Stepping into your local marijuana dispensary for the first time can be a bit confusing. There are two different species of plant and countless varieties of hybrids that can make choosing weed extremely confusing for novices. 

For average consumers, the difference between Girl Scout Cookies and Lemon Haze is as confusing as the difference between a single malt whiskey aged for 10 years, and one aged for 30 years. An average pot smoker can make their selection easier by knowing the difference between Indica and Sativa. 

How Are They Different? It’s Just Weed, Right?

Where each strain originates deeply affects the feel and look of the weed you inhale. Due to these plants coming from vastly different climates, the DNA and physical traits of Indica and Sativa plants are distinctly different, it takes experience to understand cannabis strains.

You can ask the budtender at your local dispensary to explain the subtle differences in more detail, but the following are the basic differences between a Sativa and an Indica strain of marijuana.


The Sativa strain of marijuana originated in the temperate and tropical regions of the planet closer to the equator.

How it Looks

Strains of Sativa have been known to grow upwards of 12 feet tall when cultivated outdoors. The buds, leaves and colas of Sativa plants are spread apart with the plant itself growing upwards with the branches growing out towards the sky.

In addition, the buds on a Sativa plant rarely grow near the stalk. The majority of the plant material that you can use begins to sprout about halfway up the plant. This strain of cannabis usually needs ample room to grow since the plants can be enormous with branches that continue to grow into the sky. 

Lastly, the leaves on a Sativa plant are much narrower than those from Indica strains.

How it Feels

The mental effects of smoking the plant are usually described as providing a boost of energy, increased creativity and uplifting. This is the reason why it is used to relieve stress and depression.


How it Looks

The Indica strain of cannabis originated in colder climates so it is much smaller than Sativas, with plants typically only growing to half their height. They usually will not grow to much more than 6 feet tall.

While its size is much smaller compared to Sativas, most marijuana growing professionals love it due to the hardy nature and dense buds the plant produces. Its strong nature makes for limited health issues for the plants. The most common weed strains generally have indica lineage. 

Generally, the shape of Indica plants are a bit like an evergreen tree. The branches begin at a point near the top. As you get closer to the bottom, the more dense the plant becomes. 

Typically the useable plant material starts to form almost at the root of the stalk, with there being very little space between the top of the soil and the bottom of the plant. 

The buds on Indica strains tend to be heartier and thicker than those of a Sativa, which produces exceptionally high yielding flowers and colas. The easiest way to notice if a plant is an Indica strain is by the shape of the flat leaves which are fat and wide. When compared next to a Sativa leaf, an Indica leaf will look as if they have swollen to double the size, if not more.

How it Feels

The effects of Indicas tend to produce relaxation and pain relief. People report feeling sleepier and less anxious by taking indica.

Which is The Strain For You?

Sativa is like a basketball player: tall, thin and lanky. Indicas are like a football player: stocky, short and really tough.

Both strains can produce excellent quality marijuana, with the best herb usually being a hybrid of both strains. A grower breeds the strains together to get the best qualities of each strain. This way you can choose a strain for your symptoms, which will work best.

It’s wise to try them both, and then try them together. That’s the only way to figure out which feel you like most!