There are several different types of weed, or marijuana. Marijuana refers to the dried seeds, stems, leaves or flowers of the plant Cannabis. The specific type of weed is defined by the way the plant is prepared and what kind of Cannabis plant it is.
Not all marijuana strains are alike. You have probably already heard of sativa and indica, and even the hybrid strains, but do you know what the differences between them are? They are three distinct categories of specific traits that even the most experienced growers don’t know about.
Sativa and Indica have been on the books since the 1700s, but the hybrid didn’t come until some time later. Sativas come from a temperate climate near the equator, while the Indica likely originated around present-day Afghanistan, specifically near the Hindu Kush area. The climate and weather conditions there are harsh — this is likely why they have a thicker protective coat of resin than the Sativa strains.
Nowadays, less is thought about the origins of the Indica and Sativa, and rather what those strains are well known for. This is why many marijuana growers prefer to grow one or the other.
The main active ingredient in weed is the chemical Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC has psychoactive effects, meaning that it can alter mood, alertness, cognizance and cognitive functioning. Cannabidiol or CBD is also a large component of weed plants and has relaxation effects but does not have the psychoactive effects of THC. CBD is also thought to relieve pain.
The strongest types of weed tend to have a higher ratio of THC to CBD, meaning there is a lot of THC but not much CBD. When the ratios are more even, CBD can counteract the effects of THC. Therefore, the level of both chemicals in a strain of weed determines what effect it has on a person.
What types of weed are there? There are two major types of weed, which are determined by the species of Cannabis plant they are derived from. While weed originally came from these two strains, there are now hundreds of other hybrid strains that are a mix of the two.
Science and historical origins
There is actually no official scientific evidence that explains the differences between Indica and Sativa strains of marijuana or even confirms that these differences exist. Nonetheless, they are widely accepted facts among the marijuana growing and using crowd.
There are some historical explanations for the beginnings of the Indica strain, also known as Cannabis Indica. It was first classified by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French biologist, in the late 1700s. He also identified the fact that the plants were intoxicating. It was different from the regular hemp crops grown in Europe at the time, as they did not intoxicate the consumer.
Because of the differences between the European hemp crops (then actually known as Cannabis Sativa), Lamarck named his Indian discovery Cannabis Indica to establish its uniqueness from the European hemp. It was considered a therapeutic remedy of sorts in Europe during the 1800s and commonly used in Western medicine.
Cannabis Indica is a more solid strain in comparison to Sativa, but it does not have the height Sativa achieves. Indica strains generally grow between 3.2-9.8 feet tall. It is a bushy plant with round healthy leaves, unlike Sativa. However, they both have marbled colored, soft seeds. Being that Indica is a short plant, this one is perfect for indoor growing.
While Sativa takes some time to flower, Indica flowers much faster and can be influenced a lot easier by adjusting the light cycle to promote this phase.
The buds and flowers on an Indica plant will usually grow very close to each other and are stickier to the touch than Sativa plants. When you want to make hashish, Indica is the plant you would choose due to the amount of resin it contains. This weed is a stoner’s favorite since it is more like a sedative and puts your entire body into a deep state of relaxation. It has so much CBN in it that this will surely take you there when you want to go far and beyond just a regular high.
Considering these facts, Indica is ideal for nighttime consumption.
Sativa is the marijuana strain that people seem to like smoking the most. This plant grows quite large, reaching up to 19.6 feet in some cases. While it is not a really thick plant, many growers like it due to how tall it can grow.
Their leaves are long, dainty, narrow, and considering their height potential, these are perfect for outdoor growing. The seeds are soft to the touch, with no spots or markings on them. Do not expect this plant to flower quickly because Sativa takes its precious time, and even shifting the light cycles could have little effect on this.
Sativa is often dried, cooked and consumed. While many people either vaporize or smoke this strain, it is the norm for users to use this to get high. You are not going to get stoned from using this strain, but it does have an invigorating, pick me up kind of effect that leads to feeling happier, unlike its more sedating counterpart, Indica.
It also can enhance your creativity, depending on the person. This is the strain you use when you want to be up and active during the day since it raises your energy and opens you up to fresh, new ideas. If you are an artist of some sort, you may love this one.
Sativa dominant strains are higher in the THC cannabinoid. This makes it less likely to be used for medicinal purposes, but it is still common in Ayurvedic medicine. They work well to combat the symptoms of depression, ADD, fatigue, and mood disorders.
Ruderalis and hybrid strains
You will rarely hear anyone talking about Cannabis Ruderalis, which is a hybrid strain and has a pretty short stature growing between 11.8-23.6 inches in height. Similar to Indica, this plant has very thick foliage. This plant is usually found growing in northern regions of the world
Ruderalis has a very fast flowering phase due to growing in the north, and needing to develop faster before the climate turns cold. This strain is what growers use when they want to encourage auto flowering. One of the reasons you hear little about this strain is because it is not known to be highly psychotropic. Most growers just use this to breed hybrids that flower quickly, to grow in cooler climates.
Growers generally want to hybridize to mix the good characteristics of various strains into one. Hybrids are usually a balanced combination of Sativas and Indicas. You can make your hybrids have more Indica qualities or more Sativa ones. By combining the two, you end up with a unique blend that brings out properties from both strains for medicinal purposes.
In reality, Sativas and Indicas are usually some sort of hybrid with varying levels of each strain. Separating ‘pure’ from ‘hybrid’ is not a realistic way of distinguishing the two. To understand the effects you can expect from a hybrid plant or seed, it is much more important to know the background of your strain of plant rather than just the ratio between Indica and Sativa.
THC and CBD
The differences in the effects of Indica and Sativa strains come from slightly varying levels of THC and CBD. Sativas naturally produce higher levels of THC, while Indicas instead produce higher levels of CBD. The ratios of THC and CBD are what make the differences come out, but this can vary even within the strains. Sometimes you will find a Sativa high in THC or an Indica high in CBD, due to all the cross-hybridization that has gone on over the generations; therefore, the expected effects do not always appear.
Major Types of Weed and Effects
The two major types of weed come from two different species of the Cannabis plant: Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. The different types of weed vary based on both the type of weed plant they come from and also in the effects they have on a person or the type of high that they give.
Recently, a third strain, Cannabis ruderalis, has also been used to make weed. It has lower levels of THC and is primarily used for medicinal marijuana. Additionally, hybrid strains have been made that are a mix of the two major species.
People who use marijuana will generally choose to use a type of weed based on the effect they want to have. While each type is known for its different effect, one person’s experience may vary greatly from another’s. The route of administration (i.e. smoking or eating) can also greatly influence the effect the type of weed will have.
How to choose a strain
The strain you choose depends on what effect you desire. As mentioned earlier, cannabis has a range of medical uses, but some strains are better for certain conditions than others.
It’s also worth researching the potential adverse effects of the strain. Many of the more common strains, which you can find below, list dry mouth, dry eyes, and dizziness as possible side effects. Marijuana also has the potential to interact with medications you might be taking. Do not operate machinery when using marijuana.