You can visit a cannabis dispensary in just about any state where medical marijuana is legal, and you will find a range of products in different form factors. You will find some interesting brand names, too – like Dragonfly and Boojum. You’ll also find that all the products are confined to just two species of cannabis: indica and sativa.
There is some debate over whether indica and sativa are strains or species. For the purposes of this post, we will consider them species. Both are scientifically classified as putative species of the cannabis genus.
It is important for medical cannabis users to understand them and the different results they produce. Without knowing the difference, a patient might purchase the wrong product for his or her condition.
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Indica is known mostly for its physical, rather than mental, effects. It boasts higher THC levels than sativa, making it particularly good for relaxing. Indica products are ideal for patients using medical marijuana to alleviate pain.
It should also be noted that indica’s higher THC ratio means products from the species are likely to produce less anxiety compared to sativa. Chronic pain sufferers also dealing with high levels of anxiety are better served by medical cannabis products derived from this species.
Products derived from the sativa species can also help patients relax and feel good physically. Yet the most pronounced effect of the species is on the mind. Indeed, sativa cannabis is often marketed as producing a ‘cerebral high’ rather than a physical high.
Where indica is more of a depressant, sativa is more of a stimulant. This is why sativa users often report feeling more energetic or creative. Sativa products are great for daytime use because they do not tend to make patients sleepy. However, they do make patients hungry. It is important that sativa users don’t allow regular use to lead to weight gain.
Deseret Wellness, a Utah cannabis dispensary with locations in Park city and Provo, says that most dispensaries these days sell hybrid products. A hybrid obviously contains strains from both species. However, a good hybrid will lean more toward one species than the other. Formulations are designed to meet specific kinds of needs.
The goal of creating hybrids is to offer all of the positives of both species while eliminating the negatives. Breeders and dispensaries do not always succeed here, so finding a good hybrid is often a trial and error enterprise.
Choosing the Right Species
Learning about the indica and sativa species inevitably leads to the question of how to choose the right one. The people behind Deseret Wellness encourage patients not to guess. Rather, patients should consult with their physicians to better understand how medical cannabis can help their conditions. A physician can generally say if the physical or cerebral high is more important for the condition in question.
Once a patient has a good idea of which species would be best, experimenting with different products from that species can begin. Some patients find an excellent product on the first or second try. Others have to try three or more products to find something that works. It is all part of the brave new world that is medical cannabis.
Are you considering getting a medical cannabis card in your state? If so, do some research so that you fully understand the differences between indica and sativa species. Then speak with your doctor to determine what species is best for you. You will find plenty of products at your local dispensary to choose from. Hopefully you will find one that alleviates the symptoms of your particular condition.