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Indica vs Sativa

(Marijuana vs Hemp)

Cannabis is part of the Cannabaceae family of flowing plants. Interestingly enough this cannabaceae family also includes hops; which as we know is used in beer.

Cannabis can be broken down into two main sub species; Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. 

The common myth of Sativa and Indica as stated by many cannabis consumers when talking about the ‘Marijuana’ variety of cannabis, is as follows:

The Myth

Sativas: Create a head high, they are stimulating, mood elevating and uplifting; perfect for daytime use.

Indicas: Create a body stone, they are relaxing and more sedating; perfect for night time use.

The descriptions are correct however the naming is actually wrong. Indica and Sativa actually have different genetics and each carry different enzymes that result in different cannabinoids being produced.[1]

The different genetics can be clearly divided into a ‘Marijuana’ and ‘Hemp’ classification.

‘Marijuana’ varieties are chosen for flower production with high THC content

‘Hemp’ varieties were traditionally chosen for fibre/stalk production with little to no THC. They mainly produce CBD.

All ‘Marijuana’ strains of cannabis actually have a very small window of genetic diversification. In addition, all ‘Hemp’ strains too, have a small window of genetic diversification.

Due to the clear genetic differences it is now easy to classify the two types. All hemp varieties should be classified as ‘Cannabis Sativa’ and all ‘Marijuana’ varieties should be classified as ‘Cannabis Indica’.

Cannabis Classification

Cannabis Indica = Marijuana variety = enzymes produce THC

Cannabis Sativa = Hemp variety = enzymes produce CBD

Cannabis Indica

However, within the Cannabis Indica (Marijuana) classification there is further division and this is related to the leaf type.

Indica BL – Broad Leaf variety

Indica NL – Narrow Leaf variety

These two sub categories of Cannabis Indica (Marijuana) are what cannabis consumers got confused with; when talking about the effects.

The cannabis Indica Narrow Leaf does create the ‘head high’ and the cannabis Indica Broad Leaf does create the ‘body stone’.

A lot of cannabis Indica that is grown for its flower today is now a hybrid of these two types. We see a mix between the Broad Leaf and Narrow Leaf. Subsequently this can now be called an Indica Hybrid Leaf variety.

So where does this leave cannabis Sativa?

The cannabis Sativa (Hemp) variety was grown for it very long stalks. The stalk provides two useful materials; the fibre (outer skin) and the hurd (inner stem core). The fibre can be used for textiles and the hurd can be used for building.

However, cannabis Sativa has more to it than fibre and hurd. The flowers of cannabis Sativa have an enzyme that converts the cannabinoid CBG into CBD as opposed to THC like in cannabis Indica. This enzyme is made by a specific gene found only in the cannabis Sativa variety.

Thus, we can conclude that all CBD genetics can be traced back to the hemp variety; cannabis Sativa.

When we see CBD present in Indica varieties, they would have been crossed with a Sativa variety at some point. Thus, most Indica varieties that contain any amount of CBD would actually be an Indica/Sativa hybrid.

The truth about the Marijuana myth

(Remember all Marijuana varieties are actually Indicas or hybrids)

Myth 1: Sativas create a head high, they are stimulating, mood elevating and uplifting; perfect for daytime use. This is actually an ‘Indica Narrow Leaf’ variety!  

If CBD is present in this variety, it would actually be a Hybrid of the Narrow Leaf variety. If there is no CBD present it is simply an Indica Narrow Leaf variety.


Myth 2: Indicas create a body stone, they are relaxing and more sedating; perfect for night time use. This is an Indica, but an ‘Indica Broad Leaf’ variety.

If CBD is present this would actually be a Hybrid of the Broad Leaf variety. If there is no CBD present it is simply an Indica Broad Leaf variety.

What makes Marijuana strains have different effects?

If Indica Narrow Leaf and Indica Broad Leaf contain identical percentages of cannabinoids, why do they have different effects on a user?

The answer lies in the terpenes! Indica Broad Leaf and Indica Narrow Leaf cannabis contain different terpene profiles and thus offer different effects.

The general population/consumers will continue to use Indica and Sativa to describe the ‘Marijuana’ variety. If the cannabinoid content is not factored in and the classification is based on terpenes, Indica and Sativa will merely be used to classify the strains effects. As opposed to the true genetic makeup of the plant.

Example:  The strain referred to as ‘Haze’ is called a Sativa by the general consumer. It contains both THC and CBD. The reality is that it is a Hybrid of the Indica Narrow Leaf variety. It is the terpenes that create the ‘Hazes’ head high and thus the specific terpenes present have lead it to being wrongly labelled as a Sativa.


[1] Hillig, Karl William. A systematic investigation of cannabis