Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on December 27, 2022

There are over 700 marijuana strains on the cannabis market today, and as the market expands and growers cultivate new strains, this number is likely to increase in the future. The strains we do have are a result of decades of cross-breeding old and new genetics, which is how we get hybrid strains. 

In order for you to be able to differentiate between these strains, we’ll go over the typical characteristics of Indica and Sativa strains from which all of the hybrid strains are made, as well as give you some general information on the Ruderalis strain. Finally, we’ll give you all the factors that make a strain an Indica, a Sativa, or a hybrid so you can differentiate between them, so read on.

Indica Vs Sativa vs Hybrid Cannabis Strains

Even though you can always ask the budtender for recommendations, it would be nice to know some general information when it comes to different cannabis strains before you enter a dispensary. Grouping the cannabis strains makes it easier to determine which strains offer a particular type of effect, so that you know which is more suitable for your particular wants and needs. 

In general, there are three main groups of cannabis strains you can choose from, Indica strains, Sativa strains, and hybrid strains, and we’ll give you more information on each type of strain in the next paragraphs.

Indica Strains

The first group of cannabis strains is comprised of the Indica strains which grow in slightly cooler temperatures compared to other types of cannabis. The Indica plants are characterised as short and bushy plants with chunky leaves. They generally grow faster than Sativa plants and produce more buds. Indicas often have a higher content of THC, though the CBD content isn’t very high. 

Cannabis Indica strains are native to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Turkey, and have adapted to the harsh climate in the Hindu Kush mountains, though today they can be grown all over the world.

Indica strains are known for their sedating, relaxing effects that produce a “body high.” They provide users with full-body effects, as well as reduce insomnia. For that reason, they’re mostly used as nighttime strains, and the strongest among them are known to cause “couch-lock.” Some popular, nearly pure Indica strains include, Hindu Kush (20% THC, 0% CBD), Purple Kush (25% THC, <1% CBD), and Granddaddy Purple (23% THC, <1% CBD).

Sativa Strains

Sativa strains grow in hot, dry climates with long, sunny days. Cannabis Sativa strains grow thin and tall and can grow taller than 12 feet, have finger-like leaves, and can take a longer time to mature compared to Indicas. Sativas generally have higher doses of THC and lower doses of CBD. 

These strains are native to Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and portions of Western Asia, though nowadays they can be grown anywhere.

Common Sativa effects are the energising, uplifting, and anxiety-reducing effects, which result in a “mind high” that’s often a creativity and productivity booster. As a result, people use Sativas or Sativa-dominant strains throughout the day for pain relief, stress reduction, inspiration, and creativity. Popular Sativa strains include Durban Poison (19%THC; <1% CBD), Trainwreck (17% THC; <1% CBD), Jack Herer (24% THC, <1% CBD), and Acapulco Gold (18% THC, <1% CBD).

Hybrid Strains

As you may have guessed by now, hybrid strains are a combination of both Indica and Sativa landrace strains (traditional cultivars, native to the region where they’re grown). Nowadays, due to long-term cannabis cultivation and growers wanting to get the most out of their marijuana yields, most cannabis strains are hybrid strains. 

Hybrid strains can be Sativa-dominant, Indica-dominant, or evenly balanced, and the specific cannabinoid content will be included in the description of the strain in your local dispensary. And the good thing about hybrids is that the list grows each year as growers produce new and unique strains by combining different parent strains in order to target specific effects.

Hybrid strains are generally grown in greenhouses or farms by combining Sativa and Indica strains, and their appearance and effects depend on the parent strains’ genetics as well as the ratio of cannabinoids and other compounds. Hybrids are generally divided into three categories: 

  • Sativa-dominant hybrids that combine the indica’s relaxing properties with the sativa’s cerebral high. Popular strains include Alien Girl,Sour Diesel, Purple Trainwreck, Juicy Fruit, and others.
  • Indica-dominant hybrids provide a mix between pain relief and a soothing head high. Some popular indica-dominant hybrids include Girl Scout Cookies, Purple Urkle, Tahoe OG, and others.
  • Balanced hybrids are a 50/50 combination of the Indica/Sativa genetics. Some of the most popular balanced hybrids include White Widow, Blue Dream, Purple Diesel, and Super Silver Haze.

Besides these three, there’s another type of cannabis strain that isn’t used as much because it doesn’t produce potent effects. Let’s see what it is.

Ruderalis Strains

Cannabis Ruderalis plants originated in climates with extreme conditions such as the Himalayan regions of India, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Siberia. These bushy plants usually don’t grow taller than 12 inches, and as autoflowers don’t require a lot of sunlight to thrive. They can survive in low-sunlight environments and still flower in about a month. These strains don’t contain large amounts of THC but can contain higher amounts of CBD which is why they’re sometimes used as medical cannabis. The plants can be used at any time as they have a low THC percentage. These plants can sometimes be crossbred with other cannabis groups, like Indicas and Sativas, to get the best out of the Indica and Sativa strains but also take advantage of the Ruderalis’ rapid growth cycle.

Important Factors for Understanding Strain Effects and Side Effects

The effects and side effects of weed strains are a direct result of the chemical composition and the growing techniques used while planting weed. As a result, cannabis plants are broken down into breeds, or specific chemovars which are distinguished based on their terpene and cannabinoid content. This “cannabinoid profile” will help the user to easily determine the perfect chemovar for them. Apart from the chemovars, the terpene content also plays a huge role in understanding both strain effects and side effects.


The naturally occurring chemical compounds found in weed are called cannabinoids. They’re responsible for most of the effects of cannabis use that people experience. While there are a lot of cannabinoids and chemical compounds in weed, the following two are the most important:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the go-to cannabinoid that produces psychoactive effects in weed plants which is responsible for the feelings of euphoria people experience after consuming weed. The levels of THC in weed have slowly been increasing throughout the years as growers attempt to create more potent weed strains which are used by both medical and recreational users.
  • Cannabinidol (CBD) – a cannabinoid that produces very different effects compared to THC, CBD is mostly used medicinally as it provides users with pain relieving and sedative effects without any psychoactive effects.
  • Other cannabinoids – Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabigerivarin (CBGV), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), Cannabidivarin (CBDV), Cannabichromevarin (CBCV), and others.


Terpenes are the aromatic compounds which naturally occur in weed plants. They affect the plant’s smell and flavour, but also contribute to the entourage effects when combined with the cannabinoids and other compounds. Common terpenes found in a lot of weed plants include:

  • Bisabolol. Smells like chamomile and tea tree oil, and helps reduce inflammation and irritation in users.
  • Caryophyllene. A spicy terpene often found in black pepper which reduces depression symptoms, anxiety, and improves ulcers.
  • Linalool. A common terpene that has floral notes which improves the user’s mood.
  • Myrcene. A common terpene with an earthy aroma that helps reduce insomnia and anxiety which is why it’s commonly used in a lot of nighttime cannabis strains.
  • Ocimene. A terpene which is also found in basil, mango, and parsley, and its primary effects include warding off viruses and bacteria and easing congestion.
  • Pinene. The terpene has an intense pine aroma and its main effects include pain reduction, reducing side-effects from high amounts of THC, such as nausea and coordination problems.
  • Terpinolene. A terpene that is also found in apples and cumin, and has antibacterial, antifungal, and sedative properties.
  • Limonene. A terpene with rich citrus notes which reduces stress and improves mood.
  • Humulene. This terpene has a woody and earthy aroma similar to cloves and hops and helps reduce inflammation.
  • Eucalyptol. With the aroma of eucalyptus and tea tree oil, this molecule does not only invigorate and refresh users, but it also helps fight bacteria and reduce inflammation in the body.


There are many things to consider before purchasing your cannabis buds from the dispensary, and one of the most important deciding factors should be whether you purchase a pure strain or a hybrid strain. While Sativas are more energising and invigorating, Indicas are more calming and relaxing. However, hybrid strains often offer the best of both worlds since most of them are tailor-made to produce certain 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.