Known as the social cannabis strain, sativa is famous for its energizing effects on the user, as it delivers a “high” that promotes creativity, activity and sociability. The sativa strain continues to be favored by most growers for its uplifting effects, and it is often most popular among those who consume cannabis on a social basis and to get “high,” rather than for medicinal purposes (it usually contains much higher levels of THC than CBD).
The words “indica” and “sativa” were introduced in the 18th century to describe different species of cannabis: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. The term sativa, named by Carl Linneaus, described hemp plants found in Europe and western Eurasia, where it was cultivated for its fiber and seeds. Cannabis indica, named by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, describes the psychoactive varieties discovered in India, where it was harvested for its seeds, fiber, and hashish production.
Although the cannabis varieties we consume largely stem from Cannabis indica, both terms are used–even if erroneously–to organize the thousands of strains circulating the market today.
Here’s how terms have shifted since their earliest botanical definitions:
- Today, “sativa” refers to tall, narrow-leaf varieties of cannabis, thought to induce energizing effects. However, these narrow-leaf drug (NLD) varieties were originally Cannabis indica ssp. indica.
- “Indica” has come to describe stout, broad-leaf plants, thought to deliver sedating effects. These broad-leaf drug (BLD) varieties are technically Cannabis indica ssp. afghanica.
- What we call “hemp” refers to the industrial, non-intoxicating varieties harvested primarily for fiber, seeds, and CBD. However, this was originally named Cannabis sativa.
While current cannabis science suggests that the difference between cannabis strains is no longer as simple as Indica vs Sativa, most people still identify their cannabis using these terms. Sativa strains, including the Haze family of strains, are generally thought to be more stimulating and accomplishment-oriented than Indica. These tall, gangly equatorial strains can reach a height of 25 feet, and were developed in hot climates including Thailand, southern Africa, Colombia, and Mexico. The sativa leaf is typically thin and resembles the iconic pot leaf we’ve all come to know. These plants are compatible with completing tasks, socializing, and creative pursuits such as making visual art, writing, or playing music.
Basically, a marijuana strain is some slight variation of the cannabis plant, which goes by the scientific name Cannabis sativa L. Traditionally, there are three recognized cannabis strains: indica, sativa and hybrid. The sativa strain is believed to have originated from Africa, Asia, and South and Central America, and can be found naturally in a wide range of countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, and Cambodia.
What is the difference between an Indica strain and a Sativa strain?
There are many differences between indica and sativa strains. From their appearance to the effects they have on the body, it wouldn’t be far off to say that the two are actually quite opposite in their nature! Marijuana strains can range on a spectrum from ‘pure’ sativa to ‘pure’ indica (in addition of course to hybrid strains), and depending on the desired effects, people can choose a specific strain that will provide certain health benefits. While we know Sativa strains are great for promoting productivity, movement and creativity (making them a great “daytime” marijuana strain), indica strains boast an immensely sedative body high which is perfect for inducing sleep and taking in the evening before bed.
Like sativa, indica strains come with a long list of medicinal benefits, including the relief of spasms, seizures, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, headaches, and even menstrual cramps! The main reason behind indica’s portfolio of health benefits is largely down to its often-high CBD content.
In appearance the plants are actually quite different, with indica typically being no taller than 4 feet, and sativa towering to a massive 20+ feet high! Also, the leaves on indica strains tend to be much shorter and stubbier than those on sativa, which are usually long and narrow.
Like we said earlier, even though indica and sativa strains both have their unique characteristics, it’s actually the hybrid strains that tend to be most popular among average users, as they provide the best benefits from both these different strains and ultimately filter out the undesired side-effects of each!
What Is Sativa Everything You Need To Know About Sativa Cannabis5 What Is Sativa? The Story Behind The Worlds Most Energetic Strains
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The uplifting Sativa high is more cerebral than the Indica high, which is described as more of a body high. Its stimulation is perfect for anyone who prefers to consume cannabis during the day.
But, for some people, the soaring mental stimulation and racing thoughts associated with Sativa weed can actually increase anxiety. That’s why people who are prone to anxiety attacks often choose Indica strains instead.
Some of the pulse-pounding Sativas like Jack Herer, Trainwreck and Green Crack are beloved by their fans for those mental fireworks, while avoided by others because they find them a little too stimulating.
What Is Sativa Everything You Need To Know About Sativa Cannabis4 What Is Sativa? The Story Behind The Worlds Most Energetic Strains
Photography by Georgia Love for Herb
The mental zing associated with Sativa weed makes it ideal for creative pursuits. Those euphoric, racing thoughts enjoyed by many with the Sativa high mean that it can foster new ideas and creations.
It can also increase focus. These strains can be very helpful in fighting depression, fatigue, and mood disorders. There’s absolutely nothing like a jolt of cannabinoid-induced mental energy to get you out of the doldrums.
Sativa weed is also thought to be useful in treating Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because of its ability to increase mental focus. While some folks may over-simplify by saying that Indica equals medical marijuana, and Sativa equals recreational marijuana, that’s not necessarily the case. Both strains have different reported benefits, although it’s important to note that more research needs to be conducted.
What medical conditions are the sativa strain commonly used to treat?
Depression is the most common mental disorder in the world, and to combat this there are thousands of treatments to choose from, from cognitive therapy treatment to heavy-duty prescription drugs. The vast majority of prescribed medications come with a lengthy list of side effects, though, as well as high risks for addiction and severe withdrawal symptoms if the user chooses to stop taking them abruptly.
However, there is a solution — cannabis! As we know, CBD has huge benefits on a user’s mental health, and in particular, the sativa strain has been used to combat many conditions, one of which is depression. While sativa does contain THC (which produces a “high” and can promote negative side effects like paranoia and anxiety in heavy doses), the high level of CBD in some strains has been recognized to help control psychoactivity, and thus provide the user with a mellow, uplifting experience.
A study done in 2015, for example, has shown that when stressed, depressed or anxious, our brain is less able to produce the chemical that combats feelings of depression. As we know, the many compounds that makeup marijuana work with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to promote the production of these chemicals, thus combating feelings of depression when consumed.
Perhaps a less obvious condition when we consider the proven health benefits of marijuana, sativa strains have been known to for years to be excellent at increasing appetite. Anorexia, believe it or not, is much more prevalent in today’s society than one would initially think. It’s been shown, in fact, that an estimated 91% of women will attempt to control their weight with a diet at least once in their lifetime. Of this 91%, a massive 25% of them will go on to develop some sort of eating disorder.
Of course, anorexia affects both men and women and is usually treated with psychological therapy in conjunction with a regimented food plan. However, if medication is prescribed, it tends to be in the form of dangerous anti-depressants. When anorexia becomes debilitating or severe enough to the point where the victim puts their health at risk, this often the only practical solution, even if the medications are dangerously addictive.
Fortunately, this is another area where sativa marijuana strains have been shown to be highly effective and therapeutic; in most instances, the user will feel like they might be able to eat anything and everything in sight, even with just a puff or two of a joint!
While this is of course referred to as “the munchies,” historical data and clinical studies has shown that there actually is a science behind it!
Essentially, increased appetite due to marijuana consumption all comes down to our ECS, which is responsible for controlling so many aspects of our body. When consumed, the cannabinoids in cannabis attach to our CB1 and CB2 receptors, boosting levels of dopamine and leading to an increase in appetite.
Research done in 2012 showed that anorexic behavior can actually cause the ECS to malfunction temporarily, however when cannabis is consumed it not only increases appetite, but it also is believed to actually alter the mind’s response to food. This, of course, could have a huge positive impact on anorexia sufferers, as a major part of the condition stems from the brain’s negative response to food.
In short, these are just two of the conditions that sativa strains have been known to combat. However, many other positive effects on our bodies can come from the frequent use of sativa as a therapeutic medication.
The sativa team has a lot of all-stars, including many of the most iconic and legendary strains in cannabis history. Panama Red and Acapulco Gold are two of the head-ringing strains which made a big splash in the 1960s. Both quickly attained mythic status among hippies for their legendary potency, with mental effects that could be almost psychedelic.
It was the Vietnam War that brought strains like Thai Stick to the United States as troops indulged in the field and brought their love of weed back with them.
The multi-award winning Jack Herer is a sativa-dominant hybrid strain that’s actually traditionally only about 55% sativa. It leaves you in a state of blissful happiness and, given that it contains on average around 15-24% THC with a low level of CBD (around 1-2%), is a strain that’s guaranteed to deliver!
The strain’s namesake was actually an advocate for the legalization of cannabis, and in honor of his life, Mr. Herer has been immortalized forever in this insanely popular strain!
It boasts a super spicy aroma and delivers a sensory treat with cold tones that will definitely cool you down, making it highly desired by those suffering from lung problems, as the cooling sensation can be incredibly relieving.
If you’re looking for a buzz that won’t result in a heavy comedown, then Jack Herer is your man!
Durban Poison, which emerged from South Africa, became known as one of the most potent weeds in the world in the 1970s, while Hawaiian, with its one-toke potency, quickly spread its fame beyond the islands and across the globe. This super-potent strain is known as a pure sativa, and offers a hard-hitting high that will be sure to energize you! If you are looking for a high that could be compared to having dozens of espresso shots all at once, then this is the strain for you!
Incredibly energizing, Durban Poison is best known for its creative boost that is perfect for daytime consumption and getting you off to a productive start! THC levels in this strain have been known to reach a whopping 24%, which makes it one of the stronger strains on the market.
Also, with a distinctive sweet and spicy aroma that has some fruity notes, Durban Poison is renowned for its happy head high, and also comes with a few medicinal benefits such as migraine-relief, increased appetite, and anti-emetic properties!
Modern Sativa-dominant hybrid strains include Amnesia Haze. Amnesia haze is an incredibly strong strain that offers around 24% THC and effects taking place almost immediately! Being 70% sativa-dominant, this strain provides feelings of sharpened focus and motivation, but also comes with a powerful body and head high that leads to some intense psychotropic effects. Great for daytime consumption, Amnesia Haze often leads to feelings of euphoria and provides an energetic, uplifted mood. Sufferers of depression, stress or anxiety may look to this strain for relief as it is guaranteed to brighten up their day!
Growing Cannabis Sativa
The Sativa plant is primarily grown outdoors as there aren’t many growers who can accommodate the plants size in a grow room. The Sativa plant often increases in height very rapidly when in the vegetative phase of growth.
Another factor which leads to more outdoor growing is the long flowering time of Sativa weed. While Indicas usually finish flowering by 60 days, and often by 45 days, Sativas need a minimum of 60 days and sometimes up to 90 days to truly finish blooming. As a result, it costs a lot more to run those power-hogging grow lights for 12 weeks rather than eight.
Sativa leaf blades are generally narrower than Indica leaf blades, although the modern process of hybridization means you’re not likely to identify a Sativa vs Indica at first glance.
Since these strains were originally developed in equatorial climates, they are more naturally adapted to outdoor growing locations in places like Southern California, Arkansas, and Florida, but connoisseurs have been known to grow them around the world. The high is just so desirable, every aspiring cannabis farmer seemingly wants to try his or her hand at growing Cannabis Sativa. That’s why, despite its lanky profile and long flowering times, you can find it in greenhouses and grow rooms everywhere.
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