How to Classify Weed Strains: Indica vs Sativa
Cannabis is traditionally classified into two main varieties: Sativa and Indica.
Sativa strains are said to provide energy, while Indica strains have a more calming effect.
However, recent studies suggest that this long-held belief is simply not true.
Which plays a greater role in determining the effects of cannabis on your body?
The answer is more complex and still under study. But many scientists and breeders are turning to terpenes and flavonoids to help them create the best medical and recreational marijuana blends.
Let’s take a look at how cannabis has traditionally been classified.
Brief History of Cannabis Classification
Sativa and Indica are the terms that have been used to classify cannabis plants for over 300 years. Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus first identified psychoactive cannabis plants as cannabis sativa in the mid-18th century.
Nearly half a century later, French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck identified cannabis indica as a different strain while studying cannabis plants in India.
This distinct species was identified by its physical appearance. Indica plants had dark green leaves compared to sativa leaves, which are light and narrow, Lamark noted.
A third classification was identified at the beginning of the 20th century by the Russian botanist Dmitrij Janischewsky. He named it cannabis ruderalis after noticing a unique trait in the plant’s flowering cycle. Ruderalis plants automatically start to flower between 20 and 40 days after germination, while cannabis sativa and indica plants start to flower due to the change in available light.
Today, most researchers agree that the difference between sativa and indica is based on how the plant grows and not on its psychoactive properties.
How cannabis strains affect your body
What makes a particular variety help you relax, energize you, or give you a sense of creativity? The impact of cannabis strains on your body is a result of your own body chemistry and the strain’s cannabinoid and terpene makeup.
Researchers believe that sativa and indica are just the physical appearance of the plant, but they don’t determine the impact certain strains have on your body.
As the use of marijuana for recreation and health becomes more legal and socially acceptable, researchers can learn more about the plant’s properties.
Over 200 terpenes have been discovered in the cannabis plant in recent years.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are essential oils found in the cannabis plant and hundreds of other plant species. These essential oils, which are FDA-approved additives, can provide valuable flavor, fragrance and medicinal benefits.
Learn more about specific terpenes and what terpenes are in this article.
What are cannabinoids?
We’ve talked about cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system in previous articles.
Basically, our bodies are full of receptors that interact with cannabinoids (the endocannabinoid system).
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that act directly and indirectly on cannabinoid receptors to help the body maintain stability and health.
Our bodies make their own cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids because they are produced internally) to act on cannabinoid receptors.
Cannabis and other plants also produce cannabinoids that interact with our receptors.
Phytocannabinoids are what we call these plant cannabinoids.
Phytocannabinoids are just one of the active ingredients in the cannabis plant. Other plant compounds known as terpenes and flavonoids also determine how cannabis works for you.
You can see how complex the process is when it comes to determining the impact of a specific cannabis strain on you. That’s why researchers are eagerly exploring the many and varied benefits of the cannabinoid plant – there is still so much to learn.
Is there a difference between Sativa and Indica strains?
The two main psychoactive compounds in marijuana are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
In addition to the physical differences in the appearance of the plant, the CBD/THC ratio is higher in sativas than in indicas.
By itself, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – THC – does not produce any specific properties. What gives cannabis its unique flavor profile and psychoactive complexity are the hundreds of other chemicals it contains, including CBD and the chemicals that regulate plant odor. These terpenes and flavonoids are found in sativa and indica plants.
Why the change in the weed classification?
As science reveals more secrets about cannabis plants, we can learn more about its properties. Rather than relying on plant appearance and anecdotal evidence from users, growers can run more detailed, controlled tests on users that provide more accurate results.
With improved testing methods and the legalization of recreational and medical use, more information is now available. Scientists are able to determine which properties of the cannabis plant influence your experience as a consumer.
No classification system has been officially agreed upon and many strains are still described using traditional sativa, indica or hybrid classifications. However, this will continue to evolve as we learn more about the unique cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids of each strain and their impact on cannabis users.
How do you find the best cannabis strain for you?
When looking for a cannabis product, there are several things you can do to have a good experience.
Read reviews from other users to see how the strain has affected them.
Talk to your budtender at your local clinic for advice.
Start slow when trying new strains, as your unique body chemistry affects how strains affect you.
It’s an exciting time for cannabis growers and consumers, as we discover new benefits and better ways to grow and enjoy marijuana.
Are you looking for quality cannabis products to enjoy life, relax or motivate you? Check our product catalog now.
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