Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on January 16, 2023

One of the best things about the cannabis plant is that there are different types of weed, or to be more precise, three main species and even more strains. All of them look different and have a variety of buds that produce different effects, flavors, and aromas. 

At the root of the Cannabis genus, there are three formally recognized cannabis species that are further divided into strain types. For cannabis growers, this is just basic information, but for weed consumers, it can get a little confusing, especially if you’re just starting to discover the variety of weed.

Therefore, in today’s article, we’ll cover all about the different species and types of weed out there, including their major characteristics and the effects they produce.

The Three Main Types of Cannabis and Their Characteristics

Cannabis is a genus of dioecious flowering plants that are thought to be originating from and indigenous to Central Asia and upper South Asia. 

There are three main cannabis species that belong to the Cannabis genus, officially called Cannabis Idica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis Ruderalis. Within these species, there are different strains of weed that have some similar properties, depending on which group they belong to.

There are also hybrid strains that are created by cultivators by crossing strains that belong to different cannabis species with the intention of producing a new strain that has specific properties, flavors, and aromas.

Let’s check out the different types of marijuana in greater detail below.

Cannabis Sativa

The Cannabis Sativa species originated in hot and dry climates that have a lot of hot and sunny days, such as Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and some parts of Western Asia.

Due to their origin, Sativa plants need a lot of sunshine. Because of this, they grow very tall, up to 12-15 feet, and they grow quite fast. Their stalks are sturdy, but the plant’s overall appearance is tall and lanky. Similarly, the fan leaves are long and narrow, and somewhat dainty, while their color is light green due to the lower content of chlorophyll. 

Although Sativas grow very tall very fast, they don’t mature as quickly, so their flowering stage is longer than their vegetative stage. The Sativa seeds are soft to the touch and they rarely have spots on them.

Industrial Hemp 

The hemp plant, or industrial hemp, is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa species that’s used for industrial purposes. Its stalks are durable and sturdy and are used for the production of different industrial materials, fabrics, household items, etc. Its flowers, on the other hand, are used for the production of CBD products because the hemp plant naturally contains high CBD content.

Cannabis Indica

The Cannabis Indica species is indigenous to the Hindu Kush mountain range that stretches through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Tajikistan. Indica plants have adapted to a harsher and drier climate, which has affected their biology.

The overall appearance of Indicas is short, stout, and bushy. They don’t grow very tall, usually 3-6 feet, and their fan leaves also grow wide and broad. The leaves are a deep shade of green which indicates a high chlorophyll content and a shorter flowering stage. This means that Indicas flower much faster than Sativas. Their buds grow much closer to each other and are stickier to the touch, which means they contain more resin.

Cannabis Ruderalis

Cannabis Ruderalis has evolved to adapt to all sorts of climate conditions with little sunlight and lower temperatures, like Eastern Europe, the Himalayan regions of India, Siberia, and Russia. 

Ruderalis plants are the shortest of the species, growing only 20-25 inches in height, but they grow and flower very fast. Their overall appearance is short and bushy, like Indicas, but their fan leaves are thin and lighter green like Sativas. 

Unlike Indicas and Sativas, Ruderalis is an autoflowering strain, meaning that it produces flowers independent of the light cycle in nature. That’s why Ruderalis is used more often in crossbreeding of hybrids rather than on its own. Its cannabinoid content is too low to produce any significant effects, which is why it’s not used as recreational or medical marijuana.

Hybrid Strains

Hybrid strains are produced by crossbreeding strains that belong to different species, usually Indicas and Sativas, but sometimes they can be a blend of different strains of the same species. This allows cultivators to create unique strains that produce specific effects and have interesting flavor and aroma profiles. 

Some of these strains can be used medicinally, while others are predominantly used for recreational purposes. Hybrids can be Indica or Sativa dominant, but they can also be balanced.

New strains are continuously created by professional cannabis growers and some of them have stuck over the years and become true classics, right next to the pure Indicas and Sativas. When you go to a dispensary, it’s likely that most of the strains you see on the shelves are hybrids. 

Different Strains Produce Different Effects

The cannabis plant has a complex chemical structure of over 500 different compounds. The most important ones are the cannabinoids, the compounds that produce the effects, and the terpenes, the compounds that give the buds their aroma and flavor.

Weed has over 100 cannabinoids of which THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most dominant. THC produces psychoactive effects, which is why it’s preferred by recreational users, while CBD has therapeutic properties and is mostly used for medicinal purposes and general wellness.

Each cannabis species and strains have a distinctive THC to CBD ratio and its own unique terpene profile. The combination of these two elements will largely determine the effects that the strain is capable of producing.

However, when choosing which strain to sample next, try looking at the THC and CBD content rather than the strain itself because it’s more telling of the effects you can experience.

Sativa Strains Are Energizing

Sativa strains are known for being energizing and uplifting. The effects are predominantly felt in the head, also known as a “head high.” This is due to the higher THC content and lower CBD content, making Sativas more stimulating and cerebral than Indicas. 

Sativas are great for daytime use because they stimulate your creativity and boost your energy, and some strains can even be used when you need to be productive and tackle more complex tasks. However, users sensitive to THC as well as newbies should be careful when consuming high-THC Sativas due to the possibility of experiencing side effects. We recommend taking only one, small hit, and waiting for the effects before taking another one.

Sativas aren’t as commonly used to treat medical conditions, but there can be exceptions, as Sativas may help with symptoms of ADHD and fatigue.

Some well-liked Sativas include Sour Diesel, Durban Poison, Jack Herer, Green Crack, and many others.

Indica Strains Are Sedating

Typically, pure Indica strains have a higher CBD content than Sativas, however, their THC content isn’t necessarily low – some strains have a pretty balanced THC:CBD ratio.

Indicas are known for producing deep relaxation that’s felt in the body, also known as a “body high.” The more potent strains are capable of producing a body-melting euphoria, also known as “couch-lock” because you feel so relaxed you can barely move. 

The effects of Indicas are calming and sedative, with feelings of happiness and bliss. Due to their sedative effects, Indicas are better used at night. Medically, they can be used to relieve nausea and chronic pain as well as to increase appetite. They’re also good for anxiety.

Some favorite Indica strains include OG Kush, Hindu Kush, Northern Lights, Granddaddy Purple, and many others.

Hybrid Strains Are Mostly Balanced

Hybrid strains have different ratios of THC and CBD, and their effects depend on the parent strains used to breed them. Most hybrids have balanced effects between a relaxing body high and an uplifting euphoria, but others can lean more to the one side. 

Hybrids are pretty dominant on the market now among the many strains of cannabis, and their variety is really impressive, but when choosing a hybrid, always look at the THC:CBD ratio and the terpene content.

Some famous hybrids include Blue Dream, White Widow, Pineapple Express, Trainwreck, and many others.

The Bottom Line – Take Your Pick

Cannabis is not only a dioecious plant, but it also has three main species that share some characteristics, but are still very different in how they’re used. Indicas and Sativas are already well-known for their recreational and medical purposes, whereas Ruderalis is primarily used for breeding. Then there’s the hemp plant, a variety of Cannabis sativa that can be used for industrial purposes and for extracting CBD.

All of the Cannabis species have numerous different strains that vary in flavor, smell, and the effects they produce because of the different ratios of cannabinoids. Hybrid strains are man-made strains that don’t occur in nature and they’re created to produce some specific effects (which explains the popularity they currently enjoy).

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.