Indica vs Sativa: The Complete Guide on Appearance & High

Indica vs Sativa, a well-known topic that is discussed a lot and even used as a navigator to find a suitable personal strain. Many people believe that Indica or Sativa strains will define the high that you experience after smoking. When we look a the physical appearance we can definitely see that there are great differences. However, is it really true that these physical appearances also create an Indica-like or Sativa-like high?

If you are looking for quick answers on the most frequently asked questions regarding Indica vs Sativa scroll down!

Indica vs Sativa: Appearance

With regard to the physical appearance, there are certain characteristics that will clearly show the difference between Indica and Sativa strains. Having a closer look at the differences in the leaves, flowering cycles, height, we will show how Indica and Sativa plants psychically differ from each other.



Indica plants are known to be short, bushy and firm. With their dark leaves and short thick fingers, they are able to stand harsh weather conditions. This is also the reason why Indica plants originated from the Hindu Kush mountains in the middle east where weather conditions are harsher. On average Indica strains will stand between 3 and 6 feet tall and have thick coats of resin for protection. In comparison with Sativa strains, Indica strains have a shorter flowering cycle and have higher yields on average.



Sativa plants originate from places near the equator like Thailand and Latin America. Because of the warmer climate, Sativa strains thrive best when they receive a lot of sunlight. In comparison with Indica strains, Sativa strains have longer flowering cycles as the climate is less harsh. Sativa plants can grow up to 20 feet tall and are not as dense as the short bushy Indica plants. This can also be seen in the structure of the leaves as they are more narrow and thin with a light green color.



Hybrids are the result of people who wanted to create new strains by cross-breeding. Therefore a strain that has been cross-bred then becomes what we now call a “hybrid”. A hybrid can be Sativa dominant, Indica dominant, or equally balanced. This is however still hard to recognize in the physical appearance of the plant as the characteristics are blended together.

Indica vs Sativa: the High

The greatest difference with Indica vs Sativa lies in the physical appearance of the plant and not in the sort of high. As we have discussed earlier, you can tell if a marijuana plant is Indica or Sativa by their physical appearance. However, this actually does not say a lot about the sort of high the strain creates. What does define specific highs is caused by the different structure profiles of cannabinoids and terpenes. These different cannabinoids and terpenes even have their own temperatures which are good to know when you vaporize your buds. Extended information on this and a cool vaporizing temperature overview can be found here!


There are at least 113 different types of cannabinoids found in marijuana. All these cannabinoids create a cannabinoid profile that, together with terpenes, truly define the specific high. For now, we will focus on the two cannabinoids that have the most effect on how a high is experienced.


First, we will discuss Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the most known cannabinoid found in marijuana. Weed strains that have dominant levels of THC will give you an energetic head high that brings pain relief and stimulates the appetite. On the other hand, if you are vulnerable to anxiety THC dominant strains could also give you a nervous and anxious feeling caused by a lack of CBD that controls the effect of THC. Some people have amygdala’s that are more sensitive to THC then average. The amygdala could be described as the “fear center” of the brain and can be triggered by a too large amount of THC. This will cause feelings of panic and anxiety. In these cases, the next cannabinoid that we will discuss has proved to be very useful.



The second cannabinoid is Cannabidiol or CBD which is often used for stress, anxiety and it’s anti-inflammatory characteristics. Extracted from the plant without THC it is even used for children and pets in the form of oil (not to be confused with Cannabis oil). The great benefit from this is that CBD alone will not make you feel high making it suitable for using it during the day or at even at work. In addition, when Cannabis is smoked CBD seems to have a mediating effect as well on the high that THC produces. This is an important characteristic for people that have the tendency to get anxious from THC dominant strains or people that use cannabis mainly for the anti-inflammatory effects.


Terpenes are responsible for the difference in taste and smell in Cannabis flowers. This is also why certain strains smell and taste as cheese and others have for example a citrus taste. Produced in the same glands as were THC and CBD are produced they define the sedating or energizing effects of the high. We have selected the most common terpenes found in Cannabis and briefly describe their characteristics.


  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Enhances short term memory
  • Increases alertness
  • Widens the bronchi in the lungs


  • Levels > 0.5% create a body high
  • Sedative
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibacterial
  • Relaxes the muscles


  • Relieves stress
  • Antifungal
  • Antibacterial
  • Enhances the absorption of THC
  • May help in tumor growth prevention


  • Anti-depressant
  • Relieves anxiety
  • Can reduce lung inflammation
  • Boosts the immune system


  • Sedative
  • Calming
  • Antibiotic
  • Antioxidant

Indica vs Sativa: All Questions Answered

Below we have selected the most frequently asked questions about Indica vs Sativa strains. This serves as a short recap about the topics that were discussed or as a quick way to find an answer on a specific question.

How can I choose a strain that suits me best?

Instead of selecting a strain on being Indica or Sativa have a look at the specific THC/CBD ratio and the levels of these cannabinoids. In addition, learn which terpenes work best for you in combination with these ratios and levels. After selecting potentially suitable strains experiment with a few until you have found that one true strain that seems to be made for you.

Can an Indica strain still be dominant in THC levels?

Yes, unlike what most people have been told, an Indica strain can definitely have high levels of THC while being low on CBD. This can cause an unpleasant high for those that are sensitive to high levels of THC.

Can a Sativa strain still be dominant in CBD levels?

Yes, because of cross-breeding a Sativa strain can have high levels of CBD while being low on THC. Even though many people may think so, the physical appearance does not define the high you will experience.

Which strains are best if I have a predisposition to anxiety?

If you sometimes experience anxiety it is advisable to not go for strains which have high levels of THC in comparison with the CBD levels. The higher level of THC might trigger your amygdala while the CBD is not present enough to mediate this effect.

Which strains can I smoke best if I don’t want to get very high?

Strains that have a fair amount of CBD which levels the amount of THC carry enough strength to mediate the effect of THC. Therefore it will make you feel less high and create a high more suitable for daytime use, and perfect for workouts or yoga.

Which strains can I smoke best for pain relief?

Strains with higher levels of THC in comparison with CBD will work best for pain relief. As THC is found to relieve neuropathic and central pain and the lowers levels of CBD won’t mediate this effect too much.

Which strains can I smoke best to reduce levels of inflammation?

If you are looking for a strain that will reduce levels of inflammation it’s best to choose one with higher levels of CBD in comparison with THC. CBD is well-known for its anti-inflammatory effects and will mediate the psychoactive effect of THC.

Now that you know the true answers with regard to Indica vs Sativa you can start your clairsentient quest for that perfect strain. Also, make sure to enjoy your high by meditating, read your favourite books, watch the universe through a telescope at night or cook your favourite meal. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends and enjoy your herbs!

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