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Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid?

Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid?

Many are accustomed to thinking about and ordering cannabis based on these terms. You may  have noticed that these terms have not been prominent on our site, and we wanted to give you a little background as to why.

What do the terms actually mean?

In the mid 1700s Swedish botanist and physician, Carl Linnaeus, found a tall skinny plant in western Africa, that he classified as Cannabis sativa. About 30 years later, French naturalist, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was given plant specimens collected in India, with similar stems,  flower and leaf shapes.  He felt the shorter, bushier plant should be distinguished from C sativa, and named a new species Cannabis indica. Thus, the two taxonomical classifications were created. 

The names specifically refer to the origins and  shape of the plant (tall with thin leaves vs. short with broad leaves) and have nothing at all to do with the chemical constituents that create the nuanced effects cannabis consumers are looking for.  There is no evidence that tall skinny plants create the cannabinoid and terpene profiles that would lead to an “uplifting effect,” nor that short bushy plants produce sedating effects.

Additionally, all modern cannabis plants that are part of the medicinal and recreational market are hybrids of the two.

What do the terms mean in a retail setting?

Prohibition of cannabis has led to a lot of pseudoscience, not the least of which is the misuse of these classifications. The terms began to take on a new life in the “black market” where indica referred to flower that would create a sedating effect, sativa, an energizing effect and hybrid somewhere in the middle. These terms are still used in legal retail, as a way to possibly help guide customers.

We do not find the use of these terms to be very reliable, as sometimes farmers and brands label based on the taxonomical classification (how the plant grew) while others are basing the names on subjective effects. In any case, there is no science to support the classifications. 

Fortunately, the science is evolving quickly, and we are getting more tools to be able to guide you to what you are looking for.

In the meantime, anything that you see on our menu tagged with “indica” will have a general user consensus that the effect was on the sedating end of the spectrum, while anything labeled “sativa” is agreed to be energizing. Hybrids will be somewhere in the middle. Everyone is a little bit different, so always be sure to take note of what you like and remember that “your nose knows”—take note of the smells you like.


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