Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid: What do these terms mean?

In the cannabis and hemp industry, flower is often labeled as sativa, indica, or hybrid as a way to describe the effects a consumer may feel from a particular strain. However, these terms originated only as a way to describe the plant’s physical structure. In 1753 all cannabis plants were classified as ‘cannabis sativa,’ and in 1785 French biologist, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, updated the naming to two distinct species, indica and sativa, to distinguish the plants physical structures. Sativa is a taller, lankier, and more fibrous plant; while indica plants are shorter, stouter, and are thought to deliver more psychoactive effects. Though the terms originated as a way to simply distinguish the two plants physical variances, the current cannabis era has adopted these terms to describe how one may feel from specific cannabis or hemp strains. In this guide we will discuss what one can expect from strains labeled indica, sativa, and hybrid and the main terpenes primarily present in these strains helping to deliver the effects.


Sativa strains of hemp and cannabis are primarily uplifting and energizing, great for daytime use. They often deliver mood boosting effects, as well as offering relief from pain and inflammation. Sativa strains bring more of a “head high” to consumers, allowing them to clear their minds and focus on the task needed.

Sativa strains commonly have the terpene limonene as their primary terpene, known for its mood boosting and energizing effects.


Indica strains are often advertised as ideal for nighttime, and for relaxation. They deliver a “body high” and help to relax and ease the joints and muscles in the body. Due to the sedating effects of indica strains, many consumers refer to indicas as “in da couch.” And though they do help a vast majority of consumers with sleep, and it can be difficult to complete tasks for some when ingesting a heavy indica, many chronic pain patients report it helps give them energy. This is because an indica helps to reduce pain throughout the whole body, making them ideal for daytime use for patients with chronic pain.

Indica strains primarily have the terpenes myrcene and caryophyllene present, known for their sedating, pain relieving, and whole-body relaxation effects.


Hybrid strains are a cross between an indica and sativa, delivering an array of effects dependent on the terpenes and cannabinoids present. Often, hybrids are advertised as the perfect mix between indicas and sativas. However, with various terpenes present the effects will vary from strain to strain.

Though there are better ways to determine the effects of cannabis and hemp through the way of examining a strains particular terpenes and cannabinoids, the industry leans heavily on these terms to describe the effects a strain may bring, and it’s important to have a general idea of the effects a strain may deliver. When choosing a strain right for your individual needs it is important to note that everyone’s body chemistry is different, and everyone’s experience may vary. It is important to take note of how each strain affects you, and the terpenes and cannabinoids present. After time, you will be able to learn what strains are best for you and get the experience you deserve and desire from your hemp and cannabis.