Sativa vs Indica: What's the Difference?

When you visit a dispensary to pick up your medical cannabis, you will be faced with a decision to make - sativa or indica. But how do you decide? 

Sativa and indica are different species of cannabis, both with distinct properties and experiences. Sativa strains have a higher THC to lower CBD ratio, while indica strains have a lower THC to higher CBD ratio. This results in distinctly different effects and experiences. When choosing your medicine be sure to purchase products from a strain that will produce the symptom relief you are looking for. 


Sativa plants are tall, with thin light green leaves. They can grow upwards of 20 feet, thriving outdoors in warm climates. The buds are long and airy, with an earthy, musty, spicy smell.

The higher THC to lower CBD ratio in sativa dominant strains results in a more cerebral experience known as a “head high.”  Sativa is the expresso of marijuana, with an energetic, stimulating, and uplifting effect. It makes sativa strains the best choice for battling fatigue and depression or day time pain relief. Be careful not to use a sativa dominant strain at night - it’s likely to keep you up! 


Indica plants are small, dense, and bushy with dark green leaves. They thrive in cooler environments and are commonly grown indoors.  The buds are dense and tightly packed with a strong sour or sweet scent. 

Indica is laughingly referred to as “in-da-couch” as it produces a primarily physical, sedating, and relaxing experience. It’s an effective sleep aid and is best used after work or just before bed. It may also be helpful for reducing anxiety and providing night time pain relief. Indica strains are also commonly used for treating seizures. 


Over time growers have produced a plethora of new strains, known as hybrids, by cross breeding indica and sativa species together. They are usually described as indica-dominant, sativa-dominant, or pure hybrid (50/50). You can expect an indica dominant strain to have the typical indica effects and vice versa, but each may also have some qualities of the other. 

Choosing Your Strains

Understanding the basic differences between indica and sativa dominant strains will help you choose a medicine that has the qualities needed to alleviate your symptoms. But when choosing your medicine you will find that your choices extended beyond indica, sativa, and hybrid - each comes in different strains. To learn more about the specifics of each strain, consult Leafly’s strain reviews or ask dispensary staff.