Marijuana strains are divided into three main categories:
Sativa strains are those that provide an uplifting effect. People who want their creative juices to flow use sativa, known for the stimulating effect on the brain. Some sativa enthusiasts say that lights and sounds are more intense. People who are fatigued or depressed also use sativa as a mood lifter. Medically, they’re used for mood disorders, ADD and fatigue.
Indicas are known for their calming and relaxing properties. Some can even be physically sedating. Many use indica strains at nighttime to wind down after a long day or to produce a “nightcap” effect prior to bedtime. These strains have a full-body relaxation effect, and medically are used for pain relief and anxiety.
Hybrids fall in between, made from a blend of both sativa and indica strains to create a new hybrid strain. Growers began mixing genetics from indicas and sativas to create the hybrid strains.
Which Variety Of Weed Is Right For Me?
Indicas and sativas have distinct differences besides their physiological effects. The plants have different appearances, different geographic origins, flavors, yields and flowering time.
The Afghanistan Hindu Kush region is thought to be the origin of indicas, thought to be the most ancient strains. Sativas originated closer to the equator (0 to 30 degrees latitude) in tropical climates like Mexico, Columbia and Thailand. As such, due to the much harsher Afghani climate, indicas are a shorter, bushier plant and have a thicker resin coat for protection. Indicas are darker, denser plants, while sativas are lighter shades of green and very tall (some have been known to reach 20 feet in height when grown outdoors).
When growing sativa cannabis, these plants have a very strong odor, which can be sweet, peppery, fruity or earthy, and are the taller, thinner looking plants. Since they grow near the equators, the mild winters and long summers mean taller, less bushy plants. Sativas take longer to mature than indica plants, but indica plants produce much heavier yields. Indicas grow better indoors, sativas grow better outdoors because it is difficult to accommodate their height indoors. However, both can be grown either way. Indicas grown outdoors mean gardening before harsh winters set in. Indicas grown indoors lead to more crop cycles annually for more profits.
Remember that there are two main things that affect how a marijuana plant will turn out: genetics and environment. In terms of genetics, the distinct genetics of the two strains produce different outcomes in the cannabinoids (medically beneficial properties) and terpenes (aromatic oils).
The environment is the other factor in the equation. Variations in environmental conditions–the amount of light, temperature, nutrients, water and other growing conditions–has a tremendous effect on the resin production, color, shape and smell of the plant.
There is also a huge difference in growing weed indoors versus outdoors. It’s hard to duplicate the natural outdoor environment, although many indoor growers produce the bulk of cannabis sold in today’s dispensaries.
Sativas generally have lower THC than indicas do, and many hybrid strains were originally engineered to produce varying levels of THC content, but hybridization has come a long way. Many indoor growers began intermingling various indigenous varieties of sativas and indicas to produce different hybrid strains with varying characteristics. Growers experimented with the agricultural benefits of the indicas—shorter flowering times and resin-heavy buds—and added the uplifting properties of sativas. Hybrid possibilities are endless because sativas and indicas are as far apart as can be on the genetic spectrum, so hybrids can be anything in between.
Hybrids have varying flower times and growth patterns, but most are engineered to produce high yields. Hybrids have varying blends of indica and sativa traits to produce specific effects or symptom reliefs. Most are developed to be either indica-leaning or sativa leaning. In fact, most cannabis on the market today is a hybrid rather than a pure indica or sativa. Sativas are not pure sativas, but rather hybrids that are very sativa-dominant, and the same goes for indicas. Hybrids also can exhibit the best traits of both. For example, they can have the cerebral high that a sativa offers coupled with a short indica flowering time. Or, a hybrid can have the fast growth exhibited by a sativa coupled with the high yield of an indica.
The original cannabis plants originally evolved in Central Asia. Sees were taken by traders to many other places, and eventually the plant spread to every continent. These were the first hybrids—original indigenous “landrace” strains bred with “escaped” strains from seeds that traveled with humans, were planted, and adapted to the environment of their new home. Some growers today are trying to get back to the original landrace strains of Central Asia. While the possibility of an original indigenous strain is highly unlikely today, some close cousins do exist, first collected decades ago by growers with a passion for heirloom plants. Today’s market demands strain variety, so these heirloom strains are rarely seen.