Records date back to the 18th century with the first observed differences between indica and sativa plants. Back then, people started noticing that cannabis plants showed great differences in structure and resin production. Today, we have established standards and conditions for each type of cannabis plant and the effects they produce.

Sativas are known to provide an invigorating, uplifting, cerebral high that complements physical exercise, creative activities, and social events. Indica strains, on the other hand, offer a much more physically sedating stone. These are perfect for relaxing at home as you binge on Netflix. They also make great sleep aids.

Even the novice stoner will probably be able to differentiate an indica high from a sativa one, but can you visually tell plants and buds apart? That’s the true challenge. Many of us in the stoner community aren’t always able to trust our dispensary or dealer. With this, knowing how to visually distinguish the two types of cannabis can be a very handy trick. After this, you’ll be able to verify with a look through the bag if your source is telling the truth.

Cannabis Sativa And Indica Origins


This is information you won’t be using when purchasing your bud, but it’s also good to know and definitely easier to define. Experienced growers will be able to tell if a plant is an indica or a sativa simply from a general glance at a garden. It becomes a fairly straightforward task after you’ve dealt with so many plants.

Let’s start off with sativas. Coming from regions like Southeast Asia, Colombia, and Mexico, these are plants that deal well with equatorial climates. These are very humid places. Plants have to adapt and so their physicality becomes an evolutionary consequence of their geography. Sativa plants will have slender leaves and grow tall as means of preventing the appearance of mould. This height change is more noticeable during the flowering stage. In the proper outdoor conditions, these plants can grow up to 6 metres tall.

Indicas originated in dry areas like the Middle East. Because of this, plants are shorter in height as compared to sativas, but wider and bushier as a compensation. Their leaves are broader and thicker so that sunlight is more easily caught. They have shorter flowering periods to avoid mould during the fall. Because of their morphology, indica plants can’t handle humidity very well and so they’ve learned to develop sooner. This is a selling point for a lot of growers out there and surely part of the reason pure sativas are hard to find.

Cannabis Indica Sativa Ruderalis Hybrid


Because most strains out there are hybrids nowadays, it can be hard to tell from dried herb what is indica vs sativa. But there are still a few guidelines that can point you in the right direction for making an educated guess.

When you’re looking at a bag and it appears as though you’ve been given more than you paid for, you’re probably handling a sativa. You’ll rarely be given a weed bonus (both in the legal and black market). Sativa buds are wispier and less dense, so it will look like more. These buds will also be taller. As opposed round-looking nugs, they look rectangular, thin, and fluffy. To some consumers, this looks unappealing. Again, one of the reasons why hybrids are most widely available.

Cannabis Sativa And Indica Buds

When it comes to indica plants, their buds will be heavier and consequently, much denser than sativas. These are what a lot of consumers look for. They grow in dense clusters closer to the nodes, creating the classic “crunchy” look.

Regardless of your preference in terms of high, the truth is that indica buds look more aesthetic. This created a trend in the market. Today, pure sativa plants are rare, not only because of their growing requirements, but also because of bud appearance. So, you'll generally be purchasing nugs that are indica-dominant, or at very least, contain a small concentration of indica genetics. That doesn’t mean sativas are inferior, but just know that these flowers will come in the form of fluffy and fragile nugs.


If you have the chance to take a closer look, there are other factors you can seek out to distinguish between indica and sativa. In case you’re offered a couple of puffs, analyse the flavours. Indicas tend to have sweet flavours like Honey Cream or Sweet Skunk. Sativas, on the other hand, have more earthy and pungent tastes like Sour Diesel. When it comes to smell, sativas have a much more floral and delicate aroma. This is the opposite of their flavour, which is weird, but still true. Indicas emit a much more pungent and skunky profile. These will let the people around you know you have weed in your pocket much faster than a sativa will.

Cannabis Indica And Sativa Effects

We hope you’ll be better prepared to distinguish a sativa from an indica, whether as a plant or with buds. It is a skill you’ll develop with time. As you look at more and more buds with the intention of distinguishing what they are, you’ll grow a backlog of knowledge that will make you more of an expert with each passing grow season or trip to the dispensary. This way, you will always be able to tell if your weed guy/girl is a trustworthy source. Knowledge is power, and in this case, better weed!

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