Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on December 26, 2022

Like with many other plants, there are many different types of weed, all of which have their own unique characteristics. If you’re new to weed, you might have heard the words Indica, Sativa, THC, and CBD thrown around but aren’t quite sure how all of them link up. And if you’re an established weed user, you might be looking for some clarification because, we admit, it can be confusing.

In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of weed, their effects, and classification, so hopefully, next time when you go to a dispensary it will feel much clearer and you’ll know exactly what strains to look for.

An Overview of the Cannabis Genus

The Cannabis genus refers to a group of flowering plants that belong to the family Cannabaceae. Cannabis is a dioecious plant, which means that there are both male and female cannabis plants. Its origins are considered to be rooted in Central Asia and upper South Asia, but today it’s cultivated worldwide.

Having a complex chemical structure, the cannabis plant is best known for its cannabinoids and terpenes which together produce the characteristic recreational and medicinal effects that cannabis is famous for. 

There are over one hundred cannabinoids found in weed of which THC and CBD are the major ones. Similarly, over one hundred terpenes have been identified so far, providing cannabis with a variety of flavors and aromas.

The Two Main Cannabinoids

Cannabis has many cannabinoids which contribute to its unique properties, but so far, only two have been isolated as being the most influential:

  • THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) produces the psychoactive effects also known as getting high. It produces euphoria and relaxation, but it also has some medical properties, such as reducing chronic pain, nausea, and inflammation;
  • CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid and it doesn’t get you high. It instead controls the intensity of THC and has more pronounced therapeutic effects than THC. It can fight inflammation and pain, improve mood, prevent seizures related to epilepsy, and ease migraines.


Terpenes are aromatic compounds naturally present in all plants, including cannabis. They are responsible for the aroma and flavor of weed, but they also produce some unique effects and complement the cannabinoids. Some commonly found terpenes in weed are:

  • Myrcene lends an earthy aroma and can help anxiety and sleep quality;
  • Limonene is bright and citrusy and can improve mood;
  • Linalool lends a floral aroma and can boost relaxation;
  • Caryophyllene is spicy and can help with anxiety and depression;
  • Bisabolol lends a chamomile-like aroma and has calming and anti-inflammatory properties;
  • Pinene lends a piney aroma and can help with memory and pain.

The Different Types of Cannabis Explained

There are three main types of cannabis that have originated in different parts of the world. They are Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis Ruderalis. Within their own respective group, there are different strains that share similar characteristics. Besides the three main types of cannabis, there are also hybrid strains that are produced by cross-breeding other strains that belong to the three main types.

All of the types of marijuana are unique in both appearance and properties. Each of them has its own cannabinoid and terpene ratio, resulting in different effects when you consume a specific cannabis strain.

Let’s review the different types of cannabis and their characteristics.

Cannabis Sativa Plants


Cannabis Sativa plants are thought to have developed in parts of the world that have hot and humid climates, such as Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and some parts of Western Asia.


Sativas are very tall and can reach 12 to 15 feet. Their overall appearance is tall and slim, but their stalks are strong. The fan leaves are a light shade of green and they’re long and narrow, while the buds are sparsely set on the bud sites.

Cannabinoid Ratio

Sativa plants have higher THC content and lower CBD content making them capable of producing strong psychoactive effects.

Typical Effects

Typically, Sativas produce uplifting and energizing effects that are predominantly felt in the head, also referred to as “head high.” Sativas will stimulate you and ignite your creativity, as well as increase your focus. However, they can also cause some side effects if you take too much, due to the high THC content.


Sativas are rarely used to treat medical conditions, however, due to their stimulating effects, they can be used to reduce fatigue, increase one’s appetite, and also as an aid for ADHD.

Popular Sativa Strains

Some popular Sativa strains include Durban Poison, Sour Diesel, Strawberry Banana, Tangie, El Patron, Ghost Train Haze, and others.

Cannabis Indica Plants


Cannabis Indica plants are believed to originate from the Hindu Kush mountain range that stretches through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and India, where the climate is harsh and dry. 


By appearance, Indica plants are short and bushy, which is the complete opposite of Sativas. Their fan leaves are dark green and they appear broad and chunky, while their buds are sticky and dense. 

Cannabinoid Ratio

Indicas have higher levels of CBD, but their THC content is also high. The THC:CBD ratio in some Indicas can be pretty balanced.

Typical Effects

Indicas are known for their sedating and relaxing effects that can predominantly be felt in the body, also known as “body high.” Some heavy Indicas can relax you so much that it will feel difficult to get up – an effect also called “couch-lock.” Indicas can make you feel content and blissful while causing your body to feel warm and loosened up. 


The sedating effects of Indicas make them perfect to use in the nighttime. They can help improve sleep quality and can help with insomnia. Indicas are also commonly used to treat the symptoms of different medical conditions, such as chronic pain, depression and anxiety, and nausea.

Popular Indica Strains

Some popular Indicas are Hindu Kush, Granddaddy Purple, OG Kush, Critical Kush, Strawberry Banana, Northern Lights, MK Ultra, and many others.

Cannabis Ruderalis Plants


Cannabis Ruderalis is an interesting plant that has evolved over time to survive climates with little sunlight and lower temperatures, such as Eastern Europe, Himalayan regions of India, Siberia, and Russia.


With a maximum height of up to 25 inches, Ruderalis is the shortest cannabis plant. Their appearance is reminiscent of Indicas in that they look stout, but they’re a lighter shade of green and their fan leaves are closer to Sativas.

Cannabinoid Ratio

This type of cannabis has slightly more CBD than THC, but the overall cannabinoid content is negligent compared to the other two cannabis types.

Typical Effects

Ruderalis has low THC and CBD and therefore not enough to produce any significant effects.


Due to its low cannabinoid content, Ruderalis isn’t consumed for medical nor for recreational purposes.

Popular Strains

Rather than consumed on its own, Ruderalis is usually bred with other Indica or Sativa strains because it’s an autoflowering plant, meaning it flowers on its own without needing a signal from the environment. This property makes it desirable for crossbreeding.

Hybrid Strains 


Hybrid strains were created by cultivators by combining different strains in order to produce new strains that will produce specific effects (and that will have unique flavor and aroma profiles). They can be created from two or more Indica and Sativa strains, or by combining two or more strains of the same cannabis types. Hybrids can be balanced, meaning they can contain equal parts of Indica and Sativa, or they can lean more to one side, making them either Indica or Sativa-dominant.


Like you would expect, hybrids take after the strains that were used for their creation. They will have traits of both, depending on the combination of Indicas and Sativas.

Cannabinoid Ratio

Each hybrid strain has a unique cannabinoid ratio, but growers tend to grow them with the purpose of having high levels of THC. That doesn’t mean that their CBD levels are low, just that the average THC content is high.

Typical Effects

Hybrids are purposefully bred to produce a unique combination of effects, and most of them start off with a cerebral high that turns into a body high. However, depending on the dominant strain, some of them can slightly lean towards one type of high. 


How hybrids are used depends entirely on their individual properties. Most hybrids produce a good balance between a head and body high, but some of them can produce some very specific effects that can be utilized for the treatment of some medical conditions or simply for enjoyment.

Popular Hybrid Strains

Some popular balanced hybrids are Blue Dream, Girl Scout Cookies, Trainwreck, Gorilla Glue #4, White Widow, Godfather OG, and many others.

The Different Strains In More Details

The three primary types of cannabis are further divided into different cannabis strains, all of which have their own genetic makeup, resulting in a variety of unique flavors, aromas, and of course, effects. There are countless different strains in the world that it’s impossible to make a definitive list of. 

However, there are some cannabis strains that are divided into separate groups based on the genetic makeup they share, meaning they were created from the same pure strains.

Kush Strains

Kush strains originate from the Middle East region and they’re famous for their intensely relaxing body high. Most Kush strains are Indicas that’ll give you a heavy couch-lock and make you feel an intense euphoria. They’re also a good sleep aid due to their sedative effects. Famous Kush strains are Afghan Kush, Hindu Kush, OG Kush, Bubba Kush, Lemon Kush, and many others.

Diesel Strains

Diesel strains are known for their characteristic and pungent diesel fuel or skunk aroma. Their buds are laden with trichomes and therefore with cannabinoids and terpenes. Diesel strains are mostly Sativa-dominant and they produce intense psychoactive effects. Famous Diesel strains are Sour Diesel, Strawberry Diesel, NYC Diesel, Purple Diesel, and others.

Haze Strains

Haze strains are popular Sativa-dominant strains and they’re famous for having a high THC content. They produce an uplifting and euphoric head high and they come in a variety of flavors and aromas. Famous Haze strains are Purple Haze, Amnesia Haze, Super Lemon Haze, and others.

Pure Strains

Pure strains, or landrace strains, are those original cannabis strains that have developed on their own and they’re usually named by the place they were developed in. Sativa strains and Indica strains both developed separately in different places in the world whose climate and cultivation practices impacted their innate characteristics. 

Over time, the cannabis strains became dispersed throughout the world and came to be how we know them today. They are now used both on their own or as sources for cross-breeding. Some examples of pure strains are Thai, Hawaiian, Durban Poison, Acapulco Gold, Afghani, Jamaican Gold, Columbian, Cambodian Red, African, Mexican Red, and Panama Red.

The Takeaway

There are three types of cannabis plants, all of which have their own unique chemical structures and characteristics. Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa are preferred over Cannabis Ruderalis because their cannabinoid and terpene content is high enough to make them useful for recreational and medicinal use, while Ruderalis is mostly used for crossbreeding. 

Then there are the hybrid strains which are purposefully created to achieve a high cannabinoid content and specific aroma profile. Cannabis strains are grouped by their common genetic origin, meaning that their signature effects are all similar. Finally, when choosing your cannabis strain, go beyond what type of cannabis it is and take into account its full chemical profile, cannabinoids, and terpenes, in order to gauge its full range of effects.

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.