Indica, Sativa, Hybrids — Oh My! Navigating Medical Marijuana Strains

Please note: the use of cannabis for medial or recreational purposes may be illegal in your country. does not encourage the use of this substance.

As more states become receptive to the possibility of medical and recreational marijuana use, medical researchers gain more freedom to study the drug and its effects on the human body and mind.

While conclusive results are still pending, there is sufficient anecdotal evidence that marijuana works wonders for all sorts of conditions, from psychological disorders like depression and schizophrenia to physical pain from diseases like arthritis, glaucoma and even cancer. Though no one claims that weed cures these problems, enough people have found some relief using the drug that others are becoming curious about how marijuana might help them.

If you are new to cannabis culture, you might need some help navigating the wide, deep world of cannabis culture — specifically when it comes to one of the most confusing aspects of it: weed strains. To help users choose the right medical marijuana option, most strains are placed into one of three categories, indica, sativa and hybrid, which we will explain in depth below.

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Sativa plants are tall and slender, with long, thin leaves and a drawn-out cannabis flowering cycle. Cannabis sativa was the first variety identified by Western philosophers, when Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus sampled and taxonomized the plant in the mid-18th century.

Sativa is best known for generating alertness and high energy levels, helping users feel euphoric and thus stimulating creativity and drive. You might prefer a sativa strain if you plan to use marijuana earlier in the day and continue to be productive during your waking hours.

Some sativa strains famous across the country (or around the world) include:


Cannabis indica plants tend to be shorter and bushier, with a brief flowering cycle and wide leaves. Indica plants were first identified by Jean Baptiste Lamarck, an evolutionary philosopher in the early 19th century who described the plants as generating a “body high,” which left users feeling relaxed, sleepy and hungry. Generally, indica is the category of strain you should gravitate to if you don’t plan to do much of anything — if you just want to sit back and enjoy your marijuana experience.

Some of the most popular indica strains include:

  • Northern Lights
  • Hindu Kush
  • Purple Kush
  • Blueberry
  • Blue Cheese
  • Super Skunk
  • White Rhino


As you might already suspect, hybrid strains are those that combine the effects of indica and sativa plants. Often, hybrids are carefully cultivated to ensure they produce desired sensations — which might range from pain relief and alertness to appetite stimulation and increased energy to euphoria and improved sleep.

Hybrids vary much more significantly than pure indica or sativa strains, so you should talk to customer service reps or sales staff at your preferred dispensary to better understand your options.

Still, some hybrid strains are so well-liked that they appear almost everywhere. These include:

  • Sour Diesel
  • Three Blue Kings
  • White Widow
  • Larry Bird Kush
  • Cannatonic

Final Notes

Classification of cannabis is so entrenched in weed culture that essentially all dispensaries around the country — around the world! — use these terms to explain their strains to customers. Whether you smoke these specific strains, or eat some edible gummies, the more we can learn about these plants, the better. However, emerging research on marijuana indicates that the way the marijuana plant looks has little impact on its psychoactive effects. That’s not to say that growers have no idea what type of high their crop will produce; rather, it means that a short, bushy plant might result in a euphoric and energizing experience for users, even though it might traditionally be considered an indica strain that should inspire relaxation and better sleep.

That’s because the genes that determine a marijuana plant’s height and width aren’t the same genes that dictate its chemical makeup. To better understand a plant’s high, scientists need to invest more resources into identifying chemotypes, which are chemicals unique to certain plants and known to produce certain effects. In the future, it is likely that dispensaries will label their strains with chemotypes rather than indica, sativa and hybrid — but for now, being aware of the dominant categories is beneficial enough to give you the best marijuana experiences for you.

Though marijuana has been used for millennia and categorized for centuries, the truth is we continue to learn more about this powerful plant every day. By performing your own experiments, you should learn what you most enjoy out of a marijuana high, and thus, you can ensure that you always get the cannabis products you need and want.



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