There are a staggering 2,150 cannabis strains currently recorded on the popular cannabis database, Leafly. Some of these strains are classified as sativa, some are indica, and a majority of them are under the hybrid category. So how are these categories different, how do they affect your high, and should you pick indica or sativa?
All cannabis is classified into three different species: Indica, Sativa, and Ruderalis. Each species has their own set of strains (eg. Og Kush, Purple Haze, Pineapple Express, etc.) and desirable traits (eg. sativa stimulates brain activity, indica loosens your limbs). Strains can be bred together to form a blend of traits. This blended strain is called a hybrid.
Today, we take a closer examination of each of these iconic plant species, their physical differentiators, and the various effects they provide.
Background: Classified in 1753, by a biologist named Carl Linnaeus, sativa plants thrive in the warmer equatorial climates, such as Colombia, Mexico, Thailand, and Southeast Asia.
Physical Appearance: Tall plant, loosely branched body with leaves that are long, thin, and are lighter green in colour. Its buds are light, airy, and long.
Growth: This tall plant uses less chlorophyll and as such, it takes longer to flower — usually between 10 to 16 weeks.
Effects: Often praised for its uplifting effect, sativa’s higher THC levels offer an energizing “head high”. Brain activity is stimulated, creating heightened senses and can offer enhanced creativity, productivity, and relief from depression.
Number of recorded, existing strains: 422
Popular Strains: Strawberry Cough, Sour Diesel, Jack Herer
Background: Classified in 1785 when Jean-Baptiste Lamarck described a second type of cannabis from India. Indica grows better in the cooler temperatures and high altitude of the Hindu Kush mountain range, including regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, India, and Nepal.
Physical Appearance: Short and bushy plant with wide leaves that are dark green, or even purple tinted. Its darker colour is due to higher amounts of chlorophyll in the plant. Its buds grow in clusters and are heavy and fragrant.
Growth: This faster growing strain usually flowers between 7–9 weeks. Due to their short, yet dense nature, they are well suited for indoor growing.
Effects: Often referred to as a night time favorite, this strain is primary used for relaxing. Indicas decreases energy and will put you ‘in da couch’. With its higher CBD levels, indicas provide a “body high” and offer pain relief, stress relief, and also help with sleep.
Number of recorded, existing strains: 636
Popular Strains: Granddaddy Purple, Blueberry, Northern Lights
Background: Ruderalis grows wild in the northern regions of Eastern Europe, Russia, and Asia. It can grow well in harsher climates with shorter growing seasons.
Physical Appearance: Short plant with thick stems. The plant is rugged and has fewer leaves and a light green colour. The buds are small but still chunky.
Effects: This strain has minimal THC content compared to sativa or indica. However, the cool thing about this strain is that they are classified as ‘Autos’ (automatic flowering). Autoflower strains start to flower and produce buds based on it’s age, rather than how long the light and dark periods are. Because of this, breeders often bred ruderalis with sativas and indicas to create autoflowering hybrids that reach flowering stage faster.
Not all strains will be either Sativa or Indica. In fact, most are not 100% of either. Breeders will mix and bred different strains together to select specific traits that the breeders are most excited about. Some cannabis plants have been selected to lean more towards either sativa or indica (eg. 75% sativa with 25% indica), but many are a perfect split of 50/50 sativa/indica.
Number of recorded, existing strains: 1092
Popular strains: Blue Dream, Girl Scout Cookies, Pineapple Express
With 2,150 of cannabis options available to you, and more being created every week, your journey is just beginning. The effort to find the right mix of strains that works for you is well worth it in the end, and an enjoyable undertaking.