A green background with the Supreme CBD logo to the right showing what's the difference between indica and sativa.

What's the difference between Indica and Sativa?

In the recent past, CBD has had a lot of buzz about its value in the recreational, supplement, and medicinal worlds and a growing interest from people all over the world including the UK. There are still many studies on its components and questions from people wanting to know more. One of the common questions is “what is the difference between Indica and Sativa?”

Cannabis has several species, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa are some of the most common. Coming from the same family, these two species have many similar features. If you are new to these plants, you wouldn’t tell the difference. But these two have unique differences, some of which we know of while others are still being researched by plant specialists.

We can also call Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa strains of Cannabis. In this post, we explain the differences that exist between the two including their effects and find out which one is used for CBD.

The history of the names Indica and Sativa

The names Indica and Sativa trace their origin back to the 18th Century. The names were used to describe the strains of the Cannabis plant. Sativa was used to describe hemp plants that were grown in Western Eurasia and Europe where it was planted to generate seeds and fibre.

On the other hand, Indica described a Cannabis strain that was mostly grown in India. The growers in India used it to produce fibre, hashish, and seeds.

It’s important to note that these terms were coined only when people discovered the plants. Otherwise, they existed before the 18th century. Also, there are thousands of other strains that originate from these two species of cannabis. Most of the cannabis varieties we know come from the Cannabis Indica.

With modern science, we are able to combine Indica and Sativa to get hybrids of the different stains. Hybrids are unique and new species that result from the mixing of different species of cannabis plants.

A green background showing the Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa plants to show what is the difference between indica and sativa.


The physical difference between Indica and Sativa 

To quickly figure out the differences between Indica and Sativa, it’s helpful to identify plants with how they look. And so, features like height, the patterns in branching, and the shape of the leaves come in handy for a regular person. These differences come about because of people breeding varieties of this plant, while some evolve in varied adaptations and geographic isolation.

The Sativa we know today is tall and has narrow leaves. They are commonly known as hemp plants and often produce fibre, seeds, and CBD. 

On the other hand, Indica is more sturdy and has broad leaves. Their stalks are woody and not laced with fibres like Sativa. These plants also tend to grow faster than cannabis Sativa plants.

The contents of different strains of the cannabis plant

Different strains of the cannabis plant tend to contain similar compounds. What differentiates them is the percentage of individual compounds. Here are some of the contents available in the different strains of cannabis:


Cannabinoids are the compounds present in various strains of cannabis plants. On top of the list is cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). If you are a CBD products enthusiast, chances are you have heard of these two compounds. We discuss them quite a lot in most of the posts in our blog.

Research shows that there are hundreds of Cannabinoids (more than 144 of them). These compounds work differently in the human body. By looking at Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica, you can’t tell the amount of each cannabinoid in it. THC and CBD however are the most prevalent and important parts to most people.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

This is the part of the cannabis plant that causes the user to feel a high owing to the psychoactive properties it has. Most people assume that all products produced from these plants contain this compound and would cause intoxication. But that’s not the case. Some strains of CBD have a higher count of THC than others. THC is illegal in most places around the world but in places like the UK.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is a compound extract from the different strains of cannabis. Unlike THC, it does not intoxicate users. CBD is legal in many jurisdictions around the world because of the benefits it comes with to the user. This compound is infused in a range of products to make CBD laced things like edibles, topical, oils, sprays, vape juice, among others.

What determines Indica or Sativa?

There are special molecules that are responsible for the pungent aromas of Indica and Sativa. These molecules are known as terpenes and are similar in many ways to the cannabinoids cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It’s the terpenes that determine which strain a particular cannabis plant is.

One of the top terpenes is myrcene. If this compound is more than 0.5% the strain is an Indica. If myrcene is less than 0.5% then that plant is a Sativa strain.

When terpenes and cannabinoids work together they cause what is commonly known as the entourage effect theory. This theory states that when compounds from the cannabis plant work together, they become more effective at their targeted purpose. That’s why broad-spectrum CBD and full-spectrum CBD tend to be more effective than isolate CBD for some people. You can find CBD in the three forms below.

Isolate CBD

Isolate CBD is a type of CBD that contains 99% of CBD without any other compounds from the cannabis Sativa plant.

Broad-spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD is a type of CBD that contains cannabinoids, terpenes, and all the other compounds present in the cannabis Sativa plant except THC. Most people prefer isolate CBD and broad-spectrum CBD, especially if they take drug tests often. Taking broad-spectrum CBD comes with the entourage effect.

Full-spectrum CBD - This type of CBD contains the whole profile of the cannabis Sativa plant including THC. However, for this product to be legally available in the UK, it must contain not more than 0.03% of THC. You want to avoid taking full-spectrum CBD products if you take regular drug tests. Extended use of THC, even in small amounts accumulates in the bloodstream and may turn up positive in drug tests.

Understanding cannabis Indica

Cannabis Indica contains more CBD content than Cannabis Sativa but the ratio of CBD to THC is almost equal (It’s close to 1:1). This cannabis species comes with a lot of variations and new strains that are grown with varying goals in mind. Cross-breeding could be done to raise the amount of CBD or THC in the outcoming variant. Some of the popular strains of Indica include:

  • White rhino
  • Blueberry
  • Grape ape
  • Blue cheese
  • Purple punch
  • Granddaddy purple
  • Bubba kush

A green background with the Supreme CBD logo to the right with an image in the centre of a person wearing yellow gloves lifting a small Cannabis Indica plant out of the ground. Showing the difference between indica and sativa.

Understanding cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa may be low on CBD content compared to Indica but it’s what is often used to make CBD. CBD is the most prominent compound in Sativa. Those that are commercially available in the UK should contain 0.03% or less THC. Even in situations where THC contents rise above this figure, the manufacturer has to process it further into the allowed amounts. You’ll often hear people call Sativa the hemp plant.

There are many Sativa strains out there and you’ll find them in various places depending on what people like. Some of these include:

  • Jack Herer
  • Green Crack
  • Super Silver Haze
  • Amnesia Haze
  • Strawberry Cough
  • Durban Poison
  • Sour Diesel

A green background with the Supreme CBD logo to the right of the image with a close up image of the Cannabis Sativa plant in the centre showing the difference between indica and sativa.

Understanding cannabis hybrids

As mentioned earlier, there are cannabis plants that result from a combination of different strains of the plant. We call these hybrids. A hybrid will contain features of the parent plant and so, the farmer observes the characters of specific plants and then grows a hybrid of the two.

There are Indica/Sativa hybrids particularly grown for medicinal purposes. This mix is said to offer alert mellowness, which is said to be useful to get rid of discomfort. Strains that have more characters of Indica are called “Indica-dom” (dom meaning dominant). Those that have more Sativa characteristics are known as Sativa-dom.

Final thoughts on the difference between Indica and Sativa

The differences between Indica and Sativa are not that significant because they are strains of the same plant. Even though both Indica and Sativa contain CBD contents, Cannabis Sativa is what’s responsible for most of the CBD products you can get in the UK. The reason is simple, the ratio of CBD against THC in Sativa is much higher, which makes the manufacturing of CBD easier and with accurate measurements of the compounds.

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