September 17, 2019
Cannabis Science

Sativa - Everything you Need to Know About Cannabis Sativa

What is Sativa?


To someone not familiar with cannabis, it can all look the same. Strains are commonly broken up into two distinct groups: indica and sativa. They show different physical characteristics and provide different medicinal effects. Understanding the variation can make all the difference for patients, depending on what they are looking for.

everything you need to know about cannabis sativa

Researching Indica and Sativa Strains

With developing research and technology in the cannabis industry, scientists and experts have begun to unravel indica and sativa strains and what they have found may or may not surprise you; these “old school” ways of classifying the plant are no longer relevant or as reliable as they used to be.

The Cannabis Black Market

The cannabis industry was illegal, underground, and unregulated for a large part of its formation. Because of this, growers and producers of cannabis never tracked recorded or charted the breeding of cannabis strains. During these dark days of cannabis, a lot of the original sativa and indica-dominant plants were crossbred to the point that their origins were lost. The diversity of different hybrids has made it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to find or track true indicas and sativas.

sativa growing cultivation black market

Cannabis Strains in Australia’s Medical Market

In the medicinal cannabis space, you will hear strains referred to as “sativa dominant” or “indica dominant”. This is done to give a polite “nod” to the believed origin of the strain, while recognizing that it is in fact a hybrid of different cannabis plants. These classifications allow the patient to get a general idea of the type of high and experience they may expect from any specific cannabis product.

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis sativa is known for a lot of things, including its mood-boosting abilities and its lean slender leaves. Often mistaken for hemp, cannabis sativa has a history and origin that can help patients understand how and why this cannabis variety behaves and interacts with our bodies the way it does.

Cannabis sativa was first classified in the 1750s and the word "sativa" means something that is cultivated. Today, "sativa" refers to tall, narrow-leaf varieties of cannabis, thought to induce energizing effects that are different from its neighbour, cannabis indica.

Where is the Cannabis Sativa Plant From?

Cannabis sativa is an annual herbaceous flowering plant indigenous to eastern Asia as well as parts of South America or other lush, warmer climates.

cannabis growing out doors lots of light

Effects of Cannabis Sativa

In general, sativa strains are often described as a strong and uplifting high, while indicas tend to produce a more body-centered, stoned effect. While the levels of THC and CBD play a significant role in shaping the effect, other naturally occurring substances also play their part in producing these distinct characteristics.

Terpenes Roles in Strains

There are over 120 different terpenes have been found in the cannabis plant, these terpenes produce different smells and flavours when they are combined in different amounts. The terpenes are what are responsible for a large part of the unique effect of each strain, and why no two strains are the same.

Cannabinoids Role in Strains

Cannabinoids like THC and CBD do most of the work when it comes to intoxication from cannabis. Varying amounts of cannabinoids alone are not enough to separate strains - this is where terpenes come in. Terpenes are what provide the uplifting and energetic effects of a sativa-dominant strain. These terpenes in combination with cannabinoids like THC and CBD are responsible for the different effects of the plant!

cannabis growing dark back ground out doors

Identifying Cannabis Sativa

There are several key differences in the physical appearance of cannabis indica and cannabis sativa. Sativa strains have the more familiar-looking long leaves with thin long leaflets that you see on most cannabis educational material or in movies. The buds of sativa strains are usually quite long, and rather light.

Sativa Cultivation

During vegetation, Cannabis sativa requires more than 12–13 hours of light per day to stay healthy. The flowering cycle can last anywhere between nine and fifteen weeks, depending on the strain and environmental conditions.

Using strain classifications like sativa and indica might not be the most effective way to predict your experience with cannabis, but they are the root of our understanding of the plant and therefore deserve a mention. These different qualities are used to classifying cannabis as a sativa or indica that allow you to get a rough idea of the medicinal effects you can expect. For patients who are using cannabis oil, however, these effects are largely negated as many of the terpenes and cannabinoids are lost during the extraction process.

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