Differences Between Indica & Sativa Seeds

A lot of Earthlings I talk  to–whether telepathically or over a cup of coffee–often ask me which are the best cannabis seeds to grow. Since that’s not always the easiest answer to give, I usually try to gain some more info to steer them in the right direction. What type of effect are you looking for? Relaxed? Energized? Maybe a little bit of both? When growing cannabis seeds, it’s important to understand the difference between indica, hybrid and sativa seeds. For example, one of the coolest humanoids I chat with on a regular basis out in the desert is named Kim. She’s hoping to grow a strain of weed that is going to be able to provide her some solid pain relief from the sciatica she suffered from due to a whitewater rafting injury on the Arkansas River many years ago. The pain often radiates down Kim’s leg and prevents her from getting regular sleep quite often. However, Kim also wishes to give herself a considerable energy boost in the morning to get the day started. Kim has grown weed before, but that was in the early ‘90s, and so much has changed since then! Choosing the cannabis seeds that are going to deliver the intended effects you’re looking for can be exhausting. There are so many choices out there! Never fear, Greg the Alien is here to help guide you on the difference between indica and sativa seeds to help Kim (and you!) make the right choices.

Table of Contents

Origins of Indica & Sativa Seeds

The original distinction of indica seeds and sativa seeds is related to their geographical origins (somewhat). At one point, sativas meant indicas, and indicas meant sativas! [1]

Due to conflicting designations and classifications, the original meaning of both varieties of cannabis is still a bit muddled together. 

The Very First Sativa & Indica Seed Research

Sativa seeds were named as such by a plant researcher named Linnaeus in 1753 in his Species Plantarum book–a landmark publication for botanical classifications. The name “cannabis sativa” was then used to describe the main classification of the weed plant, which at that time was primarily used for hemp fiber. [2]

Indica seeds were originally called such by another researcher named Lamarck in 1785 in reference to intoxicating plants of Indian, Indonesian, and South African origin. This is the first recorded scientific designation of indica seeds by which Lamarck essentially describes these cannabis seeds as a modern-day sativa, i.e.”female flowers vellous calyx and long style” [2]. 

Way later down the road, researchers Vavilov and Bukinich recorded their findings from travels in Afghanistan in 1929. It was there in Afghanistan that Vavilov experienced the hash making process of the region’s cannabis farmers. The plants that he encountered during that time were then recorded as cannabis sativa vs. the hemp fiber plant described by Linneaus in the late 1700s. [1]

Other cannabis plants that Vavilov would see along the roads and in the wild were then referred to as cannabis indica–so essentially Afghani plants became cannabis sativa and Indian plants became cannabis indica. [1]

But that’s not it, there’s more! After researcher Schultes published his findings in 1974, cannabis indica was now the name given to plants in Afghanistan with “broad leaflets, densely branched, more or less conical in shape, and very short”. This new distinction replaced Lamarck’s completely opposite classification of indica plants. [1]

Researcher Anderson continued this distinction with those “short, broad, densely branched” plants Schultes noticed in Afghanistan as cannabis indica, and “tall, laxly-branched” plants in South Asia and India as cannabis sativa. This created the modern day classifications we are all now very familiar with. [1]

Sativa & Indica Seed Research 1980s-2010s

The earliest commercial use of both indica and sativa dates back to a Dutch cannabis seed catalog from 1985 that labeled each type within it. Later research in the early 1990s would use these same descriptions of each to really cement their current statuses within peer-reviewed journal work. [1] 

More research in the early 2000s by Black and Capler began to describe the effects of each:

“Sativa plants produce much more ∆9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than cannabidiol (CBD), and produce a terpenoid profile that smells “herbal” or “sweet.” Sativas were then also described as producing “a stimulating, uplifting, and energizing psychoactivity, recommended for treating depression, headaches, nausea, and loss of appetite”. [4] [5] 

These same researchers then describe indicas as such, “Indica plants produce a terpenoid profile that imparts an acrid or “skunky” aroma. Indica induces relaxing, sedating, and pain-reducing effects, and is suggested for treating insomnia, pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, epilepsy, and glaucoma.” [4] [5]

To try to confuse humanoids even more, certain researchers in the 2010s then recommended sativa and indica reverse their statuses and go back to their original classifications from back in the day! These efforts, however, did not gain much traction, and the classic sativa=energized, and indica=sedated distinctions that have been reported as we know them remain to this day.

Characteristics of Indica & Sativa Seeds

Landrace is a term that is used to describe heirloom cannabis seeds with traits from their original places of origin. Landraces exemplify classic sativas and indicas with no cross-breeding to alter their appearances and plant characteristics. 

Indica Seed Characteristics

As described by researchers in the last century, indica seeds have their own unique characteristics to distinguish them:

  • Short, bushy, and compact structure
  • Wide and short leaves and leaflets
  • Densely tight and frosty flower buds
  • Bud sites in close distance to one another
  • Shorter time to flower (7-10 weeks) compared to sativa seeds
  • Sticky, resinous flower buds
  • Musky, earthy, and skunky aroma
  • Reported to produce relaxing and sedating effects

Sativa Seed Characteristics

Sativa seeds differ from their indica seed counterparts in many ways. Here are a few:

  • Taller, more slender appearance
  • High, stretchy growth
  • Long, thin leaves that are spaced apart
  • Airier and looser flower buds 
  • Longer time to flower (10-14 weeks) compared to indica seeds
  • Enjoy lots of light and warm climates
  • Average to heavy frost production
  • Dynamic spicy, floral, tropical, and fruity aromas
  • Reported to produce energizing and uplifting effects

Hybrid Seed Characteristics

Due to increased cross-breeding of various landrace cannabis seeds over the last 25-30 years, many hybrid seeds have evolved from eclectic curiosities and into the grower’s standard. 

Featuring a mix of any number of characteristics from indica seeds and sativa seeds, hybrid seeds offer a wealth of options for any grower looking for specific beneficial traits that have been specialized and bred into thousands of strains. Some characteristics of hybrid seeds include:

  • Reported to produce complex and dynamic effects, depending on the parent strains and breeder goals
  • Wide range of flavors and aromas typically selected by terpene profiles
  • Flowering times that can vary from 8-12 weeks
  • Vigorous growth as a result of cross-breeding and genetic heterosis
  • Variable flower bud size dependent on parent strains
  • Indica-dominant or sativa-dominant hybrids that feature a wide range of versatility
  • Modern-day grower and consumer favorites due to marketability, versatility, and ease of cultivation

Effects & Medical Application

Indica, hybrid, and sativa seeds can each have their place in your potential medical tool kit. Understand the main applications of each in order to unlock their purported medicinal purposes. 

Sativa Seed Effects

According to clinical descriptions from only about 20 years ago, sativa cannabis seeds can potentially produce a “stimulating, uplifting, and energizing psychoactivity.” The researchers also mention sativa seeds being an optimal choice to potentially “treat depression, headaches, nausea, and loss of appetite.” [4] [5]

As far as sativa seeds go, these are all potentially great characteristics for consumers to use during the daytime, or when they would like a sort of mental “pick-me-up,” according to researchers. There’s all sorts of sativa-dominant hybrid seeds available that vary in their spectrum and potential of potency and energizing effects. 

Some excellent sativa seeds to grow at home include: Grease Gun, Froot by the Foot, and Green Apple Candy

Indica Seed Effects

Black and Capler also mention in their detailed study that indica seeds have shown to  “induce relaxing, sedating, and pain-reducing effects” [4] [5]. Indica seeds are also known to potentially produce the muscle-relaxing couch lock effect that produces a feeling of contentedness to not to go anywhere or really do much else. 

A reported ability to relieve stress and anxiety are also reasons why so many people grow indica seeds. And of course, I wouldn’t be doing potential cannabis seed home growers a service without mentioning the increase in appetite–aka the munchies– that Earthlings (and aliens!) have shown to demonstrate when consuming indicas.

They’ve also been reported to promote a good night’s sleep and have been said to apparently be best used at night time for these reasons. Some great choices of indica seeds include: Comet Candy, Black Hole Breath, and Top Gun.

Hybrid Seed Effects

Due to massive developments in cannabis cross-breeding and genetics, hybrid seeds are often specialized for a wide range of potential effects that incorporate elements from both indica and sativa seed parents. 

For example–are you looking for a strain that can potentially help with muscle relaxation and pain relief, but also won’t leave you completely stuck on the couch? Opt for hybrid seeds that win every modern-day popularity contest with their unique bouquets of sugary and dessert aromas, flavors, and trendy names that exhibit any number of potential effects you need.

Some of the popular hybrid seeds and strains that make great choices to grow include: Star Froots, Banana Blast, and Divorce Cake

Terpene Profiles of Indica, Hybrid, and Sativa Seeds

Since the debate still rages as to whether the classic “indica vs. sativa” classification is really the most effective or productive for cannabis, some have taken to classifying cannabis seeds and strains by their unique terpene profiles. Much of these unique compounds combine with cannabinoids like THC to produce the potential medicinal effects described above.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are the organic compounds within plants and cannabis that give them their distinctive flavors, aromas, and effects. These unique compounds are combined with THC and other cannabinoids within the trichome heads on the buds and leaves. 

Cannabinoids and terpenes reportedly work in conjunction with the humanoids’ internal endocannabinoids system to produce much of the effects described in the previous section. 

Dr. Ethan Russo, a board-certified neurologist and researcher on the human endocannabinoid system says that that “sedation in most common cannabis strains is attributable to their myrcene content, a monoterpene with a strongly sedative couch-lock effect that resembles a narcotic.” [6]

Indica plants produce a terpenoid profile that imparts an acrid or “skunky” aroma, while sativa seeds produce a terpenoid profile that is sweet and herbal. [4] [5]

Here are some common terpenes, their characteristics, and potential effects:

  • Myrcene – Reported to contribute considerably to the sedative, “couch-locking” effect of indica seeds
  • Limonene – Provides a citrus-like palette and is said to boost moods and relieve stress with its bright, energizing effect often found with sativa seeds
  • Pinene – Purported anti-inflammatory qualities with pine-like aromas
  • Caryophyllene – Provides the peppery and spicy aroma you may have noticed in some strains; potentially great for its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Terpinolene – Contributes floral and herbal essences with supposed overall antioxidative properties
  • Linalool – Has a distinctive lavender-type of aroma, while providing potential calming effects known to reportedly help with anxiety control
  • Humulene – Gives that woody, earthy aroma and taste found in some strains; potential anti-inflammatory effect.

The Future of Indica vs Sativa Classifications

According to McPartland, “Research supports the classification of “Sativa” and “Indica,” but not their nomenclature”, while “traditional landraces of “Sativa” and “Indica” are becoming extinct through introgressive hybridization.” [1]

McPartland also mentions that because of so much cross-breeding as of the last few decades, indica and sativa seed classifications are essentially useless for today’s cannabis seed consumer. His plan is for plants to be classified by their chemical compositions, as opposed to “characterizations such as “Sativa-dominant,” “Indica-dominant,” or a whimsical strain name.” [7] 

Other cannabinoid researchers such as Dr. Russo also tend to agree with this argument: 

“There are biochemically distinct strains of cannabis, but the sativa/indica distinction as commonly applied in the lay literature is total nonsense and an exercise in futility. 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. It is essential that future commerce allows complete and accurate cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles to be available.” [6]

Additional researchers see the necessity for the consumer to have some kind of guiding principle for choosing a particular type of cannabis seeds such as “indica”, “hybrid” or “sativa”. However, the consensus seems to be that the way to actually do that is by classifying by the specific terpene profiles within each strain. 

Other researchers such as Pollio think all cannabis seeds and strains should be classified by regional heirloom lineage and other additional criteria, such as narcotic/non-narcotic, instead of just indica or sativa. [8]  

Understanding the Basic Differences of Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid Seeds

Regardless of how humanoid researchers wish for cannabis seeds to be classified, the reality is that a huge worldwide marketplace and culture has already been established as per the indica, sativa, and hybrid seed classification system. 

Until there is some kind of paradigm shift, scientific or geographical classification instituted, buyers and growers are still going to continue to use the same ways to identify cannabis seeds and strains. For home growers like my friend Kim, what’s most important is to understand the differences between each cannabis seed type and how it can provide the intended flavors, aromas, appearance, and potential therapeutic effects. 

For Kim, I recommend Slurpicane indica seeds to help possibly soothe her chronic pain and potentially provide uninterrupted sleep, while a pack of sativa seeds like Crazy Train can reportedly give her the lift and energy she needs some mornings to get her day started. 

Furthermore, awesome hybrid seeds like Black Hole Breath contain properties from similar strains in order to get the best qualities of indica and sativa seed genetics.

No matter what your grow goals are, be sure to choose the right indica, sativa, and hybrid seeds for you!

Contact Multiverse Beans for All of Your Cannabis Seed Needs!

Looking to start growing cannabis but not sure where to begin? Multiverse Beans has got you covered with an extensive selection of high-quality cannabis seeds available for purchase online!

Whether you’re seeking indica seeds for relaxation and pain relief, sativa seeds for an energizing boost, or hybrid seeds combining the best of both worlds, Multiverse Beans offers a diverse range of options to suit your preferences and needs.

Contact Multiverse Beans today to explore our catalog and kickstart your cannabis cultivation adventure. With our expertise and top-notch products, you’ll be well on your way to growing your own premium cannabis plants in no time. 

References

  1. McPartland, J. M. (2017). Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica versus “Sativa” and “Indica.” In Cannabis sativa L. – Botany and Biotechnology (pp. 101-121). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-54564-6_4
  2. Linnaeus C (1753) Species Plantarum 2: 1057. Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm
  3. Lamarck JB (1785) Encyclopédie Méthodique 1(2): 695. Panckoucke, Paris
  4. Corral VL (2001) Differential effects of medical marijuana based on strain and route of administration: a three-year observational study. J Cannabis Ther 1(3/4):43–59
  5. Black H, Capler R (2003) Operational standards for the distribution of medicinal cannabis. British Columbia Compassion Club Society, Vancouver, BC
  6. Piomelli, D., & Russo, E. B. (2016). The Cannabis sativa Versus Cannabis indica Debate: An Interview with Ethan Russo, MD. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), 44–46. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2015.29003.ebr
  7. Fischedick JT, Hazekamp A, Erkelens T, Choi YH, Verpoorte R (2010) Metabolic fingerprinting of Cannabis sativa L., cannabinoids and terpenoids
  8. Pollio, A. (2016). The Name of Cannabis: A Short Guide for Nonbotanists. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), 234–238. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0027