Busting Cannabis Myths: Sativa vs Indica

In Cannabis, Learn, Terpenes by Weed Mama1 Comment

For the longest time cannabis has been sold in three different classifications: sativa, indica or hybrid. Sativa long thought to be a daytime cultivar (strain) that feels more energizing and good for the daytime- more of head high. Indica has always been associated with the evening as it can give you that classic “couch lock” feeling – a body high. Hybrids fall somewhere in between, most cultivars you buy are hybrids.

However with new science we now know these classifications are meaningless when it comes to effect. Sativa and indica differ in their appearance however molecular testing shows that there’s no difference between the two plants and therefore buying a sativa, indica or hybrid, is an unhelpful classification when determining how each cultivar will make you feel.

The main difference between indica and sativa is how the plant looks, indica cultivars tend be more bulky and sativa more tall and thin.

Long time cannabis users (myself included) will swear that an indica does in fact feel different than a sativa. We also know that a particular cultivar- such as Master Kush, will feel a bit different depending on the batch. That’s because many factors come into play when the plant is grown- the soil nutrients, temperature, sunlight and altitude all contribute to how the plant will feel once consumed.

That being said, indica varieties do tend to feel more relaxing and that’s because of their dominant terpene.

Terpenes play the biggest role in how a cannabis cultivar will feel

Terpenes are hydrocarbons found in the essential oils produced by many plants, including cannabis. Terpenes give each cultivar their unique aroma and taste, they also have therapeutic properties and are a greater determining factor in how a cultivar will feel.

Each cultivar you buy will have dominant terpenes, some will make you feel more alert and others more relaxed. Visit Weed Mama’s guide to terpenes to learn more.

The main differences between terpene profiles of the evaluated strains belonging to the two principal biotypes were that ‘mostly indica’ strains were characterized by dominancy of β-myrcene, present in high relative contents, with limonene or α-pinene as second most abundant terpenoid, while ‘mostly sativa’ strains were characterized by more complex terpene profiles, with some strains having α-terpinolene or α-pinene as dominant terpenoid, and some strains having β-myrcene as dominant terpenoid with α-terpinolene or trans-β-ocimene as second most abundant terpenoid.


Myrcene is a terpene that has a sedative effect and that classic “couch lock” feel, myrcene is commonly higher in indica cultivars. This can explain why in general indica varieties can make you feel sleepy.

How can you determine the effect of a cultivar?

If you can find the terpene profile then you can get a better idea of how that particular cultivar will make you feel. This information can be hard to come by when you buy cannabis but if you can, this will help you determine which one will help you sleep and which one will help you get through a workout.

The BC cannabis store and Ontario cannabis store will list the dominant terpenes on their websites, for each cultivar and the growing region. Also if you visit the website for some brands, you may find this information as well.

Terpenes are one of several factors that come into play for how it will feel. As mentioned, how the plant is grown matters, also the other cannabinoids and flavonoids all play a part. For example a cultivar with a high amount of the cannabinoid CBD and a low amount of THC, will feel much different than one with high THC and low CBD.

For example the cannabis cultivar Mango Haze by Color has these dominant terpenes and cannabinoids: THC around 5%, CBD around 10%, Beta-caryophyllene (can help with anxiety and pain), P-cymene (anxiety and pain), Beta-pinene (stimulating). By looking at the terpene and cannabinoid profile you can see that this cultivar may help you feel calm and reduce pain in your body. However with low THC and high CBD (giving you a milder feel) including the terpene Pinene adding alertness, this one may be good for the daytime when you need to get things done.

Does the terpene profile matter for edibles?

There’s not enough scientific evidence to show that terpenes have any effect on how you feel as terpenes are less bioavailable when ingested.  Also terpenes are fragile and some extraction processes can destroy the terpenes. Some companies are adding botanical terpenes and flavonoids back in after to mimic the original cultivar.

That being said, some cannabis researchers like Ethan Russo believe terpenes are still good to have in edibles.

The problem is classifying each cannabis product- when there’s over 100 known cannabinoids and over 150 terpenes, it’s difficult to truly classify each cultivar for the consumer.

What you can do to find a cultivar with the desired effect?

Gold leaf Journals
Goldleaf Journal

Keep a journal, the journals by Goldleaf let you keep track of each product you buy. Keeping track of as much information about a cannabis product that you can find such as terpenes and cannabinoids, will help you get a better understand of the effect of each cultivar you buy.

Keeping a journal of the cannabis products you buy, will make it much easier purchasing the right product in the future. You’ll know what combination of cannabinoids and terpenes makes you feel sleepy and what makes you feel more alert.

There’s still so much more research that needs to be done on cannabis to fully understand the plant and how it works in our bodies. However new research is coming out regularly which is good news for those of us that use cannabis therapeutically, and need a better guide for what product will help us and which ones to avoid.

This page contains affiliate links where Weed mama may make a small commission to support this blog.

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  1. Hi, new to most of this, I’m 56, hadn’t had since I’m 16 and the only a couple of times. Edibles do lil to nothing. Bought a joint ,snoop dogg something, nothing from it. I saw your videos, bought a vape. I use it for sleep, depression, pain. But I would like to get cheech and chong high at least once. Could I be immune to it ? Going to buy my 1st flower monday.

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