While cannabis remains illegal on a federal level and is part of the highest Schedule of intoxicants, attitudes in states are rapidly changing, with a majority of them legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and many also going further and legalizing recreational use.
Access to marijuana in a more regularized way than the black market has allowed consumers of the substance to have more information about the product than ever before. Customers can know which strain they are buying, its THC and CBD concentration, and whether it is an Indica, Sativa, or hybrid.
Whether using it to treat your medical ailments or recreationally, being informed about the substance is paramount to ensuring you do not have a terrible time. It includes understanding the difference between the two major types of cannabis: Indica and Sativa, so you can decide which one suits you better.
This article will explore these differences, including size, chemical composition, and effects on the individual.
1. Physical Characteristics
For many experts, appearance is the only definitive way to differentiate between Indica and Sativa cannabis, with physical effects being more dependent on the individual’s physiology and the concentration of THC and CBD in that strain. The main difference between Indica and Sativa is their size, with Indica leaves tending to be shorter, between two to four feet, with thicker leaves. In contrast, Sativa plants are much taller, growing anywhere between 5 to even 18 feet, with thinner leaves.
Cannabinoids refer to the compounds found in marijuana that interact with the endocannabinoids found in both our central nervous and peripheral nervous systems. The two major cannabinoids found in marijuana are THC and CBD, with only the former being psychoactive. While the chemical composition of a Sativa-based or Indica-based plant will depend heavily on the strain being grown, as a general rule, Sativa-based cannabis tends to have a higher concentration of THC, and Indica plants will generally have more CBD.
Hybrid strains, in contrast, through growth in a controlled environment, will isolate particular characteristics found in both their parent plants to create a unique combination. Often this is used to create a new plant with a much higher concentration of THC or to create Indica dominant strains that prove particularly useful for battling problems like anxiety and insomnia.
Sativa is seen as an energizing, head high, while Indica has more mellowing effects and is more of a body high. These differences arise due to the varying chemical properties between Indica and Sativa plants. Indica cannabis tends to have a higher concentration of CBD, which is not a psychoactive substance and thus does not primarily target the mind.
Further research has shown that CBD’s interactions with the endocannabinoid system found in the body may play a role in helping reduce chronic pain and combatting mental disorders like anxiety, insomnia, and depression, which explains why a CBD-dominant high feels so relaxing.
THC, by contrast, is psychoactive and thus stimulates the brain, which is why smoking marijuana with a high concentration of THC can feel like a rush to the head. THC is also known to lead to an increase in the release of dopamine by the brain, a neurotransmitter often referred to as the reward center due to the feelings of pleasure its release causes.
The increased release of dopamine explains why users of THC-dominant weed strains often describe the sensation of being high as euphoric and energizing. It also explains the dependency that many users of marijuana experience, with many people chasing that dopamine rush if they are chronic users.
CBD and THC can also have side effects, especially when not controlling your dosage. CBD can cause users to experience cottonmouth and drowsiness, and can, in certain people, even cause feelings of fear and anxiety. THC can cause a feeling of heightened senses, such as sounds seeming much louder and lights far brighter. While for many, this is the point of consuming the substance in the first place; it can lead to an individual having diminished motor senses while high and feeling anxious and uneasy.
Further, those with a predisposition to certain mental illnesses may find that the psychoactive nature can act as a trigger for their disorder. In extreme cases, it can cause episodes of psychosis, and people with a history of mental disorders within their family should be extra cautious before consuming marijuana. Finally, while not as addictive as other substances found in the Schedule 1 tier of drugs; and not as addictive as some legal vices like alcohol and smoking tobacco, chronic marijuana use can lead to consumers developing a dependency on the substance, which can be debilitating and reduce your overall productivity.
What Else To Look Out For Other Than Indica And Sativa
One should only consider differences in effects and properties between Indica and Sativa weed as a general rule rather than an absolute fact. Knowing whether a plant is Indica or Sativa only tells you so much about it, and more information is needed to assess what effects cannabis is likely to cause.
When buying cannabis from a retailer, make sure you pay attention to its actual chemical properties. On average, weed will have a THC concentration of somewhere between 15 to 18 percent and a CBD concentration of less than one percent. Anything with more than 20 percent is considered highly potent, and some strains go up to around 50 percent in THC concentration.
If you are a novice user, steer clear of these strains or restrict yourself to consuming a small amount. Outside of information given to you by the retailer, many online resources contain information about specific strains of weed and their observed effects. Use these websites to help determine what kind you are looking for so that you can be a more informed purchaser.
The status of cannabis has gone from being seen as a source of moral panic and existing on the fringes of society to a substance with increasing social acceptance and becoming a part of mainstream culture.
Alongside reduced stigma against cannabis and its users, laws are also becoming progressively friendlier towards marijuana use, which has created a legal market for the production, distribution, and purchase of weed. If you are a marijuana user, you should inform yourself about the properties and effects of cannabis to take advantage of a market that offers much more information to the consumer so that you can curate the best experience from your usage.