Indica or Sativa? What is the right strain for you to best experience CBD flower?

Indica or Sativa? What is the right strain for you to best experience CBD flower?

By Harriet Clark

Whether you are a cannabis aficionado or cannacurious, finding consistency in the strain you are smoking can be like going down a rabbit hole. Trial and error and some hunting around, eventually you’ll hit on a strain that appeals to you. However, when you go back and buy the same strain name you find you have a completely different experience.

In this post we will look at the different strains, “sativa,” “indica,” and “hybrid,” with an awareness that there is not always clear consistency across the common strains names but categorization helps to narrow down your search.

Is it possible to have a consistency in quality with a given strain name?

Cannabis can be notoriously unpredictable. How do you really know how a particular strain of cannabis is going to affect you, other than reading the label, and knowing a bit about the different strains? Once you have done your research, will the effects be consistent every time?

Focusing only on strain names can be misleading to the consumer because not all buds of the same strain name will be experienced equally. As Amos Alberg, Head of Data Science at Confidence Cannabis explains, ‘seeds that are sold under the same name are not standardized as they ‘are not all genetically identical.’ A Sour Diesel grown in California may have a supremely different effect to a Sour Diesel from Colorado.

The only certain way of knowing how psychoactive or otherwise a strain is is to run a lab analysis to provide DNA and chemical profiles. The recommended guidelines are always to take the lowest dose needed to achieve the results you are looking for. Going beyond this dose could result in unwanted symptoms.

As there are no standardized strains out there, to simplify things for the consumer, the cannabis industry categorizes the strains ‘sativa,’ (energizing) ‘indica, (relaxing) ’or ‘hybrid’ dominant if you are looking for something in between. This system creates commonalities between the common strain names, but the reality is there are going to be variabilities because of the biochemical profile inconsistencies.

What time of day is best to smoke, and should I change strains between day and night?

Cannabis, no matter what strain you are using, will have different effects on you at different times of the day. For starters, no two days are the same, and our bodies are constantly fluctuating and changing so it would follow that we do not experience cannabis of the same strain names equally across time. There are many different factors that impact how we experience cannabis.

  • Body weight, including fat percentage
  • Diet
  • Metabolism / tolerance
  • Sleep quality or impairment
  • Stress

During the day, you may want to choose a strain that stimulates the mind and gives you energy. Sativa strains are generally energizing and so might promote greater focus, helping you to be more productive. You may want to avoid strains with too high a dose of THC, or you could experience unwanted side effects, such as paranoia or anxiety.

It is not only the ratios of the psychoactive THC and non-psychoactive CBD that will influence how the strain will affect you. Other variabilities are the ratios of terpenes and flavonoids present in the strain, as well as other cannabinoids. Although non-intoxicating in themselves, terpenes can strongly enhance the energizing and or relaxing (or anything along the spectrum) effects of cannabis.

Dr Russo, a board certified neurologist explains that when ‘indica’ strains of cannabis are said to have sedative effects, this is falsely attributed to CBD, where CBD is in fact ‘stimulating in low and moderate doses.’ Dr Russo explains that the sedative part of cannabis in most strains can be attributed to a terpene called myrcene.

In general most people do not want to be too buzzed late at night, so when you are winding down, opt for a strain that is higher in CBD cannabinoid for relaxation, along with phytol and alpha-pinene terpenes that are known for their sedative qualities.

Cannabis growing conditions

There are many variations involved in growing cannabis, such as how the plant was grown, and in what environment (inside or outside), the PH of the water and nutrients in the soil, amount of sunlight will all affect the chemical compositional makeup and terpene profile of the seeds that are produced. This in turn will then affect the type of high you will experience. Everybody responds to cannabis differently and will have their own experience depending on factors, such as sleep, diet, stress levels etc.

Strain origin

“Sativa” and “indica” were botanical terms developed in the 18th century. In 1785 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French naturalist proposed that there were two different types of cannabis species. He initiated the categorization of Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica.

Sativa, or hemp (literally means cultivated), grew throughout Europe and Western Eurasia and was mainly used for industrial purposes for the seeds and fibres.

Indica was discovered in South and Eastern Asia. The psychoactive component was encountered from hashish in India, which is how Indica got it’s name.

‘Indica’ and ‘sativa’ were used as terms before scientists had the tools to determine the cannabinoid composition and terpene profile of the different strains of the plant.

Indica plants highlights

  • Chunky broad leaves
  • Dark green leaves
  • Typically matures faster than sativa plants, producing more buds
  • The buds can contain high ratios of CBD, CBN and THC
  • Some people can describe this as a mellow to couch-locked body feeling
  • Some people find indica can be a calming part of their nighttime routine
  • Can have a higher ratio of CBD to THC, but THC can still be in high quantities

Popular strains:

Granddaddy Purple, Afghan Kush, Hindu Kush

Sativa plant highlights

  • Sativa plants are taller (they can grow as high as 12 feet tall)
  • Take longer to mature than other cannabis varieties
  • Leaves are longer and thinner, blade-like in shape
  • Often a paler green than indica strain
  • Industrially grown hemp is mostly sativa, as they produce the longest fibres useful for industrial purposes (making clothes, ropes, etc)
  • The flower or bud can have a feathery quality
  • Sativa can be higher in THC, but also contains good amounts of other cannabinoids like CBD, CBN and others.
  • Some people describe this as a more heady buzz, more of a cerebral feeling
  • Some people find sativas are great for uplifting creative moments like drawing, painting or having a night out with friends

Popular strains:

Acapulco Gold, Durban Poison, Panama Red


  • Their appearance will depend on what their parent makeup is
  • Often grown specifically to have a higher quantity of THC, but each strain will have its own unique blend of cannabinoids.

Popular Strain names:

Pineapple express, Blue dream, Trainwreck

What is a “hybrid” and what should you look for when choosing one?

Over the years, as cannabis has been crossbred, hundreds of strains have emerged. Hybrid forms are a genetic combination of sativa and indica strains. These strains are popular as they can be both energizing, and relaxing. What can result is mental and physical balance, so they often prove more popular than pure sativas or indicas.

Hybrid strain for a boost in mood

Dragon OG or Red Dragon OG is a sativa- dominant hybrid cross between Red Dragon and OG Kush. Low in THC at 19% it is according to Leafly, ‘energizing and calming.’ A good choice for anxiety due to it’s mood boosting qualities. It is reportedly both mentally stimulating, and physically relaxing. Good for day-time use but best to avoid excess usage as unwanted side effects can be that it’s overly stimulating.

G.O.A.T. is a hybrid cross between Animal Pie and ACDC. ACDC is a CBD dominant strain with almost no intoxicating effects. Can ease anxiety as it’s commonly reported top effects are calming and relaxing with a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC.

What to look for when shopping for CBD hemp flower

One of the most bioavailable methods to take CBD is vaporizing flower. When a substance is bioavailable it can be easily absorbed and metabolized by the body, meaning the product is successfully taken up by your body. When shopping for Hemp CBD flower, look for Hemp CBD flower with a THC content of 0.3% or less. Over 0.3% THC, your hemp flower will not be legally produced in the USA. (Different countries have different regulations on this.) Hemp CBD flower can have a variety of CBD strengths. A low strength would be considered 3-6%, and a higher strength would be 6-10%. It is recommended to start with a lower dose and build up where necessary.

The quality of a Hemp CBD flower will be greatly impacted by the plant’s growth conditions. Look out for products that are transparent about this and present the cannabis growth conditions. The optimum growth conditions for CBD hemp flowers are 40% to 50% humidity and water. Best watering conditions for cannabis plants is a pH of 7. Flowers that are grown from cross-contamination of cannabis plants with the other plants should generally be avoided.

In a previous blog post we reviewed CBD labels and what to look out for when buying CBD flower. When looking at different brands, you want to ensure the brand does third party testing, and gives a Certificate of Analysis (COA). This will give you the assurance that the product contains what it says it contains. Look for a company that has transparency on their labels. A reputable company will provide good integrity and trust between their customers and the product they provide.

Unsure which consumption method to choose? Vaporizing flower is generally considered the cleanest method, as the device heats the flower, without burning, releasing more cannabinoids and terpenes. Ideally go for a full spectrum CBD as all the cannabinoids and terpenes are preserved during processing, giving your body a great chance of absorbing CBD.