Your favorite dispensary’s shelves are probably lined with jars of cannabis. Get closer to the display and you may find that the buds look and smell different and the containers are carefully labeled as sativa, indica, or hybrid. These are the three main classifications for recreational cannabis, and each one has its trademark traits and reputation. Knowing how the varieties differ will help you choose the right one for your everyday preferences or for special occasions. It might even inspire you to try something new!
Here’s a mini-guide (see below) and a video that breaks down what makes each cannabis classification unique.
Sativa has long had a reputation as the “upper” strain. That’s because many users find the experience to be invigorating and uplifting, effects that pair well with physical activity, social events, and creative projects.
With their tall stature and narrow leaves, sativa plants are best suited to warm climates where their lengthy flowering cycles can thrive.
Indica strains are frequently seen as sedating or relaxing, and a lot of users find them more appropriate for kicking back at home than heading to a party. Some indica fans even say they get relief from insomnia.
Compared to sativa strains, indica plants come from colder environments with short growing seasons. They are shorter and their leaves are broader.
Hybrid cannabis plants have both indica and sativa parents, so they often have a mix of effects. Depending on the dominant strain, each one is unique, so your bud-tender is a great resource for deciding which to try.
All these traits are a great place to start, but before you shop, keep in mind that everybody experiences cannabis differently. While these reputations exist for a reason, recent research is showing that there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules governing their chemical composition or effects. So, if you already know that you consistently enjoy one category over the others, stick with your winning strategy. But, don’t be surprised if you just adore one particular strain even though you’re not a fan of other indicas, for example. And if you’re prone to anxiety, don’t write off sativa altogether — just try one with a lower THC content.
The real trick is to pay attention to how your body reacts to specific strains and their particular cannabinoid contents and to take advantage of your budtender’s expert knowledge of the products the dispensary carries.