When browsing cannabis strains or purchasing cannabis at a shop, you may notice strains are commonly broken up into three distinct groups: indica, sativa, and hybrid. Most consumers have used these two cannabis types as a touchstone for predicting effects:
Indica strains are believed to be physically sedating, perfect for relaxing with a movie or as a nightcap before bed. Sativas are said to provide invigorating, uplifting cerebral effects that pair well with physical activity, social gatherings, and creative projects. Hybrids are thought to fall somewhere in between, offering a balance of indica and sativa effects. This belief that indicas, sativas, and hybrids deliver distinct effects is so deeply rooted in mainstream cannabis culture that budtenders typically begin their strain recommendations by asking you which of these three types you prefer.
But if you look at the chemical “ingredients” inside of indicas and sativas—that is, terpenes and cannabinoids (more on that below)—you’ll notice there aren’t clear patterns to explain why one type would be inherently sedating and the other uplifting. We know that indica and sativa cannabis strains can look different and grow differently, but this distinction is primarily useful only to cannabis growers.