In the days before legal marijuana, people couldn’t be as discriminating. When buying from the black market, cannabis consumers usually settled for what they could get from a reliable source. Today, they can decide from a wide selection of strains, with many medical dispensaries and recreational shops offering an extensive menu of strains, often categorized as “sativa,” “hybrid,” or “indica.” Seed brokers and banks provide growers with a similar list of options, making it easy for people to select exactly what they want. When shopping for nearly anything, from groceries to cars, people appreciate choices, and now cannabis buyers can be choosey—much like they can be when shopping for other goods.
But what exactly are the differences between sativa and indica strains? Although both fall under the umbrella of “marijuana,” pure Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are not all that similar. Cannabis sativa has its origins in eastern Asia, while Cannabis indica originally hails from India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Now, both cannabis species enjoy worldwide cultivation and use, and most of the commercially available strains are actually hybrids between the two that usually lean toward one species or the other with regard to appearance and effect—although some skilled cultivators have created fairly balanced hybrids between the two.
From a plant structure perspective, sativa grows long and lanky, with thin, wispy leaves, while indica is a shorter, stockier plant with much wider leaves. Sativa plants are lighter green than the deep green of indica.
When grown for commercial purposes indoors or outdoors in temperate or tropical regions, indicas mature more quickly than sativas, which is part of the reasons the two species were crossed—to shorten the harvest time of sativa strains outdoors. Indoor cultivators will wait an extra week or two to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but outdoor growers will wait even longer. For most who grow sativa, the wait is worth it.
Geographical origins and plant structure aside, there are very significant differences between the two species when it comes to how they impact the human endocannabinoid system with regard to effect. While both have important medical applications, indica imparts a more sedative and relaxing high compared to the upbeat, mentally engaging high that results from consuming sativa. Some people react negatively to certain sativa strains because it makes them feel anxious—much like some people react negatively to the caffeine in coffee—it makes them too jittery.
To take this analogy a step further, you could say that tea drinker, who often enjoy this warm beverage in the evening for its relaxing herbal effect, are like indica smokers, while the sativa smokers are more like coffee drinkers who appreciate the wakeup and lucid qualities of the beverage they consume every morning. Without their morning coffee, the day may get off to a slow start.
When smoked, sativa is cerebral and energetic. The effect is felt mostly in the head, allowing the consumer to engage in physical activities like hiking or even housecleaning. The high is much more motivational than that of indica, which hits the body with extreme relaxation and low energy—the “couch lock” effect cannabis users know.
After smoking indica, many people are in for the evening, content to enjoy themselves doing nothing more challenging than watching a movie. Sativa smokers, on the other hand, may want to go out for their movie, concert, or night on the town.
Popular Sativa Strains
When shopping for some good sativa, there are more varieties available to buyers than ever before. Although many of these sativa strains have been around for several decades, finding a number of them to choose from is a welcome and somewhat new experience. While there are relatively few pure sativas on the market today, quite a few come close to being pure and behave like sativas with regard to their effects. Let’s take a look at 10 of the purer varieties out there that you’re likely to encounter when shopping.
- Durban Poison is a pure landrace strain from the port city of Durban from South Africa. As a pure sativa, Durban Poison has an energetic and highly motivational effect that keeps those who consume it on their toes and active. This is a good strain for conversation and social activities. The THC levels of this strain are usually quite high in THC and low in CBD. Flavors of anise, pepper, and subtle tropical fruit make Durban Poison a tasty and powerful cannabis experience.
- Haze has had such an impact on the cannabis world that a huge number of sativa-leaning strains have been created with crossing it with other varieties. Haze ranks among one of the most popular strains—and for good reason. Originally created by the Haze brothers from the Santa Cruz area of California, Haze combines Mexican, Colombian, Indian, and Thai strains to create a wonderfully flavorful and creative strain. The aroma and flavor of Haze is so distinctive that once you smell it, you will recognize it forever, as well as in strains created from it. Smooth minty and piney flavors tickle the taste buds.
- Golden Goat was created in Kansas by crossing a Hawaiian strain with Island Sweet Skunk. The Hawaiian genetics result in this strain’s golden-green appearance that earns it its name. The high is upbeat and euphotic, with a slightly relaxing quality that follows the initial effect. Golden Goat is great for a sativa experience with a little balance that isn’t racey. The aroma and flavor leans to the sweeter side, with citrus notes and tropical fruit flavors. Expect a dense and sticky coating of trichomes from this strain, as well as potent THC levels and small amounts of CBD.
- Kali Mist is a sativa-dominant strain that remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. The genetics behind it are unknown and believed to be in a ratio of 90/10 sativa/indica, making it very close to being pure sativa. This is a great strain for morning use, because the THC content is below that of many other popular sativas, making it quite functional and clear-headed in effect. As far as flavor goes, most Kali Mist phenos have an earthy/woody/citrus combination in varying ratios. Kali Mist is a good strain for those who may not be looking for a profound cannabis experience, although its effects are quite pleasant.
- Cinderella 99 has definitely made its mark on the cannabis world, with a number of notable hybrids resulting from crosses made with it. “Cindy 99,” as it’s often referred to, was created by Brothers Grimm, an Amsterdam seed company, using genetics that include Jack Herer from Sensi Seeds. Cindy is popular with indoor growers who appreciate the plant’s short stature and quick finishing time. The THC potency is decent, with percentages often hovering in the low 20s. The strain has a sweet flavor profile, with candied citrusy notes and a distinct earthy dankness present as well.
- Strawberry Cough caused a buzz in the cannabis community when it was introduced quite a few years ago. Sativa growers love it for the same reason they appreciate Cinderella 99—short and manageable stature and quick finishing time for a strain decidedly in the sativa category. The genetics behind its creation remain unclear, but the effects mirror those of Cinderella 99, with motivational effects that aren’t immediately relaxing, mild relaxation emerges later. Strawberry Cough really delivers in the flavor department, with rich, creamy strawberry/berry flavors. The “Cough” part of the name is an exaggeration, because this strain is no more likely to make you cough than any other. The strain enjoys immense popularity and is one to seek.
- Green Crack has a name that you may not like, but it does imply an energetic effect, which this strain most definitely has. To confuse matters, there are now two versions of Green Crack, one that leans heavily to indica genetics. We’ll focus on the sativa variety here. The Green Crack experience is highly motivational and cerebral. This is a happy strain that uplifts those who use it. Knowledge about its genetics remain somewhat murky, but it’s known to contain Skunk #1. In the terpene department, Green Crack has tangy, sweet, and fruity flavors that some people compare to papaya or mango.
- Jack Herer is a popular award-winning strain created by Dutch seed company Sensi Seeds. Created to honor the sativa-loving marijuana activist with the same name, Jack Herer is a very popular strain for its enjoyable uplifting qualities, despite the fact that it contains a percentage of Northern Lights #5, a well known indica. The strain also contains Shiva Skunk and a Haze hybrid, resulting in a 55/45 sativa-dominant hybrid. Put any thoughts of indica aside, because Jack Herer acts like a sativa all the way. There are several phenos of Jack, with slight variation in flavor and effect. Most people favor the plants that have a slight tropical fruit flavor along with the pronounced Hazey pine that all Jack phenos seem to have. Those who cultivate cannabis, love Jack for its sativa qualities, which led to the creation of Jack Flash, a strain that finishes quicker yet maintains many of the same qualities as the pure Jack.
- Bruce Banner is a sativa with a strong punch. Named after the Incredible Hulk character who morphs into a monster, is a powerful experience, much like the hulk character. Consisting mostly of OG Kush and Strawberry Diesel—two tasty strains in their own right—there are a few phenos, one of the most popular of which is Bruce Banner #3. From a terpene perspective, this strain usually has a candied sweetness and mildly earthy dankness, with subtle diesel notes—an interesting flavor experience for sure. Bruce Banner’s effect is mostly cerebral, a great, clear-headed strain for daytime use.
- Maui Wowie, like Durban Poison, is a sativa with a long history. As its name implies, Maui Wowie comes from the Hawaiian Islands. The stress-relieving, happy qualities it provides to those who partake make it perfect for conversation and gatherings with goof friends. Its moderate strength is pleasant and not overwhelming for those not used to cannabis. As a Hawaiian strain, Maui Wowie has appropriate flavors that contain tropical pineapple aromas and flavors. Take a blissful trip to the islands today by purchasing this longtime favorite.
A fine sativa strain provides an experience to remember. For people on the go, sativas add motivational qualities indicas lack—which has its own rewarding qualities and fans. The next time you shop for cannabis at your favorite dispensary, keep your eyes peeled for one or more of the strains mentioned above. They rank among some of the best and most well-known in the sativa space, and you’ll be more than happy you gave them a try!