Is There Really a Difference Between Sativa and Indica?

Sativa and Indica
Sativa is a stimulator drug that is suitable for daytime use. Indica has been considered as a calming and sedative agent.

Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are the two species or strains of the cannabis plant, which is used for making Marijuana. The other two not so popular strains are Cannabis ruderalis and Cannabis afghanica (or kafiristanica).

For a long time, sellers have sold sativa as a stimulator drug that is suitable for daytime use. Indica has been considered as a calming and sedative agent and hence, sold as a night-time drug. However, these differences have been described only in laymen's literature, and botanists do not agree with them. There is a lack of scientific evidence to prove the difference between sativa and indica in terms of their effects on the body as perceived earlier.

In an interview, the board-certified neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher, Dr. Ethan Russo said, “One cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given Cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology. The degree of interbreeding/hybridization is such that only a biochemical assay tells a potential consumer or scientist what is really in the plant.”

What are the major compounds in marijuana?

Cannabinoids are a group of major compounds found in the cannabis plant. They are over 100 in number, but the main ones are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).


Marijuana with high THC content helps people relieve their pain, acts as a sleeping aid, and helps people deal with their depression.


Through its calming effects, CBD can help in addressing anxiety. However, it can be used as a stimulant in small doses.

What are the medical uses of marijuana?

Some states in the US have legalized marijuana for recreational use while some others for medical use.

The FDA has approved two drugs made from marijuana:

  1. Dronabinol (Marinol, Syndros)
  2. Nabilone (Cesamet)

These drugs can be legally prescribed for the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment.

Dronabinol might also be used in people with AIDS, who suffer from loss of appetite that is (anorexia) associated with weight loss.

Medical marijuana is available in various forms:

  • Pill
  • Oil
  • Nasal spray
  • Vaporized liquid
  • Dried leaves and buds


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What are the side effects of marijuana?

Medical marijuana use is generally considered safe. It is the high content of THC present in certain strains of marijuana that can cause symptoms such as:

What precautions to take while consuming marijuana?

If the use of marijuana is legal in your region, you still need to remember certain things before consuming it. These are:

  • Use marijuana with caution if you have any mental illness. Marijuana use can cause problems in mental or cognitive functions and should be used with caution if you have a mental health condition.
  • Don't drive or operate machinery if you are on marijuana. Drowsiness due to marijuana can lead to accidents.
  • Avoid marijuana if you have high blood pressure or respiratory issues. Smoking marijuana can be bad for your heart because it increases your blood pressure. Long-term marijuana use can worsen respiratory conditions.
  • Stay away from marijuana 2 weeks before planned surgery. Marijuana can enhance the effects of the anesthetic drug used during surgery and cause problems due to anesthesia.

You can ask your healthcare provider who can take down your medical history and recommend which strain will work best for you. Another way is to cautiously use a trial-and-error approach through which you can figure out the marijuana strain that works well for your needs.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Piomelli D, Russo EB. The Cannabis sativa versus Cannabis indica debate: An interview with Ethan Russo, MD. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2016;1(1):44-46.

Mayoclinic. Marijuana.

NIH. Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know.