Medical Marijuana: The Effects of Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid

When deciding to select the right medical marijuana strain to help bring relief for your medical condition, it is important to understand the difference of each marijuana species and how it can be helpful for you as a patient. Marijuana is classified into two main types of species: Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa. When you visit dispensaries, you will notice that they organize each of strain type by Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid. A hybrid is a blend of both cannabis species, typically described by the percentage mix of Indica and Sativa. With such a large diversity of strains that have varying amounts of potencies, medicinal effects and aromatic/flavor profiles (known as terpenes), it can be overwhelming to choose the right medical marijuana strain for you.

Patients will find Indica strains to be more potent in THC and more popular for insomnia, chronic pain, appetite stimulation, and anxiety.

With higher THC levels, Indica strains can give more narcotic effects, meaning a full-body medicating feeling that brings great relief but also makes a patient less active and more sedated. This is what is known as the couch-locked effect. A lot of people use Indica strains during the evening or winding down period of the day, using it to help him or her be relieved of pains and stresses and go to sleep easier. The higher the THC, the greater the appetite stimulation effect, so a strong indica will make you hungry. This is also known as giving you the munchies. Indica strains can help with anxiety because it allows patients to become calmer and release stressful thoughts and feelings.

For Cancer Patients who are feeling nausea, loss of appetite, sleep deprivation and depression, an Indica strain can help with anti-inflammation to reduce the nausea, appetite stimulation to help him or her eat, induce sleep so he or she can rest, and give a euphoric boost to help the patient with the heavy-hearted stresses of dealing with cancer. Marijuana’s terpenes and cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, combine to help provide this array of medical benefits for the patient to feel better and live a more balanced, healthy lifestyle. It’s as simple as if you can eat to nourish your body and sleep to help your body recover and rest, you are performing the basic functions to help the body heal, recover and deal with the illness with a more balanced approach. A lot of patients dealing with an illness, only wish to be able to live a normal life. The goal of medical cannabis, and its combination of terpenes and cannabinoids, is to work with your body to bring the sense of balance to feel normal and live healthy again. Overall, the goal of cannabinoids provided by Cannabis Indica is to work with our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) to provide the patient with an internal sense of balance also known as Homeostasis.

Sativa strains are known to provide more inspiring, energetic, and functional medicating effects.

Sativas will have a more cerebral and psychoactive effect, and a less of the heavy, full-body sedating effect of an indica. Sativa strains test lower in THC potency. Therefore, it allows patients to use it during the daytime and be more functional and active. Unlike an indica, that is used to wind-down because it makes you sleepy, a sativa will keep you medicated for 2-3 hours and lightly fade away without any drag or sleepiness. A patient is able to use a sativa to get more mild pain relief, reduce stress, and inspire creativity while continuing to function normally throughout the daytime. (Photo of Super Lemon Haze) Sativas can be known for functionality but its psychoactive effects can vary between some that are more energetic and racy to some that are more calming and focus-driven to some that can be very spacey and dreamy. It is important to look up the Sativa strain type to understand the type of daytime activity you are using it for. If you are about to exercise or go on an active adventure, or play some music, you may want to use a more energetic strain like the Green Crack or Sour Diesel. But if you are working on your computer or using it to help with anxiety relief, you may not choose the Green Crack because it is too racy and sitting still may increase the paranoia effect which can be uncomfortable. There are sativa strains like Jack Herer or Mello Yello that will help temper anxiety and keep yourself focused and functional during the day while still providing relief. Some sativas are very high in THC and can have an amplified psychoactive effect, making a patient feel spacey and dreamy like the Super Silver Haze or Dutch Treat. This type of sativa may be great for hanging out at the beach or relaxing at home throughout the day, but not for focusing on computer work or precision-driven tasks. Sativa strains do provide a boost of euphoria and inspiration that can be helpful for patients with depression who can use it to pick up their spirits and motivate them to be more active and happy.

Strawberry Cough is a Sativa

Did You Know?

With an impressive amount of awards including 1st place Best US Flower at the 2013 High Times Cannabis Cup. Strawberry Cough is a Sativa strain unlike any others. The smell of sweet Strawberries is undeniable and the effects are clear-headed and focused while relieving stress and built-up tension. Excellent for depression, anxiety, PTSD, nausea, and ADD among many other medical benefits.

Photo by @budsandroses

Most Medical Marijuana Strains are Hybrids

Over the years, Sativa and Indica strains have been cross-bred to make very effective Hybrid Strains which are a mix of both species.

The most popular Indica Hybrid is the OG Kush strain. OG Kush seems to be the perfect mix of Indica and Sativa, plus a terpene flavor and aroma profile that is attractive to most medical marijuana users. The OG stands for “Ocean Grown” and its origins are currently traced to Chem Dawg and Hindu Kush. It has a terpene profile of aromatic piney and woody undertones with lemony freshness that rounds out its smell. Because of it is indica dominant strain, it can have high THC Potency levels between 16-26%. Patients find satisfaction with the strength of OG Kush to help relieve stress and chronic pain relief with its indica side while adding a great euphoric and happy effect from its sativa side.

OG Kush’s popularity has made it a staple strain used to breed many of the hybrid strains at dispensaries. A Tahoe OG Kush or King Louie OG Kush, is a deep indica hybrid great for anxiety, insomnia, and pain relief. Goji OG Kush is a majority sativa hybrid that is euphoric, calming, and uplifting that can be good for a patient who needs anxiety relief while living an active lifestyle. There are hybrids that are not related to OG Kush too. Hybrids typically are good for patients who tend to look for more potent relief during the daytime while still being able to function or for patients who want to find the right combination of each cannabis species to help them with a healthy solution for his or her specific medical condition. Girl Scouts Cookie is a great indica hybrid strain that has sweet lavender and candy-like aroma while providing anxiety relief and is great for a social environment. Blue Dream is an amazing sativa hybrid that provides instant euphoria helping put a smile on any patient feeling depressed. It also helps with menstrual cramps and is an aphrodisiac.

These are just general guidelines on how to approach the different strain types of Indica, Sativa, and Hybrids at your dispensary.

It can be overwhelming when deciding which one to choose. Your local cannabis specialist or bud tender should be able to describe the effects of the different varieties the dispensary provides. You may want to research some strains online before you go to a dispensary to help select the ones that may be more helpful for your condition. A good resource for researching strain types according to conditions is This website has a strain wiki that you can search by name and it will provide a description of the strain with its known medical effects and potential side effects. Of course, googling your condition and adding “medical marijuana strains” with your search will produce a lot of relevant results for helping you find the right strains too. Here we have an example of using google to search “Insomnia and Medical Marijuana Strains”, the first result is an article called The Best Cannabis Strains for Sleep and Insomnia | Leafly. This article lists Skywalker OG, Grand Daddy Purple, and Afghan Kush as good strains for insomnia. If you are a patient needing help sleeping, these would be the best strains to look for when you go to the dispensaries. A little bit of research will help make finding the right strain for your condition easier and less overwhelming.

Although it is generally accepted that this is how Indica and Sativa strains will work with each patient, for some patients the effects are totally opposite.

Yes, for certain patients an indica may be more functional and a sativa may be more sedative. This is because every patient has a unique endocannabinoid system (ECS) that helps his or her body process the spectrum of cannabinoids like THC and CBD to achieve the medicinal effects. The uniqueness of each patient’s ECS may explain why some react differently to the general effect of each cannabis species Indica and Sativa. That is why a patient who is new to medical marijuana should be careful to start off slow and carefully test each strain type to properly find the one that helps for his or her condition.

When using medical marijuana for the first time, take smaller dosages of 5-10 mg of THC for edibles or buy only a gram of flower or buds of each strain type to try or only get a half gram of concentrate oils for vaporizing.

For edibles, always allow 45 minutes to an hour to allow the medicine work before increasing dosage.

For vaporizing flowers/buds or concentrates, inhale for about 2-3 seconds before exhaling, allow 10-15 minutes for the medicine to take effect before additional draws. Stop taking draws when the medical effect brings adequate relief for your specific condition.

Remember when using medical cannabis, it is not safe to operate any heavy machinery. The medicinal effects of marijuana do not require heavy doses. A patient may find that the effective right dose is does not a lot, in which case they will save money while safely using the medicine in moderation.