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Cannabis 101

What is Cannabis Sativa and How Does it Affect You?

When shopping at a dispensary, you may be wondering about the different strains of cannabis. The main distinction to understand is between the Sativa and Indica strains, though there are also hybrid strains. Let’s take a look at Cannabis Sativa and how it differs from other strains.

SativaWhat is Cannabis Sativa?

Cannabis Sativa is a herbaceous plant native to Eastern Asia that is now cultivated all over the world. It has been used for thousands of years as a fiber as well as for medicinal, recreational, and spiritual purposes.


Cannabis Sativa is one of the first plants cultivated by humans. It can be traced at least as far back as 4,000 B.C. in China, where it was used as a fiber, food, and medicine. From late antiquity through the Middle Ages, cannabis was traded along the Silk Road, spreading to Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.


You can recognize sativa plants in a number of ways. They are taller than other Cannabis types. They have a longer flowering cycle than Indica strains, making this strain easier to cultivate in mild climates with long growing seasons. Sativa leaves are slender and light green. Compared with Indica, their foliage is sparse.

What are the Effects of Cannabis Sativa?

The actual effects of Cannabis on your body and mind depend more on its chemical composition than on the strain (i.e. Sativa vs. Indica). The most important chemicals in cannabis are cannabinoids and terpenes.

Cannabinoids and Terpenes

Cannabinoids are the chemicals in cannabis that have a psychoactive effect. The most powerful is THC, which produces the typical high, euphoria, or relaxes state typically associated with marijuana. Another important cannabinoid is CBD, which isn’t psychoactive but has medicinal benefits. CBD is beneficial for pain relief and may help with various health conditions such as migraines and preventing seizures.

Terpenes are chemical compounds that affect the smell of cannabis, often producing a variety of fruit-like and spice-like odors. Terpenes are studied in aromatherapy for their influence on mood, and they can also affect your reaction to cannabis. The medicinal effects of terpenes are less well-known than those of cannabinoids but some show promise for relieving pain and reducing stress.

Cannabis Sativa tends to have higher doses of THC and lower doses of CBD than Indica strains. Individual plants, however, will differ in their composition.

Physiological and Emotional Effects

Once again, it’s not accurate to generalize too much about a strain of cannabis as the effects depend on so many factors. However, users often report the following effects from Cannabis Sativa:

  • Energizing and supporting creative activities. Whereas Cannabis Indica is usually associated with relaxation and lethargy, sativa often produces a more active state.
  • More conducive to performing normal, everyday tasks, especially those that require concentration.
  • Better suited for daytime use. Using this strain at night may make it difficult to sleep.
  • The stimulating effect of Cannabis Sativa often makes it useful for treating conditions such as migraines, chronic pain, and nausea.

Cannabis Sativa vs. Cannabis Indica

Cannabis Indica tends to produce a quieter, less active state of mind than sativa. Indica is not the best choice if you’re planning any type of activity that requires focus. On the other hand, it’s perfect for relaxation and socializing. Sativa is generally chosen when you want a more active, outgoing experience.

The Prevalence of Hybrid Strains

While Sativa and Indica are distinct cannabis strains, many cannabis growers create their own hybrid strains. These may contain any proportion of Sativa and indica. Each strain also has its own CBD to THC ratio. When considering hybrid strains, you should ask the producer or seller about the particular composition of the strains they’ve grown.

When to Look for Cannabis Sativa

Many experts question the usefulness of separating cannabis into neat categories such as Sativa and Indica, considering that most plants today are hybrids anyway. At the same time, there are distinctions that can be identified in both appearance and effects. As noted, Cannabis Sativa often has a more energizing influence than Cannabis Indica. When considering the effects of cannabis, you have to consider your own preferences as well as where a particular strain was grown.

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