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Indica and Sativa

Humble beginnings

In the late 1700s, the biologist Jean Baptiste Lamarck developed his little known, yet infamous, marijuana theory. Lamarck noticed that there were two different gene pools of cannabis plants. One plant (Indica) was short with broad leaves and the other (Sativa) was tall with thin leaves. Lamarck described the high from Indica as sedating and calming and Sativa was described as having uplifting, mood enhancing effects. One can only wonder – how much did he smoke to test his theory? 

If you adhere to this mantra then you would expect a short plant with broad leaves would sedate you. However, nowadays scientists agree it is the chemical composition of the plant, not what it looks like, that is responsible for the psychoactive effects. This is best put by psychopharmacology researcher Dr Ethan Russo, “one cannot in any way currently guess the biochemical content of a given cannabis plant based on its height, branching, or leaf morphology.”

Maybe a few hundred years ago there were distinct differences in the chemical composition of the two different looking plants. However, after centuries of selective interbreeding all common cannabis plants are hybrids to some degree and chemical content cannot be determined by leaf type. . 

The names Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa are only useful in identifying visual differences between the two common gene pools in Cannabis. Indica plants are short and have broad leaves. Sativa plants are tall and have thin leaves. The names have nothing to do with the biochemical content of the plants themselves. 

Fast forward to how this affects you

The terms Indica and Sativa these days are mostly marketing jargon that can, but not always, indicate the ratio of THC to CBD. A 2015 study of 81 strains in dispensaries found only a moderate correlation between a strain’s genetic structure and its reported classification as Sativa or Indica. So when someone tells you a product is Sativa you can guess that it has a high THC:CBD ratio while Indica should have a lower THC:CBD. But always double check the label, marketers will be marketers. You will definitely find indica varieties that are uplifting and vice versa.

This is why we avoid Sativa or Indica in our branding. And especially for cartridges, the process of purifying and remixing the desired components of the plant means the ancestry of the plant is ancestry of the plan is far removed from the final product.

Our advice? Buy something with more THC to CBD if you want an active ‘head high’ or buy something with more CBD if you want a calmer ‘body high’. Terpene profiles and the ‘entourage effect’ are other considerations that we will discuss in a future post.

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