Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid: An In-Depth Comparison


Millions of people across the world use cannabis, and that number is rising quickly as the perception about this plant changes and authorities ease laws prohibiting its use. If you visit any dispensary, you may come across strains labeled Indica, Sativa, and hybrid.

As a newbie into the world of cannabis, you may find yourself scratching your head and wondering what these terms mean. In this post, we’ll compare Indica vs Sativa vs hybrid so you know what you can expect from each marijuana strain.

The cannabis plant is divided into three distinct subspecies: Indica, Sativa, and Ruderalis. Each one is genetically unique and comes with a distinct cannabinoid and terpene profile. Ruderalis has low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

As a result, it has been overlooked for years. However, in recent years, there has been renewed interest in breeding Ruderalis with Indica or Sativa to create a self-flowering Sativa or Indica-dominant plant.

So, what is a hybrid weed? As the name implies, hybrids are created by interbreeding strains of different cannabis plants. Hybrids tend to retain the properties of their parents so it is a good way to create a super plant that has the properties of two different plants. Usually, growers combine plants from the same subspecies (i.e. two Indica plants or two Sativa plants) to create a hybrid.

However, hybrids can also be made by combining different strains (i.e. Sativa and Indica or even Sativa/Indica and Ruderalis). Some hybrids are made of more than two plants.

indica sativa hybrid intro

Indica vs Sativa vs Hybrid

Although cannabis enthusiasts have relied on the terms Indica, Sativa, and hybrid to categorize strains for many years, researchers have found that on a molecular level, there are very few differences between these subspecies.

French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamark, who created this marijuana classification system in the 18th century, relied more on the appearance of the plants than any measurable scientific method to determine the difference between the purported varieties.

According to Lamark, Indica plants tend to be shorter and have thicker stems with stubby leaves. On the other hand, Sativa plants tend to be taller and have thin, pointed leaves. Although some researchers questioned the basis of Lamark’s categorization, it was widely adopted and became mainstream. And that’s what we continue to use today.

Some people in the industry have moved on from categorizing marijuana strains as either Indica, Sativa, or hybrid to labeling them as either Type I (high THC), Type II (balanced THC and CBD ratio), and Type III (high CBD).

There is a school of thought that the similarities in the molecular structure of Indica and Sativa plants are simply the result of centuries of inbreeding both varieties of the cannabis plant. Indica plants have a low level of THC and high CBD. On the other hand, Sativa plants contain a high level of THC and low CBD.

Apart from the level of cannabinoids in each strain, another key component of the cannabis plant that determines its effect is terpenes. The cannabis plant contains up to 120 terpenes, and they’re responsible for the unique aroma of the plant.

Terpenes also play a key role in the effect that you experience when you use a cannabis strain. Each marijuana strain has a different terpene profile.

With that said, a majority of the marijuana users, growers, and sellers continue to use the Indica, Sativa, and hybrid dichotomy as it is more widely understood and also makes cannabis products more marketable.

And if you take a look at a Sativa vs Indica vs hybrid chart, it is clear that marijuana strains have different effects depending on whether they’re Indica, Sativa, or hybrid.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these strains (or chemical varieties) of the cannabis plant:


Cornbread Marijuana Strain

This variety of the cannabis plant is thought to have originated in Asia, specifically the Hindu Kush mountain range.

Indica is a Latin word that can be translated as “of India.” Lamark is thought to have selected the term Indica for this strain in reference to the geographical region where the samples he examined were collected from.

Indica strains tend to grow in dry climates. As indicated above, they are usually short and bushy. They tend to grow around 2 to 6 feet tall and have dark green leaves. Indica strains have a short flowering period and produce dense, bulky buds. Indica strains are usually grown in greenhouses.


Sour Joker Marijuana Strain

Cannabis sativa is also purported to have originated in Asia. This is the oldest known subspecies of the cannabis plant. It was named by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in the early 18th century. Sativa strains are known to thrive in the tropical and subtropical parts of the world like Asia, Africa, and Central America.

Sativa strains are more skinny than Indica. They can grow up to 12 feet tall (or taller) and have thin, elongated leaves with a light green color. Sativa strains are more difficult to grow and produce fewer buds than Indica. Nonetheless, they’re very popular due to their high level of THC. Sativa buds are usually small, long, and solid.

Sativa strains have a long flowering period (up to 10 weeks or longer in some instances) and can contain up to 27% THC.

Due to their size and the fact that it grows tall, Sativa strains are usually grown outdoors in places with warm or moderate climates. They can survive in mildly cold weather.


Cherry Garcia Marijuana Strain

Although hybrids are often referred to as new, they have been around for many years. In the U.S., breeders started creating hybrids in the 1960s to create strains with a high level of THC. Creating hybrids involves choosing a male and female plant, and pollinating the females using the males. It takes several generations for breeders to create a homogenized plant that has all the desired characteristics of the parent plants.

As indicated above, hybrids can be created from Sativa, Indica, or Ruderalis strains, or a mixture of them. And they can have more than two parent plants. Since hybrids can be created from different plants, hybrids do not have a uniform appearance.

The level of THC and CBD in each hybrid may vary. Hybrids can be grown indoors or outdoors depending on the particular strain you’re cultivating.

Now you know the difference between Indica and Sativa and hybrid strains.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these strains to see their effects and what they’re good for.

What Does Sativa Do?

Sativa strains produce a “head high or cerebral buzz” compared to Indica strains that give you a “body high.” This is one of the key markers when differentiating Sativa vs Indica. It is good to use Sativa strains if you’re going to a social event or you want to feel more energized and focused. Due to its stimulating effects, it is recommended that people use Sativa during the daytime.

Sativa strains are great for easing anxiety, headaches, nausea, combating symptoms of depression and appetite loss as well as improving creativity and focus. Sativa strains can make you feel euphoric.

Some popular Sativa strains include Sour Diesel, Lemon Haze, Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, Green Crack, Super Silver Haze, Haze Berry, Jack, Herer, Durban Poison.

What Does Indica Do?

The effects of Indica strains are mostly felt on the body. This is why it is said to produce a “body high.” When you use an Indica strain, you’re likely to feel calm and relaxed. It is recommended for use at bedtime or when you want to go to sleep because it can have a sedative effect. Indica strains are generally perfect for when you want to stay indoors and chill out.

Thanks to their high CBD level, Indica strains are used for pain relief. They are also great for fighting migraines, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, mood disorders, and appetite loss. Indica strains increase dopamine production in the brain.

Some popular Indica strains include Afghan Kush, Granddaddy Purple, Northern Lights, Bubba Kush, Blue Cheese, Hindu Kush, and Purple Kush.

What Does Hybrid Do?

There’s a whole spectrum of effects that you can get from hybrid marijuana depending on its parent strains. Hybrid weed high can range from an intense “head high” or “body high” to a balanced “head and body high.” Hybrids are usually labeled as Indica-dominant, Sativa-dominant, or 50:50 Sativa and Indica.

Some popular hybrid strains include Pineapple Express, Fire OG, Gelato, Wedding Cake, AK-47, OG Kush, Trainwreck, White Window, and Blue Dream.

The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a cannabis strain is not comparing Sativa vs hybrid or Indica vs hybrid, you need to consider the desired effect you want. Your tolerance level, medical history, and consumption method should also guide your decision in terms of which strains to go for.

Frequently Asked Question

Is there a difference between Indica and Sativa?

Yes, the difference between Indica and Sativa strains is their THC and CBD concentration levels. Indica strains have higher CBD levels while Indica strains have higher THC levels.

How does Indica make you feel?

Indica strains make you feel super relaxed. They’re a good sleep aid. If you’re wondering what strain to use on a Netflix and chill night, the answer is Indica.

Is Indica or Sativa better for arousal?

Sativa strains are best for arousal because they increase your energy level and make you feel less anxious. This translates to being relaxed and being in the moment with your partner. The increased energy levels mean you’re more likely to perform better in bed. With Sativa, you’re likely to be more laid back than aroused.