Differences in Appearances & Effects: Indica vs Sativa

Identifying your flower by sight and experience.


When you think of cannabis, marijuana, weed, grass, etc. – what kind of effects do you immediately associate with it? The stereotypical mindset often associates lazy, lethargic behavior with cannabis, but this isn’t always true.

Some strains energize, others improve focus, some increase creativity, and some increase talkative tendencies. There are plenty of various effects – but what brings about these changes in the consumer?

The effects of cannabis depend on whether the strain is indica, sativa, or a combination of both called a hybrid. Their differences range from physical appearance to psychological effect, and we’ve listed them below.

Physical Differentiations

Sativa and indica cannabis strains are not the same in their effects or physical appearance. Here’s the physical differences:

1. Terrestrial Roots

Sativa strains are native to Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia – warm climates that have high humidity. Indica strains are native to the Hindu Kush Mountain region (mountains stretching between central Afghanistan and northern Pakistan). Because of the differing amounts of sunlight and humidity each get, they’ve adapted physically to their environment…

2. Foliage Shape

Sativa plants produce long, thin leafs while indica plants produce thick, broad leafs. This is a great way to differentiate a growing sativa from an indica. Sativa strains grow closer to the equator, needing less leaf space to soak up the sun for photosynthesis. Meanwhile, indica strains grow in colder regions, having larger leafs to soak up more sun for photosynthesis.

Learn More: Cannabis Converses: Indica vs Sativa (INFOGRAPHIC)

3. Height

Again, adapting to their native, tropical regions, sativa plants grow tall since they’re accustomed to sharing space with other plants – anywhere between 8-12 feet. There've been some found reaching as tall as 18 feet! Indica grows short and stout since their native location is mountainous and there’s no need to fight for sunlight (around 3-5 feet).

4. Harvest Time

Indicas take significantly less time to harvest, fully flowering anywhere between 8-12 weeks since their native region has shorter warm seasons. Sativas take longer to flower, between 10-16 weeks. Hybrids will vary, depending on sativa or indica dominance.

5. Yield Size

Typically, sativa strains will yield between 3 ounces and one pound of usable trim/bud. Indicas on the other hand, yield far less – between 1 ½ to 3 ounces per plant due to their stout form.

6. Flavors/Terpenes

Flavor, scent, and color of a cannabis plant stem from its roots either as a sativa or indica. You’ve sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter strains. Sativa strains usually have a more earthy, freshly-churned earth type of scent and flavor. Indica strains are sweeter, usually being berry or candy-like. However, these can sometimes be interchangeable if we’re looking at a hybrid.

Psycho & Physiological Differentiations

Consuming a sativa strain is like drinking a high-caffeine drink. It creates an energetic buzz that gets the mind flowing and the body clear of the couch. Meanwhile, consuming indica strains is like swallowing a sleeping pill. It relaxes the body into a lethargic slump while calming the mind of racing thoughts. In any case, consuming above tolerance levels is when the paranoia and anxiety begin to take effect.

7. Mindset

Sativa strains will stimulate cerebral activity. That means thoughts will come more naturally, creative and philosophical thinking enhance, and overall creativity and/or focus improve. Sativas are best for daytime use, as they usually won’t inhibit the mind’s thinking, rather, boost it. Indica strains typically do the opposite. They help slow racing, anxiety-prone thoughts and place the consumer in a slight haze, often rendering them easily distracted or less likely to engage in activities, leaving us to our next effect.

8. Energy

Sativa strains often increase the body’s energy, offering the consumer a sudden boost of energy that motivates them to get the job done. They’ve been used to help treat fatigue. Again, this is great for daytime use. Indicas are often used to help treat insomnia because of their extraordinary relaxing qualities. Indicas will relax the muscles of the body, easing pain and aches, and in doing so offer the consumer rest or a great night’s sleep as the brain calms down.

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9. Symptom Relief

As stated above, sativa strains can help alleviate fatigue – but they can also help with reducing depression and other mood disorders because of their ability to stimulate creative focus, causing the mind to forget worries and motivating the consumer to engage in productive activities. Symptoms that indica strains relieve are more physical – reducing pain and aches throughout the body while calming anxiety and inducing sleep to alleviate insomnia.

10. Engaging Activities

The types of activities one enjoys while consuming sativa strains versus indica strains vary according to type. Sativa strains will usually have you up on your feet doing something with your hands actively. Indica strains will couch-lock and make those video games all the more appealing. However, activities will vary according to personality type and favorite hobbies. Sativa strains can be great for those of us wanting to enhance creativity and engage in creative hobbies like painting or playing an instrument. Indica strains will make movies and video games seemingly more entertaining, or even just gazing at the stars.

Sometimes, you can find a great strain for the bedroom: Sexploration on Cannabis: Pros & Cons