Sativa cannabis has a reputation for a heady high, one that gives you room to focus and concentrate on creative endeavors instead of sinking into that weird, soft thing in your living room under the phenomenon of “couch lock.” We have explained the differences between indica and sativa in the past, but today we’re diving into the nitty gritty behind the science of sativa cannabis.

Physical Differences

The science of sativa cannabis, it turns out, is actually not that different from that of indica strains; differences in the genetics between the plants are somewhat difficult to ascertain, although additional research in the future is likely to shed more light on this. On a concrete, tangible level, sativa plants grow taller and thinner, while indicas tend to be shorter and squatter. With regard to cannabinoids, sativas are known for the higher concentration of THC, while indicas can claim more pain-relieving CBD.

The effects of sativa cannabis are also markedly different than indicas, so certain properties have become associated with each type of strain, with the most obvious being that sativas tend to provide a more alert and awake high, while indicas are felt more in the body and less in the mind.  

Science of Sativa Cannabis 2

What About Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic essential oils that all cannabis produces. In fact, it’s the terpenes that give each strain its unique scent, as well as flavors and other characteristics. In other words, terpenes seem to offer a potential explanation for the difference in effects between sativa cannabis and indica strains.

Pinene is one of the most well-known terpenes; it also happens to be more likely found in sativa cannabis. It smells like pine trees (hence the name, perhaps), and effects include memory recognition, alertness, and a general sense of happiness. Some of the most popular strains of sativa that are known for high concentrations of pinene include Jack Herer, Bubba Kush, Strawberry Cough, Trainwreck, Chemdawg, Super Silver Haze, and Island Sweet Skunk. Many people who have tried these strains report increased creativity and energy in various proportions.

But how exactly do terpenes influence the high? With more and more support for medical cannabis research, we’re sure to find out more specific information in the coming years, but based on what is currently known, the human brain contains various receptors that are affected by cannabinoids (the endocannabinoid system). The presence of terpenes, then, can have an effect on how cannabinoids actually interact with the receptors. The type of terpenes (and how much of them are contained in the plant) are an important component in the form and intensity of the high.

While many sativas contain more of certain terpenes (like our friend pinene) they also contain less of other terpenes – such as the earthy musk of myrcene, more commonly contained within indica strains and known for its ability to soothe and calm. Of course, it’s not a hard and fast rule or scientific law; different phenotypes of the same strain can lead to flowers containing varying amounts of terpenes, but the differentiation in the mix of terpenes surely helps in understanding the distinctions between between sativa cannabis and indica.

Variables in the Mix

One important point when it comes to cannabis, however, is that each harvest will be slightly different from every other harvest – and even more so from grower to grower. The characteristics of the flower depend on everything from where the seeds came from to the amount of light and moisture the plants are exposed to; yet even with this in mind, growers can still guarantee a product with a certain composition of cannabinoids and terpenes, which in turn will produce the various differing effects we see between sativa cannabis, indica strains, and hybrids.

Interested in experiencing the effects of sativa for yourself? Check out some of our favorite sativa strains for energy, and browse our full menu for all the high-quality sativa cannabis you could ever need – as well as indica and hybrid strains, of course. Come check out the flowers for yourself at our dispensary or give us a call and we’ll bring the medicine to you!