Indica Sativa Myth

Indica Sativa

By Mitch Greene


Mitch brings unparalleled cannabis knowledge to industry with an extensive background in cannabis advocacy and research. Focused on bringing the facts about cannabis to light, Mitch works hand-in-hand with brand, operations, and merchandising.

Indica, Sativa, Hybrid! What are these terms referring to and do they hold much value in today’s cannabis industry? Unfortunately, many have perpetuated the belief that cannabis is broken into three distinct categories; Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid (sometimes including Ruderalis: an auto-flowering plant that grows small but very quickly). Many believe cannabis labeled to be ‘Indica’ will leave you tired, mellowed-out, or ‘in-da-couch,’ while those products labeled Sativa will aid in alertness and creativity. However, most if not all cannabis you find now-a-days are Hybrids, meaning their characteristics come from a combination of many different types of cannabis. Let’s take a look at why we started using these terms in the first place and what might make more sense in today’s industry.

Long after the earliest reports of cannabis were discovered, Carl Linnaeus first introduced the term Sativa in 1753 explaining the plant’s shape and leaf formation. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck did the same thing in 1785 when he came across cannabis plants from India. Lamark and Linnaeus were plant taxonomist on a mission to find, label and document new plant species.  Lamarck believed the cannabis variety did not fall into Linnaeus’ plant taxonomy scheduling because of their leaf shape and stem size. He then coined the term Indica to refer to his new plant variety; referencing the area of the world in which it originated. Both men’s definitions were in no way suggesting the effects of the plants if used medicinally, recreationally or otherwise.

Through the rich history of cannabis, we know the seeds have been traded and moved around the world for thousands of years. As these seeds were introduced to new regions, they were combined with local genetics, or landraces. A landrace is a specific variety notorious for growing in a particular region for an extended period of time. Columbian Gold or original Thai, Indian, and Moroccan cultivars are all examples of landraces. Many of these local varieties have been taken, mixed and matched to create new and popular cannabis seen all around the world. New age cultivars that we already know and love such as Cookies, Gelato, MAC, Zkittles and even the classic OG’s are the fruits of labor from many growers years of dedication to the plant.

So why do we use these terms today? Well—due to the long-standing illegal nature of the cannabis industry— plant genetics, delivery methods, and naming conventions have advanced and evolved at a much faster pace than proper documentation and research. The list of different varieties is seemingly endless as cultivars have been named, renamed, and mislabeled for decades, creating a complicated understanding for scientists, businesses and patients alike.  Researchers are now starting to realize the importance of specific cannabis phenotypes and the differing chemovar profiles. Chemovar refers to the combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in each individual plant. While usually very similar, chemovar profiles can vary even within the same strain due to minor differences in growing conditions. Knowing each plant product’s chemovar profile, not just the product name, helps us better understand which components of the plant are providing us benefit. (Check out Dr. Dix’s ‘Symphony, Not a solo’ for more on cannabinoids and terpenes.)

At KIP, we believe in a more simple and effective form of classification for the benefit of patients and industry professionals alike. Referring to the graphic above: Type I cannabis means the product is THC dominant. Type II contains a 1:1 balance of THC and CBD, and Type III is CBD dominant. From there, it is important to identify the terpenes in each product and how they can also affect your experience with cannabis.

So next time you want a nice heavy “Indica” for sleep, think to yourself, what is it that I’m really looking for? Maybe a nice Type I cultivar with terpenes such as linalool and myrcene is what you need for the night! Always remember to experiment, document and ask questions. as we all are continuing to figure out what the future of cannabis holds!

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