


Lifestyle & Biology

Are you a new or seasoned cannabis user? How often do you consume cannabis, and how much do you usually consume? Your consumption habits and biology will determine how you experience each cannabis strain. For low-tolerance users, sticking with low-THC cannabis in low doses can get you used to the effects. If you’re prone to anxiety, stick with high-CBD cannabis strains. 

In the end, cannabis strains offer more than meets the eye. Pay attention to their chemical composition closely. What’s inside often determines how you’ll feel. There are tons of cannabis strains out there. The best way to find one you’d like is to try as many as you can, start low and slow, and enjoy. 

There are many cannabis stores in Canada, but Dank Cannabis dispensaries in Calgary are the best of the bunch. They offer cannabis products that can be pre-ordered online for an in-store pick-up or delivered right to your door. View the full Dank menu and order some seeds today!

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