Cannabis seeds or buds are generally classified into two groups – indica and sativa. Each kind has different physical characteristics and provides a different effect when used. When we begin genetically combining the characteristics of the different kinds, we end up with a hybrid. This article outlines the differences between the indica, sativa and hybrid strains of marijuana.
One of the first things you notice when buying seeds or buying marijuana from the dispensary is that everything is labelled as either indica or sativa. That is because these are the two main classifications used for marijuana. There are quite a lot of differences between the two that make them both unique in their characteristics despite both being the same plant.
It was the structure and the resin patterns that were distinctly noticed as being different when human beings first began categorizing them in the 18th century. However, as humans began discovering the attributes of both qualities, we even began hybridising them to acquire the best qualities of both of them into a single plant. This did not begin, however, until growers were forced to take their plantations indoors.
The indica variety of marijuana is said to have originated in the Hindu Kush mountain ranges of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In these areas the climate is harsh and the mountains are at high altitude, and it is for this reason that indica buds developed a thick layer of resin. The resinous layer of trichomes appeared as a protection from the harsh weather conditions.
Indica plants are more generally shorter, bushier plants. They do not grow to be very tall, and the stems are quite thick and stocky. The buds are usually covered in a generous layer of resin, and this is one of the qualities that breeders are always trying to take from the indica strain. Indica strains generally have a shorter flowering time and grow well in higher altitude geographical locations. Because they are short and easy to maintain, indica plants are generally found in indoor gardens.
We usually associate indica strains with are more relaxing, sedative effect. They usually make the body feel quite heavy, as if you want to become a part of the couch or the bed. For this reason, indica strains are used to medicate things like pain and insomnia. Indica strains are usually preparing the body for relaxation or sleep rather than things that require a lot of energy, and so are usually used at night-time.
Although pure sativa strains are hard to find on the market, they do exist. The sativa variety is generally a little bit harder to grow, has a longer flowering time, and needs more room to grow. For this reason it can be a little challenging to grow sativa plants without the right environment. They are taller, skinner plants and so are much more suitable for outdoor growing. Indica strains grow better in more temperate climates and tropical climates along the equator.
Strains that are sativa dominant, or pure sativa, are usually bringing a feeling of euphoria and energy to the user. The effects are felt much more on the cerebral level than the physical level, making it a great strain for creative activities. It is more associated with use during the day for this reason. Because it brings energy and happiness, sativa can be used to medicate things like fatigue and depression.
Sativa is a generally highly sought after strain of marijuana because its uplifting cerebral effect is extremely desired. However, because they are a little bit harder to grow and the yield is not as high as indica, they are more often harder to find and a little bit more expensive.
The age of hybridism
When the war on drugs began and marijuana growers were forced to take their plants indoors, some serious genetic experimentation was required to maintain the strains that were loved at the time. It was also an opportunity for growers to begin experimenting with mixing different strains of indica and sativa. This also meant that growers could isolate the beneficial characteristics of the two varieties and blend them together into one plant.
This means that there are now strains containing sativa genetics that will flower in shorter periods of time and will produce high yields. There are also sativa strains that are suitable for indoor growth, making the potential for growing marijuana enormous. Hybridism also means that a single strain of marijuana can now treat a range of different symptoms because it provides a combination of the effects of both varieties.
Hybridism has given rise to most of the strains that we use and love today and, ironically enough, it was likely the result of the beginning of the war on drugs. Hybridism and genetic engineering have been used to preserve strains of marijuana that were used decades ago, before indoor marijuana growing operations were really a thing. The beauty of hybridism is the potential for many different varieties and strains of marijuana.
The role environment can play
Even though categorisation of marijuana is quite specific as we have just been discussing, there are a lot of variables at play. For example, a strain might be labelled as pure indica or indica dominant, and therefore would be expected to be shorter and bushier and have a short flowering time. But small changes in the environment can mean that more of the sativa qualities are expressed in the phenotype rather than indica qualities. This means that the potential for many different results from a single seed can be brought by manipulating the environment to do so.
Changing the environment has a direct effect on the parts of cannabis that make a difference to our experience, such as THC (and other cannabinoids), as well as terpenes. These are the things that are mostly responsible for how we experience a marijuana journey. By slightly manipulating the environment, these things can be altered, meaning different genetics of the plant become more pronounced than others.
It also means that a strain grown in one part of the world might grow a certain way and have a certain effect, but when grown in a different environment it comes out a little bit differently. Just like a person, every marijuana plant is unique and is a product of both its genetics and its natural environment. This is what makes marijuana so special and what makes human beings connect with it so well!