One of the most wonderful things about cannabis is its versatility. The plant offers a wide range of experiences, medical benefits and ways to relax. Some strains can give you energy, others make you sleepy. Some may stimulate your appetite, others can relieve pain or nausea. But how do you know which strains or varieties will give you which effect?

It can be quite complicated, but in this guide we’ll teach you the basics of cannabis strains, what to expect from them, and how to get the most from your weed.

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An Introduction to the Amazing World of Cannabis Varieties

For a long time, the conventional wisdom has come down to three breeds of cannabis plant: Sativa and Indica, or a hybrid of the two. These scientific names are references to where the cannabis plant originally came from. Sativa strains have been sourced to India and Southeast Asia, while Indica strains are generally associated with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkestan. This can be a bit counterintuitive, especially since Indica simply means India in Latin. But hey, no one said naming plants was easy!

In stoner parlance, sativa and indica have been associated with different effects. Sativas make people energized, with more of a head high, including euphoric thoughts and “the giggles,” while Indicas are more sleepy (“in da couch” is a popular way to remember this) with more of body high that is great for pain relief.

While this shorthand is a bit of an oversimplification—and somewhat outdated compared to today’s products—it’s still the system that is generally used in most dispensaries and online stores. It’s not perfect, but it helps to give people an idea of what to expect when trying cannabis products.

There are some major differences between Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, but as we’ll get into later, these labels probably don’t apply to the stuff that most people get at medical cannabis dispensaries. Sativa plants, for example, grow tall and thin, with more red and orange colors. Indica plants, on the other hand, are more squat and bushy with deep purples. But even these morphological features may not translate into the effects you desire!

Indica VS Sativa: The Basics

The technical scientific name for the cannabis plant, which produces marijuana, is Cannabis sativa. Cannabis indica isn’t a different plant, it’s a different chemovar (sometimes called a “strain”) just like there can be different varieties of apples or tomatoes.

But slight differences can make a big impact. All cannabis plants contain cannabinoids and terpenes. These are the chemicals that have a psychoactive effect on the body and mind. THC is the most well-known cannabinoid and it is responsible for the “high” that people feel when they ingest or smoke weed. CBD is another popular cannabinoid, sometimes seen as the more medicinal compound in the plant.

The balance between THC and CBD is key. Generally, when we’re talking about sativa versus indica, we’re talking about this balance. But there are dozens of other cannabinoids in the plant as well, such as CBN, CBG, THCV, etc. And each of these can play a role in this balance as well. You can usually find this ratio printed on the packaging, but some products only include THC and CBD.

That also doesn’t cover terpenes, which also play a role in this balance. Terpenes are chemicals that plants make that have certain smells or characteristics. For example, linalool is what gives lavender its distinct, relaxing aroma. Cannabis can contain linalool too, which is why some strains like Lavender (obviously), Granddaddy Purple or Do Si Dos can have a lavender-like smell.

All of this together gets somewhat complicated, but we’re here to make it as simple as possible. Let’s break it down.

what is cbn


What is Sativa?

Sativa is simply a Latin botanical term meaning cultivated. A lot of plants have the name, including cucumber (Cucumis sativus) and rice (Oryza sativa.) And people have been cultivating Cannabis sativa since before Moses! Some popular sativa strains include Super Silver Haze and Sour Diesel.


what is cbn

Sativa strains generally have higher ratios of THC to CBD. Some sativa strains barely have any CBD at all! This can have the effect of getting you more “stoned” or high than other strains. It can also mean more energy.


Sativa strains generally have higher levels of limonene and pinene, which are two terpenes that give a citrus and pine scent respectively. They can both give an uplifting, energetic high. Sativas also tend to have lower levels of myrcene, a terpene found in bay and hops, which can have a sedating effect.

What is Indica?

If you thought of cannabis as people, Indica would be the introvert to the sativa extrovert. Indica lets you go inside yourself more. Some popular indica strains include Purple Kush and Northern Lights.



As you might guess, indica strains have a higher ratio of CBD to THC.

How long does weed stay in your system with a urine test?

With a urine test weed generally stays in the system for up to 30 days after use. This largely depends on frequency of use. THC remains in its most concentrated form in urine, which makes it an easy test to detect weed use.  


Indica strains typically have terpenes like caryophyllene, which is found in black pepper, linalool and myrcene. Myrcene is found in a lot of strains, and has a somewhat musky smell. It can be very relaxing, but if you fall asleep everytime you smoke, you may want to avoid this one.

Benefits of Sativa Vs Indica

The benefits of Sativa over Indica really depend on what you’re trying to get out of your cannabis use. It will differ for each person and based on the quality of the product you purchase. Some use sativas in the morning for a boost at breakfast and indica in the evening to wind down, but it really just depends on what you’re looking for.

what is cbn


In the United States, cannabis is currently Schedule I at the federal level, meaning the federal government believes marijuana is dangerous, addictive and has no medical use. Of course, this is far from true and even the feds recognize this, as there are many cannabis medications like Marinol and Epidiolex. Many states also recognize this fallacy and 37 states, three territories and D.C. have legalized cannabis in some form. Many other countries, from Canada to Uruguay have also legalized marijuana. If it’s not legal in your area, give a while. Many laws are changing fast.

Potential Side Effects and Risks

Nothing in life is risk free, and that includes cannabis. While cannabis is much safer than many medications or drugs, it can still come with some risks that can be mitigated.

There are some general side effects of cannabis (more specific to certain strains below) such as dizziness, headache, brief memory loss, but they are generally manageable symptoms, especially with tolerance. Cannabis products should be avoided by people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Sativa Side Effects

Because sativa is more of a head high, some people who aren’t used to having racing thoughts can get stuck in loops. This can be a feeling of extreme self-consciousness or even paranoia. If you are feeling this way, the important thing to remember is that it will fade and is not life threatening! Just give it time, try to relax and ride it out.

Indica Side Effects

Indica are sleepier strains, so they can make you fall asleep. It should go without saying with any cannabis product, but especially indica strains, do not get behind the wheel of a car while using it.

How to Choose the Right Product for You

Given all of the above, how do you even choose between indica and sativa? Plus, there are hybrids, which are somewhere in the middle of both. Like many things, there’s no right or wrong here. Some people like sativa, some like indica, some like both depending on their mood.

Of course, you can start by asking what you want to get out of using cannabis in the first place. Do you want help sleeping? Or do you want a boost while exercising? Do you want something good for watching Netflix? Or do you want something that will make socializing easier?

One of the best ways to find out what you like is to experiment. Try sativa one day, try indica another. Try mixing the two! Explore, be curious, take notes on how you feel and enjoy.


Like with all things, when trying something new, it’s best to start slow and stay in control. If you’ve never tried either sativa or indica before, take a small puff, dab, sip or swallow. Get a feel for things before you dive in head first.

sativa vs. indica dosage


Even if your first time trying cannabis is uncomfortable, don’t give up! You may have just not yet found the strain that’s right for you. The more often you use cannabis, the less intoxicating its effects can be. Your body tends to find a balance and over time, cannabis can be a much easier experience.

tolerance levels & consumption

Sativa and Indica — Where Do We Go From Here?

Now that you understand the basic differences between indica and sativa, you should be able to go into a dispensary and order something that fits what you’re looking for. Want something uplifting and energizing? Or something sedating and pain relieving?

Look for the right terpenes, CBD to THC ratio, and read reviews of how people felt on it, and you should be on the right track.

When shopping with Otterspace, our Delta-8 THC products contain all this info and more, to make it easy to understand what cannabis products are right for you.

If you are interested in trying quality delta products, check out our sister brand, Otterspace.

September 16, 2022 — Dennis Mistrioty

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