When you ask a budtender about the selection of the strain in your dispensary, the first question they’re going to ask is whether you prefer sativa or indica flower.
Categorizing strains according to the ratio of indica and Sativa genetics is a popular system that makes choosing the buds much easier for novice users. After all, with so much choice, how do you know where to start looking for a cannabis strain you’ll fall in love with? If you like your herb in the morning, or you just want to stay creative, productive, and full of positive energy throughout the day, chances are that cannabis sativa strains will be your preferred option. These are the most sought-after varieties by people who appreciate consuming weed in social settings and make virtually any activity more exciting. Aside from the recreational aspect, cannabis sativa strains also have plenty of medical applications — from anxiety and depression to fatigue, chronic pain, and attention deficit disorders.
Here we take a look at everything you need to know about cannabis sativa strains, including their origins, characteristics, and the types of effects they produce.
What is Cannabis Sativa?
Cannabis sativa is a species of the Cannabaceae plant family that includes both marijuana and hemp plants. Grown in warmer weather, sativa strains come from the countries located on or near the equator, such as Mexico, Colombia, Thailand, and Southeast Asia. Cannabis sativa has been harvested for its seeds, fiber, and oil, which have a long historical record industrial, nutritional, and medicinal materials. Today, sativa strains still grow wild throughout many tropical regions of the world. In the next section, we’ll cover the main features of cannabis sativa plants.
Cannabis Sativa Characteristics
While the vast majority of today’s cannabis strains are hybrids that contain a mix of sativa and indica genetics, there are several characteristics that help us understand how to tell if we’re looking at, or consuming, a sativa strain.
Sativa strains are characterized by their extraordinary height that can reach up to 20 feet when grown outside. Their branches grow upwards, spreading out to hold the palmately-arranged, long and narrow leaves. The plant’s flowers begin at its nodes and are conically shaped to expand along the length of the stem. The flowers also have a loose, fluffy structure.
2. Aromas & Flavors
A purebred sativa strain carries pungent aromas that are very refreshing at the same time. When you take a waft from a sativa-filled jar of cannabis, you should notice fragrances redolent of fresh pine, earth, citrus and exotic fruits, mint, and pepper. The final aroma profile of your sativa strain will largely depend on the number and ratio of terpenes. You can expect different combinations of the above aromas, and if you’re buying a sativa-dominant hybrid, you may also notice some skunky and kushy influence of the indica genetics. If you want to explore the fragrances of your flower, break the buds up by hand or with a grinder. Once crushed, the buds will release additional notes that will either enhance its current aroma profile or add complementary scents that will make it even more tantalizing. The flavor of cannabis sativa strains often carries over from its aromas, sometimes leaving an extra aftertaste on the exhale.
3. Cannabinoid Profile
While the cannabinoid makeup can vary significantly between strains, sativas generally contain a higher concentration of THC, the main psychoactive compound, and lower levels of CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid. Sativa flowers are also naturally more abundant in THCV, the cannabinoid with mild psychoactive properties that’s also allegedly responsible for a large share of the plant’s ability to speed up metabolism and control blood sugar levels.
The cannabinoid profiles of sativa strains are known for inducing stimulating cerebral effects that are referred to as the “head high”. They start with a weird tension around the forehead, transforming into a euphoric mood accompanied by invigoration, stress relief, and enhanced focus. The effects of sativa include:
- Improved mood
- Better focus
- Higher energy levels
- Enhanced creativity
- Additional inspiration
The above effect profile makes cannabis sativa strains a preferred choice among daytime consumers as well as those who kick start their day with a cup of coffee and a bowl of weed. However, unless you have a sativa-dominant or 50/50 hybrid, we suggest that you don’t consume it in the evening or before bedtime, as this can be too much of a stimulation for that time of the day.
5. Medical Uses
Because of its uplifting properties, sativa strains have many medical uses. Patients often take them for mental ailments and mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and lack of motivation. Sativa is also known for a higher concentration of THCV that can also prove beneficial for compulsive eating, obesity, and other eating disorders. If you’re struggling with chronic pain but still want to get your things done, try taking a sativa-dominant hybrid. This type of cannabis has most of its sativa characteristics, with some pain killing properties of indica strains.
6. Possible Side Effects
There are two side effects that are typical to all cannabis strains — it’s the dry mouth and dry eyes. Both these side effects can be easily dealt with by staying well hydrated prior, during, and after consumption. If you want to conquer the cottonmouth after smoking, you can make use of sour drinks or snacks. They should stimulate saliva production in your mouth and stop that unpleasant sensations. As for the eyes, a bottle of regular eye drops should do the job. When consumed in large quantities, cannabis sativa strains can also induce overwhelming cerebral stimulation that may lead to a stream of racing thoughts, elevated anxiety, or even paranoid thinking patterns, all of which are fortunately short-lived and can be avoided by keeping your intake of cannabis in moderation.
7. Growth Habits
Sativa plants have a long vegetation period and can take anywhere from 10 to 16 weeks to fully mature from entering the flowering stage. While sativa strains require growers to be more patient, the extended vegetation stage results in a more generous yield, producing between 3 ounces and 1 pound of cannabis flower per plant.
Differences Between Cannabis Sativa & Cannabis Indica
As mentioned, your choice usually boils down to deciding whether you want a sativa or indica strain — or something in the hybrid spectrum. Once you know the differences between these two subspecies, you’ll have more confidence in choosing your strains. Here’s what you need to know: Indica plants grow shorter and bushier than sativa plants — they can reach up to 6 feet. They also grow faster and produce higher yields, which makes them perfect for indoor growers with limited space.
Growing indica plants means you’ll end up having a small bush rather than a tree-like plant. An indica strain will likely carry aromas of skunk, diesel, musk, and earth, with noticeable notes of berries, nuts, and distinct floral undertones. Again, the final aroma profile of indica flower depends on its amount and ratios of terpenes. When it comes to the effects, indica varieties are generally much more relaxing. The high is more body-focused, delivering soothing tingles all over the limbs, relieving conditions such as chronic pain, muscle spasms, cramps, physical tension, migraines, and inflammatory disorders. On top of that, indica plants provide mentally calming effects, which translates to higher sedation and a more hazy buzz.
The above features make indica strains best suited for evening or nighttime use. When you compare cannabinoid profiles of indica and sativa strains, you’ll notice a pattern that indica varieties have higher concentrations of CBD on average — a feature to which experts attribute their relaxing effects. Indica strains are also less likely to cause anxiety and paranoia when consumed in too large quantities.
Cannabis Sativa vs Sativa-Dominant Hybrids
Purebred sativa strains are in the clear minority today. With most flowers being some sort of cannabis hybrid, people now have a greater choice when it comes to the effects of their herbs. If you like the invigorating properties of sativa useful but you often get overwhelmed by the cerebral stimulation, you can choose a sativa-dominant hybrid or a 50/50 strain that carries equal ratios of sativa and indica genetics. Doing so will help you avoid getting too aroused, and the higher CBD content should make the psychoactive effects easier to manage.
Popular Cannabis Sativa Strains
If you’re planning to explore different sativa strains, it’s good to have a decent starting point. Here we list some of the most popular flowers from this category, all of which have stellar reputation among consumers.
Jack Herer is a sativa-dominant hybrid that has gained much recognition thanks to the name it owes to the marijuana activist and author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes. Bred by crossing a Haze hybrid with Northern Lights #5 and Shiva Skunk, Jack Herer captures both cerebral elevation and a clear-headed creative buzz.
Amnesia Haze is an almost legendary sativa strain whose origins are marked by South Asian genetics crossed with Jamaican landrace. The popularity of Amnesia Haze skyrocketed when it won the 2004 Cannabis Cup, spreading all over the coffee shops of Amsterdam. Known for its strong earthy flavors and citrus aroma, Amnesia Haze is sure to provide you with an uplifting, energetic buzz that is ideal for those who enjoy a good wake n’ bake.
Popularized by Jimi Hendrix in 1967, Purple Haze is a notoriously euphoric strain that brings even veteran consumers to their fond memories of psychedelic heyday. This iconic sativa is appreciated among consumers by high-energy cerebral stimulation that boosts creativity and induces a happy state of mind throughout the day. Purple Haze is an alleged descendant of Purple Thai and Haze, which have given it a mix of sweet and earthy flavors pumped by noticeable lavender hues.
This classic sativa strain is popular for its tropical flavors and stress-relieving properties that will give you a taste of the calming shores of Hawaii where this strain originated. Maui Wowie has quickly spread across the world, making its sweet pineapple flavors and high-energy euphoria widely available in cannabis dispensaries. Its lightweight effects combine motivation with increased creativity and a positive jolt of energy that helps you enjoy activities in the sun.
Reminiscent of a field of strawberries thanks to its unique genetics, Strawberry Cough is favored for its smooth distinct berry flavor with energizing and clear headed effects. Marked by iconic foxtails, the conical buds look just like a classic christmas tree. As a heavily sativa-dominant hybrid, the strain induces an upbeat high that also relaxes you without that tiring feeling after smoking a purebred indica. But the best part about Strawberry Cough is its pungent aroma and a telltale strawberry taste accentuated by a creamy finish.
Sometimes called Sour D, Sour Diesel is an invigorating sativa-dominant strain that owes its name to its pungent, diesel-like odor. This fast-hitting flower delivers positive, energizing, and dreamy cerebral effects that are great for relieving stress, pain, and depression. The duration time of its high makes Sour Diesel a top choice among medical consumers.
Don’t be fooled by its name: Green Crack is pure cannabis strain. Only few varieties can compare to Green Crack’s sharp focus and clear energy as it induces an uplifting mental buzz that sends away fatigue and anxiety while elevating your productivity and focus to the ceiling. Also referred to as Green Cush — because the Crack name brings a negative image of cannabis — this sativa smells of fresh herbs, black pepper, and citrus fruits.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis Sativa Strains
The world of sativa strains is abundant, so if you want to incorporate cannabis into your daytime routine, a pure sativa or a sativa-dominant hybrid is a good option to consider. With so many unique flowers out there, you can actually personalize your experience with the herb according to your preferences.
Are you looking to explore different sativa strains? Check out our selection of sativa and sativa-dominant buds and pick one that will match the aromas, flavors, and effects you want to achieve.