indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid

Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid Cannabis Strains: Breaking Down The Main Differences And Myths

Even experienced users can get confused when it comes to indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid cannabis strains, but it can help to maximize your cannabis experience if you know the differences and myths about each. We’ve created this primer to help.

Not sure how to answer the question, do you prefer indica or sativa? Are indicas making you feel energized while your friend is almost sleeping? You liked one sativa strain but hate another? Don’t worry—you’re not alone.

Not knowing the difference between the three main weed strain types may mean that you won’t get the experience you’re after. To make sure your next cannabis purchase is perfect, we’ve rounded up the main differences, listed the pros and cons and addressed the myths related to the indica, sativa and hybrid strains. Read on for more in-depth explanations, as well as tips for finding the right fit.

Indica vs. Sativa: Is There a Difference?

Yes, from a botanical perspective, there is a difference between indica and sativa strains, the two main types of cannabis. The difference, though, is mainly in structure and classification and not necessarily in the effects on the user. The differentiators are as follows:

1. Physical appearance

This difference may not be visible in a blunt but for growers, there is a huge physical difference between the two marijuana strains. Indica plants are shorter and bushier, with wider leaves; they’re usually full of buds. Sativa plants, by contrast, are taller and thinner, with narrower leaves and fewer buds. Hybrid strains—which are a mix of the two—have a mixed look; depending on many factors, they can look more like sativa or indica.

2. Life cycle

The life cycle of both strains vary for a number of different reasons, including weather conditions, storage, etc. As a rule, indica strains tend to have a shorter flowering period compared to sativa. Sativa strains are usually harvested earlier.

3. Geographic origin

Indica strains are thought to have originated from the Middle East (the name literally translates to from India), while sativas are believed to have come from Central or East Asia. Sativa is the older of the two strains, with the earliest references dating back to the mid-18th century; indica followed about half a century later.

4. Chemical profile

In terms of the proportion of CBD and THC, indica strains usually have a higher level of CBD, and lower level of THC, while sativa usually has the opposite ratio. As for the effects, minor cannabinoids and terpenes determine the impact on the smoker..

Origins of the Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid Classification

The old-school standard of classifying cannabis strains (indica, sativa, hybrid) is based on the physical appearance of these plants.


Appearance and specifications:

  • shorter
  • bushier
  • wider leaves
  • denser buds
  • grew in cold, northern regions
  • short growing cycle

Effects (as usually reported):

  • calming
  • relaxing
  • soothing

Popular strains:


Appearance and specifications:

  • taller
  • thinner
  • fluffier buds
  • narrower leaflets.

Effects (as usually reported):

  • energizing
  • socializing

Popular strains:


Appearance and specifications:

  • a mix of both 

Effects (as usually reported):

  • It can have both relaxing and energizing effects

Popular strains:

How to Choose Your Preferred Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid Strains

The easiest way to approach your strain choice is to choose based on your desired effect. If you want to relax, take a nap or chill out, an indica or indica-dominant hybrid is probably a better bet than a sativa. If you’re after the opposite effect, try a sativa or sativa-dominant hybrid. The tricky thing is, this classification isn’t always a sure thing. That’s why you might want to consider educating yourself on a strain’s profile.

Learning About Profiles

The indica and sativa classification, although very popular, won’t always get you the experience you want. If you have been in the cannabis game for a long time, you may notice that not all indica and sativa strains “hit the same.” If you have ever wondered why, the simple answer is that each strain has a different mix of cannabinoids and terpenes. This mix of compounds is responsible for the effect of whatever product you’re trying. Keep reading to learn more.

Cannabinoid Profiles

The cannabis plant has dozens of cannabinoids in it, and the most famous are THC and CBD. THC-dominant strains are more potent, resulting in the smoker having a euphoric experience. While CBD-dominant strains are less potent, so the consumer can expect relaxing and calming effects after smoking. For first-time users, it’s best to try out CBD-dominant strains or balanced strains to get a glimpse of how things work.

Terpene Profiles

Terpenes are aromatic compounds produced by plants and fruit; they’re found in cannabis as well. Terpenes are mostly in charge of the smell and taste of cannabis, but scientists are still discovering the effects of terpenes on a cannabis user. The most famous terpenes are myrcene and limonene. Once you find strains you like, you can choose new strains based on the terpene profile. The logic is, if you like one strain that has a certain terpene profile (smell and taste), it is highly likely that you will like others with similar profiles. 

Note: If this is your first time trying cannabis, don’t focus on the terpene profile. Start with making choices based on how you want to feel, knowing what you now know about indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid strains; once you know what you like, you can refine your selections based on terpenes. Here are some product guidelines for making choices in the early days:

  1. Higher level of THC and lower level of CBD: for those looking for energizing effects
  2. Lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD: for those looking for calming/relaxing effects
  3. Balanced THC and CBD levels: for those looking for mild euphoria (the former hybrid)

Once you determine the levels that work best for you, next you can look into the types of terpenes you like. Over time you will discover which ones work best for you and find strains with similar profiles.

Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid Edibles: Is There a Difference?

Just like other consumption methods, the effects of edibles can vary depending on the strain used and the individual’s response to it. Indica edibles are typically associated with producing a more relaxing and sedative effect. If you want those effects, look for a strain with less THC.

Sativa edibles, on the other hand, are often associated with providing a more energizing and uplifting effect. To achieve this other effect, look for higher doses of THC. Hybrid edibles are a combination of both indica and sativa strains; some hybrid edibles may lean more towards one type of effect over the other, while others may produce a more balanced experience. With hybrids, it’s difficult to decide before trying them.

💡 Tips for trying edibles:

Keep in mind that the effects of edibles can be more intense and longer lasting than when you smoke a joint; they also take longer to kick in. It’s best to start with a low dose and wait a few hours to see how the edible affects you before you take another bite. It’s also a good idea to choose a reputable dispensary and brand, and always read the packaging and labeling carefully to ensure that you’re consuming accurately dosed products according to your needs.

With HelloMD, you can access professional advice, find top-quality products, make informed decisions about dosing and gain knowledge about how cannabis can benefit you.

Tips for a Better Smoking Experience

  1. Understand the potency levels of cannabinoids and terpenes.
  2. Try out different terpene profiles until you find the strain that smells and tastes right to you.
  3. Know the desired effect you want to achieve, and choose products according to that.
  4. Use high-quality flower and brands you can trust.

With HelloMD, you can access professional advice, find top-quality products, make informed decisions about dosing, and gain knowledge about how cannabis can benefit you.

On the HelloMD website, you can:

  • Obtain a medical marijuana card. Experience our trustworthy and cost-effective approach to acquiring your medical marijuana card via the internet with a few simple steps.
  • Talk to our experts. Engage in live conversations with our cannabis educators for assistance with product selection, dosage recommendations and a host of other services. You’ll never have to worry about having a bad cannabis experience.
  • Explore the world of cannabis further. Having a hard time finding relevant resources? Browse through our database of dependable articles, question-and-answers, how-tos and more, on a wide range of cannabis-related topics.

Join the HelloMD community today, and we’ll be happy to answer all of your questions.

Indica or Sativa FAQs

What is stronger—sativa or indica?

While sativa strains are commonly linked to an uplifting and cerebral high, it’s essential to consider that the effects of these subspecies can differ significantly due to factors like specific strain, consumption method and individual tolerance. Test various strains and terpene profiles in small quantities to determine your optimal strain and consumption method.

Should you try indica or sativa for your first time trying cannabis?

First-timers should look for a low-potency strain. These strains generally have lower levels of THC, which is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, and higher levels of CBD. Usually, a low-potency strain has a THC concentration of 10% or less. Harlequin is among the well-known low-potency strains.

Is indica “couch lock” a myth?

Overall, “couch lock” can be considered a myth because not everyone will experience that effect. The term “couch lock” is commonly used to describe the heavy sedative effects that some indica strains are known for. While some users have this experience, others may not encounter this effect at all.

Are sativa energizing effects a myth?

The “energizing effects” of sativa are an overgeneralization. While some users may find that sativa strains make them feel energized and focused, others may experience mellow or even anxious effects. The best way to determine whether a particular strain will be energizing or sedating for you is to experiment with different strains in small doses.

Does sativa help you focus?

Sativa strains often have high doses of THC, which may improve focus for some consumers. It’s not always the case, though, and you should experiment and find out what works for you. Cannabinoids such as THCV and CBG are also connected to this effect. More research is needed to understand their effects fully. 

Does sativa make you sleepy or hyper?

Sativa strains are usually connected to a euphoric high, but this isn’t always the case. If you want a sleepy effect, look for lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD; on the other hand, if you want something to hype you up, higher levels of THC will do the trick.

How long do the effects of indica or sativa last?

When inhaling cannabis, the effects of indica or sativa usually reach their peak within 30 minutes to an hour and can last between two and four hours. But, the duration can depend on factors like an individual’s tolerance, the potency of the strain and the amount consumed.
When ingesting cannabis, though, the onset of the effects is longer, typically ranging from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the individual’s metabolism and digestive system.

Will indica or sativa show up on a drug test? 

If a drug test is searching for the presence of THC, cannabis strains may appear on the test results. It’s important to note that drug tests are typically seeking THC specifically and do not differentiate between cannabis strains. That means that, regardless of whether someone consumed an indica, sativa or hybrid strain, if the product contains THC and the individual used it frequently, they could test positive for THC.

Will indica and sativa get me high?

The high effects are produced because of THC. If the strain has high levels of THC in it, you will be high. Of course, the effect depends on the dosage, method of consumption, individual’s body, etc. If you don’t want to experience this effect don’t try THC-dominant strains.

How to choose a hybrid strain?

Hybrid strains are probably the most difficult to choose from because you can end up with various effects. A mix of indica and sativa means you can either have the “sleepy” effect or the “energized” effect, depending on minor cannabinoids and terpenes. For beginners, it’s not advisable to start with hybrids first because you’ll have a hard time figuring out what you really like. If you are experienced, look into the profiles of specific strains to find out the dominant strain and cannabinoids. New hybrids are being invented every day.

What’s the best time of the day to consume indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid strains?

It depends on the feeling you want to achieve. If you want a fun night out or focus during the night, you should look for THC-dominant strains. If you want to fall asleep early or relax, try CBD-dominant strains. You can apply the same thinking during the day.

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