Indica vs. Sativa – What’s The Difference?

Indica Vs. Sativa Pink Illustration

As you dive deeper into the hemp world, you may encounter terms like cannabis strains, sativa, indica, or hybrid. There’s a lot to know about this powerful plant, and we’re here to help educate you about the ins and outs of indica vs. sativa so you can make informed decisions about what you’re consuming on your wellness journey. The reason the different strains matter is because the indica vs. sativa effects vary due to the chemical makeup of those strains. We’ll go deeper into these differences in the section below. Are you curious about which strains are right for you? Continue reading to learn more. 

Some of the things we’ll touch on in this article are: 

  • Indica vs. sativa: What are they?
  • Indica effects
  • Sativa effects
  • The different parts of the hemp plant including other cannabinoids and terpenes.
  • What is cannabis ruderalis? 
  • Common Indica vs Sativa strains
  • Choosing between Indica vs Sativa edibles

When most people think of indica vs. sativa, they think indica equals couchlock and sativa means energy. This isn’t always the case, especially as everyone’s body chemistry is different. Some indicas may be uplifting for some while some sativa strains may cause anxiety. 

There’s no “right way” to consume the different stains. It’s all about understanding the differences between the indica vs. sativa leaf so your approach to the plant is more well-rounded. You may be surprised to know that those terms don’t actually determine the effects, and are rooted in botany — the cannabinoid makeup and terpenes are what determine the effects of the strain. While this is true, the stereotypes about these different strains exist for a reason. 

If you’re ready to learn more about indica vs. sativa effects, keep reading.

Indica vs. Sativa: What Are They?

The terms indica and sativa are used to describe the different types of cannabis plant, along with cannabis ruderalis (which we’ll talk about a little later). The hemp plant is traditionally found in different parts of Europe and Central Asia. There were geographical barriers like the Himalyan Mountains that allowed for two different populations of the hemp plant to flourish — indica vs. sativa. 

When referring to indica vs. sativa leaf, people often mean the kinds that have a THC content above the federal legal limits. This is a narrow view of cannabis and hemp because products ranging from cannabidiol to any other hemp-derived product also comes from a specific strain. They often just get lumped into the category of “industrial hemp.” Indica vs. sativa is a way to help organize the thousands of different strains ranging from “Hindu Kush” to Maui Wowie. 

Now that you know a little about the origins of these types of hemp, let’s take a look at the indica effects, sativa effects, and their differences.

The Different Parts Of The Hemp Plant

Many different parts of the hemp plant offer benefits and experiences for the body, primarily when they work together to create the Entourage Effect. Indica vs. Sativa effects varies based on these different hemp compounds that we’ll get into below.

What are the different cannabinoids?

The cannabinoid profile is really where it’s at to determine how a strain might affect the body. Which is better: Indica vs. Sativa for pain? It depends on this cannabinoid profile and the terpenes that might be beneficial for interacting with the different pain receptors in the body. 

The most popular of the different hemp plant compounds include: 

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol 
  • Cannabidiol 

Of course, there are others like CBG, CBN, and over 100 more major and minor phytocannabinoids. Today, we want to focus on THC and cannabidiol because they have the most information available. While more studies have been done on cannabidiol and less on the effects of THC thanks to its legality, we’re most curious about tetrahydrocannabinol, especially delta-8 THC. While delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol is only legal up to 0.3% on a dry weight basis, the same isn’t true for delta-8. Both of these are a type of THC, but delta-8 has shown to be a milder, smoother, and longer-lasting version of delta-9. Delta-8 is also legal in most states. 

There aren’t many risks in consuming delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol unless you count euphoria and a sense of contentment. The delta-8 benefits far outweigh any cons. But if you’re new to this plant compound (and even if you’re not), we recommend starting small and working your way up with serving sizes so you can gauge how your body reacts to it. Different serving sizes work for different folks thanks to considerations like genetics, metabolism, what you’re consuming, how much you’re consuming, how often you’re consuming, and so on. 

If you’re consuming cannabidiol, delta-8, or delta-9 THC, you may be wondering how long does delta-8 stay in your system? You can read the linked article to learn more about how long delta-8 stays in your system, and it all comes down to the factors listed above, like body chemistry and the amount taken. 

Does delta-8 show up on a drug test? Again, it depends, but it can show up on a drug test due to those tests looking for the metabolite THC-COOH. If you did fail a drug test while consuming delta-8, it would be considered a false positive because it isn’t illegal federally. Delta-8 may show up on a drug test if it reached a specific cut-off value, or it may not be present at all.

What are terpenes?

In simple terms, terpenes are the aromatic oils found in different plants. When you buy essential oils… Those are terpenes. When you smell lavender and rosemary on your fingers after rubbing the raw plant in between your fingers... Those are terpenes. The scent you are inhaling is the terpenes. But this isn’t all they are, a scent. Terpenes are developed to help attract pollinators, repel predators and are shaped by climate, geography, soil types, time of day, and many other factors, which is pretty cool. 

Different terpenes are believed to produce different effects — some offering relaxation and others promoting clarity of mind. Some popular cannabis terpenes include: 

  • Myrcene - Herbal (like hops, lemongrass, mango)
  • Caryophyllene - Pepper (like black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves)
  • Pinene - Pine (like basil, pine needles, rosemary)
  • Limonene - Citrus (like juniper, peppermint, and fruit rinds)
  • Terpinolene - fruity (like lilac, nutmeg, and tea tree)

Many of these are believed to have antioxidant properties, help manage stress or anxiety, assist with managing pain, and so much more. More studies are needed to understand how these terpenes interact with other cannabinoids in the body to create the Entourage Effect. The terpenes may act one way on their own and then shift their functions as they start to mingle with other hemp compounds.  

The list is too long to explain all of the terpenes found in the hemp plant — over 150! And the terpenes naturally occurring in the plant are a significant reason why you should consume broad-spectrum or full-spectrum hemp products — because those types of extracts will contain all of these beneficial terpenes rather than filtering them out during extraction.

What is an Indica vs. Sativa hybrid?

Perhaps when you’re out shopping for your favorite hemp-derived products, you come across the “hybrids.” What are Indica vs. Sativa hybrids? Really, it has more to do with the cannabinoid profile than whether it is an Indica or Sativa-dominant strain. A hybrid is generally a cross-breeding between the Indica vs. Sativa leaf strains, which gives you a hybrid variation. As with all strains, you’re going to want to look at the cannabinoid profile and terpene profile to genuinely understand what type of experience you’re likely going to get. Of course, this can take some effort, so doing your research ahead of time will always be helpful.

What is cannabis ruderalis?

So you’ve heard of cannabis Sativa and cannabis Indica, but you haven’t heard of cannabis ruderalis just yet. Let’s talk about it! The origins of cannabis ruderalis aren’t entirely certain, but it’s believed — and contradicted — by many experts to be a subspecies of cannabis Indica and is native to Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe, specifically Russia. This was once considered a wild breed but has been embraced by specific cultivar communities. It’s a short and stalky little plant, especially compared to the Indica vs. Sativa varieties. 

Cannabis ruderalis plants usually grow to be around one to two and a half feet tall with smaller yet still chunky buds. Those buds on all of these hemp plants contain and produce the majority of the plant compounds that we’re discussing in this article. How does this “wild” plant make you feel? Well, that depends on how it’s grown. It’s a highly resilient and hardy plant capable of “autoflowering” — it flowers on its own without the need for a specific light cycle to get it going — and because of those traits, it’s crossbred with Sativa and Indica strains to make THC-rich strains and cannabidiol-rich strains that recreational and medicinal users love. 

Once upon a time, this wasn’t a very popular strain because it had low THC content, but not breeders have created the best of both worlds — an auto-flowering plant that matures quickly and is also rich in the plant compounds that consumers know and love. So when you’re shopping for your favorite Indica vs. Sativa leaf, remember that there are other species out there like ruderalis who are adding to the complexity and beauty of this industry. 

Now let’s look at Indica vs. Sativa for pain, common delivery methods, and the different ways you can consume this product. 

Indica vs. Sativa For Pain And Delivery Method

There are plenty of ways to consume delta-8, so there are no excuses for not trying it out if you really want to. What is delta-8, exactly? We touched on it earlier. Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol is a type of THC that is both psychoactive and legal in most states. It occurs naturally in small amounts in the hemp plant, and so many premium producers of delta-8 create it through a complex process called oxidation that converts delta-9 THC and cannabidiol into delta-8. 

When purchasing delta-8 products, always ensure they are a premium brand by checking for third-party lab testing and good manufacturing practices. This way, you can guarantee that you’re getting what the label says you’re getting. It is also compliant with federal regulations on the legal amount of delta-9 allowable within a hemp-derived product. 

If you’re looking to purchase delta-8 (or any hemp-related products), it’s helpful to understand what each delivery method offers. Below you’ll find the four most common delivery methods for using this powerful plant.

Indica gummy edibles in green, yellow, and orange


Edibles come in all shapes and sizes. You can purchase gummies, chocolate brownies, capsules filled with hempy goodness, and a variety of other treats that are easy to consume and can add a lot of fun to the experience. Edibles are typically longer lasting in the body because they’re processed through the liver. This process takes a little longer for the plant compounds to reach the bloodstream, and then they hang out there, offering a smoother experience. 

Activation time for edibles can range anywhere from 30 minutes to over 2 hours, and that’s because of how it’s processed and because a bunch of other factors comes into play. If you’ve just eaten a huge meal and then take some delta-8 gummies, it might take a little longer for those gummies to kick in because they’re essentially waiting in line behind your food. Your metabolism, body chemistry, serving size, and other factors also come into play for activation time.

Drop it under the tongue.

Tinctures and oils are another popular delivery method that can offer powerful Indica effects and Sativa effects. These tinctures are a liquid, typically in a bottle with a dropper where you can measure out how much you want. The liquid is dispensed into your mouth and usually underneath your tongue. Once it lands here, your mouth starts to do some work by absorbing the liquid through the membranes there where it can then enter the bloodstream. 

Activation for this delivery method can range anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to upwards of 30 minutes. It’s a bit faster than edibles, although it may not last as long because of how it enters the bloodstream. It’s possible to find broad-spectrum and full-spectrum tinctures, as well as ones that incorporate other terpenes to give it a more palatable flavor profile for those who aren’t a fan of the taste of hemp. 


Inhalation offers the fastest activation because it’s going straight to the lungs and into the bloodstream. While there are some drawbacks to this delivery method (like inhaling combusted air), it also has its perks. If you want something discrete, you can “sip” on your hemp by taking baby hits of vapor. If you need rapid relief, inhaling might give you that instant gratification. This is a popular consumption method, and it’s also the shortest-lived. Only you can decide what is the best delivery method for your needs and desires.

Apply it externally.

Topical delta-8 and other hemp-derived products are rising in popularity. You don’t have to ingest delta-8 to experience its benefits. Topical products come in the form of lotions, salves, ointments, and more. You just rub them into the skin wherever it suits you, and voila! For some, it’s soothing for sore muscles, and for others, it provides a calming ritual to begin or end the day. 

The skin is the largest organ of the body, and it can absorb the plant compounds in its own way. While it may not get you high, it doesn’t mean it isn’t working some kind of magic. Of course, more research is needed to understand the effects of the plant compounds on the skin and in the body when absorbed through the skin. 

Each of these delivery methods — delta-8 edibles, tinctures, inhalation, and topicals — offer their own unique benefits. Our favorite delivery method is edibles because it provides a prolonged, smooth high compared to shorter-lived experiences. You might enjoy trying out each option so you can decide what feels best for you. You never know! You might like all of them for different reasons.

Choosing Between Indica vs. Sativa Edibles

Now it’s time to choose between the different Indica vs. Sativa edibles. Delivery method and strength or serving size goes hand-in-hand with delta-8 and other hemp-derived compounds. The amount you take will determine how much your body absorbs and uses. This availability is called bioavailability, and it depends on how the plant compounds are delivered and the quality of the product that determines how much your body can actually use. 

When choosing different Indica vs. Sativa effects, we have some suggestions to help the process go smoother. 

  • Start with a smaller serving size. If you’re the go big or go home type, good luck. We caution you to try out smaller servings and “strengths” before taking a ton of any hemp-derived product, especially if you’re new to it. You never honestly know how your body will interact with the plant compounds, so it’s best to ease your way in with a positive experience. Have you ever been too high and wished you could tone it down? Start small, and you don’t have to worry about that. Eventually, you’ll know exactly how much you prefer to feel comfortable and light.
  • Consider your reasoning for taking an Indica vs. Sativa. As we’ve discussed, the Indica vs. Sativa leaf doesn’t really matter as much as the cannabinoid and terpene profile of what you’re consuming. But if you do notice that your body tends to like more Indica-dominant or Sativa-dominant strains, go with that. If you want to feel calmer and more in your body, look for strains that support those effects. Especially consider looking at the terpene profile, as they play a role in how your body reacts to the plant compounds. The same is true if you’re seeking a light and lifted experience. Experiment with different strains, delivery methods, and strengths to find what’s best for you under different circumstances.
  • Always go for premium products. You get what you pay for with most things in life. This doesn’t mean the more expensive thing is the best thing. Premium means doing your research to find quality brands that are committed to transparency and compliance. Does the product provide the Certificate of Analysis that shows you precisely what you’re consuming? It should. Are you able to look up the business and see what their business and manufacturing practices are? It might take some effort to find a brand that you resonate with, but it will be well worth the effort. We promise. 

The exciting thing about consuming delta-8 products is that it’s very open-ended. It’s about trying new things and seeing what works for you. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all world because we are all unique humans. It’s ok to talk to people and see what they enjoy, but you do you at the end of the day.

The Takeaway

Shopping for Indica vs. Sativa products isn’t always straightforward, mainly because cross-breeding these strains is very popular. The best piece of advice we can offer is to understand the difference between Indica vs. Sativa edibles and then make your own choices based on the cannabinoid and terpene profiles found in the third-party lab results that should always be a bare minimum requirement for hemp products that you purchase. If you want to try out premium delta-8 gummies, head on over to Delta North. These gummies are delicious, compliant, and effective. You can purchase delta-8 gummies today and have them delivered to your door! 

Legal Disclaimer: You should still consult an attorney for the best legal advice regarding Delta-8 in your state, as the material shared here is for informational purposes only.